Sex can be used for a lot of things, many of which are not exactly healthy or wholesome. It can be used to dominate partners, manipulate relationships, or sell almost anything. Just from my own relationship history I have at various stages used sex for emotional escape, numbing of pain and shame, drunken oblivion, avoidance of vulnerability, and just plain “getting off”.
When we hear or read about someone “using sex”, it seems to be mostly for the kind of unconscious, negative behaviors listed above.
But sex can be used for all manner of productive, pleasurable, and growthful endeavors too. In this post, I’d like to make a case for “using sex” to grow, consciously and deliberately. I’ll share some examples from Sonika’s and my own relationship. As always, I’ll end with practical ideas you can put to use right away.
Sex on autopilot, or ...
I have to give a lot of credit to Sonika, as she’s the one who introduced me to the idea of using sex to grow and learn. In all my previous relationships, I had sex on autopilot. It wasn’t all bad, as the list above might suggest. Sex was often wonderful and fun. But I never gave it too much thought and I certainly wasn’t trying to learn anything!
When Sonika and I got together we started using sex for growth from the get-go. We watched educational films and learned new ways to touch each other.
Sex as a sacred undertaking
We studied tantra with a renowned tantra teacher. From tantra I learned two important lessons. First, I learned that our capacity for pleasure is unlimited, even for men. Prior to that, I’d always thought only women could have multiple orgasms. I learned techniques to enhance and prolong pleasure, like how to control ejaculation and “ride the wave” without having to stop the ride at the first climax.
Secondly, I learned the attitude of treating sex as a sacred undertaking, a spiritual practice. I was definitely one of those guys who considered sex an entirely carnal adventure; a good adventure to be sure, but an entirely physical one. Tantra taught me that sex can used to achieve an experience of “oneness”, the same oneness you might reach in meditation, prayer, or religious devotion. Being a very practical and physical person myself, it made a lot of sense to me to treat the sex I was enjoying with Sonika as a way to completely join with her on every level.
Homemade sexual learning
We created our own, homemade learning projects in sex. At one point, I wanted to develop better leadership skills in my life, but I also wanted to be able to surrender and let others take the lead when necessary. So we deliberately used sex as a place to practice! We took turns in sex giving and receiving pleasure; leading the show and surrendering to the other person’s lead. In time, that did indeed improve my capacity to lead elsewhere at in my life, both at home and in work.
Being a good lover requires being completely present with another person, attuning to their every signal, sound, and movement. Although “being present” is a somewhat nebulous concept, it’s one of those things people really notice when it’s missing. One of the most common complaints we hear from couples is one person saying, “He’s never present with me”, or “She’s always on her phone, she doesn’t give me the time of day”. There is no better place to practice being present than in bed! As a result of my own presence practice in sex, I now notice that I am more tuned into the moods, non-verbal communications and needs of everyone I interact with.
We’ve taught couples to use sex to deepen their overall connection in relationship. It’s common for couples and individuals to come to our sex workshop and afterwards exclaim, “We’d forgotten how much we love sex”. One couple made a “sex challenge” for themselves after a workshop. For a month, they’d have sex every other day. Before the workshop, they’d been “too busy” with kids, life, work, etc. to enjoy frequent sex. But after creating the challenge, they pulled it off and loved it! (we don’t know if they kept it going after the first month:-)
Another couple had experienced a long, slow decline of sex and affection, to the point of sleeping in separate bedrooms and hardly touching at all. For them, sex was so far in the past, they weren’t ready to start using sex at all. But they still wanted to rekindle their physical affection and intimacy, so after the workshop, with some coaching, they designed their own program to move towards sex. They started by giving each other hand or foot rubs every Saturday. They said, “We had a couch on the landing between our bedrooms. On Saturday mornings, we’d meet on that couch and take turns giving each other hand or foot rubs. After some time, we started cuddling and we continued from there”. Whether your starting point is a vibrant or non-existent sex life, sex can be used to work for your growth, as a person and in your relationship.
In our sex workshops, hundreds of men and women have shared how they used to use sex for unconscious avoidance or addicted pleasure. But now, having found an appreciation of the sacred beauty of sex, they can use sex consciously to grow, to become better persons, more present partners, and more deliberate participants in the oldest form of pleasure we know.
How could you apply this? First, consider something you'd like to learn, either directly in sex or your life. Could be learning to be more present (good one to start with!), learning to take charge or surrender to your partner, learning to prolong your pleasure, or be a better listener. Secondly, next time you have sex, tell your partner about your "project" and ask if their onboard. Thirdly, give it your best shot!
In short, use sex! Learn sex. And enjoy responsibly <3
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