I have worked in the field of sexuality for the last 15 years, with everyone from kids in first grade, to adolescents, college students and adults. I have been inspired by people’s curiosity and played witness to many “Ah-ha!” moments—times when something clicked and a person became attuned to their sexuality in some new way, or when a new piece of information filled a former gap. I have listened to stories and struggles of people who feel disconnected from their sexuality, from their bodies, and from their partners. I have known many people who have gone through sexuality and relationship traumas and continue to struggle to feel at home in their sexual selves.
I witness many couples, after being together for many years, lose the initial spark that filled them with desire and longing—and as domestic duties add up, and especially when children come into the picture, sex becomes less frequent, infrequent or altogether non-existent. I see how this saddens many couples and deadens them to the possibility that they can have the vibrant sexual life they once had together, or dreamed they’d one day have but never quite got to.
The reality of the challenges of keeping our sexuality alive and juicy set in as we get comfortable in relationships, especially committed monogamous relationships where sexual fulfillment is maintained primarily with one’s partner. Many people choose to do intimate relationships this way, and so to engender a yummy sexual partnership for many years and a vibrant sexual life with ourselves through the decades, we have to shift the way we approach sex.
Our culture sets us up with the romantic ideal that so few couples ever “achieve”—even our language about relationships and sex sets us up for disappointment or feeling like we “failed”. That romantic ideal that we’ll find our one “soul mate” and that we’ll live—you know, “happily ever after, til’ death do us part”. We have piss-poor role models for the most part. Usually, we do whatever our parents did, and for many of us, that can look disastrous, as we reproduce our family dynamics over and again with our lovers. And if we actually choose to work on our self-development, we spend the rest of our lives unlearning poor communication habits and relationship patterns that just don’t work for us. But if we do not choose to do the really hard work, we inevitably end up leaving our partners, or staying in unhappy relationships that revolve around paying bills, taking care of household tasks, refinancing mortgages and other decidedly unsexy things. It’s no wonder our sex lives fizzle right out and the divorce rate is through the roof. It’s the norm, not the exception. I don’t even think that’s necessarily a negative thing, because many relationships are meant to be finite. But problematically, none of this leaves us with a clear vision of what a juicy sexual life looks like.
I have come to believe that our sexual lives are like our artistic lives, or our spiritual lives, or our career, or our children: each is a living breathing aspect of our life that is only as vibrant as the energy we offer in service to it. If we don’t give our sexuality energy, it withers and sometimes almost seems to die. It requires our attention and energy and prioritizing, like any artistic craft or successful career would. Our art will not materialize on its own without our nurturing it, without our planning time to actually make art, and without our study, appreciation and meditation on beauty and creativity. Our sexual fulfillment is no different. You can choose to give it energy, and see it flourish and grow, and feel good that you spend time nourishing your sexuality, and/or your sexual relationship each week. Or, like many of us do, you can get caught up in your busy life, and turn around months or years later wondering where your sexual gusto went.
Most of us think something is wrong with us if we have an unfulfilling sex life. If we let it, life will sweep us up and we’ll come up with all kinds of reasons why we don’t have enough sex, or orgasms, or the deeply intimate relationships we want. Many of us either don’t know how, or refuse to take action about our own sexuality. We think it’s just supposed to organically materialize, and when it doesn’t, we start looking for the perfect prescription. The pharmaceutical companies have gotten hip to the fact that selling the magic bullet to busy sexless people will make them a whole lot of cash if they sell low sexual-self-esteem for the right price to unhappy bidders. Many of us are buying it. Women are getting their genitals nipped and tucked now, supposedly to feel better as sexual people, without doing the real work to love themselves and their perfectly imperfect sexuality or sexual body. We don’t need all of that.
What we need is this: If we want to have the vibrant, active, sexually fulfilling life that we deserve, we have to plant the seeds that will grow the tree of sexual pleasure. We have to offer ourselves in service to our sexuality. We have to create deeper intimacy in our lives. Disconnection rarely leads to powerful sexual experiences. We have to prioritize sex! We have to schedule time for it each week, take time each year to go on a retreat, or attend classes that will invigorate our sexual lives on a regular basis. We need to medibate (Barbara Carellas’ term for masturbation as meditation). We need to make sex part of our own worship of the divine.
There is no easy way. Your sex life won’t grow because you will it to. It won’t deepen because you think it should. Your orgasms won’t improve because you think it’s your birthright. Only you get to make that happen. And when you do, it can become part of how you live. After all, whatever you nurture is what you value. I have come to see my sexual life as a work of art, an act of creation, a way I connect to my own divinity, and to my partner. That’s worth blocking out some time for each day or week, and it’s worth fighting for. I have fought for it. And now, I’m working on dancing with it. How will you dance with yours?