sex, love, and relationships for those of us who don't quite follow the rules

being deliberate

Greta Christina has some great things to say about the cultural over-emphasis on spontaneous lust as the precursor to sexual encounters. She points out that sometimes you may want to want to have sex, even if you’re not turned on, and that those second-order wants “count.” She affirms that planned, scheduled sex is not somehow inferior to spontaneous, “got to have you now” sex. She mentions that this is especially important for long-term couples and older people, for whom the fires of youthful lust come more rarely. Rereading them, it strikes me that there’s another category of people who need to remember this: the chronically repressed.

A decade or more of repression doesn’t just evaporate once you’ve decided to become sexually active. There are deep-rooted habits of thought that only loosen their grip slowly. There are complicated identity issues (how do I get comfortable with the idea of myself as a sexually active person?) There’s the simple disconnection from your body; I am convinced that most of my body is less sensitive to sexual pleasure than it would be if I’d been exploring those sensations since my teens. I’m hoping I can rehabilitate myself in all three of these areas, but it’s going to take time. And meanwhile, there’s a lot of sex that I want to be having, even if I’m not hot and horny most of the time.

When I first started masturbating, there was a brief initial “can’t keep my hands off myself” phase. I was having great orgasms, and the thought of how I was going to pleasure myself later turned me on and kept me happy all day. At some point, though, the excitement waned, the orgasms became harder to reach and often unsatisfying, and my private sex life started to feel like a chore. I tried to maintain it for a while, because I did want to learn about my sexual responses, but often it was fairly perfunctory.

What I learned was sometimes akin to “101 ways to kill an orgasm,” but hey, that’s valuable knowledge too. I also learned, slowly and maddeningly, how to tune in to my body, concentrate my attention on the sexy bits rather than the running monologue in my head. Eventually, quite unexpectedly, I learned how to fantasize, adding a whole other delightful dimension to my private sex life. And little by little, I’m getting comfortable with experimentation and trying new things.

My point, I guess, is that practice is important, with sex as with most other activities, and if you didn’t start practicing sex at a time when your hormones were pushing you to do it all the time, you may need a fair bit of deliberate practice, letting your arousal follow the start of your sexual encounters rather than leading the way to them. And remembering that there’s nothing wrong with that.

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