I spend a lot of time thinking about sex and intimacy (I know, it’s a tough job, someone has got to do it), and I think these are the most important things couples and partners need to know about how to really build connection. I call this framework the Four Foundations of Mindful Sex.
What is Mindful Sex?
I really loved the process of putting these foundations together as one framework. As I was preparing for my Mindful Intimacy class last weekend, this framework emerged as the baseline components of mindful sex. And none of these require you to do anything hard or buy anything new—these are in you now, if you cultivate practices that allow you to feel more into it. If you want to dive deeper into this rich topic, please see my Free Offerings page here to get instant access to the Mindful Intimacy and Expansive Sex workshop.
Mindfulness helps us enjoy life more deeply. Mindfulness is the gift of presence and focus, and can make our meals or walks or meditation practice deeper and more lovely. Mindfulness, when applied to sex and pleasure, helps us discover the answer to the question … is there MORE to SEX?!
Oh YES, yes there is so much more to sex than what we’ve been led to believe. And these practices are how you get there. But first, a little sex education about our anatomy and physiology!
Sex Ed for the Adult Bed
I work with all types of people in my practice, and while these practice are good for everyone, there are some specific benefits that differ depending on what you’re working with when you play.
For people with penises, mindful sex practices help you slow down, feel more of your body and your sexual energy, hold more space for your partner. Knowing how to feel more and hold more of your sexual energy is the foundation of being a better lover, I promise. Do you want to learn more about men’s sexual practices? Yes, obviously (click the hyperlink). 💕
And for people with vulvas, mindful sex is most likely the type of touch you are craving. Of course, all bodies and all people are different. However, based on what I know from clients, friends, research, studies, and my own personal experiences, this is probably true for most of us. Slowing down when touching vulvas, moving more mindfully around our delicate bits, allowing our bodies and minds to warm up, and approaching sex in a way that feels calm, safe, and connected can be deeply healing for those of us that have experienced trauma, have had difficult or terrible lovers, or if we’ve never given ourselves the time to pleasure in a different way.
One of the main reasons that vulva-based bodies need a more mindful approach to sex is basic anatomy. The clitoral complex is a network of erectile tissue that is mostly hidden from view. The glans of the clitoris is what you can see on the outside of a vulva, but the rest of this highly enervated system is below the surface. It’s also super important to note that the clitoral complex has as much erectile tissue as a penis, but there are the two primary differences. First, and perhaps most obvious, is that you can see the erectile tissue in a penis become aroused on the outside, while the clitoral complex is inside. Next, and more important, is that the erectile tissue in a penis takes about five minutes to be fully engorged. But the erectile tissue in the clitoral complex takes an average of 30-45 minutes. See the amazing little video below to see how our structures are the same, but different, and how dynamic the clitoral complex looks.!
The First Foundation of Mindful Sex: Mindfulness
The first foundation of mindful sex is, perhaps redundantly, mindfulness!
Research shows that mindfulness is great for a lot of things in our life, and this applies to sex, too! Decades of research by Canadian psychologist Dr. Lori Broto shows how important mindfulness is to our sexual experience. In her research, primarily on women, she found that a mindfulness practice (outside of the bedroom) made huge changes in the bedroom.
Why is this? Our attention wanders… that’s just what it’s meant to do. But in yoga, meditation, or a mindfulness practice, the goal is to gently bring our attention back again and again to the activity at hand.
One of the things that hinders many people from being in the moment during sex is ‘spectatoring.’ This means we’re watching (and often judging) ourselves having sex rather than being in the moment. This can take us out of sensation, out of our bodies, and therefore, away from our pleasure.
Mindfulness is a great way to help bring our attention back again and again to help us be more mindful and ultimately feel more during sex.
When we approach our activities more mindfully, we can get more pleasure out of it. With a mindfulness or meditation practice, this will come more easily—regardless of whether you’re in a headstand, seated on a meditation cushion, or making love.
The Second Foundation of Mindful Sex: SLOWNESS & STILLNESS
I cannot stress this enough: giving yourself (and/or your partner) space, time, and calm can be deeply nourishing and healing and is going to make your sex better. Period. Spaciousness in our playtime can make things super juicy because we can relax into it, we can give our bodies a chance to warm up, our minds a chance to calm down, and an opportunity for the connection to build.
Does this mean you can’t ever have a hot quickie? Of course not. However, I do think it’s the deeper connected, more intimate experience that keeps us TURNED ON, keeps us simmering during our days between sex times so that we’re ready for quickies. Sometimes we call this the erotic thread, sometimes a simmer; either way, it means that your next sex starts when this one ends.
Here’s some ways to practice slowness in your lovemaking.
When you’re going at it (however you choose to do so), simply stop moving. Hold still, breath, connect (great when you’re solo and great when you’re with someone else). This is especially powerful if you have a vulva: allow yourself or your partner to stop moving their fingers, tongue, toys, and/orpenis and just be with the stillness inside you. Enjoy the sensations, and let them simmer.
Slowness and stillness also applies to non-sexual touch. How can you give a tender massage more mindfully, snuggle more mindfully, touch more slowly, talk with your partner more thoughtfully. Do you have space in your relationship for stillness, or are you orbiting around each other? Research from Dr. Vanessa Marin shows that most couples spend only 35 minutes together PER WEEK. And yet, so many of us wonder why we don’t feel connected and why we don’t want to have sex. Build in practices to nourish your bodies, minds, and spirits. Here are four non-sexual ways to touch.
The Third Foundation of Mindful Sex: ATTENTION
The opposite of mindful is mindless: mindless touch, mindless eating, mindless binge watching. Sometimes there is a place for that, for sure (I do love some lollygagging on Instagram or a good weekend binge)
But not with sex, my friends. I want you to focus on what you’re doing, and do it with LOVE and CARE. The goal is to bring attention back to the task at hand, whether you’re giving or receiving. Attention is deeply important as we develop a more conscious intimacy. We need to feel seen, heard, validated, loved by our partner. And we need to give that to them, too. Are you giving your partner the attention they deserve?
Are you paying attention to their existence in the world, to their needs, desires, wants? Do you pay attention to their interests? The deeper level of attention to your partner leads to attunement, and this can be super connecting and HEALING for so many of us. If you are not paying attention now, please start.
And when you’re engaged in playtime, we don’t just ‘go through the motions’ any longer, amiright? We ask questions, we ask for feedback, we tune in, we focus on their pleasure. And we ask them to do the same for us.
The Fourth Foundation of Mindful Sex: INTENTION
Attention is how we do it, intention is the WHY. What are your intentions: to care for, to arouse, to nurture, to turn yourself on? Are you here to do a job, or are you here to give lovingly tender worship to your own body or that of your lover?
The Wheel of Consent is a brilliant consent framework that I have studied for years, and I bring into my sessions and workshops. It asks us to think about touch in new ways by asking the question, Who is this touch for?
This shows us there is touch for them (serving) or touch for us (taking); there are corresponding ways to receive that is also for us (receiving) or for them (allowing). Knowing the intention of the touch (it is for you) helps us be more clear in our intention, and be more conscious of what type of touch we’re giving. Learn more about this brilliant consent framework here.
How can we show up with INTENTIONALITY into our relationships, so that our partner knows we’re in it together. This is deeply important during sex: the intentions that we show up with today are going to impact our relationship tomorrow, and onwards.
How to Make your Sex More Mindful
Please remember, these are practices. This does not mean you have to always move slow, always move mindfully, and so on. But inviting these practices into your sexual play can add depth and connection that I think you’ll find very valuable. Try to integrate one at a time, and see what changes for you, and for your partner. All of these practices can be integrated during solo sex (aka, masturbation or self-pleasure)—I strongly believe you are your own best lover, and the way we love ourselves impacts how we can share our body with others. If you are partnered, ask them if they want to try to slow down, try to move differently, and see what comes up.
Wishing you lots of pleasure… and practice! 💕
Header Image by Jéssica Oliveira and body image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash // used with permission