I love good smut as much as the next person — maybe more — but there's something tragic about porn being our main source of sexual information. Decades ago, young people learned about sexuality from their misinformed classmates. As scary as that was, in some ways it might have been less harmful than what's out there in bits and bytes now.
As I run through my mind for good examples of sexual information, most focus on the mechanics rather than on how we experience and express deep emotional connectedness through sex. That strikes me as sad, honestly, because there is so much communication, healing and deepening of intimacy that comes from a great sexual relationship. I'd go so far as to say the pleasure that comes from deeply connected sexual experiences is far greater than the surface level depicted in most explicit media. I see the same focus on technique in books and videos in the "edutainment" genre.
Regardless of the source, those are performances made with specific audiences in mind. Generally speaking, they're designed for solo consumption. Great sex, on the other hand, is a mindful, open-hearted exploration made with our whole bodies, not just those parts shown in close-ups. When we're fully engaged with our partners, fully present for the experience of sex, amazing things happen.
To increase the likelihood of more such amazing things in your life, think about what helps you feel present. For most of us, it helps to leave phones, computers and other screens out of the bedroom. Recall the last time you were completely absorbed, utterly in flow, fully involved with another person. How many senses were engaged? Maybe it had nothing to do with sex. For example, I was hiking the Lost Coast recently and had several moments of presence: I could smell the bay laurel, hear the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet, feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and the satisfying ache of effort in my bones. Great sexual experiences are similar if we fully show up. Tune into all of it; look your lover in the eyes and breathe.
It sounds so simple, yet my years of practice have shown that for many couples, this hurdle is a difficult one. Some couples, in an effort to keep things running smoothly, have perfected a style of distracted and detached lovemaking that doesn't nourish the relationship in the slightest. It's the sexual equivalent of empty calories.
It's this kind of unconnected experience that's portrayed in most porn. Pretty boring, really. I have this theory that if we had better sex, and by that I mean the heart-opening kind of sex that leaves you breathless, sometimes in tears, and fully known to each other, we'd be less likely to create havoc in our environment and in our world. Our relationships and families would be stronger, our approaches to each other kinder, and we'd be generally a lot more appreciative and joyous.
Not to date myself too terribly, but I remember thinking years ago that I couldn't care less who the president was having sex with because I thought it would make him less likely to send us into war if he was happy sexually. Now, to be clear, I have no idea whether that blue dress scenario was connected to a deeply meaningful experience, though somehow I doubt it. I'm more inclined, actually, to opine that those of us who enjoy the finer and more intimate aspects of relationships probably have very little interest in running countries or multi-national corporations.
The act of loving is something that takes a lot of energy, though it's self-sustaining, for sure. Relationships don't feed themselves, and if we keep tossing metaphorical junk food at them, they'll die of malnutrition. Take a break from the distractions, the imagery flooding the media, and turn toward each other instead. It doesn't take much, but it does take purpose, it does take intention and it does take a free and open heart to win the real prize.
Melinda Myers is a Humboldt State University psychology lecturer, owner of Good Relations and a clinical psychologist practicing in Arcata. Information presented here is not intended to provide specific treatment advice. Consult www.ncamhp.org to find a licensed clinician who can help with individual concerns.