What I Want, What You Want, What We Want

by mel23. June 2015 18:15

 

One sexual question for lesbian couples is whether or not to incorporate penetration into their sexual play. This can become a couple’s issue, and sometimes a focus in sex therapy, if one person likes penetration and the other finds it upsetting.

 

Part of what we want to unpack with these couples is -  what does a desire for penetration mean? Many times I find that the partner who doesn’t like penetration is worried that her partner is not happy or satisfied with her body, which does not have a penis to provide penetration. The desire for penetration gets conflated with a desire for men, or a penis. So the first thing to address is sexual identity being different than a list of preferred sexual activities. Craving a feeling of fullness in the vagina, g-spot stimulation, pressure against sensitive vaginal walls, none of these imply a sexual orientation or an attraction to one type of person. After all there are many hetero women out there who do not find penetration to be the thing that gets them off. And there are many lesbian, or other-identified lovers of women, who do. So letting enjoyment of penetration be a sexual attribute rather than a defining feature of sexual orientation is important.

 

Secondly we want to talk about options for penetrative play. For some lesbian women, a strap on and thrusting style penetration is just too reminiscent of hetero-play and it is a turn-off. But there are lots of other ways to include penetration (for all couples). There are ball style toys that can be inserted and provide internal pressure which can be exciting, but don’t resemble a penis. Toys designed for g-spot stimulation are different than a traditional dildo and can be used with your hand or inserted and then intensified by rocking hips or rubbing against a partner. Of course fingers or hands are great for penetration and can be combined with vibrators, tongues, etc.

 

As usual, the key is communication. If one person likes something that the other person is uncomfortable with, talk about it. What makes it uncomfortable? What makes it hot for the other person? Go slow and stay connected while you try new things. There are lots of ways to pleasure someone and they have chosen to try them with you. Cheers to that!

 

 

This Thing We Call Integrity

by mel16. June 2015 17:26

 

 I talk to clients a lot about integrity. Since I do not believe I have the right to apply my morality or anyone else’s morality to another person, my goal as a therapist is for my clients to define and find the way for them to live in integrity, sexually and otherwise. But I realize maybe this a word we throw around without really diving in.

 

Integrity can be defined as the fairly ambiguous “having strong moral principles”. Ok, that can mean a lot of things. What I find is that many of us first need to establish –for ourselves – what exactly our moral principles are; then we can perhaps strengthen them. Integrity presupposes that we have come to terms with what is true and right for us and hopefully shed old shames that have been applied to us by others.

 

We use the word to apply to things we have built, implying that they are strong, sound, in good condition. Some people will define integrity as being honest, but I think that falls short.

 

The definition I like is this one – “The state of being whole and undivided’. This touches on the complexity of being a stand up human being, it allows for the fact that we may have differing parts, desires and needs that may sometimes confuse or conflict, but within our personal integrity we find ways to bring these things together, acknowledge them as part of us, and make a choice of what is best. I witness clients struggling with difficult choices prioritizing which value must take precedence at this time – do you honor the new passion you feel or a long-standing precious commitment? Do you honor a valued place in your community or a developing political statement? What you deeply want or what you believe to be right? This moment or a future plan? Integrity is not simple. It often requires that our perspectives change or develop. It can set us off balance as we search for a new balance.

 

This last definition also resonates with me as the feeling I have had when I am standing in integrity. I am not blindly following rules, I am full of awareness and in line with myself. I see that I have choice. And I have freedom in knowing I can simply show up with others because I am ok with my actions.

Consider how you interact and live your life differently when your conscience is clear, when you are at peace with yourself, undivided. How does this resonate within

 

 

 

Move That Body

by mel3. June 2015 17:01

 

Your body wants to move. Movement is so important to life that it helps to shape our brain and perceive our world. Movement is linked to expression of emotions and releasing energy. It is key to optimal health.

 

To give our body full range of its abilities, it is good to think about varying types of movement we do. Movement in modern life can become quite prescribed; I move when I workout, I move to get from here to there. Different types of movement stimulate and bring out different things in us. Here are some types to try and incorporate in to your active life:

 

Free Flowing Spontaneous – Movement that is inspired simply by what your body wants to do or express in the moment, no plan, no performance, starting from a feeling that emerges into action

 

Slow & Mindful – Yoga can be like this, or Tai Chi. The movements may be prescribed but you do them in a quiet, peaceful way that allows for listening to your body and tuning in to sensation

 

Repetitive Trance-Inducing – For some people running can take them to a trance like state, where the body hits a groove that doesn’t require thinking or direction. Other familiar repeated motions can bring this on as well

 

Challenging New Patterns – Learning something new that takes you out of a normal self-induced way of moving. Think dance classes or sports training which offer us this style of movement, where you consciously mirror and embody new patterns

 

Shared & Responsive – This is movement done with another person or persons, contact or partner dance, partner yoga or stretching, sex, this invites you to move in relation to another, seeking and sending feedback, leading and following

 

Micro Stillness Moving – Tuning in to the movements that happen within us all the time, feeling your breath, shifts in posture and tiny releases in tension, holding patterns, fluid cellular shifts, engaging all that is involved in sitting still

 

Want other kinds of movement have you experienced? Which of these feels least familiar or comfortable for you? How could you try each kind?

 

Devouring Passion

by mel27. May 2015 14:42

 

This story makes me smile: Children’s book author Maurice Sendak received a card from one of his young fans. It was special to him and so Sendak took time creating a little drawing to send back to the boy with a note that said how much he loved the boy’s card. Soon after, Sendak got a note from the boy’s mom, saying “Jim loved your card so much he ate it”. It should be no surprise that as an author who celebrates the wildness in children, and all of us, Sendak has said this was the best compliment he ever received.

 

It’s not a coincidence that many of our descriptions of passion include allusions or metaphors of eating. The instinct to take something inside of us, to make it a part of us, to feed ourselves from it, all reflect feelings of deep excitement and passion. To take an experience in and leave nothing behind, to fully ingest it – how many of us forget how to do this as we get older? Especially now that we are constantly encouraged to document and share each experience, however mundane, and more and more people believe “if I didn’t post it, it didn’t really happen”. How might Jim’s experience of devouring joy been changed if his mother had required time to pose for a picture followed by a post where she could monitor likes? Even the very adult instinct to respectfully save the picture (because it could possibly have paid for Jim’s first car) would change the flow of pure expression of irrational joy. How does our instinct to hold on to something, to keep it safe and sound, change moments of passion?

 

What do you love so much you want to gobble it up? What bring you such joy that you don’t feel any need to share it with others? When do you break open moments of such excitement that the future doesn’t even occur to you and there is no need to hold anything back for later? What kind of love has come your way which made you feel like you took it into yourself and it became a part of you? What holds you back from devouring passion?

 

Experiment : With a partner play with touching them in a way that allows you to feel like you are taking them in through your hands and skin. Imagine that you can feed on them and they will never be depleted. Breathe them in. Taste them; no biting, unless they ask! Imagine for right now it is ok to be a wild thing devouring what it wants.

 

ADHD & Sex

by mel20. May 2015 18:48

 

It is still rare for doctors to consider, much less discuss, the sexual impacts of mental health diagnoses. When I giving trainings for therapists and healthcare providers, I always remind them that sexuality entwines with all aspects of health. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder can affect an adult’s sexuality in many ways that can be addressed and often relieved. If we talk about it.

 

Shifting – For most adults, getting into the mindset for sex takes some conscious shifting out of the day to day distractions. For people with ADHD, shifting focus from one activity or mindset to the next can be particularly challenging. Learning to give themselves time to mentally stop what they are doing and re-adjust to a new sensual focus is important. Scheduling sex ahead of time can be helpful as it provides some structure.

 

Focusing – Difficulty focusing is a key feature of many people’s experience of ADHD. And sex is better with focused attention. Working with ADHD means working to reduce distractibility and refining the ability to pay attention to something, or someone, who interests you. Distractions during sex can increase the possibility of early ejaculation and erection difficulties, difficulty reaching orgasm, or feeling connected to your partners. Happily, learning to increase focus during sex will enhance the pleasure potential and make for a more intense experience.

 

Overstimulation – For some people with ADHD, life in general feels over-stimulating to the point of discomfort, including sex. For them, learning to relax and decrease the mental racing that can go along with high stimulation is important. Slowing down interactions and possibly taking breaks to close your eyes and breath. Being sure to focus on the present moment sensation, rather than on what to do next will also help with this. Sex is plenty stimulating; it is perfectly ok to go slow and really take it in.

 

Control – Sometimes ADHD can cause people to feel out of control with thoughts speeding ahead to places they don’t always choose or returning constantly to the same topic. Combined with all the sexual stimulation available, this can develop into sexual compulsivity or obsessive behavior with struggles to turn down sexual desire, even when it is creating consequences. An intense sexual drive can cause real conflicts in relationships where one partner simply can’t accommodate high levels of sexual activity. Working with the ability to re-channel thoughts, reduce anxiety, and find various balanced outlets for sexual energy can being more sense of control and empowerment.

 

These are just some common sexual impacts related to ADHD. Of course, relationship dynamics are affected as well which adds to the sexual dynamics. If you or someone you love is seeking support for ADHD, encourage them to find someone who will include sexuality as part of the conversation.

 

How to Want

by mel13. May 2015 11:31

 

There is a word in the Yaghan language of Tierra Del Fuego – mamihlapinatapei. While I have no clue how to pronounce it; I really like this word, which means a look exchanged between two people who both desire to initiate something but both are unwilling to offer themselves. This may sound like a depressing thing, but I think we could stand to get more comfortable with the idea of mamihlapinatapei.

 

We Americans are not so great at longing. We are conditioned to focus on getting. But over the course of human history there has been a lot of longing, and there will always continue to be unrequited, unsatisfied longing. We can see this as failure, as a problem unsolved. Or we can see it as a part of the human experience and proof that the world is full and abundant – so full and abundant that we cannot HAVE it all.

 

There is a long literary tradition focused on long suffering yearning and unexpressed desire. I admit I found much of this irritating, too many high neck Victorian dresses, too much pining and martyrdom, too much repression. And I certainly don’t want us to return to hidden sexual drives, hidden bodies, or social structures that enforce separation and make so much loving impossible. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that there is something to learn from expressions of yearning, especially the type of yearning mamihlapinatapei speaks of – when one part of our self wants one thing and another part feels in conflict with that.

 

How many damaging sexual choices might be avoided if we grew up with an awareness of this concept? What if we were taught to expect moments of desire that we will not choose to act on? What if we actually enjoyed the tension of longing for something? What if the wordless exchange in a glance between two people that contained possibility but not action was considered a valuable, even beautiful, experience?

 

I want people to have full shameless sexual expression and satisfying sexual efficacy. I want people to get what they want. But I also want people to be so turned on by life and the world around them that they will experience some overflow, some sense of just taking it in without taking action. And I would like us to see that as potent, capable of building us up and filling us with energy of potential and private wonderings, rather than as a sign that life is passing us by. Life is here for you, with more than you can experience in one lifetime. And that is okay. Sometimes a passing look is creates a powerful memory of another version of passion manifest simply inside of you.

 

How to Want

by mel13. May 2015 11:31

 

There is a word in the Yaghan language of Tierra Del Fuego – mamihlapinatapei. While I have no clue how to pronounce it; I really like this word, which means a look exchanged between two people who both desire to initiate something but both are unwilling to offer themselves. This may sound like a depressing thing, but I think we could stand to get more comfortable with the idea of mamihlapinatapei.

 

We Americans are not so great at longing. We are conditioned to focus on getting. But over the course of human history there has been a lot of longing, and there will always continue to be unrequited, unsatisfied longing. We can see this as failure, as a problem unsolved. Or we can see it as a part of the human experience and proof that the world is full and abundant – so full and abundant that we cannot HAVE it all.

 

There is a long literary tradition focused on long suffering yearning and unexpressed desire. I admit I found much of this irritating, too many high neck Victorian dresses, too much pining and martyrdom, too much repression. And I certainly don’t want us to return to hidden sexual drives, hidden bodies, or social structures that enforce separation and make so much loving impossible. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that there is something to learn from expressions of yearning, especially the type of yearning mamihlapinatapei speaks of – when one part of our self wants one thing and another part feels in conflict with that.

 

How many damaging sexual choices might be avoided if we grew up with an awareness of this concept? What if we were taught to expect moments of desire that we will not choose to act on? What if we actually enjoyed the tension of longing for something? What if the wordless exchange in a glance between two people that contained possibility but not action was considered a valuable, even beautiful, experience?

 

I want people to have full shameless sexual expression and satisfying sexual efficacy. I want people to get what they want. But I also want people to be so turned on by life and the world around them that they will experience some overflow, some sense of just taking it in without taking action. And I would like us to see that as potent, capable of building us up and filling us with energy of potential and private wonderings, rather than as a sign that life is passing us by. Life is here for you, with more than you can experience in one lifetime. And that is okay. Sometimes a passing look is creates a powerful memory of another version of passion manifest simply inside of you.

 

Advice Overload Won't Help

by mel6. May 2015 13:58

Here's a reprint from an article I did for YourTango.com :

 

More and more women are talking to each other about their sex lives. If not in open Sex and the City style confessionals over brunch, then in hushed tones over a glass of wine or huddled on the sidelines at a soccer match. Increased comfort talking about sex and desire is a good thing. But it can create advice overload, advice that just may not apply to us. Difficulty orgasming is one of those concerns for which one size solutions do not fit all. So if you have been comparing yourself to your friends and confidants and wondering why what works for them hasn’t worked for you, don’t worry. There is a solution for you; it just may be different than hers.

There are a lot of reasons why you may be having trouble with orgasm. Figuring out what is going on for you uniquely is key to getting your orgasms back, or finding them if you have not yet experienced them. A sex therapist or sex coach may be the best support in helping you assess what is impacting you, but here are a few common causes to consider. Which do you think might apply to you?

Ineffective Sex : Lack of sexual variety, skills, and experience, combined with rushed sex, are a common reason for difficulty with orgasms. Maybe you need more time for your body to get warmed up or sex that is frankly more fun for you. Since the sexual revolution of the 70s and the new focus on women’s sexual arousal , this is often the assumed problem. But I also see many couples who are having playful, arousing, exciting sexual interaction and orgasm is still missing. Go and explore new ways to be sexual but also trust yourself. Maybe there is another reason.

Your Mind is Busy Working : It may be difficult for you to turn your mind down or switch focus from the daily to-do lists to feel physical pleasure. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, it will be hard to orgasm. You could be thinking about the laundry that needs to get done for tomorrow or the deadline at work or the cellulite on your thighs. In any case, you are not thinking about how good it feels to be touched. It is important to find ways to reduce your stress, transition from the daily grind to make time for pleasure, and to learn how to train your mind to let go of things temporarily and be in the moment. Most of us can use some help with this!

Hormones Are Not There for You : We hear a fair amount about how hormones impact sexual desire and libido, but hormones also play key roles in our ability to orgasm.  Low estrogen in particular reducing blood flow to genitals which may make orgasm more difficult. If you used to have no trouble reaching orgasm and that has changed dramatically or if you feel like you have desire for sex and that the sex you are having is arousing but you never quite reach the peak of orgasm, maybe hormones are to blame. The frustration for a lot of women with this issue is that they have talked to their doctor and been dismissed. Keep in mind that most gynecologists are trained to care for your reproductive health, which is different than your sexual health or satisfaction. Seek out a doctor who specializes in sexual health or a naturopath who works with hormones.

 Low Tone or Awareness in Pelvic Floor Muscles : If you feel like you have low sensation with penetration or that you are just not feeling much, maybe you have weakness in your pelvic floor muscles which help with intensity of pleasure and orgasm. Childbirth, lack of use, and menopause can all affect the health of these muscles, but you can always train them to be stronger. You can even get to the point that you have control over contracting them which is a great way to increase sexual pleasure. You can learn about pelvic exercises called Kegels on your own and practice them. You can also find a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health and get an assessment and support from them.

You Believe Orgasms are Bad, Dirty or Dangerous : There are lots of deeply held beliefs, sometimes so deep that we are only mildly aware of them, that impact our sexual pleasure. You may be able to identify the beliefs that are getting in the way; you may even want to stop having those beliefs. But changing our minds can be harder than we imagine. You can get support by reading books or seeing movies that support they way you want to see sex, talking to friends, and of course talking with a sex therapist or coach.

Sexual Pain: Sex doesn’t have to be painful and if you have been living with this, I strongly encourage you to seek help from a doctor specializing in sexual pain. Even if the pain comes and goes, the eventual anxiety about having pain will get in the way of experiencing pleasure. You are not alone in having sexual pain and you are not doomed to live with it. But you may have to do some searching to find an experienced doctor or clinician who can help.

Your trouble reaching orgasm may be related to one of these causes or several of them. You may have another reason all together. If orgasm feels important to you seek out your own solutions and support. Don’t get overwhelmed by advice overload; let your friends do what works for them. Listen to your body and you will find what works for you.

 

 

 

 

Resistance to Consent

by mel29. April 2015 18:25

 

In this April’s Elle Magazine there is a commentary on new consent laws, such as those enacted in California this year, defining true sexual consent as acknowledged by verbal consent. The woman writer, Cristina Nehring, claims that asking for verbal consent is the “death of eros”. She writes a lovely narrative about her first experience of seduction and also about the sometimes exciting blurring of lines that can arise when surrender and seduction are at play. But, her resistance to verbalizing “YES” during sex is deeply concerning to me as a sex therapist and educator. And what is even more concerning is that Ms Nehring’s opinion is one that I find more than a few women quietly hold.

 

Ms Nehring proudly closes her article with this statement : “I would never have pursued anything in love or bed had I been asked to consent to it in advance or explicitly name it afterwards.” The implication that she doesn’t find this troubling or sad, speaks volumes about still common attitudes regarding female sexuality.

 

The role of the seduced, the one who is wanted rather than wanting, the reserved partner who gets overwhelmed by sexual pleasure so that she cannot say no even as she is unwilling to say yes - How many romance novels, old movies, and morality tales contain this female archetype? The woman who gets overcome by her, almost always male, partner’s passion without having to claim her own, holds a potent place in our culture’s sexual fantasies. And how convenient it is to not have to take responsibility for a sexual hunger that has been shamed and demonized. How relieving to let all that go and not have to actually admit that you want, that you feel pleasure and crave more. And indeed these can be powerfully freeing roles to enact in a BDSM scene that is carefully negotiated beforehand. But that takes communication and explicit consent. Sticking to these roles without dialogue can do a lot of damage.

 

Not feeling allowed to speak about desires is disempowering whether you do it to yourself or someone else imposes this limitation on you. By not getting comfortable with explicit language, we limit what we can experience and share with partners. By requiring partners to play along with unspoken roles and rules, we blur the boundaries and add to the confusion. By complaining that we should not have to respond or that it ruins the mood if our partner whispers in our ear, “Do you want this?”, we take a step farther away from honesty and intimacy. Believing that clearly communicating consent for sex is embarrassing or burdensome is an effect of a history of sexual repression, not a truth about eros.

 

There are many ways to consent, many of them quite compelling, and I wish for partners to try them all out together. However, being able to speak up, whether in whispers or groans, is foundational.  Being able to say, “YES!” is a gift and a right we should all celebrate. Pursue love and sex with enthusiasm and pride. Pursue them by saying you want them.

 

Sweet Contact...and Separation

by mel22. April 2015 15:36

 

Good sex can make us feel as though the world has stopped and touch and movement and contact is all that exists in the moment. Intertwining physically, we can also feel intertwined as humans, connected like instruments in song, responding to each other’s rhythms, rising and falling together, sharing something without the effort of talking or explaining. It can feel as though veils of appropriate public behavior are lifted and there is an honesty that comes out in privacy. You can feel joined. Witnessing and being witnessed in the trance of pleasure can create a closeness that is unlike any other. It can make you feel connected and seen, basking in what you just created together.

 

And then we need to disentangle and go about our lives. We pull apart, literally and otherwise. It’s necessary, we cannot sustain immediate sensual connection at all times. We humans have the capacity to feel merged and connected, but also the need to function as individual beings. We cannot live on strawberries seductively inserted between our lips by an ardent partner. Nope, we have to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and get on with our day eventually.

 

There is an ongoing discussion out there about how to create this focused erotic trance-like connection with a sexual partner. As a sex therapist, I have plenty to say on that subject and know lots of people are yearning for those moments of intensity. But we don’t often talk about the de-escalation that comes after good sex, the necessary separation. And yet, many people struggle with these true after-the-after-glow moments. How do we experience disconnecting?

 

Some people feel a mild sadness or an unexplained sense of disappointment. Some people feel distrustful of their own intensity and feelings. Some may feel lonely or displaced somehow. Some people feel checked out. And, since we don’t often talk about the separation after the connection, many people may have no idea what they are feeling or why.

 

The ability to come together in sensual intensity requires the ability to be experience being apart. We can be apart but still allied and we can sustain ourselves through difficult times of distance by remembering the deep and earnest closeness that sex can bring. Couples who believe in the potency of that contact, even when separate, have a secret source of desire and intimacy. Remember how open and naked you can let yourself be, even as you dress yourself for your day out in the world, miles apart from those moments of skin to skin contact. Let yourself flush as you think about coming together again. How beautiful it is to be separate so that we can discover each other again and again.

 

Melissa Fritchle

Melissa Fritchle is the author of The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook and  a Holistic Psychotherapist, licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist (Lic#48627). She has a private practice specializing in Sex Therapy and Couples Therapy. She travels far and wide,  internationally and on the internet, to spread compassionate, sex positive, diverse, realistic sex education.

Contact Melissa for therapy or to book her for a workshop or presentation

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