Women, Muscle & Sex

Some of you are reading this title thinking….  Really?  Do those go together?  And I say, “Absolutely!”  Care to explore with me?

How constantly are we bombarded with the over-sexualized, skinny-fat 4waif’ish, sized 0-2 masquerading as sexually superior?  The fronts of magazines are plastered with what I like to call “skinny fat chicks” (who often weigh less than 100 lbs. but have about 25+% bodyfat) claiming that they can show us the way to a fit, lean body in less than five weeks.             …Something seems off here.

And how many of us—male or female—look at those tiny little girls and actually FEEL our blood pumping and our sexual appetites inspired?  Okay, there are those of you who do….  But most of us, from what I’ve found, don’t feel a lot–except for the women who compare themselves and simply feel BIG in comparison. (Just a little look at the picture above:  Average height & weight of a VC Model – 5’10” and 110 lbs.  Average age – 21.  Just sayin’)

Women very often look at the images constantly taunting us from magazine covers and digital screens–sometimes more than men –and compare ourselves to these bodies that current Northern-American culture claims are the “hottest” but look as if they might collapse under the weight of… life.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.  We’re granting too much influential power to folks who just can’t handle the weight.

Here is one thing I know about the human body:

If you do not purposefully engage it, intensely; you will not know how to engage others with it, powerfully.

So what does this mean for a woman or girl who has little-to-no muscle?  And what in the world does it mean for her—and her partner’s—sex life?

Let’s think about it for a moment.  No muscle usually means no strength training (and strength training can fall under all sorts models used to purposely strengthen the body’s musculoskeletal system)—often a sign of those folks who are caught in the world of cardio and… um, “toning”—who would become faint if handed a 12 lb. dumbbell and would justify not training with, “Eewww….  I don’t want to get all big and muscle-y.”  NEWSFLASH ladies:  If you’re built like a stick with very little natural muscle, there’s as much chance for you to bulk up as there is the Hulk turning pink!  And believe me, Skinny doesn’t age well.  So take a deep breath and pick up some weights, do some push-ups,

Make friends with your muscles.

skinny-fat2Sometimes skinny is a sign of someone who is “watching her figure” by essentially starving herself.  ….Of course, if she’s not inclined to indulge the sensory pleasure center of her mouth, tongue, and taste buds; will she be any more inclined to indulge sensation in other areas of her body?  (…Something to think about)

Now, clearly I’m putting some bold generalizations out there and exaggerating for effect, though hopefully not pissing anyone off too horribly.  And I struggle with my own desire sometimes to be “thinner.”  Uugghh, I hate even naming that, as it feeds the epidemic.  I also know women who purposely try their damnedest to PUT ON WEIGHT in the form of muscle, and struggle to do so, and I don’t want to add to a story that all skinny women are frail or less-than-sexual-less-than-powerful-beings.  Not the case!

Realistically however, there are far too many people caught in the idea that “skinny” is “sexy” – that smaller is better, that …..ultimately, that “less” is “more.”  And this is simply untrue.

And we need to stop wishing ourselves away. 

I’m clearly not speaking to the woman who trains her ass off, nourishes her body with healthy food and engaging activity.  I’m talking to the women—and men who worship them—who think of a gym as a place to chat with their friends while they do 30-45 minutes on a Stairmaster or in a “Step class,” never really engaging their bodies or muscles, and live on 600 calories a day.  That’s not healthy or sexy!!

Let’s talk about why.  When you think about sex—really think about it—(and I know you do on your own, so I’ll just boldly invite you to fully engage here while you’re reading) …when you think about what it feels like, what your ideal vision or sensory experience is, with legs and arms intertwined; bodies fully engaged and exploring, positions, changing positions, moving in all sorts of wild ways that put your genitals in just that perfect place in relation to your partners genitals …And how they work, and the movements that most stimulate them—and moving your partner, being moved by your partner, holding on, holding down, holding tight, the aliveness that can overtake you at times….  Consider the difference of doing all that WITH muscle (equaling stamina, strength, endurance, flexibility, engagement, and a vast movement repertoire) vs. WITHOUT muscle (equaling… well, someone who looks good draped over a hot car in a bikini).

What do you want to FEEL?  How do you want your partner to engage with you and how do you want to engage with your own body and with your partner?  Or partners??  (Just considering my potential audience).  So….  can we STOP giving the message to women, and particularly to young women and girls, that SKINNY is SEXY?

Let’s just stop!

People sometimes chuckle when I say I’m going to “train” rather than exercise or workout.  And they’ll ask, grin on their faces, “What are you training for?”  I usually simply respond with, “Life!”  Maybe I need to say, “A rockin’ sex life!”

We learn to live through our body’s interaction with others, with our environments, through movement and sensation and touch.  And right now, far too many of us are growing our brain-based-knowledge and losing our body-based-wisdom.

When we know how to tolerate intensity in our bodies, we know how to tolerate intensity in life, in love, and with one another.  And let’s face it, life’s just intense sometimes.  How about we figure out how to move through it rather than shrink away and avoid it?

If you’ve not taught yourself how to train with intensity, your body will have no capacity to engage intensely with another person.

I’d love to hear what some of you find most sexy about your partner’s—real or imagined—bodies and ways of engaging yours.  I think we all might be pleasantly surprised that most often, it’s not the “perfect” whatever…  it’s the way it’s used!

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

For the Love of Lust: Part One

lust3Lust resides in the world of intense desire, sexual longing, yearning for intimate contact or erotic anticipation—it’s a powerful force and one that can have undeniable effects on our internal experience and our external behavior.  Time and again, lust exudes more power even than rational thought or strict morals.  In some folks’ estimation lust, acted out, destroys lives and relationships due to it’s oft untethered displays.  For others, lust is a prime driver toward the one thing that gives their life meaning—connection.

People get a little anxious around the topics of lust, flirtation, monogamy, and the lack of concrete rules by which we’re all supposed to abide.  And yet there really are no rules that suit the masses.

Some time back I posed a question via social media, exciting some intense and passionate dialogue regarding these subjects, along with a lot of angst and confusion around the difficult process of negotiating this paradox.  The amount of inbox messages I received was overwhelming!  A topic many people want to discuss… just not out loud!

Responses were filled with difficult scenarios of when lust—either theirs or another’s—lead to the destruction of relationships.  Story after story of relationship gone painfully awry in regard to “expectation vs. reality” filled pages, and spoke of broken and yearning hearts.  These responses also spoke to the confusing terrain of how lust arises and is expressed in—or out—of committed relationships.lust2

If we first take a look at the underpinnings of how relationship often unfolds, we can begin to consider why and how lust, and other aspects of our erotic natures, either are or are not welcome in our partnerships.

Our Fear of Lust

Many people feel untrusting, wounded, unable to completely yield to intimacy and risk the heartbreak of potential betrayal—many because they saw painful scenarios in their families of origin and more who experienced these life-altering betrayals firsthand.

Yet at the same time, our craving for intimacy is undeniable.  The feeling of seeing lust4ourselves reflected in the eyes of an adoring partner offers us an unparalleled bonding experience.  We can become more alive, more capable, and more available to all that life offers. Feeling “met” through intimacy can literally help us to transcend our fundamental aloneness.

So when we imagine opening, transparently, to another—sharing our hearts, our bodies, our lives in the vulnerable acceptance of love—our intimacy can be coupled with increasing fear.  Like it or not, that exact fear is often what drives much of our tight grip on our lovers and, ultimately, it’s that tight grip that can drive our lovers right out of our lives.

The mere idea of our partners wandering eye—or genitalia! —Can cause our relationship security to be rocked to the core.  And when we sense that lust—the automatic, powerful, chemical response—is at play, our internal response systems go into full-on protection mode.

Is Commitment Constraining?

Committing to be with one person for the rest of our lives can be a difficult agreement to maintain, for many.  To completely turn off sexual attraction, heat, desire, fantasy and intimate connection with all others, and still keep the heat up with the significant other is not, for many, the path of least resistance.  Often, we fail miserably.  We, the American society, haven’t quite resolved ourselves to fidelity and lifelong monogamy, even though most of us claim that’s exactly what we want.  So what gives??

When partners are transparent, designing their intimacy in a way that is congruent to both people, relationships can flourish!  They can be enlivened and engaging.  Often, however, one person alone “holds the reins,” so to speak, to the rules of intimacy.  When this is the case, fear, anxiety, and resentment can undermine the nurturance and care we’ve provided to our relationship.

Some may feel the need to “tighten down the hatches”—if we completely control the environment, we’re safe, right?  However, safe may be the exact opposite of what will fulfill the deeper needs of relationship.

Interestingly, science has found that while we imagine monogamy, in itself, to be a high predictor as to the health of a relationship, that is not necessarily the case.  In fact, some relationships which place monogamy at the foundation are the least healthy and least happy.  Certainly that doesn’t mean we should all join the nearest Swingers club.  What it does point to, however, is that our current societal views don’t hold the keys to thriving relationships!

When we look “below” monogamy—to the subtle nuances of fidelity in thought, in imagination, in exploration and flirtation, we see a surprisingly wide range of styles and behaviors that contribute to the health or dysfunction of a relational system.  So how do we construct those internal worlds in a way that helps us feel both safe and alive?

Wired for Lust

We are most definitely a species hardwired for love and connection—for bonding that denotes security and safety.  But not solely—we are also wired for LUST.  One of the primary emotional centers in the brain, in fact, is specifically related to that particular circuitry.  According to a well-known researcher in the field named Jaak Panksepp, there are intrinsic systems in the brain, called Executive Operating Systems that are related to neuro-evolutionary foundations for our emotions and behaviors.  There are seven of these systems.  They’re not emotions, per say, but circuitry that govern the processes of our emotions.  These seven executive operating systems include:  Fear, Rage, Seeking, Care, Play, Panic and Lust

Lust, as researchers are noting, is part of our life force.  It is a necessary aspect of our evolved brain and body, and part of how we are uniquely designed.  And the complex neurochemical processes of lust are not, as we might sometimes like them to be, simple passing moods.  Lust is a brain state that activates a cascade of neurochemicals, which follow a well-groomed path in the brain and body and, when activated, are ultimately overriding most everything else in an effort to achieve a goal.   And maybe because, at some level, we all know the signals of lust, we can feel a little bit powerless in it’s midst.

Lust—An Evolutionary Advantage

In intense human relationships, part of the brain called the Limbic system is highly active in the formation of memories, and in imprinting our brains with patterned recognition, or categories, of “good” and “bad” in regard to relationships—hardwiring us to find certain things, such as physical characteristics, qualities, even smells more or less attractive.  The limbic system is related to our unconscious motivations—driving us forward to an object of desire, at times, based primarily on our brain’s early circuitry of memories that seem “relatable.”

These attractors, which are essentially patterns imprinted on the limbic system, when reflected in the resonant limbic response of another, can serve to regulate aspects of our physiology.  What this means is that when lust is reciprocated, our physiological systems—our bodies, and even our health—can become better regulated and overall, more functional!  Lust clearly has some evolutionary advantages.  Not to mention, science continues to explore how we generally lust after those who would be a positive genetic match for us—supporting our most basic collective need, to procreate!

Can Intimacy and Lust Coexist? 

We do all that we can to develop intimacy, because we yearn to be known, loved, cherished for all that we are.  We crave connection that delivers all sorts of juicy, yummy, feel-good bonding chemicals to our bodies and minds.  We strip away the layers of inhibitions, delving into the bond of creating bliss with another.  But then the very thing that we strive to create brings us to a point where our equally innate yearning for eroticism—for Lust—is often required to go into submission so as to protect the union we’ve created, or acted out in ways that counter our intimacy goals.  Sadly, through the development of intimacy, we’ve let go of mystery.  And to open ourselves to mystery once again, our intimate bond can feel threatened.

NoLust1So often, I hear from clients and friends that they don’t have any sense of lust or eroticism in their committed relationships—and sadly, this is simply equated with a monogamous lifestyle!  Given over to the ideas that lust is snuffed out with age, with family and responsibilities, and ultimately through monogamy, it’s essentially lost it’s “neural-home.”  Sometimes, lust is denied due to not fitting into our moral code or because it has only previously existed in more risqué scenarios—not alongside monogamy.  However, just like other primary emotional centers that are denied—that are not nourished—lust will find it’s way!  Sadly, without mindfulness, that path can be wrought with confusion and heartache.

If you’d like to continue exploring this very potent emotion and how it can become a powerful resource for your intimate relationship, watch for part two of For the Love of Lust as we speak of the actual practices that will help you to cultivate the fruits of Lust! 

Until then…

For the Love (and Lust!) of your life!

Angie 

Challenging the “Experts”

Listening to “experts” is always a fascinating experience—I notice myself being enthralled, not always by what they’re saying but by how well they present themselves!  …Generally speaking anyway.  Such an art form, really, and one I’ve yet to perfect.

I had the opportunity to hear an expert last night—John Gray, author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, among many other books.  He was part of a weekend event for couples—their keynote speaker, in fact.  I was scheduled to speak directly after him, integrating some relationship theory and movement practices to increase intimacy into my presentation of “Becoming Embodied with Our Intimate Partners.”

Gray shared some concepts and evidence-based theory that, when I heard it, had a strong impact in my mental circuitry as well as in my gut.  There were things he stated that I agreed with and others that literally made my insides begin to go into hyper-vigilance and scream to the audience members, “Don’t listen to him!  That’s not true!”

One of the first things I want to touch on is the idea that “oxytocin increases cortisol in men,” which John Gray stated as fact, and coupled with the concept that while oxytocin is a bonding hormone for women, it does just the opposite in men, leaving them either fast asleep or anxiety-ridden.

Clarification From the Non-Expert: 

There are three primary types of stress hormones—Adrenaline, norephinephrine, and Cortisol.  Adrenaline is what we might feel when we experience a sudden threat, when the fight or flight response kicks in, and that sense that we need to protect ourselves in the present moment.  It increases our heart rate and helps us focus on what’s most important.

Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline in that it’s an “immediate response” type of hormone.   It supports blood getting to the necessary parts of the body, such as muscles, to support an immediate response to threat.  It also acts as a “back up system” to adrenaline if our adrenals are a little tapped out.

Cortisol, on the other hand, occurs when stress is ongoing…  for hours, days, weeks, or months.  As an evolutionary response, our bodies have learned to create cortisol to counter the effects of long-term stress on the body, by breaking down non-essential organs so as to basically “feed” other more vital tissue.  It’s really a survival mechanism.  Stress does increase cortisol concentrations but not in that, “Oh my God I’m going to die right now!” kind of way.

Here’s another interesting fact:  Oxytocin is also a stress hormone.  You may be asking, why is that?  Why would the hormone necessary for bonding and attachment, for those yummy feelings of connection, to be released during stress?  Well, some theorize that oxytocin is released during stress because we’re simply not wired to deal with stress–or life–alone.  We’re wired to feel connected and held and supported.  Oxytocin is a hormone that will support what we most need–relationship with others.

Gray’s idea that the release of oxytocin would necessitate a cortisol response makes no sense—at least to me.  The release of oxytocin, first of all, would have to take place over time to create the necessary physiological response requiring cortisol to begin breaking down vital organs to maintain blood sugar, and keep a man’s (person’s) body functioning when he’s in survival mode.  Now granted, a post-coital response can certainly trigger a need to go into survival mode (probably more related to adrenaline), for some, due to certain insecure attachment styles and lack of comfort with intimacy, but to negate the overall counter-effects of oxytocin on the entire stress system is simply irresponsible (in my humble opinion).

Ultimately, what we know about oxytocin is that it directly counters the release of other stress hormones, including cortisol—in BOTH genders by moving us toward necessary connection, which ultimately soothes the nervous system.  The more we experience relationally-oriented activities, such as sex with intimate partners, and feel the release of oxytocin; the more we strengthen and even increase oxytocin receptors in the brain.  We literally “build” the neural pathways related to the foundation of what scientists deem LOVE—from a neurochemical perspective anyway.

Oxytocin-image

Oxytocin Neurophsin

Oxytocin is a unique neurochemical that way.  (Here… take a peak.  Pretty huh?)

…So even if an individual struggles with feeling “comfortable” with intimate connection that contributes to oxytocin release, continued practice—yes PRACTICE—will increase, not only that individuals comfort, but actual brain chemistry and “wiring” that allows for the benefits!

To counter Gray:  Some men (or women) may have an increase in adrenaline after climax with a partner, due to insecure attachment and experience of newfound intimacy, and finding themselves beyond their normal comfort zone.  And the simultaneous release of oxytocin can, and most often does, powerfully counter that process.

…and the Research says

Gray referenced that when men were injected with oxytocin, they had an increase in cortisol.  This is confusing as the research states that oxytocin doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier, except in the form of nasal spray.  However, the use of spray on a long-term basis for research caused amnesia, hallucinations, and imbalances in hormones and electrolytes and was, as the research implies, long-term, and so has a more understandable connection to cortisol.  Maybe this is what he’s referring to.  However, this research actually applies to both men and women as well.  I wonder if this might be one of those areas where an “expert” has taken some liberty with research so as to defend his position.

Another scientific theory regarding oxytocin, researched by Dr. Jay Zak, is that those people—primarily men in his research—who were found to be lacking “trust-ability” in their intimate relationships were those same people who had fewer oxytocin receptors than most.  So if men were to buy in to the ideas of John Gray, denying any benefit of oxytocin for themselves and subsequently sinking into a familiar “disconnect” after sex with a partner rather than deepening the bond through increasing one’s tolerance for post-coital intimacy, there’s a possibility that the chance for strengthening and increasing oxytocin receptors in the brain would be inhibited, thus creating further disconnect and ultimately doing nothing to strengthen the bonds of attachment via lovemaking.  Run… on… sen… tance…!

The Journal of Neuroscience reports research done at the University of Bonn, where René Hurlemann and colleagues conducted a study with a group of healthy, heterosexual men; some single and some in committed relationships.  The study found that the presence of (administered) oxytocin actually inhibited closer proximity for the men in committed relationships, with an unknown attractive woman.  Essentially the study purports that men in committed relationships—those with adequate oxytocin due to their relationships—kept a “safer” distance with an attractive woman they didn’t know.  Hence, the research suggests that oxytocin may establish a greater sense of intimacy and attachment, and foster fidelity in committed relationships!  Clearly, this research would counter the ungrounded ideas of John Gray.

Gray also had the ….I’ll just say it, audacity to make the claim that after men have sex with a woman, his drive to be with her further is automatically inhibited by the lack of newness and excitement, therefore he will always be looking toward the next best thing.  Now, clearly we have all experienced this idea, whether from media, movies, our own relationships, or fear of relationship.  And there is science that espouses a dramatically different theory—that when men and women (both) experience climax with one another, and oxytocin is released, those experiences literally lay the foundation for love and a desire for increased intimacy and sexual gratification with that partner.  There are certainly a variety of other relational components that lead people to buy into the idea that men are consistently on the lookout.  But let’s get clear on the facts folks!

This from Wikipedia:

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate. Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. One study confirmed a positive correlation between oxytocin plasma levels and an anxiety scale measuring the adult romantic attachment. This suggests oxytocin may be important for the inhibition of the brain regions associated with behavioral control, fear, and anxiety, thus allowing orgasm to occur.”

Oxytocin is even thought to promote wound healing, among contributing to other health benefits.  Some research is now looking into the effects of social bonding to increase overall health in men and women.  The preliminary research is being done with rats, of course, so we can’t be certain.  But the results look promising!  And as isolated as many of us are these days, knowing that increases in oxytocin can ameliorate some of the negative effects of social isolation on physical health is yet another reason to get as much as we can!

When our “relational circuitry” feels soothed by the presence of certain neurochemicals such as oxytocin, and this occurs again and again, when we are in the presence of someone we love, we can become more comfortable “in our bodies.”—And with so much of our current lives taking place “from the neck up,” in this fast paced age of information in which we’re living; when we become more embodied with our partners, our ability to regulate our emotions and develop a “learned” secure attachment becomes possible.

Like I said, however, I’m no expert!  So get curious and do some of your own research—both the didactic as well as the embodied kind!  And let me know what you come up with!

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

Orgasms: Part One

Orgasms.  It’s a peculiar word.  It’s one of those words that can make some people cringe slightly, just in hearing it.  Like the word, “Vagina.”  I used to not like the word vagina.  I wanted to change it because I felt uncomfortable saying and hearing it but the older I’ve grown, the more I’ve fallen in love with what my vagina can do—from pre-pubescent clitoral “wow’s!” to birthing babies and everything in between.  Vagina kinda says it all.

And orgasms…  well, that’s a word that can get us flushed, interested, embarrassed that someone might think that we have them. Or don’t.  Or like them.  Or connect us in any way to the actual occurrence of them.  And in that nanosecond of acknowledgment of the word, we admit to the world that we are sexual beings.  Oh my God!!

“Oooohhhhh”

Orgasms are fabulous, aren’t they?  Look at all we do to achieve more and more orgasms!  The person with the most orgasms at the end wins!!

At the same time, though, they can wreak some havoc in our lives.

Chemical Connectors

Orgasms can be a little hard (hmmm…..  difficult?) …to come by, for some–or during certain life phases.  They can cause a lot of stress if they become too infrequent or not as “potent.”  They can create insecurity in relationship, if our partner isn’t having them with us—especially if she’s having them alone!—And the crazy thing that can be both wonderfully intoxicating, or crazy-making, is that they can be the “glue that binds,” so to speak!

Orgasms are most often correlated with a powerful surge of the neurohormones, oxytocin and prolactin, the bonding chemicals that are also released during birth and breastfeeding.  When we orgasm with a particular partner—and we do so often with that person—we develop and deepen a connection that can defy logic.

The How & What of the Big “O”

Orgasms, which are controlled by the involuntary—or autonomic nervous system, don’t just occur in our pelvises.  Of course you all know that!  They occur throughout our entire BodyMinds, in measurable ways.  From brain wave alterations to involuntary muscular contractions and spasms throughout the body—including lovely facial grimaces—to spontaneous vocalizations and sweat glands being intensely activated; high sexual arousal that leads to orgasm is the culmination of a complete mind and body experience that is unparalleled when compared to other bodily sensations.

Wikipedia describes orgasm as the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual tension during the sexual response cycle.  It comes from the Greek word, οργασμός orgasmos, a derivation of the word organ, meaning to swell, or to be excited.

Most often, stimulation of the penis in males and the clitoris in females is the starting point that leads to orgasm.  Whether through self-stimulation, partner stimulation, penetrative or non-penetrative sexual intercourse, genital play, oral sex, a variety of rhythmic types of genital stimulation; or the plethora of other erotic sexual activity, orgasms occur when our bodies are thoroughly engaged and our brains sufficiently relaxed.  And climax becomes imminent as blood rushes to our genitalia, heart rates increase, breathing becomes rapid, genitalia and nipples stand erect, the lower part of the vagina narrows and the penis becomes enlarged (hmmm…  someone was thinking!) …tension, tension, tension….  And somehow, simultaneous relaxation—of the mind anyway—until… our bodies release the build up of sexual energy in waves of complete pleasure.  If all goes well.orgasm1

(Maybe time for a little breather?)

And onward…

Scientists now believe that while men and women have obvious anatomical differences, our subjective experience of orgasm—both physiological and psychological—is actually quite similar.  In fact, in certain studies, researchers have not been able to reliably determine gender when reading descriptions of orgasms with all anatomical references removed.

Our Bodies

The most common descriptor of orgasm, from a physiological perspective, is the rhythmic contractions of the Pubococcygeus (PC) Muscle.  Most men and women describe a building and pleasurable intensity that often begins at the clitoris for women (although different types of orgasms occur in different areas of the genitalia—which we’ll …touch on later) and can spread throughout the pelvic area, abdomen, inner thighs, anal sphincter, rectum and perineum, primarily.  For women, contractions of the uterus and outer third of the vagina occur as well.  A woman’s clitoris and labia will swell during sexual excitement and the inner walls of the vagina will begin to lubricate.  For men, orgasms generally begin as a deep sensation of warmth and pressure in the genitalia, leading to a sharper, intensely pleasurable feeling in the genitals, rectum, anal sphincter and perineum.  And for men, the ejaculatory ducts and the muscles around the penis simultaneously contract.

A common characteristic of orgasm is also a pelvic throbbing or pulsing sensation, rhythmic muscular contractions—especially powerful for men during ejaculatory inevitability, which is the point when ejaculation is unavoidable—not that most men would want to avoid it!   (However, on this point, there are some sexual and spiritual practices that call for just that—another topic that we’ll discuss later).  Finally, for men, a warm rushing of fluid sometimes described as a “shooting” sensation occurs when semen travels through the urethra during ejaculation.  Of course it’s important to note that orgasm and ejaculation are not one in the same—while they most often occur together, a man can have an orgasm without ejaculating.  There are women who also experience a warm rush of fluid—some, even to the point of ejaculating.

Together, these physiological responses constitute the “reflex of orgasm.”  Contractions are the most intense initially, at the point we call “climax,” and occur at about 0.8-second intervals, and then lessen in both intensity and frequency of intervals as orgasm subsides.  While orgasms can differ depending on the person describing them and their unique experiences, these are the most common characteristics.

And Our Minds

For both men and women, orgasm brings forth descriptive words like warmth, blissful, intense, tingly, pleasurable, electric; feelings of suspension followed by intense or even violent pleasure, and then ultimately leading to deep relaxation and release. These words are used not only for feelings in the genitals but throughout at least some portion of the whole body.  And they correlate, as well, with emotional feelings of euphoria, of “losing oneself,” and often a sense of connectedness with a partner—or with oneself, depending on the circumstances of the particular experience.

Multi-Orgasmic Magic

As many of us—men and women—are well aware, it’s far more common for women to be multi-orgasmic, meaning ….well, that we’re really lucky, for one!  It also means that we don’t necessarily go into the phase of orgasm called the “refractory period,” upon climaxing, which men generally do—however, not all men and not every time.  The refractory period is a recovery phase and during that time, further ejaculation is physiologically impossible.  Some men have learned to have orgasms without ejaculating, however, and can therefore become multi-orgasmic.

A Woman’s Orgasm

Now, there is a downside for women as well.  Some surveys have concluded that only 25% of women have orgasms every time they have sex with a partner, as compared to 90% of men having sex.  Seems a little imbalanced, I’d say!  And sadly, about 10% of women have never had an orgasm at all—either via masturbation or sex.  Now this is an issue that needs addressing, in my opinion!

The idea that women are different than men in how, how often, and how quickly we orgasm has set us up for some struggles in the area of feeling empowered sexually, and has set men up for a load of confusion about women’s bodies.  And we are equally responsible for the state of things.

For much of our history, women didn’t speak to their own need for sexual satisfaction—or how that might occur.  The patriarchal society that is at our foundation set men’s sexual needs on a pedestal and essentially left women out in the cold, at times even providing the medical diagnosis of Hysteria—historically a common name given to women who were clearly just sexually frustrated!  And a common cure…?  Genital massage from a doctor until the woman reached “hysterical paroxysm” (Orgasms).  Duh!  (Either that or she was sent to an asylum!)

Currently, women have cum into our own, so to speak.  (These are getting fun!)  Many women are completely comfortable speaking to how we orgasm, what turns us on, what doesn’t; and showing men—or other women (because every woman is different), step by step, our own journey to our bodies deepest treasures.  Yet we’re still not quite there, are we?

I speak to women all the time who are scared to show their partners—mostly men—how to help them reach orgasm, some who simply don’t know how to relax enough with a man to allow their bodies to climax, and some who simply don’t know how to even bring themselves to orgasm.  When women confess to struggling with orgasm with their partners, I’ll ask, “Do you masturbate in front of him?”  The return I often get is one of shock and sometimes statements like, “I wouldn’t even know what to do!”  And that’s when I get concerned.

Many of us were not taught practices of self-love, let alone practices of self-satisfaction!  In fact, many of us were taught that our bodies were not to be touched, “down there.”  And so we grew to feel shame connected to the very beauty of our bodies delicious sexual natures—because our curiosity made others uncomfortable.  So we need to re-teach ourselves.  And for our health—individually, relationally, collectively—it’s time to own our orgasms!

This is Part One of the delicious discussion of Orgasms.  And depending on the questions, comments, and sharing that may ensue; we’ll see how many more “Parts” it will take to dig into the juicy dialogue of all that we can learn about this wonderful, powerful phenomenon! 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Contempt–The Kiss of Death

I shared a post on Facebook today regarding infidelity and the profound impact that our response can have toward our capacity for creating healthy relationships in our futures.  And I felt that the intensity and amount of responses deserved more time than a simple reply.  Ultimately, I’m honored to be sharing in the dialogue with so many passionate, well-educated people who are willing to dig a little deeper, look a little closer at something that impacts us all on a profound level.

The post was this:

Consider this: If your partner (or an ex-partner) has cheated on you and you have, in response, bad-mouthed that person, the research on relationships would say that your actions are actually MORE DAMAGING than the act of the other person. Difficult to grasp, right? And you might think, well, I don’t care because I wouldn’t want to be with that person now anyway! And yet, statistically speaking, that “emotional habit” of yours puts you smack dab in the middle of a group of people destined to continue to have unsuccessful relationships. So…. How’r them apples??

I appreciate all of the passion and emotion behind this dialogue!  I had a feeling it might ruffle some feathers!  The best conversations do, right?  And I love the variety of opinions, the support being offered, the challenge and wisdom behind so many of your personal experiences.

That begin said, I’d like to offer some food for thought.

Number 1)  Let’s consider the difference between “someone who’s cheated” and “a cheater.”  Right off the bat, the idea that someone has cheated immediately calls to mind (for many of us anyway) the most disrespectful kind of person.  And the facts just don’t support that.  The people who cheat are….  Well, “all of us.”  Certainly there are the “serial cheater” types—those who use infidelity like they do any other addictive behavior or drug—as a means for avoiding life and intimacy.  However, most people who cheat, or who have cheated, are people just like you and I…  they are people doing their best to live happy, productive lives.   They are the next-door neighbor, your kid’s school teacher, your best friend, the woman who sings in your church, the lawyer, the student, the house wife, the doctor, a parent!  People—real people, good people—cheat.

And that doesn’t negate the intensity of emotions that you’re all sharing and that so many feel when confronted with this topic, let alone the embodied experience of betrayal.  Infidelity–Sexual betrayal–can wreck us at such a deep level.  It can break our hearts and tear open our lives.  It can take us to the edge of who we are.

So often, either working with someone in therapy or simply sharing intimate dialogue with a friend, I’ll hear the words, “I would NEVER cheat on my partner!”  And those same people, sometimes, are eating their words a few years later.  Not to say that everyone has or does ever cheat on a partner but I’d challenge that most of us have either been cheated on, have cheated at some point in our “not-so-resourced” lives, or know someone very well who has cheated or been cheated on.  And of all “those people”…  “they” are not all despicable, right?  They are not all “worthless human beings who don’t belong on this earth.”

The significance of this statement, however, is more about the foundation–and ultimate potential–of the core emotional habit and what science claims it represents in a person’s “relationship potential.”  Whenever a person has the feeling that they simply “do relationship” better than their partners, that belief represents contempt–And what science has found, over decades of research, is that contempt is The Kiss of Death for relationship–like one person stated in response to my post, Contempt is like Relationship Kryptonite!

Sidenote:  To point to one difference in perspective—cheating means different things to different people.  For some, it is actually cheating only when one is married, or only if one has vaginal intercourse.  (Oops, now what about those in same-sex relationships?  Different rules?)  For others, if you’re in a partnership—on-line sexting equals cheating.  There are no hard and fast rules, right?  Is emotional infidelity as damaging as physical?  Some would consider it almost more so.  And so when we have black-and-white opinions about who another person IS, based solely on an idea of that person “having cheated,” a little caution and self-reflection might be in order.

The Reality of Infidelity

Very often, when people cheat, it is because they are absolutely CoupleFighting4“at their end.”  They are miserable, done, and don’t have the coveted resources—or strength, or understanding—to know how to ask for what they want.  And often, they don’t have the strength to walk away. And maybe, just maybe, there is a profound opportunity in their staying.  Research shows that we choose our mates based on internal qualities of equality–meaning we tend to choose people who have equal capacity to “show up,” to be emotionally attuned and available.  And while some people’s bad emotional habits are easier to see, more obvious, we tend to contribute just about 50% of the damage to our relationships.  This idea, for many, is a hard one to grasp.

Does that excuse infidelity?  Absolutely not.  In fact, infidelity is at the top of the list as one of the most damaging things that one person can do to another, within an intimate relationship.  This is an act that is clearly wrong (in most people’s opinion).  However, it is not “the kiss of death.”  And actually, the odds that a partner will feel remorse, or conversely, that the partner would commit a similar act in the future, are both directly related to the response given by the person who was betrayed.  What’s also determined by that response is the probability for the betrayed person to experience a similar betrayal in the future, by their current partner or by someone else.

Here’s the tricky part—those people who have had happy relationships for eons…  the ones whom researchers have looked at and said, “what are you guys doing differently, that we could all learn from?”  Those folks actually have some infidelity in the mix as well!  In successful, happy, long-term marriages, infidelity has sometimes occurred.  In fact, for some, it provided the necessary turning point that made their relationship success a  possibility!  So….  Clearly, infidelity is not the end-all-be-all issue for everyone, right?

The thing is, one emotional habit these folks do really differently than the folks who don’t ultimately have successful relationships is that when their partners screw up, and when the screw up is “that bad,” they respond without contempt.  Meaning—they don’t make their partners into horrible people for having made a mistake.  They look at what they were also doing to contribute to the downfall of their intimacy.  And …big one here:  They stop business as usual (Atkinson).  They don’t just cow down and play like the innocent victim.  They take ownership of both what they’ve done as well as what they want—and they put a stop to what they won’t tolerate.

Sometimes infidelity ends relationships.  And for folks who’ve had unfaithful partners and choose to leave—without contempt—those people are set up for future success, at least in that regard.  However, not more so than the people who stay but ultimately do the same thing—put a stop to “business as usual,” take responsibility for their own part, and don’t make their partners into bad guys.

What We Think is More Powerful–And More Important–Than What We Say

Here’s my number 2)  The things we’re thinking about our partners (or our friends or our children’s other parent, or, or…) are much more powerful than the words we use.  I’ve had so many clients and friends say critical or sometimes “mocking” kinds of things about their partners and then say, “But I’d never actually say that to him/her!”  And I challenge them with the very real facts that our internal voice comes out loud and clear.

Research shows us that there are universal forms of body language and subtle facial expressions that we are reading, literally every nano-second.  We have strengthened these skills since first entering the world—knowing how to read the subtle non-verbal cues of others is a survival mechanism.  So…  do you not think your partner knows exactly what you’re thinking when you say, “Oh, nothing’s wrong honey,” when inside you’re fuming because, once again, he’s left all the condiments out on the counter or because, just like “always,” she’s nagging about everything you didn’t do?

Contempt is TOXIC

—Weather spoken or not.  Actually, it can be much more damaging when we hold it in, as it will find it’s own way out…  somehow and someway.

Most of us have been taught to have contempt for most of our lives.  This is an unconscious teaching—not many of us would actually admit to being contemptuous, right?  Consider some of the phrases we’re given throughout our lives when faced with certain challenges:

  • Be the bigger person
  • Don’t lower yourself the his/her level
  • Take the high road
These statements are really the epitome of contempt.  In fact, to share a bit of personal history—I was a master for most of my life at being the victim…. And being the victim goes right along with having a contemptuous attitude.  The wrongdoings of others were so “obvious” that how could I have done anything different?  (This was an unconscious attitude).

About eight years ago now, I did my first post graduate training with Dr. Brent Atkinson, a leading researcher and psychologist dedicated to helping people rewire emotional habits in their intimate relationships.  As I was learning all about contempt, for the first three days (I’ll humbly admit) my primary attitude was, “Wow, my partner really has a lot of contempt for me!”  (!!!)  Midway through day number three, it was like I got slapped in the face with a brutal truth—my own contempt became glaringly clear.  And wow, that was one of the most painful–and rewarding–“aha!” moments of my life.

The thing was, I hadn’t been willing to see it before because being a victim served me.  I got my friends involved, I felt justified and vindicated and supported and assured.  And I was still “doing my work” but that necessary piece hadn’t yet come to the surface.  I feel that now, in my work as a partner, a parent, and a therapist; I am constantly practicing getting clear on how contempt can quietly creep into my thoughts and take up residence.  I still have some hardwiring to work through!  And I’d put the challenge out that most of us do.

In fact, the research out there states that only about 1 in 4 people have actually developed the habits necessary for really creating healthy, thriving relationships.  These habits include being clear on how powerful contempt is, and how to avoid it.  I’ll be getting to other skills in future posts!  And the beauty is that the habits and skills necessary for cultivating a positive response from our partners is all stuff that can be learned!

My final thought:  Number 3)  Remember my initial post

Consider this: If your partner (or an ex-partner) has cheated on you and you have, in response, bad-mouthed that person, the research on relationships would say that your actions are actually MORE DAMAGING than the act of the other person. Difficult to grasp, right? And you might think, well, I don’t care because I wouldn’t want to be with that person now anyway! And yet, statistically speaking, that “emotional habit” of yours puts you smack dab in the middle of a group of people destined to continue to have unsuccessful relationships. So…. How’r them apples??

My challenge in rereading this would be this:  I’m simply stating research—not making infidelity okay, not sharing a belief that it is not an act of complete betrayal, and NOT—definitely not stating that one should stay in relationship when it has occurred.  I’m sharing thoughts to inspire all of us to look at creating healthy relationships in our futures.  I’m sharing because so often when infidelity occurs, and we look at the “betrayer” as the sole culprit in the downfall of relationship, more than likely we’re going to recreate similar situations in future relationships!  (Another fact research would support).  And so my intent in looking closely at these facts and sharing is to deepen our understanding of the power we hold in responding in ways that set us up for relationship success in our futures—whether with the same or different partners.  We are undeniably powerful and sadly, we sometimes react to emotional pain by giving our power away.

Modeling Healthy Relationships

As far as modeling healthy relationship patterns to our children?  Again, when they see us giving our power away and becoming victimized—when they see us giving sole responsibility to “the other person,” they learn how to do the same.  However, when they see us owning our own part of relationship downfall, when they see us not tolerating bad behavior and simultaneously being able to love their other parent—(we did choose them, right?  We did help to create these beautiful beings with them, right?  When our kiddos experience us making their other parent out to be “the bad guy,” they can internalize some ugly feelings toward themselves, since they are “half” of each of us).  –When our kids see us modeling the steps necessary to create healthy, authentic, empowered and passionate relationships in our future, they have the foundation to do the same.

I read about people having anger toward those who have been unfaithful, in response to my post.  And questioning whether I believe anger is okay.  (And just to point out, while I have a lot of experience and education in these areas, and a passion for understanding—I don’t claim to be the expert.  I do, however, like to share dialogue about what the experts have found!)

So…  We can get angry—anger is a core emotion and is a necessary aspect of a healthy ability to feel and to express our inner worlds.  The ability to express anger is part of a healthy emotional repertoire.  Yes!  I’d say infidelity would require some really intense anger!  I know it would from me anyway.  And like some others pointed out, there is a big difference between anger and contempt.

Community–communing with our clan, our family, our friends, sometimes especially when we feel betrayed; this is something that can bond us and help us feel “a part of” something bigger.  I believe it’s actually a very necessary process to healing, for most of us anyway.  Some, of course, need to reach out more than others.  And again, there’s a big difference between sharing with those we love–with those who can help us to hold the hurt and help us process and vent and heal, and making the other person into a villain and giving away our power.

I’d like to invite further dialogue and exploration into the sharing…  this is one way, for me anyway, of expanding my own emotional repertoire!

 

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

Present Mama, Sexy Woman

I received a nice compliment from Lilly’s music teacher this morning….  something about embodying an authentic feminine, sexual presence while still being attuned to my child, still having a strong presence as a conscious mother.  It was a nice moment for my ego.

The conversation went on from there,  my admirer noting that she so often sees mothers—herself included—who, after having babies, lose some part of themselves.  Moms often dress more conservatively once baby cheeks arrives (especially after two!) hiding their stretched out bodies and stifling their sensual nature.

We tend to flirt less, trade in thong underwear for flowered briefs, stop enticing the men in our lives with aliveness—inviting them with our bodies and eyes.  We stop noticing the hot 20-something men in the grocery store that simply remind us that we are sexual beings; we stop dancing…  I mean really dancing…  the dancing that gets one laid.  And let’s face it ladies, shy or proper as anyone of us is (or isn’t), getting laid is essentially what got us here in the first place.

I got to wondering, what is it that turns down our sexual heat, beyond low progesterone and sleepless nights.  Because I’ll tell you, I had plenty of sleepless nights in college and I’d say most of them lead to more sex, not less!  But seriously, why do our collars and waistbands move up and our underwear elastic down?  Sexy lingerie’ turns into flannel pj’s and sneaking into any space large enough to contain two writhing bodies becomes trying to find a few moments of veg time in front of the tube.  Where as previously, our drive was as excitable as our guys, we now joke about our husbands who beg at our feet even when we’re in sweats, with green gunk on our faces.

An Appetite for Sex

Around 40-something we begin to deny the numbness of our sexual appetites and start seeking something to “fill the gap” of emptiness.  Then we are shocked and dismayed that our husbands become porn addicts or, better yet, have affairs—because, they made commitments damn it!  Yet, so did we.

Part of my commitment to my partner is to honor him.  Now honor can mean a whole load of things—one facet of honoring, for me, is to honor who my man is—how his mind and body were made to work—which is COMPLETELY different than mine!  And one thing I know about the male mind… and body, is that they need to be stimulated.  Visually.  I can’t even begin to fathom how the hell that works, because what turns me on is…  well, it’s not that.  Not that I don’t enjoy being visually stimulated but it doesn’t get my blood pulsating around in all sorts of blissful rushes quite like it does his.

I recently read in some of David Deida’s work that sex (and I believe the masculine-feminine relationship) can only move as deep as a man will take it.  And it will only be as alive as a woman will create and allow it to be.  A woman’s natural tendency is toward deepening relationships, and we become frustrated with our men for not staying present to our depth and for not taking us even deeper—not helping us to transcend our own limits.   And we can see so clearly how “they” could easily make it happen.  Yet, deepening is not the natural strength of most men.

A man’s natural strength and attraction is toward Aliveness—to the thrill, the excitement, the danger—to all that gets their blood pumping and bodyminds aroused; and when our responses to them are lifeless and dull, we lose them to other shallow, easier distractions, like TV and work… or elsewhere.

Modeling Healthy Sex

So this aspect of my rant could easily go on for hours…  days…  but there’s another side to this exploration of sexual numbness that motherhood tends to induce, and I’d like to share a little on that.

The dialogue got me thinking about what a travesty it is that our little ones learn about all that sex “is” and “isn’t” from surface level, photo-shopped media images and the shallow dialogue and overall presence of teen celebs; and their friends, who are listening to teen celebs, and their other friends who are simply bold enough to experiment and tell.  Most moms I know despise and fear this fact.  And yet….

The current trends in teen sex are (at least partially) a direct result of Mom’s who are so freaked out about their babies having any knowledge of sex, often because of their own misdirected fear and, in turn, avoid it like the plague—talking about it, expressing it, embodying it in any form or fashion.  It’s as if we become moms due to one of the most fulfilling—literally “filling”—unions ever experienced, resulting from our expression of fully owned and embodied sexuality, and then we shield the very nature of that expression from our children.  Because my God, what if they knew I was a sexual human being?

Why is it that, in some folks’ eyes, being sexual is just not okay?  It’s baffling to me, really.  Why do people not want to be seen “that way?”  Why is sex—the one act that provides an opportunity for us to be a part of the creation of life—so damn …taboo among so many?

Our children, without our open acknowledgement and modeling, are then left to forge through the masses of social media, pop-culture and trends to try and align with the most powerful model that speaks to their reptilian brain, their inner self, and their ego; something that will support and help to guide their own pulsating bodies and minds which become virtually consumed with sex at some point—because that is the way we are beautifully and wonderfully made—and instead of looking at the healthy, open expression modeled by Mom, they instead see Mom as some conservative prude who wouldn’t know what doggy style meant, let alone have some practice of Enlightened Sexuality that she’s open to sharing with her offspring.

Sexual Enlightenment vs. The Cougar

Now I’ve read a few different articles directed toward supporting a mother’s in-bloom sexuality.  Most however, sadly disregard the balance between two beautifully interwoven aspects of the mothering woman.  She is first and foremost a mother.  Ah, and yes, simultaneously first a foremost a woman—imbued with the sexual hunger and expression breathed into her form the instant she became a woman.

The sexually enlightened woman, in popular media anyway, is the Cougar—the sexual deviant, the woman who’s expressing her anger at age and her loss of self through buying bigger boobs, trotting the town in 20-something attire and injecting herself with enough young fatty tissue and chemicals to fill a sinking ship.

And sink she does–primarily in her relationship with her children, in her power to align with their growing needs, where she has the greatest opportunity to impart authentic strength; to share her instinctual, raw woman-hood; to model a healthy attitude and relationship to sexuality, and to open in unbounded love–which is the true nature of the feminine.

We want our daughters to have an empowered sense of self and our sons to honor their girlfriends and wives.  So how can we keep integrity within our parenting relationships?  How can we express ourselves openly, healthily, sexually—not slutty—sexually, and model positive sexual behavior rather than simply and naively say, “don’t do it!”

Born for Sexual Expression

Our children learn so little from our words, though we’d like to think otherwise, and act as if they do, repeating ourselves a hundred times over.  Most often, the repetition just gets them tuning out.  They learn to model their entire being, however, by witnessing us in, primarily, our most intimate relationships.  Also, by mimicking our behaviors to see if they align with their inner sense of self.

Children are equipped with a scattered version of our, and our partners’, genes and depending on their environment and stimulus, they are either activated… or not.  They are born with sexual energy. The genes connected to their sexual nature will come very alive at some point—for the first time, often when they are toddlers, in some fashion.  Then again during puberty and, of course, when they are teenagers.

I hear moms joke about simply wanting to avoid it all.  And I fear that’s exactly what they’re doing.  Then sweet pea turns 16, leaves the church, dates the rebel and gets a whole lot more active than mommy ever even dreamed (okay – maybe a little personal experience there!)  But in sweet pea’s mind, Mommy is clueless …and screwed her own marriage up because she didn’t know how to compete with the slutty secretary… or whoever it was.  So rather than having a healthy sexual model, sweet pea becomes a slutty secretary, because that’s what Dad (and probably most men) wanted anyway, right?  Who’s giving sweet pea a powerful alternative?

Forgive my digression… and healthy sexuality is not about competing with the shallow fantasy that often masquerads as sexual.  It is, however, about living out our sexual natures with our partners and in view of our children, so that we are #1) honoring our own true natures, #2) keeping our intimate relationships alive and #3) teaching our children the luscious, beauty of being sexual and present…  all in the same body.

I may be one of the few moms I know that hopes my daughter is powerfully sexual–not that she sleeps around, not that she dresses like a slut—that she’s empowered to live out her true nature as a feminine, strong, sexually alive woman.

I also hope that my now 8 yr. old son continues asking bold, open questions about how Daddy’s sperm got to Mommy’s egg to make that baby in the first place…  (yes, that was one question at 3 ½!)  …and continues to see all that is sexual as powerful, beautiful, sacred and exciting—not something shameful or shallow. I look forward to the days, and the challenges, that arise as those lovely processes in my children continue to unfold.

What do you think?

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie