Why what’s between your ears and what’s between the sheets have more in common than you think.
If you leave your house looking like a sexy kitten, or a zombie accountant, people might think you’re nuts. Unless it’s Halloween.
A full-body massage is great. Unless Dan, your creepy boss, is trying to give it you.
If you’re zooming down the road at 110mph, it better be a race track.
What I’m talking about here is context.
It’s what makes the difference between a $500 speeding ticket and an impressive lap time. It’s what separates your cool costume from a 5150 commitment against your will. It’s what distinguishes romance, from a sexual harassment suit.
And it’s what makes all the difference in the world, when it comes to your sex life.
In my years as a couples therapist, rarely (as in never), has a couple come to me with the problem of having too much sex (with each other), or feeling excessively comfortable (with themselves).
Unfortunately, it’s usually the other way around. Many clients begin therapy feeling lost about their sex lives, and frustrated with the lack of sexual aliveness in their relationships.
If they come at all, its to the conclusion that they are broken and dysfunctional.
But where, you ask, did these clients pick up their ideas of “function”? Same place you did:
From a modern-day anthology comprised of Cosmo magazine and Victorian Romance novels. xoJane meets Jane Erye. Vanity Fair meets Vanity Fair. 50 Shades of Gray, meets Dorian Gray. Girls Gone Wild, meets Oscar Wilde. (please, somebody stop me!)
Which in a nut shell, means that if you’re not spending all your time in spin class, or having mind-blowing sex, you’re broken, frigid, anti-feminist, not sex positive, disempowered, too empowered, or just not trying hard enough.
So back to context.
Which is just another way of talking about our nervous systems.
Don’t take it personally, but if I’m getting chased by a tiger, I won’t want to have sex with you. Not even a quickie. Not even a kiss.
When our survival is threatened, our needs for sex, no matter how rippling the abs, go out the window. Why? Because you’re probably more interested in staying alive than in getting it on.
And its not just tigers that kill our sex drive.
Our nervous systems can perceive even mundane stressors as deadly threats. And when that happens, our resources become devoted to responding to those hazards. Be they tigers, bad breath, or bills.
It’s only when our nervous systems calm down enough to identify stimuli as sexually relevant, that we are then able to focus on sex.
Thus, when my clients bemoan the loss of their sex drive, I ask them about how they self-soothe, and not just how they self-pleasure.
So what is context, actually?
It’s everything that happens outside of you (wild animals, bills, freezing weather, sounds, crowds, jobs) and everything that happens inside of you (body image, money worries, religion, mood, fantasies, health, etc). All of this together, tells your brain whether to look at the world as safe, sexy and sexually relevant, or as threatening, overwhelming and not so sexy at all.
The trick isn’t to up your Viagra Rx, or learn the reverse cowgirl, but to build awareness of the particular contexts in which your brain and body get into a sexy mood.
So what are your turn ons?
- Big boobs?
- A trusting relationship?
- Hearing the neighbors have sex?
- An empty house?
And how about your turn offs?
- Dirty talk?
- Family drama?
In addition to knowing what heats you up, and what turns you into a polar vortex, an earth-shaking sex life, (filled with endless orgasms, and playlists with nothing but D’Angelo on them), is built on regulating your brain’s perception of the world as a safe place.
I know, leave it to the therapist to bring an orgasm back to a cup of chamomile…
But what if you did respond to your feelings of stress, worry and irritation, by nursing your nervous system, instead of a cocktail?
Some of us have sexual accelerators that are so sensitive, that even piles of laundry or credit card bills, won’t prevent us from going from 0 to naked in seconds. But other folks, need a little help taking their foot off the brakes. That might mean spending time with friends, a hot shower or getting under the covers wearing nothing but a good book.
We’re all unique sexual snowflakes -a unrepeatable blend of history, biology, fantasy, memory and present day circumstances, all of which come together to inform how we relate to sex, our interest in it, and our curiosity about it.
Exploring your erotic landscape and regulating your nervous system may make for strange bedfellows. But get in bed with those two things, and you just may never get back out. (Hint, hint. Wink, wink)
Lonely Forever? No Way.