The topics of pleasure, passion and play have been part of my Life’s journey for a very long time now. And, I must admit that ever since the erotic trilogy and literary sensation of 50 Shades of Grey swept over our planet, my role as a relationship educator has taken on a few new colours and kinks (pardon the pun) of its own: from engaged couples to newlyweds, mid lifers to empty-nesters, couples and individuals have since come calling, mostly curious yet often confused, sometimes cautious, even concerned, but almost always complaining of a waning sex life with their partner and hoping to get some better sex soon. Who knew that such a cultural juggernaut would become such an intimacy icebreaker and help ignite sexual conversations between couples in such an uninhibited way?
However, for anyone who thinks the subject of sexuality is easy to talk about, well, I have news for you. Unless we were raised around the kitchen table talking openly about sex, and schooled at the primary level exploring the topic of pleasure in addition to the reproductive parts of the anatomy, chances are we evolved into more or less closemouthed, erotically-challenged adults ourselves. Yes, it may be 2016, and yet even with the informational vastness of the internet, the popularity of social media and especially the proliferation of porn, talking candidly and comfortably about sex still remains pretty much taciturn and taboo!
In fact, just last month after a homegrown study published in the Journal of Sex Research that close to half of the 1000+ Quebecers surveyed showed a healthy kinky side among both men and women…meaning revealing no anomalous behaviours or desires otherwise classified as psychopathological… I received several calls from past clients wanting to know whether I would help them navigate or talk through some trending topics of their own: bedroom bondage, power plays and even peeping into the world of voyeurism and the pleasure of pain. For the first time I found myself helping couples learn more about their own unique erotic blueprints, while stepping into a new world of exploration and imagination, finally claiming pleasure more consciously, even if by pure fantasy alone.
And, although my own upbringing, education and training has been stereotypically vanilla, I must say that the few progressive people which have graced my professional path in recent years have also allowed me to develop better counselling and critical thinking skills, in addition to keeping up to date with emerging scientific research while exploring the topic of sexuality with couples. Whether it was through the dynamic teachings of the world-renowned sex educator-Jaiya- or a dominatrix by the name of Lady Victoria and a kinky dungeon curator called Kathleen …or the ever-so eminent Esther Perel- whom I consider to be both a cherished colleague and “the” champion crackerjack connoisseur on the theme of erotic desire… well, let’s just say that all have greatly taught me how to help clients discover more personal agency as well as a more honest and comprehensive language when communicating sexual wants and desires in their relationships, too.
But, before you decide to clip on a pair of hand-cuffs or throw your partner your best left hook, let me be clear: for many of us, if not most…unlocking a conservative imagination and deciding to foray into the forbidden together is no easy feat! Good sex -be it kinky or not- is all about the ongoing relationship you have with yourself, and more specifically, how you communicate with your partner. It actually begins outside of the bedroom. For example:
“How do you see yourself? Adventurous? Curious? Playful? Open? Rigid? Reserved? Now, how do you see your partner? Do these labels help or handicap your relationship? Do you build each other up or bring each other down? Is there a lot of fondness and appreciation for each other? How do you live your life? Are you more of a participant? Or a spectator? Do you live to work or work to live? Do you have a pleasure-loving side? Do you give yourself permission to play? How do you play? What does sex mean to you? What would make sex more meaningful to you? What does intimacy mean to you? When do you feel most erotic? What do you prefer, want or need? Are you comfortable asking for what truly works for you? Or do you dismiss your needs or put up a wall? Is this wall more about your values, morals, expectations, or body image issues? When do you feel inhibited in your relationship- not just sexually? Are you holding yourself back because of certain inhibitions? Or is this barrier borne from your relationship somehow? What’s negotiable, what isn’t? Why? How do you experience “giving” sexually? Taking, or owning pleasure? Do you feel worthy of pleasure? Do you like to initiate or do you prefer to surrender? Which of the 5 senses is your favourite? Touch? Smell? Taste? Sight? Sound? Do you ever feel fear, guilt or shame? When? How and when do you feel love? How and when do you feel desire? What do you long for? Can you recognize and separate your needs, wishes, feelings, and desires from others?”
Your sexual desire is deeply connected to the way you feel about yourself. Sometimes knowing what you want from sex is sublimated in why you want. It really helps to learn more about yourself before you propose your partner with an alternate path to what you desire. Talking about sex more openly in a non-sexual context has much to do with learning to become more comfortable when self-disclosing in intimate situations.
These are just some of the questions I coach couples to explore, in addition to “what turns you on, what do you fantasize about”? I have found such a wide range of points to be very useful- especially when consciously discussed- in helping couples think not only outside the box but to think about their answers in relation to their partner, all the while examining their oftentimes unconscious but self-imposed constraints: breaking down myths and misconceptions, entering the sexual realm of their relationships not only with a better understanding of the socio-cultural expectations they’ve been most influenced by, but also equipped with the renewed expectation that they will now continue to communicate about how they really feel about their erotic lives, with more clarity and compassion, honesty and respect. Exploring sexual fascinations more fervently can greatly heighten the imagination and erotic energy, as well as the meaning and pleasure we derive from sex.
emotional maturity +
So here’s a good place to begin: Ask yourself: is my relationship built on collaboration? Compassion? Creativity? Critical thinking? Good communication? If not, what things can you change right now? This type of couple curriculum is fundamental to cultivating a richer and better sex life together. Because how you feel about your erotic experiences after the fact always influences your feelings about yourself and your partner, and will probably contribute to whatever feelings you project toward your subsequent sexual experiences, too. Getting involved in kinky play out of guilt or pressure or just to please your partner is rarely ever a good idea. Setting out to explore and expand your imagination because the idea turns you on, however, can positively affect not only your feelings about your partner and your relationship, but your feelings about yourself, too. Consensual sex is vital to connection with self and other. When sexual disconnection or problems occur, feelings of confusion, dissonance, hurt, shame, guilt, and resentment can halt conversation altogether. The aim of great sex is to build a person up and never break them down, even when transcending into the world of dominance and submission:-) Thus, creating a safe place to explore suggestive topics -and trust- is crucial. And, so is a healthy respect for personal boundaries. Before you can merge erotically as a couple, you need to know who you are, individually.
Remember, passionate sex -as in life and love- isn’t always black or white, and sometimes it can be a lot more fun to live with a little bit of grey.
Thanks for reading….Lydia
PS. If you get a chance to see Kinky Boots, the musical….it’s playing in Toronto until mid-May….amazing!
Hi, I'm Lydia- a modern-day warrior of the heart with a mission to reconcile the mystery and mastery of Love.