Who said learning about sex had to be so deadly serious?
You would think that learning about sex might feel, well…fun and sexy. Not so. As a trained sex therapist, I can relate to this statement: “It’s frightening how boring researchers can make an exciting subject.” That comes from the respected research psychoanalyst Paul Joannides, author of The Guide to Getting it On, one of my all-time favorite guides to sex.
His thorough and comprehensive tome is informative, non-judgmental and hilarious, as is Joannides in person. I will never forget his plenary session at a conference I attended for sex therapists and educators. The title of his slide show alone was memorable–“I wish my clitoris was bigger so my boyfriend could find it.”
On the editorial review board of the American Journal of Sexuality Education, Joannides has been at the forefront of sex education for high school and college students across the United States. Here is a man with a mission–to bring the fun and sexy back into sex education.
He has been reaching a lot of Millennials /Gen Y’s (currently anyone aged from their early 30s to their mid teens). Sadly, this is a generation largely educated by internet adult porn, and where sexting is a norm. Yet even with these challenges, those lucky enough to have received his blithe yet informative message will definitely be more equipped to embrace the erotic challenges of committed relationships than older Gen Xers (roughly those in their mid 30s, 40s and 50s). If you fall into this generation, you may remember sex education (if you had any) as a matter of anatomical arrangements, avoiding pregnancy, and talk of STDs. At best, you learnt the basics of “how to.” Even if your sex education classes were humorous and non-judgmental, I would lay bets on the fact that it did not equip you for the joys and challenges of being in a loving, long-term relationship.
Best Sex Tips: Non-judgmental Listening with a Dash of Humor
In an interview that Joannides gave for O Magazine, he was asked for his top sex tips for couples. Perhaps surprisingly, Joannides did not mention lube or proffer a new position.
“It’s such a horrible cliché, but the best sex tip in the world is to listen to each other.” When pressed for more, Joannides added: “Do what you can to find humor. It helps any discussion that might otherwise be filled with anxiety.”
This is sound advice, as I’ve seen time and time again how fears of being judged or rebuffed often inhibit couples from opening up to one another. The awkwardness around speaking directly about sex, combined with fear of hurting or embarrassing our partner, can lead to avoidance and misunderstanding. In my experience, couples usually spend more time talking about house maintenance, gardening, vacations, or child rearing than sex.
When Passion and Presence™ Retreats Might Feel Right
Clearly, I am a great fan of the educational and humorous work of Joannides. “How tos,” open listening and light-heartedness are key. But if you are in a loving, long-term relationship and you’ve been reading The Guide but there is still little-to-none Getting It On, or you worry that you won’t be able to keep on Getting It On, read on. There is more, and that is Mindful Sexuality.
Let’s take oral sex as an example. On reading “The Guide to Getting it On,” a couple might: a) know how to spell the technical terms for it (cunnilingus or fellatio), and b) begin to coach each other on what they want, using non-judgmental listening and perhaps humor. This can certainly revitalize a lackluster love life, but if they want a truly fresh, sustainable, vibrant sex life as a committed couple, then attending a Passion and Presence™ Retreat makes sense. Our focus is on a continued experience of erotic, passionate sex that unfolds moment to moment for a couple of any generation. This involves the practice of being present in the moment to follow your erotic thread to wherever it goes.
We infuse our Passion and Presence Retreats with funny clips and the occasional joke, to show that eroticism and its challenges can have a light-hearted side. Listening without judgment is also a key component of Mindful Sex. We practice mindful, empathic, non-judgmental listening to our partners, but that listening can go beyond hearing what your partner opens up to tell you, courageous as that is.
Mindful listening is also listening to our inner selves (the messages we internalized about sex that become parts of ourselves.) Only by bringing awareness to this can we be free to dance with our most enlivening inner erotic parts. Mindful listening is also about the callings of our body, as a way of reconnecting to our inner eroticism. In our commitment to Mindful Sex, we invite you to attune to both yourself and your partner in an erotic call-and-response to what is longing for expression in the moment.
Do you want to go beyond the “how to” of 53X? (If you don’t know, you can look it up!)
Are you ready to take your open, active listening to the next level?
Are you ready to recover a sense of exploration and erotic expression in a committed relationship?
If that is where you are right now, I invite you to learn more at our upcoming webinar series “Finding Your Erotic Potential as a Couple,” or register for Part One of our 4-part Training, “Tending Eros in Long-Term Relationships.”