With so much love to give and receive in this world, it’s such a shame that we let our own boundaries and barriers interfere with our experience of sexuality. There are factors for both genders that play roles in our ability to freely express and enjoy sensuality, eroticism and pleasure. I don’t want to emphasize these barriers even more and run the risk of helping these tumors grow, but I do think that having some insight into how things got to where they are and what can be done about it may be helpful.
I already covered my thoughts on some of the aspects that impact men’s expression of sexuality in Ask Yourself (please read that first), so now it’s onto the women. I could really write an entire chapter of a book (and will someday soon) to cover the spectrum of factors that have played a role in women’s expression of sexuality. In order to be thorough, I could analyze environmental, political, social, spiritual and physiological issues that have impacted us over the centuries. For my purposes here, I’ll offer an abbreviated version to offer some food for thought to enhance your understanding of your woman’s sexual nature.
Let’s start with the basic differences in our bodies. As I have mentioned in my articles on Safety and Sex, men are more physically domineering than women. With more muscle mass, heavier bone structure and taller statures (generally speaking), men are built with a greater capacity for physical strength. By itself, this difference does not mean anything in particular. Unfortunately, some men throughout the centuries have used this as a means by which to dominate, harm and control others. (By the way, I have also seen women wield their physical and psychological power to threaten and dominate over men as well.) These instances of injustices and domination have instilled fear in women for their physical safety. Though we currently live in a society where women’s rights and freedoms are (at least legally speaking) on par with men’s, we are still taught from an early age to be ever-aware of our surroundings. I can remember my mom (who is not an alarmist or paranoid woman at all), educate me on the precautions I needed to take as a girl (and a pretty one) to avoid harm and danger that could be inflicted by men. Fortunately, we lived in a safe area and I felt relatively comfortable in my surroundings, but the message was deeply embedded in my psyche.
I’ve said all of that to highlight the fact that women in general, even today, are still very aware of the possibility of sexual violence. Even if this is not part of our personal history, the media’s coverage doesn’t allow us to forget about this risk. This factor alone, especially if your partner has had a harmful experience, can greatly impact her expression and comfort with sexuality. This can manifest itself as an aversion to sex, along with shame, guilt and pain affiliated with it. It can also look like very promiscuous behavior if she has been conditioned to associate her overt sexuality with love or that her body is the most valuable aspect of herself. These wounds, if not addressed can greatly impact her openness to experiencing a safe and loving sexual relationship.
Another factor that I cannot omit is the hyper-sensitivity and judgment of our bodies. As a therapist, I wish I was shocked to hear of children as young as 5 years old begin to express criticism of their looks. This is becoming an epidemic that is impacting women at younger and younger ages. From horrific eating disorders to requests for breast implants as high school graduation gifts, it’s out of control. I will spare you my soapbox rant on the harmful impact that toy companies, cartoons and the media at large have had upon sensationalizing fantasy women. Fortunately, some responsible companies and public figures have begun to present a more realistic view of women and celebrate the unique and beautiful differences amongst us.
How this may show up in your relationship varies from extreme discomfort in her skin to feelings of inadequacy in relation to her female counterparts. Either way, the roots of this are notions poor self-worth, lack of personal value and shame. How you may experience this may include: her discomfort with being naked with you, lack of sexual drive, putting herself down often, feeling embarrassed about her presentation and therefore limiting her social experiences, feelings of jealousy when you see or acknowledge a beautiful woman or over-emphasis and focus on her looks.
You don’t need to personally fret about the size of your own thighs to relate to feelings of inadequacy about your body. You know then, that when you’re in a place of judgment and criticism about your appearance, you feel the exact opposite of sexy and desirable. What’s truly tragic is that these beautiful creatures walk around with this feeling more days than not, chipping away at their confidence and comfort in their skin.
Another important matter to consider is the early messages she may have received regarding sex. Much like the material I wrote about the men, those formative experiences can cast a mold that can impact her sexuality for years to come. Depending on the age and generation that your wife/ partner is from, she may have been exposed to messages running the gamut of conservatism, including instructions about how to be a proper “lady” to progressive sexual expression and gender bending. With a rise in the permissiveness of the full spectrum of sexual appetites and preferences, this could also include identification as bisexual, lesbian or exploration of arenas such as BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism).
This history is important only as it relates to her current expression and desires. (I always have to include a precautionary note to practice discretion when asking about her sexual history; you may not want to hear the answer. A good rule is to have her share what she feels is pertinent to your relationship now…remember, you can’t un-hear what you have heard and if you don’t think that you’re mature or capable enough to deal with the truth, then think twice before asking for details). What is important to consider about these experiences is that it definitely has a role in her comfort with allowing herself to express herself openly, safely and whether she can easily allow her sexual desires to be known.
Finally, your own experiences you’ve created as lovers is impacting things today. According to the baggage the two of you bring into the partnership (there’s never such as thing as being “baggage-free”, we ALL have past experiences that shape our current practices), your lifestyles and desires, you may have fallen into a pattern of relating to one another that may or may not be mutually satisfying. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you desire some skills and tools for how to do it better and enhance your connection. If you have not done your part to foster safety to communicate in this arena, this is new territory. Yes, I do believe that you have more of a role here in creating a safe space to openly talk about physical intimacy.
If you could step out of your need to be right or fear that she could say something that could bruise your ego, she may share with you the exact ingredients necessary for her pleasure. Know that what pleases her is just that and is not a reflection of you. You may or may not be doing these things right now, but she has preferences and desires that turn her on. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what those were? Don’t you think that if you knew how to rub this or pull there, that she would enjoy her erotic experience with you more? If she enjoys it more, that means that she’s more interested and you get to experience it more often! There’s always the possibility that she has not explored herself enough to know what her kinks and turn ons are. The great part about this is that you get to explore it together.
By entering discussions on these topics, you get to demonstrate that you’re interested in wanting to know more about her (this always earns you points), that you’re willing to try the things (or explore what they may be) that please her the most and that you’re invested in creating the safety necessary for her to be more vulnerable and open to you. By the way, this kind of foundation is absolutely necessary if you ever hope to have sex and eroticism of the more adventurous kind.
Here are some starter questions:
- What puts you in the mood for physical intimacy?
- Where on your body do you like to be touched?
- Where do you not like to be touched?
- What makes you feel your sexiest?
- What are some of your turn ons?
- What are some of your turn offs?
- What are some of your sexual fantasies?
- What do you wish I would do more of to please you in bed?
- What kind of pressure do you prefer? (touch, genital contact)
- What kind of stimulation gets you to orgasm the best?
Ask, ask and ask some more. If your sex is crappy and unexciting now, doing more of the same isn’t going to make it any better, in fact, it will probably get worse. The only thing you have to lose in asking is your ego and you have the kingdom of potential pleasure to gain. We’ll add more to this list and be more explicit in upcoming articles, but start here and enter your talks with openness and curiosity…remember to keep it light, this is supposed to be pleasurable and fun!