She chased you to the back of the playground and told you she’d share her new crayons with you if you showed her what you had “down there”. You tried kissing her with bubble gum in your mouth to see if you could share a “bubble”. He often played “doctor” with his next-door-neighbour, always delighted when she rang him up complaining that she was “sick”.
Somewhere along the line, most adults decide that sexual exploration is serious… very, very serious. But we don’t start off that way, as the above examples illustrate.
Perhaps it happens at puberty, with the self-consciousness of a changing body, or the guidance (or misguidance) of a strict or nervous parent, or a little later with the increasing pressure of “performance”, a partner’s high expectations, or anxiety about pregnancy and STI’s.
While those may have been and may continue to be very real concerns, if you focus all of your attention on them exclusively you will miss out on one of the biggest secrets of joyful erotic connection: Humour, innocence, and PLAY!
Sexuality has the potential to be like being back in drama camp. You can put on make-up, wear costumes, and invent and play imagination games. You can invent the rules of the game, and if you don’t like the game anymore you can change it. You can try things out and if they’re fun, you can do them again and again. You can let go of boredom and greet each sexual feeling with the excitement of a child engaging with its environment for the first time.
As a healer, one thing that I enjoy very much is guiding individuals to re-awaken the spirit of play within themselves. There is something very therapeutic about taking the time to explore erotic feelings in a non-goal-oriented space of unconditional acceptance, humour, joy.
One thing I hear often from clients is that they are afraid to communicate their particular fetish, fantasy, or desire to their significant other. In a perfect world, partners would hold for each other a space of unconditional love within which the couple could explore together like children in the playground of their mutual imaginations. Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of sex-negative conditioning in the way most of us have been raised, we don’t know how to do this for each other.
When a man, for example, tries to think about how he might communicate with his partner about his desire to be submissive in a sexual encounter, he might imagine being received with one of the following responses: “Men are supposed to be dominant in sex.” “I want a real man, not a sissy.” “There’s something abnormal about that. You should see a psychiatrist.” “Are you gay???”
While we live in a society where, on a general level, gender roles are relatively relaxed, when it comes to ideas about what constitutes “normal” sexual desire we are still very polarized: Men’s desire is supposedly initiative, assertive, physical, competitive, genitally-oriented, quick to arouse, seeks sex, and is focused on performance, while women’s desire is supposedly receptive, submissive, emotional, cooperative, whole-body oriented, slow to arouse, seeks love, and is focused on connection.
These ideas are so ingrained in our social fabric that many people take them for granted. While they may be true some of the time for some people, they are not necessarily true all of the time for all people. When men or women have fantasies and/or desires that do not fall into the correct category for whatever gender we happen to be, their first instinct may be to make them wrong, to feel ashamed of them, to dissociate from them and pretend they’re not there, or even to put them down when we see them in other people.
Both men and women experience an amalgam of the above traits sexually, at different points in time, even at different ages. The purpose of bringing this to your awareness is so that you can start to ask yourself where in your life you buy into these stereotypes, and therefore where you are limiting your sexual imagination.
Do you suppress your desire to be tied up and ravished by a woman because you think it will mean you will be less of a man? If you are a woman, do you get uncomfortable if your male partner asks you to dominate him because you think being assertive sexually is unnatural for a woman?
Stepping into broader definitions of what men and women can do, feel, and say in the bedroom without shame or guilt will create the breathing room for both people to accept and share more of their genuine desires, not just those that are socially acceptable for our gender roles.