“Oohs” and “aahs” of sex seem to be what it’s all about – the “feeling” of sex that we all focus on. But we all end up between the sheets (or on the kitchen table, as it may be) as a result of a decision to engage in sex with another person. Now, I’m not talking about a situation where there is no choice, such as sexual assault. I’m talking about what makes up the common thread of most sexual experiences – how we choose to have sex, with whom and for what reason. This isn’t usually the interesting stuff the girls from Sex and the City would be discussing over lunch. But there is an interesting process that happens below the surface that many people don’t even question, and it’s most people’s lack of understanding of this process that may contribute to their negative sexual experiences.
As a general rule, most people fall into two groups: those who live life consciously and those who do not. I define consciousness as a person’s ability to be aware of their identity (attitudes and behaviors) and how they interact with their world. This not a judgment of those who do not live consciously; everyone is on their own path and that path may just not include this type of personal questioning. That’s ok too. Some people may go through certain periods of their life where they are more in tune or less. But there is a definite delineation between those who make the lifelong commitment to self-examination and those who do not.
When people are conscious, they tend to be able to question their motivations and examine themselves and their relationships with more objectivity. Now, I know that to most people this doesn’t sound like a barrel of fun – that’s probably why so many people allow situations and other people to direct their lives. But it can be rewarding to also live one’s life by being fully in touch with one’s decisions and motivations. Sex is a perfect example of this.
Many people decide whom they should sleep with without fully realizing why they have chosen that person. If people got more in touch with their consciousness they would probably realize that at times they are sleeping with so-and-so based out of insecurity, fear, or ego. This lack of self examination may then lead to bad sexual decision making; for example, sleeping with someone you wish you hadn’t, or perhaps looking to get some type of validation through sex that might put another relationship in jeopardy. Very often with my clients, I see their lack of sexual consciousness leading to affairs even though all of the signs were there months prior. Often this may serve as the excuse, “Well, it just happened. I didn’t think about it.” After all, we’ve heard the adage that affairs are just the symptom of a deeper problem in the relationship. Knowing what your motivations are creates more control in your relationships.
Being conscious allows us more sexual freedom, too. You can make a decision to sleep with someone without regrets; or on the flip side not miss out an opportunity to explore sex with someone out of fear or self-loathing. Sometimes the most difficult aspect of consciousness comes in slowing the situation down enough in your head that you are able to begin to ask questions before simply reacting to the situation.
If you’re interested in increasing your sexual consciousness a safe question to ask yourself may be “What behavior and/or attitude in this situation truly serves my higher self?” When I refer to higher self I’m not putting any sort of religious label on it. I simply mean what serves your highest good – how can you maintain the most integrity in any given situation? This may mean finding the courage to ask about someone’s sexual history or simply not feeling like you’ve ever left anything unsaid. To fully honor yourself and your needs is the best way to present yourself in any sexual situation. Know why you’re there, know what you have to offer and what you need, and be open to allowing your partner the space to do the same. It can be everyone’s goal to live life without any sexual regrets.
When you’re sexually conscious, that usually means that you’ve addressed most of your issues before you’ve even jumped into bed with a person, so another benefit is that you can be more fully in the moment – more present to the rich experiences of sex. You won’t be caught up in negative inner talk, concerns over why you’re there, or guessing what the other person might be thinking. You’ll be able to relax and get down to the business at hand: completely enjoying sex to the fullest extent.
Dr. Kat is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.
© Copyright Dr. Kathleen Van Kirk