Eroticism : being fully alive

Before writing this blog post I danced for three minutes in my living room.

Why ?

When we spend most of our days on computers, phones and tablets, juggling work assignments, deadlines and household chores…the last thing one feels like doing is writing about eroticism…

Dancing a bit allowed me to go from my head to my body, awakening sensations and loosening physical tightness.

As intimacy and sexuality coach Michaela Boehm writes in her book The wild woman’s way : ” Theoretically, we can have it all; the neat package of career and family, but on a practical level, the demands on our bodies alone make it such that, at some point, choices must be made. We suffer physically through the way energy moves in our bodies when we work. The focus on mental activity and engagement with electronic devices, combined with sitting still for long periods of time, brings our energy upward toward the head. We suffer from tight neck, shoulders, and jaw, tension headaches and mental overload. High-stress activity weakens and disembodies us by using-up available physical resources, and we loose both softness and creativity.”

Our culture is dominated by the achievement of tasks, action, mental activity, which is primarily based on masculine energy. This has depleted our feminine energy, which allows us to get connected to our body sensations, our intuition and creativity. This is what Michaela Boehm means by returning to our wild woman’s way : creating rituals to reconnect to our senses, our body and nature in order to allow ourselves to listen, touch, feel, see, smell and rest when our body needs to restore. The modern woman is often dissociated from her body, numbing her physical and emotional discomfort to keep on going through the “to do list”and perform; at home, with children and at work, leaving no possible room for full expression, erotic awareness and rest.

No wonder why so many of us feel exhausted and unable to nurture desire, be it desire for life or sexual desire. Why don’t we intentionally start including space for ” rest” and “nurture desire” in our busy schedules ? We leave them on the back burner and then wonder why our lives have become overwhelming, somehow dull and spiceless.

As sexual and empowerment expert Amy Jo Goddard writes in her book Woman on fire : “Your fire is the energetic source that drives and births your desire and full sexual expression and all you do in life. It is your essential vibrant life force, and you need to feed it and nourish it. You can create all you want in love, sex and relationships, and motor your life from this vibrant force of your being. You have been given the gift of this energy, how would you like to spend it ?”

La valse ( The waltz ) by Camille Claudel, circa 1895.

Most people will go through life without being aware that sexual energy is life energy and that we need to cultivate this vibrancy, with and without a romantic partner. Eroticism can be nurtured from within : when you swim in the ocean or a lake, take a bath ( water opens-up the body ), lie in the grass, listen to music, dance in your living room ( or start taking dance classes ), feel the wind blowing through your hair, when you savor a delicious meal, create ( a piece of music, a painting, a drawing, write in your journal…etc ), buy yourself flowers, touch your skin without judging yourself or find pleasure in wearing clothes and accessories that make you feel beautiful. Buy yourself and wear a new lipstick even if you are the only one to see it !

As Amy Jo Goddard writes : ” What happens when you ignite your own fire ? You are more creative and projects begin to move forward. Your creativity flows. You are present with yourself, your partner, your kids, your friends.You have more fun, pleasure, ecstasy, and bliss because you prioritize it and embrace it. You ask for what you want and stop taking the crumbs life always seems to dish out. You are more confident, so you go for it more often. You start living instead of self-monitoring.”

Of course, the pandemic has disrupted our overall life energy and relationship dynamics; be it with ourselves or with others. It has been like a magnifying glass of what was already there, was absent, needed to be addressed or healed. More than ever, we want to be feel the life within us.

You don’t need to look like a goddess to cultivate your aliveness. You don’t need to travel anywhere to connect with your spark. Create the intention to feel, open-up and be receptive. Use your five senses more often. Look at the beauty around you : the beauty of nature, architecture, art etc… Sometimes, we are not aware that we are simply not allowing ourselves to be receptive, to step away from the to do list and our social and cultural conditioning. We often act from fear and get obsessed with being in control, but control can be one of the main inhibitors of desire.

One of the challenges of modern life is to try to combine a good romantic relationship with sexual desire. Michaela Boehm specifies that a great relationship requires to feel sameness while erotic tension thrives on otherness; what’s different, distant or unknown. This is why we naturally felt attracted to our love partner when we first met him/her…not knowing the other creates excitement. Erotic arousal and cozy time with our spouse or partner are not necessarily compatible. Sexual growth can clearly feed itself on enhanced intimacy and emotional connection, however desire needs mystery and the unexpected to unfold.

In her book Mating in captivity, psychologist Esther Perel writes : ” Love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery. Love likes to shrink the distance that exists between me and you, while desire is energized by it. If intimacy grows through repetition and familiarity, eroticism is numbed by repetition. It thrives on mysterious, the novel, and the unexpected.” This seems obvious, yet, how many of us cultivate their own time alone or with friends in the setting of a long-term relationship ?

Esther Perel writes : ” Animals have sex, eroticism is exclusively human. It is sexually transformed by the imagination. In fact, you don’t even need the act of sex to have a full erotic experience.” She mentions Mexican poet Octavio Paz, who links eroticism to the poetry of the body, the testimony of the senses.

Esther Perel grew-up in Belgium and I share with her this European perception that one of the pitfalls of American culture lies on the fact that everything needs to be talked about and word-based communication is essential to a good love relationship. Desire is like fire… and fire needs air. Not telling everything about yourself and not trying to know everything about your partner. Keeping some mystery, enjoying your secret garden and respecting the other person’s secret garden. The American approach is often too pragmatic and linear while erotic tension flourishes on the unstructured, the irrational and the wild. This is probably why keeping a bit of playfulness in our lives, despites the pandemic, the bills, the family, sweeping the floor, caring for children and work responsibilities is so essential to our sense of aliveness.

It is a challenge to combine emotional closeness with separateness, a tight love bond with erotic exposure. As a result, it seems like a lot of loving couples live in sexual austerity. I am not implying here that a couple’s life is dull if their desire for one another has become stagnant. I believe that many people and couples have an enjoyable life without a need to feel the erotic. The issue lies when one of the two feels sexually frustrated or rejected.

When so much energy and time are given to children, who get to have playdates, fun sport or artistic activities, new clothes and toys, why not redirecting a bit of this energy towards the couple ?

Overworked parents who do not have the chance to have a support system to be able to spend time without their children are the most challenged in creating space such as regular “dates” for the sake of nurturing seduction within the relationship. Nothing terrible will happen if the dirty dishes stay longer in the sink…Our feminine need for perfection conveys a pleasant sense of control but it slowly kills our aliveness and our ability to experience pleasure.

Being intentional about keeping on seducing the one we live with is so essential. If you or your significant other spend your week-ends in pajamas or old comfortable shorts and sweat shirts, how can each other keep on inspiring excitement and erotic tension with one another ?

How will you create and nurture seduction as a ritual ?

There is a personal balance to find between closeness and separateness, freedom and boundaries. We tend to replicate the way we interacted with our first caregivers ( parents or guardians ). If our mother would feel upset or depressed when we would be autonomous, we will tend to feel guilt or shame when trying to attend our own desires and need for selfness.

As Esther Perel addresses “The third”, which symbolizes the shadow of a potential other or the ability of each one of us to nurture our secret thoughts and fire, she highlights : “Selena and Max have license to flirt but draw a line at realizing the possibilities; ” We are both gluttons for attention. I get a real ego boost when someone hits on me, especially now that I have a kid,” says Selena. ” And when someone hits on Max ? Forget it. I feel like I’m going home with the prom king.” Wendy has always known that George has a weakness for blonds. So last Thursday, she decided to be one for the day. She donned a platinum wig and trench coat and showed-up unannounced at his office building site to take him to lunch. He says : ” Great. The guys are going to think I’m having an affair.” Wendy does not miss a bit :” Let them be jealous”. These couples, in their own ways, have chosen to acknowledge the possibility of the third : the recognition that our partner has his or her own sexuality, replete with fantasies and desires that aren’t necessarily about us. When we validate one another’s freedom within the relationship, we are less inclined to search for it elsewhere…. Recognizing the third has a tendency to add spice, not least because it reminds us that we do not own our partners. We should not take them for granted. In uncertainty lies the seed of wanting.”

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