Let me ask you this: are you able to describe your sexual style? That is, if we were having a face-to-face conversation right now, could you describe it to me, in detail? If you’re shaking your head (and maybe even blushing a little), don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone.
There aren’t many red-blooded adults who could describe their sexual style, and of those who could, few would feel comfortable enough to talk openly about it in public.
The reason for this, I believe, is that there is still so much taboo around sexuality, particularly for women.
On the whole, women aren’t encouraged to properly explore their sexual identity. More often than not the topic is off limits, and the information we’re given as we’re growing up is usually driven by someone else’s agenda.
The first formal sex education I received was in year 7 at a private Catholic girls school. Our PE teacher (not a nun) was under strict instructions (by the nuns) to educate us about masturbation. The key takeaway was that it was a sin!
Fortunately for me, my informal education came by way of older sisters, and Dolly Magazine. Any questions, I had my sources.
Nowadays, working as a relationship therapist, I get to talk about sexuality all the time. I see couples who site their sex life, or lack of one, as the biggest issue in their relationship. But once we start to explore what’s behind their concern, the focus is always less about the sex, and more about the beliefs, values and emotional connection that each individual brings to the relationship.
In his book Passionate Marriage, Sex Therapist, David Schnarch, describes the three styles of sex as, sexual trance, partner engagement and role-play.
These descriptions can help couples struggling with sexual intimacy to better understand where each other are coming from. For instance, if you’re tending towards one style, and your partner has another, it can feel like you (or they) are doing it wrong. Having some insight into how your partner feels about sex (and during sex) can be a real game-changer in the bedroom.
Don’t forget, the act of sex itself can be boring, terrifying or exciting – depending on who you’re talking to. Each of us has a preference for technique, emotional tone, and style, so it can be helpful to understand what that looks like for your partner.
There’s no right or wrong way to have sex. What works for you and your partner can change based on your moods, the environment you’re in, and many other variables. This is normal, healthy sexuality.
If your sex life, or love-making, only works for one or the other (or neither) of you, then with a greater understanding, you each have the opportunity to do something about it.
If this is your style, you like to focus inward on your sensuality. Your focus is drawn to your bodily sensations, the tingling of your skin, the feeling of arousal, the build-up of your orgasm.
You might like to ‘take turns’ devoting yourself to evoking sensual pleasure. Being touched in long repetitive motions that are intentional and not clumsy is a big turn on.
You’re acutely aware of how the touch of self-consciousness, resentment or boredom feels.
Kissing is nice, but you don’t want anything that’ll distract you from focusing on the sensations of your body. Talking is kept to a minimum.
Good sex is like an altered state or a ‘high’. You might notice a strong orgasm causes momentary hearing loss or you see ‘stars’. Bad sex is a disappointment where you wonder if it was worth the effort.
If you’re someone who tends to favour trance sex, it might be hard for you to switch off from day to day issues. Whatever is running through your mind will take precedence over what’s happening in the room. You might feel frustrated with your partner and they in turn will be able to sense your lack of interest in what they’re doing. All of these things will impact on your ability to be present during sex.
If this is your style then your setting for pleasure depends purely on the relationship and its mood. You like lots of hugging and kissing, and any talk will have romantic undertones. You strive for ‘two to become one’ in a sexual bond. Mutual orgasm with bodies entwined is your idea of great sex.
However, any underlying ill feelings towards your partner will impact on your desire for sex. Fighting or distance between you will put an immediate dampener on intimacy.
‘Make up sex’ is also seen as partner engagement sex. Partners are mutually satisfying one another while making declarations of love for one another.
If your preferred style is role-play, then sex for you needs to be adventurous and exciting. Props, staging and characters are all key elements to acting out your fantasies. You enjoy sexual drama and acting out erotic stories. Each character you portray has a particular sexual style, tone, and favourite position.
Samantha from Sex in the City enjoys role-play with her boyfriend Smith, while Claire and Phil from Modern Family are very comfortable with their fantasy roles of Clive Bixby and Juliana.
As entertaining as it is for us to watch these comedy couples on TV, in reality, a lot of people find role-plays uncomfortable and confronting.
Trying to portray a role that is too far from your own sexual self-image can be anxiety provoking, especially if one partner is pushing hard for it, and the other person doesn’t want to.
Unfortunately in our society, we are rarely encouraged to explore our preferred sexual style, much less explore all three styles. We tend to be safe and stick to what we know works.
Only when we develop a greater awareness of our own deeply held values and beliefs can we start to expand our range of sexual states. When we become less prescriptive about what’s acceptable, and start to feel comfortable exploring new areas of our sexuality, we can start to enjoy experiences that we once may have struck off as a no go zone.
The most important thing is that you talk honestly with your partner about what you do and don’t like, and what you will or won’t accept in the bedroom. It’s all well and good to try new things, in fact it’s highly encouraged, but if it doesn’t make you feel good, then you know you’ve pushed your limits. And that’s OK too.