I think I’d rather eat chocolate than write this blog, but it’s time to add my voice to the conversation. I realise that, as a cis-gendered woman, and a heterosexual, my experience does not represent the whole picture. But I’d like to dive in anyway. We had #metoo not so long ago, a collective outpouring of women’s voices detailing the normalisation and ubiquitous nature of sexual assault. And then yesterday I read an article, ‘The Female Price of Male Pleasure‘, about the differing male and female experience of sex. The gist is this: bad sex for men could be boring sex, or sex with an unenthusiastic partner. Bad sex for women means physical pain.
I’ve known for a long time that we need to talk about sex. My belief is that, as we talk more about conscious eating, we will naturally begin to talk more about conscious sex and relationships. Our eating, our sensuality and our sexuality are not separate things, they bleed into each other. Suckling at the breast, this is our first ever act of nourishment and sensuality, forging the bond between a mother and child. As adults, we navigate a complex world. We inhabit our physical bodies, directly in contact with the sensations within, through our sensory organs designed to experience the world in a rich and diverse way (the latest research suggests we have far more than the 5 traditional senses. It’s more like 15-30, depending on what you read). And then we have the societal norms, cultural expectations, learned behaviour and conditioned thinking that determines how we behave and what we believe about our sensual and sexual selves.
Talking candidly to women throughout my life, I know that ‘bad sex’ that Lili Loofbourow is talking about is the norm. Here’s stuff I’ve heard over the years.
-I’ve never had an orgasm.
-I don’t feel attractive, so I don’t enjoy sex with him.
-I don’t enjoy being touched.
-He’s too rough.
-I don’t want it but it makes him happy so I do it.
-I’d rather eat chocolate, but that makes me fat, so I can’t even have that pleasure.
Much of my early sexuality was characterised by a strange phenomenon – the belief that women want to have hard, fast and prolonged penetration. Looking at mainstream porn, this is how sexuality seems to be presented to us. Women get penetrated, quickly and roughly, for a long time. I’ve spoken very candidly to my sexual partners about this. Honey, image I was jamming my finger in your ear, like this, for 15 minutes?! How would that feel to the inside of your ear? Why do you think my sensitive vagina would be any different? Slow the F*** down! And go gently!
Many of us have heard the old adage that sex is best at the beginning of a relationship, when passion runs high and desire is at its peak. I strongly disagree. Putting childcare duties and family responsibilities aside (which I realise take their toll on our sexuality, as we’re basically just knackered all the time), sexuality flourishes when two people deeply know each other’s bodies and trust each other. The sex I am having now is incomparable to the kind of sex I was having in my early twenties; it is certainly more satisfying and pleasurable. I know my body, and I know how to express what I like and don’t like. I know that my pleasure is just as important as my partner’s. I know that I don’t have to endure anything in order to please the other person. That is simply not required of me, as I’ve decided that’s not the kind of sexuality I want to have. My body doesn’t like it. Whose body does?
How does our relationship to sex and sensuality play into our relationship with food? Oh, in so, so many ways.
When we are touch-starved (we are not caressed, stroked, massaged in pleasurable ways) our skin gets hungry.
Indeed, our whole being is hungry for connection, for sensual pleasure, for safe touch and juicy togetherness. And, in the words of a wise woman I know, when this hunger is not satisfied, it simply moves to another room. It becomes a mouth hunger, and we look to food for the sensual pleasure we do not find in our relationships.
My belief is that many women are tolerating unsatisfying sexual experiences because they are numb to them. They have exited their bodies, en masse, and retreated into their minds and heads where it’s safer to live. When I teach yin breathing, the practice of breathing all the way down into the lower belly and pelvic floor, many women say they have never really consciously felt this area before. I’m not surprised. Why would you stay somewhere that held residual feelings of pain, discomfort and shame? What’s more, women have been conditioned to disregard their own discomfort, discrediting their feelings, ignoring the deeper truth of the pain they feel. Indeed, Loofbourow points out that our female roles as wives, mothers and ‘good hosts’ have demanded that we place our internal, felt-experience at the bottom of the list of priorities.
Pain is the body’s way of saying no. Why can’t we listen? And to hell with the consequences! Maybe you hurt your partner’s fragile ego. Maybe you disappointed someone else. Maybe you didn’t behave in the way a ‘good woman’ should. I don’t give a shit. Your body is hurting! It’s fundamental that you register that, and learn to respond to this call from your body.
Food is such a safe companion compared to the emotional minefield of sexuality. Food is a dependable, readily available and socially acceptable way to get your sensual pleasure. And when our food has been chemically engineered to produce sensory experiences which are orgasmic in intensity, hitting your tongue’s ‘bliss point’, it’s no wonder women are choosing chocolate over sex. But our bodies suffer, as our deeper hungers for touch and connection are not met, and our digestive systems are working overtime to cope with our displaced appetites. Bad sex, bad food, and a hurting body is what we are left with.
Good sex comes when we are deeply, intimately connected to our bodies and we stand within them, firmly asserting our right to safe, gentle and pleasurable experiences. We know what safe, gentle and pleasurable experiences are because we FEEL them. We breathe and feel our bodies. We notice the subtle and not-so-subtle sensations. We place down boundaries. These boundaries mean we can experience more sensations that feel good to us, and we stop when we feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or in pain.
I wonder where the hunger is in your body today. Take a moment now – close your eyes, go inside, and scan through the internal terrain of your body. Take time to feel, from the inside, the space of your mouth, your heart, your belly, and your sexual centre. A wonderful practice is to lie down on the floor, and breathe into each area in turn, exploring the sensations you feel there. Notice how you feel. And then do nothing at all, just lie there, breathing and feeling your internal spaces. Stay for a while, resting on the earth. Each time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back into your body.
Doing these practices enables you to get clearer about your needs, so that you are not meeting a variety of different sensual needs with one handy solution (food). Food is not a panacea for all ills. Food is designed to nourish us and sustain our energy levels. It is not the same as a hug, a caress, or a nibble on your ear lobe. It simply can’t deliver the whole range of sensual experiences our bodies are calling for.
I’d love to hear more stories of good sex. I’d love to know that women are prioritising their own pleasure. I’d love our eating, and our sex, to be comfortable, gentle and kind. If yours isn’t, it’s not your fault. It’s a reflection of the wider culture we live in: misogynistic, patriarchal, emotionally suppressive, and sexually dysfunctional. This is not an attack on men. Men suffer deeply from these same wounds.
Women and men, enter your bodies. Women and men, get to know what it feels like to be inside these spaces. Women and men, it’s time for change. It’s time to talk about bad sex, so we can have more comfortable sex. Your body will show you the way, if you listen.
Fancy diving deeper? Here’s the plan!
I’ve got 4 new 5-week courses coming up in Hove.
Here’s a handy summary:
And here’s a sneak peek at some events we’re planning in Brighton:
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