Guest Post by Carrie Koziol, Physical Therapist and Women’s Health Professional
with Pilates by Carrie.
Sex As Self-Care? Buckle up!
Rarely do my girlfriends and I say phrases like “I got to have sex last night” or “I’m hoping to get lucky later on.”
On the contrary, we often joke that we “took one for the team” or some other phrase to indicate that we did a favor for our partners. This couldn’t be more true than in those tender post-baby months where any of us would have easily traded sex for 5 extra minutes of sleep or a hot shower. But sometimes those postpartum habits can spill over into the months (and maybe years) that follow, leaving our partners and ourselves feeling a little……disconnected.
So how can we jump start our sex life if it’s become stalled? Below I’ve outlined a few key steps. Most can be altered slightly to apply to heterosexual couples, same sex couples, those single ladies who shouldn’t miss out on the fun just because they don’t have a partner, and everyone in between!
Step One: Change your perspective, and start seeing sex as a gift to yourself.
Women who masturbated in an MRI machine (seriously, all props to the women that got off in that sterile tube while a bunch of scientists examined their brain waves), demonstrated that from first touch to ecstasy, the female brain lights up like the headlights on a Monster truck at night. But what is more interesting to me is what happens post-orgasm and has been described as “lights-out” in the brain. I don’t know about you, but my brain is a tangled web of constant thoughts and over-thoughts.
Even as I sit here at the café typing this out, I’ve had a million thoughts completely un-related to the task at hand: do I have a red onion at home for the salad I want to make tomorrow, these high-waisted jeans are great for keeping my belly at bay but they sure are digging in, did I let the dog out before I left, when will I pack for that trip we’re taking in 2 days, I wonder what that guy over there is working on, I wonder if anyone can see what I’m working on (gasp!), what if I’m attacked on the way to my car by someone who thinks I’m a sex-hungry prostitute. Sigh.
Orgasm is like taking an elicit drug to melt your mind without the horrible side effects. Maybe you can’t wrap that one up, but I think a quiet brain is one of the best gifts we ladies can offer ourselves!
Step Two: Get connected (in and out of the bedroom).
Women crave intimacy before sex and if you’re feeling disconnected from your partner, making the leap from the breakfast table to the bedroom can seem like an Olympic event. So find ways to connect!!! If you’ve got a free evening, check out this awesome idea about planning a “first” date.
If you’re running short on time, take a trip down memory lane. Talk about the moment you first met, your first date, what originally attracted you to each other, your first kiss. Give each other massages, hold hands, get close! If your partner is rolling their eyes, let them know what you’re up to. Explain that women sometimes need some deposits into their intimacy bank before they want to cash it in for sex.
Step Three: Learn your own sexual accelerators and brakes.
Emily Nagoski, in her amazing book Come As You Are explains that sexual accelerators are sexually relevant stimuli (things you touch, taste, smell, hear, see) in your environment that tell your brain to tell your genitals to turn ON. Sexual brakes work the same but instead tell your genitals to turn OFF, and these two systems are at work in your subconscious scanning your environment for clues to see if this is a “sexy time.”
What gets your motor running? A juicy romance novel, silk sheets, getting away (hotel, bed and breakfast, etc), having your partner help with chores, cologne, a clean bedroom, candles, wine? What hits your brakes? Sounds from the kids outside your door (yup!), a long list of things to do around the house, bad breath or body odor, a messy bedroom? It is your job to find ways to hit your accelerator and limit your brakes.
Sadly most partners haven’t found ways to initiate sex in ways that get us revved up. Alternatively, some of us may be living with the parking brake on. Consider shifting into neutral so should our accelerators be pressed, we may be nudged in the right direction (see Step 5 below!)
Step Four: Learn Dr Rosemary Basson’s circular sexual response cycle which normalizes a woman’s lack of desire at the beginning of a sexual encounter.
Have you ever been in a situation with a loving partner, where you really weren’t in the mood for sex at the start? Sure maybe you were open to the idea but perhaps you were feeling just “meh” about it. Basson explains that with the appropriate accelerators and context, a woman might become aroused enough to experience sexual desire. Another example of shifting into the “neutral” zone to see where it takes you. This could be your one-way ticket to “O” town!
Step Five: Have fun!!!
Try something new, light a candle, use a massage oil, update your bedroom attire, role play. I consulted with sex therapists and coaches to determine a tangible and inexpensive way to help take couples from zeros to heroes and to help them communicate and connect in a playful way.
Enter Chalk Talk! Chalk Talk is a double sided chalk board that allows couples to be more creative when initiating sex. When one partner is interested in sex, they will write something on the chalkboard (it could be a code word, a compliment, a date night itinerary) and leave it in a secret spot for their potential lover to see. This allows the non-initiator to make mental and physical plans to make it happen or to flip the chalkboard over and make a request of their own (please help with the dishes, only if you let me sleep in, …..but dinner first) or to kindly set a date in the future.
The Chalk Talk package comes with two surveys to fill out as a couple so you can learn (or re-learn) intimate details about you and your partner’s accelerators, brakes, and sexual preferences in a fun, nonthreatening way.
Navigating a sexual relationship whether it is a new street, a well-loved dirt road, or a recently re-surfaced highway is sure to present with some twists and turns. But you’ve got a beautiful “vehicle” and I promise the destination is worth the journey. If you’re ready, it’s the pedal on the right!