Updated: Nov 13, 2020
When was the last time you listened to your body or your partner's body using your five senses?
As a sex therapist, one of my first treatment objectives with a couple is to redefine the meaning of sex.
For many people, sex is the act of intercourse. With the stresses of life and finances added to our everyday partnerships sex often becomes a task to be checked off, or a bonding event to briefly share.
But sex is more than intercourse and it can create satisfaction more profound than just checking it off your list.
Our five senses can guide the way to redefining sex in relationships and co-creating a new and more richer definition.
Sight. Touch. Taste. Smell. Sound.
Sight. Your eyes are the doorway to how your brain and body respond to the environment. What do you see with your eyes that feels sexy or calm? What do you see that create stress or prevents you from relaxing? A messy house for some people might be the first thing their eyes see when it comes to sex. A stress response from a messy house could trigger the brain to increase glutamate which decreases desire.
Using your sense of sight to lower the lights and create a soothing and calm environment can help to set the stage for a relaxed brain and increase your desire to experience and give loving touch. What else can you do to create a sexy environment for your eyes to see?
Touch. What does your skin feel when it is touched? Did you know that second to our brain, our skin is our largest erotic organ?
Sometimes our skin and our bodies do not want to be touched. Do you know how that feels? It's important that you do know because that is your body telling you that it doesn't like something or that it is in pain. Listening to your body is important in sexual health. Your body uses the sensation of touch to relax into sexy mode or to send pain and irritation signals to your brain.
Many women, and men, I work with ignore the cues of pain or irritation that present when their body is touched in an effort to "get it over with" or frustration that their body is not feeling pleasure. Those thoughts actually trigger your body to tell your brain that you are in danger. Your brain shuts down that sexy mode and tenses up the body. Your pleasure receptors are turned off and your mind goes into your head.
So, go slow. Use touch to explore what you like and don't like. Where you like it and where you don't. Touch can be hard or soft, ticklish or smooth. Explore for yourself what feels good on your skin and where. And stay away from what feels bad.
Taste. Your taste buds are activated with the pleasure of a kiss or the chill of a milkshake. Have you ever compared what it's like to eat a piece of chocolate while watching TV versus with your eyes closed in a quiet room? If not, I suggest you try. You'll notice that when distracted by the world around us, delicious foods can be gobbled and swallowed without being tasted. But turn the other senses off, and you'll find that your sense of taste can unlock a complex world of images, aromas, ingredients, depth, and even memories.
Taste can be a huge turn off or a remarkable turn on.
Smell. We know that smell stays registered in the brain and can cue us to want more or revolt us to plug our nose. What smells are around you that feel pleasurable? Scented candles, perfumes, tropical juices, champagne, incense, after shave, cookies! What scents turn you on? What could your partner offer you to smell that would allow you to breathe in deeply and settle into your partners presence?
Sound. The peaceful crashing of waves on the shore or a lovely melody by your favorite musician. Sound can turn on your romance switch in the blink of an eye. Music, voices, or a lovers breath in your ear can all signal to your brain that it's time to receive pleasure. What are the sounds that turn you on? What are the sounds that turn you off? If kids screaming knocks you out of feeling turned-on, schedule your intimacy play time when they are not around, very occupied, or asleep. But don't be mad at yourself if you don't feel desire when the kids are fighting outside your bedroom door.
All five of your senses help your brain to relax any glutamate stress hormones interfering with your desire and pleasure. Sex is not just intercourse. Rather, intercourse is (sometimes) included in sex. Your body and mind register sexual desire, thoughts, and arousal through your five senses. So listen to them. Explore them for yourself and your partner. And have fun!
Angela Jensen-Ramirez, LCSW, CST is an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and Certified Sex Therapist in private practice in Austin, Texas and California.
For more information or to work with Angela, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.