Overwhelmed and enchanted by repeated information and news about sex, we’re deluding ourselves that we live in an enlightened age of sexual liberation and empowerment.
We observe the sex industry expanding to the rhythm of sales of sex toys, sexy lingerie, and erotic novels, the porn video views, and the birth of sex robots equipped with interchangeable genitals.
Hanging out with friends, we flaunt brilliant sexual performance stats showing pride and competitive spirit, like sex quality was quantitatively measurable in terms of frequency and duration.
Judging by the headlines published daily on the web to catch clicks and page views, we should have a solid culture about the ’10 best sex positions to make your woman go crazy’, the ‘aphrodisiac foods that boost your libido’, the ‘techniques to give her a mind-blowing orgasm’, the ‘secrets to make her scream in pleasure’ and other sex guru notions.
Sex should be a piece of cake by now, an art with no secrets to be mastered with ease and in serenity.
Instead, we live constantly on edge between a false show of confidence and the real inadequacy to live sexuality with genuine abandon and liberating fulfillment.
When the bedroom door closes and sex becomes a private matter to be deepened with the partner, it’s not the record numbers that come out, but rather the doubts, the embarrassment, and the performance anxiety.
Disoriented by prejudice and stereotypes, we are worried about projecting an acceptable self-image while we try to meet the requirements of the gender role defined by religion, culture and social conventions, in order to fulfill the ideal of normality in the matter of sexuality.
Fearing the rejection by the loved one under the sheets, we keep our real desires and fantasies below deck, without understanding how to combine the figures of kind and caring partner, loyal to the monogamous love, and passionate and creative lover, open to polygamous adventures.
We end up feeling frustrated and unsatisfied, unable to match sex with love and pleasure.
And as much as we can make efforts to put ‘X’ on the calendar and maintain a sexual intercourse frequency to brag about, we won’t be able to enjoy a really enlightened and satisfying sexuality until we find the courage to accept and share our desires and fantasies and we “learn to talk to our loved ones with pioneering honesty about the contents of our own minds“.
That’s why the sexual liberation has never really happened to this day. As claimed by this illuminating video produced for The School of Life with animation by Jesse Collett and script by Alain de Botton.
If the reason for frustration and the troubles that make sex such a complex issue is the inability to openly communicate fantasies and preferences, the solution is simple and almost banal: talk (not about the weather) with the one who you share the mattress (and the kitchen table, and the car seat…) with.
Opening up to the partner means learning and communicating what we’re into and what we’re not, and using this information for the sexual fulfillment of both, with the risk of discovering new ways to live sexuality together.
Although the greatest seducer of all time understood the importance of dialogue in the search for pleasure too, communication is something that straight lovers have to learn from gay ones.
Without speech, the pleasure of love is diminished by at least two-thirds...
It’s in the ability to discourse on sexual pleasure that gay people stand out from heteros having more and better sex, and it’s all based on a substantial difference of approach to sexuality that Dan Savage couldn’t have explained any better:
Gay Advice For Straight Couples
In the woman/man relationships, communication ends with the consent to go to bed together: after the ‘Yes’, there’s the sex and partners stop talking, assuming that penetrative vaginal intercourse is a standard epilog fulfilling for both of them.
In the man/man relationships, the conversation begins with the decision to go to bed together. After the ‘Yes’, communication is essential to negotiate what comes next. Who’s going to start doing what, to whom and how cannot be assumed between same-sex partners.
It all starts with ‘four magic words’:
What are you into?
From that moment on, each one is empowered to decide what to include and what to leave out from the intercourse and has all the necessary tools to try satisfying his own sexual desires and the partner’s ones.
It sounds easy, but don’t think it’s banal. To make the question work, you have to put in more effort.
First, the answer has to be honest, that implies a certain self-knowledge and body awareness (masturbation can be a good start).
It is essential to stop thinking that heterosexual intercourse means only to stick something somewhere and that both the partners have to like it. Truth is, penetration is just one way of staying together, and not necessarily the most fulfilling one. Staying open to other ways to seek and experience pleasure together with no penetration, and feeling free to try and propose them to the partner, could solve a lot of problems related to dissatisfaction, difficulty reaching orgasm and subsequent frustration and vaginal pain due to stress and anxiety. I’m talking about oral sex, mutual masturbation and whatever activity makes you feel good (= take pleasure).
The hardest part is emptying that memory drawer filled with precepts masquerading as fake values, preconceptions, and taboos around sexuality to make room for creativity and curiosity that can lead us in expressing all the fantasies and the desires that turn us on. Ordered not by right/wrong but by I like/I don’t like.
The path is not easy, but this might be a good place to start: next time, instead of putting a half smile on your face and asking your gay friend if he’s active or passive for the sake of knowing it, look your partner in the eyes and ask him which fantasy turns him on for the sake of trying it.
And maybe one day a woman will feel free and confident to say – I’m not into penetration – standing before a male partner who instead of panicking and feeling rejected, will come up with an exciting alternative.
Illustration Morena Nerri
Illustration by Jess Collett from the video Sexual Non-Liberation
Portrait of Giacomo Casanova – by Francesco Casanova – Adriano C. from en: wikipedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134753