Everything I Learned About Sex In A Year

Photo: Ashley Armitage
Why do couples lose interest in having sex with each other? We often hear about it: ‘After about two years, he/she lost their desire to have sex.’ I didn’t want that to happen in my new relationship. Nor did I want what I’d had in a previous relationship for seven years – ‘orgasm-chasing’ sex that left me unhappy, guilty, sad and frustrated. Sexual estrangement and bad sex were two options I was very keen to avoid.
So I’ve just dedicated a year to learning everything I can that turns sex into good sex in the context of a long-term, monogamous, heterosexual relationship (because that’s the category I fall into.) And I've written a book about it to share the secrets I discovered.
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I went to every single women’s workshop, couples’ workshop, seminar, tantric weekend and intimacy fair that I could find. It was an interesting year and left me wondering why more people don’t learn everything they can about sexuality – for me, it was a pretty important investment in a relationship.
It’s impossible to summarise a year in a short article but there are a number of points I’d like to shout from the rooftops. The main thing, I found out, that goes wrong in long-term sex lives is that people get stuck in a pattern. A bit as if you went to your local Indian restaurant and discovered a super red hot vindaloo meal; it blew your tastebuds out of your head and was so memorable that every time you went back, all you ever asked for was the same meal. In this way, all the other subtle, nourishing and interesting meals are never experienced. It benefits to open up the entire variety of choices – to learn about the whole menu.
Take orgasms, for example. Nothing wrong with orgasms. They feel good and are good for you. But having an orgasm can be just one choice in a variety of potentially blissful choices. Some couples stop having sex because they feel sex needs to be red hot or it's not working. But a little turquoise sex with a dash of white and a little green can be very nourishing and happy-making too.
Sex doesn't need to be all about chasing orgasms. It can be about making your body feel good and your lover’s body feel good. It’s an experience of the sensation of the present moment and listening fully to the sensation that is happening in your body. You can practise this ‘listening’ during a sensuous massage. If you find your mind wandering to the past or the future (‘I forgot to call my boss’; ‘I wonder if I’ll have an orgasm later’), just bring it back to listening to the good sensation in your body and experience that fully. I had terrible trouble with this – judging myself that I wasn’t ‘feeling enough’ and all manner of unhelpful thoughts. It’s exactly as you learn in simple meditation – stop listening to the thoughts and instead ‘listen’ to the sensation. Especially the most subtle sensation. Gradually you learn to just relax into the feelings. Above all – don’t worry about orgasms. Forget about them completely and encourage your partner to do the same.
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One of the processes we enjoyed in the year was when my partner was taught the correct way to stroke a clitoris. Honestly. I was very keen for him to be a serious student of this practice as it feels – well, profound. I had the great pleasure of attending the first International Conference of Clitoral Stroking in San Francisco. This infinitely subtle training is done for 15 minutes away from the bedroom and, again, the idea is for the woman fully to experience the variety of sensation that is available to her; not to have a climax. More details are in the book but this for free – the upper left-hand side of the clitoris (if you are a woman lying on your back) is the most sensitive area. It’s a practice for two in which the stroker, who can be a man or a woman, is fully clothed to help them focus their attention fully on the woman’s level of arousal while she is being gently stroked. It’s extraordinary.
Another practice we enjoyed is where my partner (at his suggestion, not mine) agreed to explore 30 days without ejaculating. This meant that we still made love but he had to concentrate more fully on the levels of his arousal and mine. It became very subtle, with us exploring the results of the smallest movements. The lovemaking started to feel like surfing instead of like driving. We had already removed the focus on orgasm for me. Now we removed it for him as well so we had no goals in our lovemaking. There was no criteria about what made it ‘successful’ or not… and this new quality of awareness brought us infinitely closer in a different quality of intimacy. My male partner experienced many orgasm-like sensations in his body without ejaculation and a much greater level of awareness about what kind of lovemaking felt the most nourishing. I can add that after 30 days he was very keen to see me.
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From the point of view of women taking responsibility for their own experience, I was surprised to learn of the supreme importance of the health of our pubococcygeus (PC) muscle – or ‘Kegel’ after the famous Dr. Kegel. We are all told to exercise this muscle but no one explains the positive results of doing so on a woman’s sex life. My partner and I attended a conference where there was a talk with the title "The Most Important Sex Secret Every Woman Needs To Know" and we went along, very curious to see what it would be about. When I arrived I was encouraged to contract the PC muscle as if I was trying to ‘hold in a pee’ and to bring the muscle up and forward like a sit-up-and-beg dog. Then similarly the rear muscles, as if I were trying to secretly hold in wind. Those rings of muscle, which are like a figure of eight and support all our internal organs, are vital for the sexual health and pleasure of both men and women.
Dr. Kegel partly gained his reputation after a woman they called "Mary" (who only had very boring sex with her husband twice a year, it was recorded) went to the doctor as she was unable to hold her own urine. To avoid an operation, Dr. Kegel taught the woman with the unhappy husband to exercise these muscles. Six months later, not only did she no longer leak but she also had a once-a-week sex life and had experienced her first climax. This is all true. The nerve endings are in the muscles, you see. There is an app. From the NHS. It’s controversial because you have to pay for it. It’s called Squeezy, it's £2.99, and it's worth every penny. Look upon it as a donation to the NHS and to yourself.
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If you don’t know what I’m talking about please, please, look them up, study and exercise them regularly. If you do exercise them (five times a day as recommended by the app), a new level of sensation should become possible. Really. Like any exercise, the change in sensation level isn’t immediately apparent but if you tune into more subtle sensations you should notice a change. And they are good for your general health, too.
So those are three of the subjects I learned about but my main concern is that none of us should accept a bad sex life because life is short. We don’t need to. Go to the workshops alone or with your partner or both. Make pleasure a priority. Your body plays a very important role in your health and wellbeing. Make your body happy and your body will help make you better and happier.
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