7 Lessons From A Sex Therapist On How To Create Your Sexual Potential
According to Canadian sexologist Peggy Kleinplatz, Ph.D., the vast majority of problems that bring people into sex therapy stem from what she calls the "North American sex script" that centers on having heterosexual intercourse with orgasms in all the right places, meaning, women should be experiencing orgasms reliably through sexual intercourse, which is actually not the case.
Even with additional clitoral stimulation, less than half of women (43%) report experiencing orgasm through intercourse 75% of the time1. In other words, our cultural view of sexuality is narrow, limiting, and performance-oriented, favoring what does not appear to come naturally.
Inspired by Kleinplatz, I have gleaned seven lessons from my own research and work with clients. These lessons, or take-aways, offer an invitation to understand and explore yourself and your lover in a whole new dimension of sexual pleasure:
Do not judge your erotic self or the erotic experience.
Practice radical self-acceptance. Learn to love your body, exactly as it is. This is one of the biggest lessons, mentioned by nearly all of my participants. They also become curious about their own sexuality and went about exploring what turned them on. Learn to embrace your unique erotic fingerprint—whatever it is.
Let yourself be exactly as you are in the moment. And let the moment be exactly as it is. Sex is our willingness to be sexual beings, however that shows up. Remember first and foremost that good sex is about being present.
Shift your focus inward to listen closely to what you want and what your body yearns for. What are your fantasies? How do you like to be touched? Why not explore all areas of your body that can give you pleasure? Become keenly aware of what pleases you across the senses beyond touch—don't forget about sounds and tastes. Are you interested in perhaps being more active when you tend to be receptive? More receptive when you're usually more active? Making subtle shifts in your habitual roles may reveal new ways that you can be turned on.
Paying attention to sensations is key for pleasurable sex. If your mind wanders and starts to get into "spectatoring" mode—becoming goal-directed or self-conscious—simply notice that without judgment, letting those thoughts be exactly as they are while you bring your attention back to the senses.
Be patient—about getting turned on.
When you want to have intercourse, for example, don't begin until you and/or your partner are sufficiently aroused. Allow the sex to unfold without rushing into it. Although this advice may seem simplistic, it's hugely important to experiencing the pleasure of sex. Slow down and savor the sensations. Let them build. Enjoy the journey without concern about the destination.
Stay connected to your partner.
You have a number of tools to use with your partner—to manage defenses, be an attentive and active listener, and be open to differences in erotic fingerprints or desire. Respect these differences and you will feel more connected. Often the best way to connect is actually going beyond words.
Look into your partner's eyes and breathe with your partner while sitting silently. See the person in front of you, the being you fell in love with. Spoon your partner and hold them and synchronize your breath to synchronize your nervous systems. This actually works. We are like tuning forks and go into "cardiac" entrainment with lovers (and even our pets) when we settle into the connection. Good sex is connected sex.
We often feel hesitant to speak up with partners about parts of ourselves that we think they will judge or worry that if we tell them how we truly feel, we will hurt them. We tend to play it safe when in doubt. But another way to look at this is that there is a risk to not taking risks. If we don't explore some of the scarier places with our partners, if we don't explore the corners of our erotic selves, we tend to shut down and stagnate. And stagnation, itself, is dangerous to relationships.
Sexual potential unfolds when we bring all of ourselves into the mix. We are always, always shifting and changing and growing. Taking the risk to reveal how these changes affect us, our thoughts, our fears, our feelings, even our fantasies tends to revitalize the partnership.
Allow sex to play a larger role in your life. Your work with your seven core emotions has paved the way for more keen awareness and insight into how and why pleasure is so important to your life, so allow sex to play a larger role. Make time for sex, expand your notion of what sex is, nurture it, and explore it. It's a journey without an end.
Tolerate emotions and embrace the transformative nature of sex.
Because of the blend of emotional and physical drivers of sex, any type of sexual experience or activity has the capacity to stir up all kinds of emotions. One of the most important lessons for good sex and also good relationships, in general, is to learn how to more fully tolerate our feelings, other people's feelings, and our feelings about other people's feelings. And sometimes the most challenging feelings to tolerate, believe it or not, are intense feelings of pleasure—which for some can feel scarily out of control.
When we can learn to simply allow the feelings to be as they are, stay present to ourselves and to each other, the experiences we can have with and through sex can be truly healing and can revitalize our mind, body, and spirit. It is a tangible form of connection to others, a source of immune-boosting energy, and a vast reservoir for pleasure.
Excerpted from Why Good Sex Matters by Nan Wise, Ph.D. © 2020 by Nan Wise. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Nan Wise, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist, cognitive neuroscientist, certified sex therapist, board certified clinical hypnotherapist, and certified relationship specialist with three decades of experience. Driven by an intense desire to understand how the brain operates to create moods and behaviors, she returned to academia in 2009 to pursue a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at Rutgers-Newark where she completed her dissertation project, “Genital stimulation, imagery, and orgasm in women: an fMRI analysis” in August of 2014. Her research has attempted to address gaps in the scientific literature regarding the neural basis of human sexuality, and as a result, has garnered international attention.