Originally posted 21/04/2021
One for the adults!
I have invited Sexologist, Anisa Varasteh, to write a blog about adult intimacy and sexuality for the Talking The Talk audience. We are both members of the Society of Australian Sexologists and recently spent some time together on a Professional Development course.
She agrees, with me that sex has hardly anything to do with what most people think of when they hear the word sex (heterosexual penis in vagina intercourse). We both know how important intimacy and touch are for humans and have found a lack of knowledge in our work with adults.
I often get asked about it and hope to provide some interesting articles in the future that support adults to learn more and more about Human Sexuality and its importance on our relationships and health. Let me know what you think and what else you might like to hear about in regard to adult experiences and relationships.
Right now, is a time of complicated feelings. A time of ambiguity about the future, of anxiety about finances or health, on top of being in ongoing close proximity with partners and children. Some people experience a surge in sexual desire as anxiety can influence sexual desire in this way, and many people experience a drop in sexual desire as a result of stress.
“Stress is a survival mechanism to help you when your body is sending you signals that say you are not safe right now,” says Emily Nagoski, the author of the bestselling book ‘Come as you are’.
“…and if you don’t feel safe right now, is that a good moment to be having sex?”
For many people in long-term relationships, the pressure to maintain a consistent sex life is a great source of stress, and, ironically, is often the reason they’re not having it consistently!
So, addressing the underlying stress and anxiety can be a great help to enhance your libido. Mindful eating, exercising, going for walks around the neighbourhood and limiting the time spent watching/listening to the news and social media can reduce your stress level and increase your sex drive.
Here are some techniques you can use to increase intimacy and sexual pleasure:
Increase intimacy through touch
Holding hands, hugs, shoulder or back rubs are great ways to connect with a partner. Physical affection can set the stage for sexual touch that is focused on pleasure. Doubling the length of time, you kiss, hug, and use sensual touch can be ways to enhance intimacy and physical closeness. These activities release a hormone called oxytocin which creates a calming sensation. Studies show oxytocin is also released during sexual orgasm. Additionally, physical affection reduces stress hormones such as cortisol.
If you don’t have a sexual partner, you can still create oxytocin in your own body by crossing your arms and touching the opposite arm with an up-down motion. Taking a hot bath can also release oxytocin.
Say no to scheduled sex
This sounds contrary to what most of us have heard about increasing sexual closeness. While scheduled sex time can sometimes be effective often people who implement this, end up feeling pressured and/or resentful whether or not sex (intercourse or outercourse) actually occurs.
Schedule intimacy time
Instead of scheduled sex, create time and space for intimacy. Sex and intimacy are not the same. We can experience intimacy through a variety of ways: kissing, cuddling holding hands, having a meaningful conversation, watching an old favourite movie together. One suggestion is to go on a ‘picnic’ in your bedroom! Have the kids babysat for a couple of hours, pack a picnic, your favourite drinks and enjoy each other’s company without the distractions of phones/computers. You can even go on this picnic completely naked and bring some sexual flavour to it. The goal of these intimate times is not to have sex, but it could lead to intercourse or outercourse. If it occurs great! if it doesn’t great! Either way, you have enjoyed the time together in a no-pressure zone.
Schedule an experimentation night
Take some time one night (or day) to have a raw discussion about what you do and don’t like sexually.
This is how an experimentation night could look like: comfy clothes or pyjamas, a bowl of popcorn and a laptop or smartphone. Search for new moves, watch an erotic film (or porn if you wish) together. You can also download a list of sexual activities on my website and go through them individually. Respond with yes/no/maybe. Then put all the no’s aside and explore maybes: “What would make it a yes? What would make it a no?”
There are no obligations whatsoever, the aim is to explore with curiosity and honesty and to have some fun.
Teach each other what kind of touch you like
Many of my clients feel disappointed that their partner cannot give them pleasure. When I ask them if they have ever shown their partner what they like or don’t like, they are surprised by the question. As much as our partners love to pleasure us, they cannot read our minds nor our bodies. Each body is unique, and each person has unique needs, history, and desires. There are some general ideas how people can give each other pleasure but nothing like exploring your own body and then sharing those discoveries with your partner can get you closer to what is meaningful and pleasurable for you.
Self-pleasuring together allows your partner to see you enjoy pleasure, which can foster intimacy. Allowing your partner to witness how and where you like to be touched is practising a level of vulnerability that encourages closeness.
Discover your desire style
The way we feel and communicate desire is often dependant on our desire style. You have probably heard about “the learning styles”, that we all learn differently. And just as we have a preferred style when it comes to learning new things, we have a preference for styles in the sexual and erotic realm as well. For some of us, our desire is more visually oriented. Some of us are auditory, others are kinesthetics, others are tactile. Understanding your main desire style is one way to best understand your desire and how to communicate it with others when you want to. You can watch this free short course to learn some practical examples of how to increase your libido and to seduce your partner based on their unique desire style.
See a sexologist
Some couples find it easy to implement these exercises to (re)build intimacy, but other people may experience barriers to having conversations about sex and desire. If you and your partner find it difficult to talk about sex and intimacy seeing a therapist can facilitate these conversations and help you overcome such barriers.
Anisa Varasteh is a clinical sexologist, the Director of Relate Sexology.