Monday, March 27, 2017

Bad, good, and magnificent sex

This is another in a collection of pieces that I've written elsewhere and wanted to include in this blog. I wrote it in answer to a deceptively simple sounding question:

What is the difference between bad sex, good sex, and great sex?

Bad sex is easy. It's sex that leaves one or both people feeling bad: bored, uninvolved, hurt, used, abused, violated, shamed, humiliated, neglected, ignored, and/or unsatisfied.

Describing good or great sex is a lot harder, and it might be a good idea to divide it into two kinds, because they use different biochemical pathways in the body and brain and they feel so different:

Great adrenaline sex is like a mega-sized roller coaster. It is fast, intense, scary, and exciting. Your heart is pounding the whole way and you feel almost out of control at every step. It thrives on risk and the unknown, and when it goes off the rails it can be a horrible wreck, but when it all works out right it is simply amazing. It's center court at Wimbledon, except that every great serve and volley is a win for BOTH of you. It's two near-strangers going out on stage and doing flawless improv for 20 minutes to thunderous applause.

Great oxytocin sex is the complete opposite. It's like playing a beloved Stradivarius well, instead of firing a machine gun for the first time. It is slower, more sensual, more playful, more generous, and more joyful. The ending is passionate and intense, but the buildup is leisurely and the journey and the anticipation are at least as important as the destination.

It depends for its success on love, safety, and a deep, intimate knowledge of your partner. And the sharing of pleasure is crucial. The enjoyment you get from giving your partner's pleasure is at least as great as the direct sensory pleasure you receive. At the end, when everything goes right, you end up holding onto each other, completely wiped out by love.

Sustainable sex: We all start with adrenaline sex, because first times are scary, intense, and exciting. So are the early encounters with new partners we care about. And, unfortunately, embarrassing failures of one kind or another are always a possibility, so these encounters are seldom perfect.

Still, we sometimes come close, and when an intense encounter with a new lover goes flawlessly, the rush is incredible. Anyone who has experienced that, or even come close, is going to remember it as a peak experience forever, perhaps even gilding it a bit in memory. There are many people for whom adrenaline sex IS sex, and anything else is a pale imitation.

Unfortunately, adrenaline sex is rarely, if ever, sustainable in a long, monogamous relationship. Living with one person, getting to know all their quirks and foibles, having sex with them hundreds of times, takes all the mystery and uncertainty and risk out of sex, making it impossible to recapture those early peaks. Soon, the thrill is gone, the adrenaline stops pumping, and libido declines.

Many couples try to postpone that point by seeking novelty, flirting with physical and emotional danger, and trying different kinds of transgressive behavior. But what was new and risky soon becomes commonplace and tame, and newer, riskier kinks constantly need to be explored.

Oxytocin sex, on the other hand, thrives on exactly the kind of safety and familiarity that makes adrenaline sex impossible, and this makes it far more sustainable. Unfortunately, most couples never figure out how to make the transition. As far as I've been able to tell, only about 25-30% of first-time married couples are still having good, frequent, passionate sex 20-30 years later. The rest have either split up (about 40%) or have dwindled into "dead bedroom" companionate marriages (about 30-35%).

Those aren't great odds. On the other hand, 25-30% isn't zero either, so it's wrong for the "experts" on sexuality to ignore the couples who do succeed in making that transition. Unfortunately, ignoring them is all too common.

Real sustainable sex is hardly ever discussed or portrayed in our shared stories, so people don't know much about it. Movies, plays, and novels focus almost entirely on adrenaline sex. It's tense, exciting, tempestuous, and dramatic, so of course it is much more interesting from a storyteller's point of view.

So romances end with the peak point of falling in love, and leave the supposedly-inevitable "happy ever after" to the imagination. And mainstream "grim realist" stories tell of the supposedly-inevitable "unhappy ever after," the collapse of love and passion after the big romantic beginning.

But who describes the 25-30% who experience the real "happy ever after" stories? Hardly anyone, because those stories lack drama and excitement.  They're boring to everyone except the people living them!

Magnificent Sex:  Still, you can get a glimpse of what's really happening from research that has been done on long-term couples who are still having good, passionate sex after many years together. "Maxxters," the Reddit moderator who wrote a lot of the r/sex FAQ, wrote an excellent article called "The Components of Magnificent Sex" which is a summary of some outstanding research done by Dr. Peggy Kleinplatz and her colleagues. And the fascinating thing about that research is that each couple thought they were unusual or unique, that "every couple is different," yet their descriptions of magnificent sex matched one another on point after point.

It turns out, rather unexpectedly, that what the people who experience it call "magnificent sex" is clearly identifiable, with eight quite strong distinguishing characteristics:
  • Being present, focused and embodied
  • Connection, alignment, merger, being in synch
  • Deep sexual and erotic intimacy
  • Extraordinary communication, heightened empathy
  • Authenticity, being genuine, uninhibited, transparency
  • Transcendence, bliss, peace, transformation, healing
  • Exploration, risk-taking, fun
  • Vulnerability and surrender
What's more, they found that what made this kind of sex "magnificent" also made it sustainable, even in the face of aging and adversity:
Interestingly, the researchers found that magnificent sex has very little to do with sexual functioning (maintaining an erection, being able to get wet enough, or being able to reach orgasm), and that the sexual acts and positions were much less important than the mindset and intent of the people involved. In general, the study showed that for these participants, sex got better and better as they got older, even in the face of illness and disease. As one participant put it, “thinking sex has to stop just because of illness or old age is a disability of the imagination.”
I'll leave you to read the rest of Maxxters' article and the original research for yourself – which I strongly recommend – but what the researchers are calling "magnificent sex" is essentially great oxytocin sex taken to the next highest level. It's what we're striving for here in terms of tantric sex.

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I've written before about the roles of oxytocin and adrenaline and their effects on sex and relationships. If you want to explore it further, Oxytocin and Emotional Bonding is a good starting point.

And this is the original research behind Maxxter's article: The components of optimal sexuality: a portrait of "great sex"; The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, March 22, 2009; Peggy J. Kleinplatz, A. Dana Menard, Marie-Pierre Paquet , Nicolas Paradis, Meghan Campbell, Dino Zuccarino, Lisa Mehak

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Evolution of the Clitoris

In my last post, I talked about an impressive online program at OMGyes.com that teaches users a wide variety of techniques for using the fingers to stimulate the clitoris, get a woman aroused, and help her have an orgasm.  Knowing how to do this is important for those of us with clits and for those who love us because so many women – over 70% according to many studies – are unable to have an orgasm from normal penetrative sex alone, without any direct or indirect stimulation of the clit.

But this raises the obvious question:  why is that true?  If the purpose of the clit is to make sex pleasurable and lead to orgasms, why isn't the clit positioned so that it is directly stimulated during normal, penetrative, penis-in-vagina (PiV) sex?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

OMG Yes!!!

I had another topic planned for this month, but I decided to postpone it because I wanted to recommend a rather special website before the year's end.  The website is called "OMGYes.com," and it's a great resource for anyone interested in having better sex.

The website is based on extensive research on what it takes to get women aroused and what specific clitoral stimulation techniques are used by many different women to achieve orgasm.  What makes this website really special, however, is that it includes not just interviews with women describing their preferred ways to get aroused, but also videos of exactly what they are doing as they stimulate themselves.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Fabulous(?) Fornix

I recently got a request for information about the cervical fornix and the role it can play in having good sex. This reader wanted to know if it's true that some women get extreme pleasure from having the fornix stimulated, and wanted more information about its location and what was required to stimulate it.

There have been a rash of web posts in the last few years claiming nearly magical properties for this "spot," with some people claiming that simply having the head of the penis enter into the fornix causes an instant orgasm for the woman that is more intense than any other. With claims like that floating around, it seems like a good idea to take a serious look at the subject.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Bram & Kat & Gunter & Ann: A Tantric Foursome

As some of you know, I was traveling from July to early Sept, which is why there are no posts here for July and August.  But I want to share with you one of the most interesting stops I made on my journey, a visit with  two couples in Amsterdam who are in a committed tantric foursome.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Women Can Become (More) Orgasmic

This post started life with a plea for help from Jim, a man whose partner is frustrated because she hardly ever has orgasms during sex, in spite of a lot of stimulation.  She is in her early 20s, has only tried to masturbate a few times, and has had only a handful of orgasms in the two years that she has been sexually active.

I've researched this topic a number of times over the years and have accumulated a long list of links to good resources, so I decided to share the best ones with him, and now with you.

This was my response:

Dear Jim,

Most people don't realize it, but an orgasm is something women have to learn to do.  Or, really, it's something our nervous systems have to learn to do.  Some girls are lucky and start masturbating when they're little, but a LOT of us start later and have to catch up. Because, as Drs. Julia Heiman and Joseph Lopiccolo pointed out 40 years ago in their groundbreaking book, Becoming Orgasmic, "the more orgasms a woman has had, the easier it is to have more."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sex and the Evolution of Pleasure

Why does sex feel good?  Not from an anatomical point of view, but from an evolutionary point of view.  Is it to create an incentive to reproduce?

This is a surprisingly complicated question.  The simple answer you'll hear from almost everyone is that if it didn't feel good to your ancestors, they wouldn't have had sex and you wouldn't be here.  But is that true?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Video tutorials for massage and oral techniques

One of the most common requests I get is for video tutorials, and I've been accumulating notes for a couple of years about videos that will help newcomers.  It has gone slowly because I don't really have time to scan a lot of videos and because there is so much bad stuff out there, which I find a turn-off.

However, a new amateur video by a couple of friends has inspired me to put something together for you.  One problem is that many of the videos are only reliably found on pay-sites, even though they are also frequently available on free porn-sites.  So rather than provide you with links that are highly perishable or lead only to a paywall, I will instead give a title and length for each one and leave it up to you to search for them.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Mystery of Arousal and Vaginal Wetness

Dear Shakti,

My husband and I have been doing tantra since we found your blog a year and a half ago, and we absolutely love it!  (Thank you!)  But we’ve run into a snag lately, and I'm hoping you can help.

Here’s the situation:  We’ve done all the preliminaries and I’ve given him a really nice lingam massage.  I’m pretty turned on by that and I can feel the juices flowing.  Then I get up on the table for my turn.  He gives me a long wonderful massage, back and front.  I’m meditating and loving the feel of his hands.

Then he starts the yoni part of the massage and it feels great.  I’m doing the inside focus thing to spread the charge around, and I’m really feeling good and starting to squirm and rock my hips a little, so he starts some oral, and that feels even better, and he starts to slide his fingers into me, then STOPS, and asks me what’s wrong.

“Nothing, why?” “You’re not turned on.”  “I am too!  “No, you aren’t.  You’re still dry inside.”

…. WTF??

Monday, February 29, 2016

Understanding the Male Orgasm

The topic of dry orgasms and multiple orgasms for men came up recently, and since I've learned a bit more about how all of this works in the last two and half years, I though I'd share an update with you that adds a bit of depth and background to the posts already in the blog.

Understanding the Male Orgasm

The male orgasm was originally divided by researchers into two phases.  They've since learned that those are really the middle part of the process, but old habits die hard, so the numbering of the phases is a little peculiar.  So it looks like this: