Mindfulness and Sexuality: How Our Level of Awareness Impacts on Sexual Intimacy
This Weeks Video
Mindfulness as it relates to sexuality, given the plethora of dimensions of sexuality, might seem like an impossible task. However, this blog will be addressing the way mindfulness can be applied universally to this subject, still making it a meaningful discussion. Mindfulness in any context can only exist if there is first awareness. Awareness is a blend of knowledge, understanding and wisdom that is capable of displacing ignorance, avoidance and addiction. From a Western Mindfulness perspective, mindfulness is remembering in each moment that you have a choice to be kinder to yourself, to others, and to the planet. The key word being choice.
Everything we do in life is either habitual or conscious. According to neurological research, 95% of how we think, act, or feel is essentially habitual, in other words, how we’ve been programmed to think, act, or feel. It forfeits choice, and thus our ability to be mindful. Only 5% of how we approach life could be called conscious. Social media, advertising, cultural and familial programming, as well as our life experiences that are steeped with either suffering or joy, all contribute to us living our lives habitually. Needless to say, this includes how we experience life sexually.
It may come as a surprise to find out that the top three selling books globally over the last decade were all written by the same author, E. L. James.
1. E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) – 15.2 million copies
2. E. L. James, Fifty Shades Darker (2011) – 10.4 million copies
3. E. L. James, Fifty Shades Freed (2012) – 9.3 million copies
The 50 Shades film trilogy grossed $1.32 billion, which just fell short of The Matrix trilogy which at #1, grossed $1.6 billion. I would seem that sex does indeed sell!
An online webpage called The Recovery Village has presented the following statistics about the use of online pornography in the USA.
25% of search engine requests are related to sex
35% of downloads from the internet are pornographic
40 million Americans say they regularly visit porn sites
70% of men aged 18 to 24 visit a porn site at least once per month
The largest consumer group of online porn is men between the ages of 35 and 49
One-third of all internet porn users are women
Sunday is the most popular day of the week for viewing porn
Thanksgiving is the most popular day of the year for viewing porn
What’s been presented here are facts, without judgements. However the conclusion can be drawn that sex is something that many of us are preoccupied with, and is in fact something that we value. It would seem that the two primary pieces of evidence for what we value i.e. how we spend our time and money, would indicate that sex is something that we rate very highly. If it wasn’t valued enough, it seems that during Covid 19, a premier online porn site, Pornhub has seen an almost 20% increase in membership subscriptions.
Ok, so we value sex, which isn’t a problem, unless it is. It seems that for many people, sex isn’t everything it is cracked up or meant to be. In the context of sex, the human experience appears to differ substantially to other species on planet earth because of the way we humans can engage our senses, our mind and feelings while being sexual. This means that instead of our sex just being about coitus, it has the capacity to be intimate too. And it is in this context of sexual intimacy that awareness and mindfulness can really shine.
Experiencing who we are sexually through the senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound) can be greatly enriched by becoming more aware of the anatomy and physiology of sex. It’s only in recent years that the actual size of the clitoris has been identified (check out Clitoris on Wikipedia), not to mention the G Spot and female ejaculation. Being more aware of the female genitalia means that partners can be more mindful of the way they sexually engage each other. Typically for women this results in increased levels of pleasure. However, greater awareness (knowledge and understanding) of our sexuality means that we can be aware of the changes our bodies experience, and therefore the way we engage each other during menses, pregnancy and menopause for example, as well as times of dis-ease as with erectile dysfunction, UTI’s, prostatitis etc.
Becoming aware of what is more or less pleasurable means that you can be more mindful of how to engage in sexual activity with your partner. Becoming aware of personal sexual proclivities requires communication and maybe even demonstration. But once aware, then you can act more mindfully (remember, that’s about being kind to the other person as well as to yourself). Learning how to (be more aware) indulge all of the senses during sexual intimacy enriches the experience meaning that one’s capacity to be physically/sensually mindful can be greatly expanded.
That’s just about who we are physically. Then there is who we are emotionally. Almost everybody has a story about who they are sexually, typically off the back of their life experience. If they have been the recipient of sexual abuse, there is a very good chance that there is a lot of fear tied up with their sexuality. As a result, being sexually intimate could be very challenging. If your sense of worth was linked to sexuality, you may become overtly sexual to sustain your sense of self-worth. Of course we have the aged old problem where typically for women, being sexually intimate is an extension of emotional intimacy, where typically for men, it was about ‘getting your rocks off’, excuse the cliché. Being more mindful of each other through becoming aware of your emotional sexual filters through honest communication, means that you can better manage the way you both encounter the emotional aspect of sexual intimacy.
Then there is the way we mentally engage sex. It’s well known that men typically engage sex through their mind, which might explain the slang ‘dick-head’. Where one partner might be more inclined to approach sexuality through romance, the other could be more fantasy oriented. Obviously, both of these approaches would need to be understood (being aware) between a couple for both to be mindful enough to fully meet each other’s needs. It may mean that one will have to be prepared to engage in fantasy more than they would naturally be inclined to do, and the other may have to be more romantic, a candle lit dinner etc. One’s mental approach to sexuality could also be the framework of a trade-agreement between a couple. The ‘pussy cheque book’ is where a woman will give sex more freely, knowing she can get something she wants in return. Or she might extend ‘mercy sex’ (lie back and think of Mother England, as they used to say) just to keep harmony in the relationship.
So what does mindful sexuality look like. I will be focusing on a heterosexual relationship, although much of this applies to all relationship dynamics. It’s been said that foreplay begins immediately after the last orgasm. This type of foreplay can be simply described as being kind. It’s about helping without being asked. It’s catching the other person doing things right and acknowledging it. It’s extending nurturing touch that isn’t sexual (the sexual foreplay comes later). It’s bringing a bouquet of flowers for no particular occasion. It’s running a warm bath for your partner and finishing the washing up and getting the kids ready for bed. It’s telling your partner how much you adore them and how much you are turned on by them. Just to name a few.
Being aware of your partner’s needs regarding sexuality, you will then become mindful of these as you progress further. As a couple, you might begin by briefly discussing the type of sex you’ll engage in this time. Who’s going to be the centre of attention this time, or is it going to be mutual. Being clear what the nature of the sexual engagement will be may require preparation. If the man wants consensual fantasy and/or fellatio then the appropriate props may be required. If the woman want’s cunnilingus and/or wants to ejaculate then more towering may be required. There are a plethora of variables that may need to be taken into account i.e. age, experience, appetite, time, menses, ED, premature ejaculation, etc. Now comes the sexual foreplay. Being aware of what he or she likes regarding sexual intimacy (since you have previously discussed and experienced it), then you can mindfully bring what is appropriate at this time to your lovemaking. Of course, what was ok last time may not be this time. You will be present enough to what’s happening to respond accordingly. Then in the case of a mutually engaging sexual encounter, both partners will be mindful of seeing that their and the other’s needs have been satisfied.
Whatever way one’s sex life plays out, the more aware we can be, both of ourselves and others, the more mindful we can be sexually. Awareness will require honest communication for enhanced knowledge, understanding and wisdom to develop. Being more mindful means that we can be kinder to ourselves, while being kind to the other person. Mindfulness tempers the way we treat others, as well as ourselves. If our priority, in terms of sexuality, is kindness, then in any sexual encounter, whether it’s on your own or with others, mindfulness will have you stop and consider if what you are about to do is truely loving for all concerned.
Read More From This Series
Over the upcoming months we will cover several other topics on how to apply mindfulness in 'every day' situations.
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