“If sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities, it’s because they lead to the knowledge that you own your own body (and with it your own voice), and that’s the most revolutionary insight of all.” Erica Jong
Getting to Know You
For the past few weeks we’ve been examining how we function in the “Socio-Sexual Response Cycle” or SSRC. Simply put, this is how we respond socially to sexual stimuli; or how we manage our individual sexuality. For example: how do you make the decisions that become your sexual choices, how do you negotiate them (if you actually DO negotiate them), and more importantly—how do you handle what happens in that all-important post-orgasmic aftermath?
So far, we’ve been discussing the first two steps: Desire and Consideration of Options. Have you already discovered which step you find more challenging and which is easier for you? Perhaps you function well in both and can easily recognize your desire and look at your possibilities. Or perhaps you’re uncomfortable expressing those longings and so do your best to suppress them. Or maybe you can recognize your own longing, but you just don’t feel comfortable identifying your options. Give it a shot. Once you can begin to identify which phases of the SSRC are problematic for you, you’re actually on the path to finding creative solutions.
Getting to Know All About You
Now that you’ve considered your options and know what you want, it’s time for the next step in the SSRC: Negotiation/Agreement. You see, not only do you have to ASK for what you want, you also have to negotiate with either yourself or someone else and reach an agreement about what you’re going to do. Does this sound intimidating? Many of us find it so scary that we just don’t bother going there. Interestingly, many long-term couples never actually communicate about what it is they’d like to do sexually. Instead, they develop a system of signals that lets the other know they’re receptive to having sex. How does this non-verbal signaling work? Perhaps he lights scented candles in the bedroom, to indicate that he’s feeling “romantic.” Maybe she wears that special slinky camisole at bedtime.
Unfortunately for many, that means they do the same thing, the same way, over and over until one or both checks out emotionally and/or physically because they’re bored. No one ever discusses changing their routine or trying something new; so, of course, if you don’t talk about it, it becomes more and more intimidating to even consider discussing.
When I Am Near You Interestingly, the HIV pandemic has contributed not only to an increase in sexual health awareness, but also to an increase in sexual communication. For people playing with new or multiple partners, it’s now critical that risk reduction be discussed. Even those who could never bring themselves to discuss sex before, now find that at the very least they have to agree on using a condom. That means they actually have to talk about something sexual, and this actually opens the door to talking about what activities they’ll engage in as well.
Suddenly I’m Bright and Breezy
Let’s look at a typical encounter where negotiation and agreement might happen:
You’re at a wine tasting, and you’re introduced to an intelligent, funny, attractive person. Before you know it, you’ve spent the entire party talking together, and now you know you want to take it further. So what do you do? Do you just drift along and hope the other person gets your signals? That could take all night, and by that time, you might find yourself alone again with your vibrator!
So you need to speak up. “What now?” you might say. “I’d really like to spend more time with you.” If the response is positive and the two of you somehow magically find yourselves back at the apartment in front of a lovely fire, it’s time to go for it. And here’s where negotiation can be sexy. In fact, if you think of it as part of sex play, it can be a real turn-on.
Because of All the Wonderful and New Things I’m Learning About You
“What do you like to do? I love kissing. Me too. Deep kisses, like this? Oh yes. And what about having your ear nibbled? Does that feel good? Mmmmmmmm I love being touched all over. And I can’t wait to touch you all over. Your skin feels great on mine. Shall we get undressed, or would you like to undress me?"
Oops. Drifted off there for a moment. You should see me when I role play this kind of scenario with one of my graduate students! The temperature in the room goes up 20 degrees, and I find myself having to yell real loud to pull everyone back into the present.
Putting It My Way, But Nicely
So you get the picture: with each step along the way, you can check in and find out if what you want coincides with the other person’s desires. And vice versa. It’s much less intimidating once you’re comfortable including this negotiation/agreement into your actual sexual pattern. Once you start using it, you won’t even notice it—it will become part and parcel of your sexuality. And if you’re already in a long-term relationship that’s fallen into that kind of a rut, try adding this kind of communication, just a little bit at a time at first, and watch what happens. I guarantee you, sparks will fly.
You Are Precisely My Cup of Tea
Now I’m sending you off to practice, practice, practice. Homework is so hard, isn’t it?
Next week, we’ll wrap this up with a discussion of the last phase: What’s Next? (the aftermath)