Sensuality: The Key to a Satisfying Sex Life
Ah summer! Time for barbecues, bonfires, lazy sunny afternoons on the beach and star gazing. It’s also a great time to get out of our winter dullness and awaken our senses. And the opportunities to experience the many pleasures our five senses can provide are endless: the warm sand between your toes, the tangy sweetness of fresh strawberries, the smell of a summer rain, the beauty of colorful sunsets, the sweet sound of birds chirping…
Our Senses as Survival Tools
It’s thanks to our sensory organs that we are in contact with the world around us. Our ability to hear, touch, smell, see and taste enable us to perceive stimuli in our environment and interact with the people and objects we encounter in our surroundings. And while our senses can be sources of pleasure they are also essential to our survival. Without them we would not feel pain (and thus try to avoid it), we’d eat food that’s gone bad, we wouldn’t smell a gas leak, see a car speeding towards us or hear fire alarms.
From Sensuality to Sexuality
It’s also through our senses that we are able to experience sexual pleasure. Sensuality refers to our ability to be acutely aware of what our senses perceive and take pleasure in these sensations. This sensory awareness is key to a satisfying sex life. It’s what elevates sex from a mere genital act to a total body experience.
Our ability to appreciate and immerse ourselves in sensuousness determines how our bodies react to sexual stimulation as well as how satisfied we feel afterwards. It also determines to what degree we can truly connect to our sexual partners by opening ourselves up to the other through our sensing bodies. The more we are “in” our own bodies the more we can feel our partners and experience true intimacy.
The Mind and body disconnect
However, modern life can make it easy for us to shut ourselves off from our sensing self and let our thinking self take over. We can spend most of our waking hours “in our heads” and dissociated from our bodies, focused on planning, self-improving, problem-solving and multitasking our way through our daily “to do” lists.
It’s been a while since humans have needed their senses to fulfill their basic needs for food and shelter. We no longer have to rely on our hearing to detect predators or sense of smell to locate potential prey. We survive mostly thanks to our capacity for reason. Meanwhile, our senses are still there, detecting, but not fully registering. Our ears are hearing but not necessarily listening while our tongues are tasting but not really savouring.
Sex without feeling
It’s easy to see how living mostly in our heads and the resulting lack of sensory connection can negatively affect how we experience sex. In order for sensory stimulation to produce sexual response (erection or lubrication and then orgasm), it needs to be transmitted from our sensory organs to your brain and then our genitals.
For this process to happen, our attention must be focused on what is being felt, seen, heard, smelled and tasted in that moment. Our estrangement from our sensing self affects our ability to take in sensory stimulation and thus how our bodies will respond to it. This disconnect is often described by my clients as “I’m just going through the motions” or “Sex feels mechanical” or again “My husband isn’t really there during sex”. They are touching without feeling. This sensory disconnect can not only lead to the obvious sexual boredom and ensuing loss of interest in sex, but can also cause sexual dysfunctions such as erectile difficulties, premature ejaculation, the inability to reach orgasm and others.
Surrender to Your Senses
In order to experience the full potential of sexual pleasure that’s at hand we need to experience stimulation from the point of view of our senses. And this is where our ability to turn off our minds and tune into our senses becomes crucial: giving ourselves permission for that moment to get out of our minds and let our senses take centre stage, to simply be in the “here and now” and devote our full attention to what’s happening in our bodies and with our partner.
It’s about sensing versus thinking about what’s happening and feeling our way through the experience with our fingertips, lips, skin, genitals, nose, and ears and eyes.
Don’t forget the other four…
Skin, the body’s largest sensory organ, is by far the most exploited of our senses during sex. However, lovemaking can be a great opportunity to enjoy our other underused faculties or learn how to touch in a more conscious fashion. Here are some suggestions:
- Taste:Think of the film 9½ Weeks and feed your blindfolded lover a variety of foods or pour chocolate sauce (or caramel, honey, your favorite liqueur, etc.) over parts of their body and enjoy licking them clean!
- Sight:If you’re used to making love in the dark, leave the lights on, a few candles lit or the curtains open so moonlight can stream in. Or make love in total darkness or both blindfolded and let your other senses guide you. You can also dare each other to make love with your eyes open and see what that’s like.
- Hearing: Break the usual pace of your lovemaking by playing different styles of music and letting yourself be inspired by the melody and rhythm: jazz standards to slow things down, ballads if you’re feeling sentimental, electronic or rock to excite and get your blood flowing or worldbeat to get your hips swaying.
- Smell: Burn essential oils or perfume your sheets with scents that can be libido-boosting such as orange, ginger and lavender. Take the time to relish in your partner’s natural scent and get your millions of olfactory receptors working!
- Touch: Lick, nibble, stroke, squeeze or grab, with tenderness or lust, the parts of your partner’s body that you tend to ignore: shoulders, behind the neck, the sides of their torso, stomach, inner thighs, outer labia or scrotum, etc. Or treat them to a head to toe kissing session.
Shift Gears Before Approaching Sex
Now most of us may at times find it difficult to go from being disconnected all day and then hopping into bed with our partners expecting to be fully present. Doing something to transition from being in our heads to getting reacquainted with our sensual side before sex can be helpful.
Taking a hot bath or shower, alone or with our partner, can do the trick as well as giving and receiving a massage, cooking and enjoying a nice meal together or just taking the time to reconnect physically by cuddling on the couch.
This is also where sexual foreplay can become a doorway into the sensual sphere. Slowing down and taking the time to become available to sensuousness before heading towards genital stimulation provides us with an opportunity to reconnect to our bodies and our partners, and ultimately making sex a more enjoyable and globally satisfying experience.
Nurture Your Sensual Intelligence
And although sensuality tends to conjure up sex (just type “sensuality” in “Google Images” to see what I mean!), taking a sensual approach to life in general by making a conscious effort to appreciate the small sensual pleasures everyday life has to offer makes living more joyful while helping us stay connected to our sensual selves and making us better lovers.
So make everyday a sensual experience and indulge! Eat strawberries like it’s the first time. Sleep in the nude and feel the sheets against your skin. Smell the sweet pine as you’re hiking in the forest. Listen to kids laughing and squealing as they play in the park. Take pictures of flowers and try to capture their delicate features. Become an all around sensuous person and discover the gifts our skin, eyes, noses, mouths, ears can bestow upon us.