Embrace Your Eroticism

By Claudia Six, Ph.D, Clinical Sexologist

When do we fully, if ever, fully own our eroticism? By now most of us have heard that we are sexual beings from the moment we are born, even before; but when do we start to own that? I see this as a recurring theme in my practice as a Clinical Sexologist, with both men and women, from their 20's to 70's. Too often, we hold ourselves back and let negative self-evaluation keep us small sexually. We judge ourselves as somehow not enough - or too much.

Eroticism is a template; it affects how you engage your partner sexually. It is about pleasure for it's own sake; what turns you on. Eroticism has more to do with where your head is than what your genitals are doing. Eroticism and presence are what put the beauty in sex, and contribute so much to your sexual potential.

I believe embracing one's eroticism, or sexual self-acceptance, to be a lifelong path. By sexual self-acceptance I mean allowing yourself the experience of feeling entirely good about your body, the way it moves, feels, smells, the way it looks clothed, or unclothed, how others respond to it, how you feel about others truly seeing you - you, your body, your sensuality, and your eroticism. Sexual self-acceptance starts with you accepting yourself as a sexual being. It includes honoring your eroticism whatever it may be (as long as it's not getting you a police record) however unusual you may think it is, your level of libido, your orgasms - be they little tremors of pleasure or rip-roaring explosions. You don't have to be in a sexual situation to exude sensuality or eroticism. You can do it at the grocery store. You don't have to put on a show; it's in the way you carry yourself.

I see young women who haven't yet acquired the grace to receive appreciation for their sexuality without putting up a wall to guard against admirers' transgressions. I see middle-aged men who don't allow themselves to notice a beautiful woman appreciating them in an airport for fear that they might then be expected to 'perform' sexually. How many of us can comfortably hold onto our Self and not be afraid of being seen sexually? And how many of us have noticed and envied those who seem to carry themselves comfortably in their body, exuding sexuality - not necessarily oozing with it, just owning it?

The reasons why we may not have embraced our eroticism are numerous: that good old Catholic or name-brand guilt, unspoken messages from parents and society, fear of unwanted responses from others, fear of rejection or judgment, lack of self-confidence... But the reasons in favor of sexual self-acceptance far outweigh them: increased quality of life, personal growth, fulfillment, personal integrity, a sense of balance, wholeness...Besides, it just feels good!

Are you occupied? I'm not asking if you're busy. I'm asking if your body is occupied. Is your energy running through it? Can you feel it? Can others feel it? How do you know? How do they know?

Many of us think we are in our bodies, but are we really? At certain times, like when we are exerting ourselves physically in a sport or injured, we might choose to be so. The sensations are demanding of your attention, undeniable and compelling.

What I am addressing today is your ability to occupy your body consciously and fully. This will allow for deeper connection and intimacy with your beloved.

Indications of occupancy are hard to describe: from a tingling, to a knowing, to a very subtle shift. This shift can be triggered with intention. You may be going through the motions, your partner may feel as though you're touching them through Plexiglas. But when the shift takes place, those same motions take on a new depth. There is a subtle but pervasive difference, which impacts how the touch is given and received. With engagement, the same action reaches a whole new intensity. Something as simple as holding hands becomes a different experience. It's the difference between vibrancy and limp meat.

When you are occupied, people are drawn to you. They respond well to it. It's reassuring to know there's really a person in there. And you know by your visceral reactions to someone whether they are occupied or not. If they are not you can't exchange sexual vibes, arousal, connection, chemistry; all these require this tangible quality which I call "occupancy".

For some of us, it takes too much effort to be in that place of occupancy all the time. The intensity (or the peace) is too much. It's easier to just go there at times. Being aware of occupancy can be a mixed blessing in that you are constantly aware of it in yourself and others. That can be draining, or a tremendous source of satisfaction.

In a day to day state it's easy to be distracted, and taken away from the here and now. The opportunity for sensory deprivation forces your awareness to certain areas previously neglected. Winter, when the weather cold, is the time to draw inward, go within, and feel. I hope you made the most of it. Notice any differences in how you feel your body, now that summer is here?

Make no mistake, occupancy begins in your mind. The question "What is happening in my body now?" is one doorway to occupancy. What does this have to do with romance and intimacy you ask? Everything. Occupancy is a prerequisite for pleasure.

Desire is another prerequisite for pleasure. Desire can come from many different parts of us: our heart, our loins, our spirit, any combination thereof. Desire can also be for many different things: desire for sex, desire for a lover, desire for pleasure, for release, for physical and emotional closeness, for surrender, for control, for validation...

How many of us really allow ourselves to want our lover, to feel the sweet and painful vulnerability of truly longing for him/her? When was the last time you felt yourself bursting with desire for your beloved? Allowing yourself to acknowledge the other's importance and keeping your heart open is a level of vulnerability not everyone gets to. And then people wonder why the sex they're having isn't as good as it used to be, or as it could be. It takes courage. Some people choose the frustration and tolerable vulnerability of not getting what they want over the intolerable vulnerability of possibly getting it...and risking losing it.

Many of us do not really want to want. We want to be wanted. Many of us can only afford to want when the other does not want us. And in perverse reciprocity, many of us can only afford to not want or to reject someone when they want us. It's safer that way. It's also not very rewarding. It's a short-lived game which ends in pain. The politics of desire are quite complex. It's not as simple as whether or not you're getting it on. What trips us up and dampens desire, or causes us to modulate it based on how much we think we are desired in turn, is fear.

I tell people that sexuality is a constantly evolving path. I've seen people in their seventies learn new things about their sexuality, how they occupy their body, how their eroticism has grown.

My fantasy for you is to allow yourself to blossom sensually, sexually, erotically, whether you are solo, partnered or with several partners. Do it for you. Wear that dress that hugs your curves or that soft shirt that shows off your pecs, and walk proudly. Trust that you are enough, or that your sexual self is not too much for others (that's their problem). I learned long ago that if you feel good, you look good. You have your own unique way of being attractive that goes beyond your physical appearance. Let it out and feel it!

Copyright Claudia Six, 2003. All rights reserved.

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