UBC sex re­searcher opens hearts and minds

Dan Sav­age

The Georgia Straight - - Savage Love - By

IS IT EVEN POS­SI­BLE for a cou­ple that stopped hav­ing sex to start back up again? My girl­friend and I (we’re both women) have been to­gether for four years, and we haven’t had sex for two. I thought the sex was good be­fore it stopped, but ap­par­ently she was go­ing through the mo­tions. She’s a sex worker, and it took her a while to fig­ure out she was not be­ing present, and she wanted to stop hav­ing sex with me un­til she could fig­ure out how to change that. I get that and re­spect it. We have an open re­la­tion­ship, so I started hav­ing more sex with other peo­ple. And while it’s fun, I do find my­self wish­ing I could have sex with some­one I ac­tu­ally care about—and I only care about her. She says she wants to start hav­ing sex with me again, but we don’t re­ally know how to do that. Ev­ery­thing is kind of ter­ri­fy­ing and awk­ward. She said it’s hard to go from sex with zero in­ti­macy into sex with the in­ti­macy turned up to 11. We’re very ro­man­tic with each other, and there are other forms of phys­i­cal af­fec­tion like kisses and snug­gling, but no mak­ing out or hump­ing. I love her more than I knew I could love a per­son, and if we never do fig­ure out how to have sex to­gether, I’ll still stay with her. But for two peo­ple who are both highly sex­ual and want to have sex with each other, we sure are per­plexed at how to make this work.

- Sex Or Ro­mance Dilemma “Let’s cut to the chase: yes, it is pos­si­ble for a cou­ple that has stopped hav­ing sex to start hav­ing it again,” said Lori Brotto, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and a sex re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

You ended on a note of de­spair, SORD, but Brotto sees two good rea­sons for hope: you and your girl­friend are com­pletely open and hon­est with each other, and you’re com­mit­ted to stay­ing to­gether whether or not the sex re­sumes. Your com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and that rock-solid com­mit­ment—nei­ther of you is go­ing any­where—are the bedrock on which you can re­build your sex life.

“There are two as­pects of SORD’S ques­tion that jump out at me: one, the ref­er­ence to want­ing to be present for sex, and, two, the de­scrip­tion of the sit­u­a­tion as ter­ri­fy­ing and awk­ward,” said Brotto. “SORD’S girl­friend likely per­fected the prac­tice of ‘go­ing else­where’ dur­ing sex while at work, which meant that it be­came al­most au­to­matic for her to do this while hav­ing sex in her re­la­tion­ship. This is clas­sic mind­less­ness, and it is why mind­ful­ness—the state of full aware­ness to the present moment in a kind and com­pas­sion­ate way—may be a tool for her to con­sider im­ple­ment­ing.”

Mind­ful­ness is the sub­ject of Brotto’s new book, Bet­ter Sex Through Mind­ful­ness: How Women Can Cul­ti­vate De­sire.

“Mind­ful­ness has a long history in Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion, and it al­lowed monks to sit with their present ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing pain and suf­fer­ing, for hours or days—or some­times weeks and months,” said Brotto. “In more re­cent years, mind­ful­ness has been recon­cep­tu­al­ized as a tool that any­one can use and ben­e­fit from. It doesn’t rely on hav­ing a Bud­dhist ori­en­ta­tion or a cave to re­treat to.”

So how does this an­cient mind­ful­ness stuff work where mod­ern girl-on­girl sex is con­cerned?

“The prac­tice is sim­ple,” said Brotto. “It in­volves de­lib­er­ately pay­ing at­ten­tion to sen­sa­tions, sounds, and thoughts in the present moment—and notic­ing when the mind gets pulled else­where and then gen­tly but firmly guid­ing it back. Mind­ful­ness is also about not be­rat­ing your­self for find­ing it chal­leng­ing or judg­ing your­self for the thoughts you have.”

In her prac­tice, Brotto has seen re­search sub­jects suc­cess­fully use mind­ful­ness to cul­ti­vate and/or reignite sex­ual de­sire, calm anx­i­ety, and re­lieve the awk­ward­ness and fear that some peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence with sex.

“Suf­fice it to say,” she said, “there is an im­pres­sive body of re­search that sup­ports the prac­tice of mind­ful sex, and peo­ple who oth­er­wise may be­lieve that their minds are in­ca­pable of stay­ing still can ef­fec­tively learn to fully en­gage their at­ten­tion to sex and the per­son(s) with whom they are hav­ing sex. It doesn’t mat­ter if you are skep­ti­cal about whether mind­ful­ness works or not—if you are will­ing to learn the skills and ap­ply it to sex, you’re likely to ben­e­fit.”

And if you’re ner­vous or scared that it won’t work or that you’ll never re­con­nect sex­u­ally with your girl­friend, SORD, Brotto wants you to know that those feel­ings are per­fectly nor­mal.

“The un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing what will hap­pen when they try to rein­te­grate sex can be ter­ri­fy­ing for some cou­ples,” said Brotto. “What if it doesn’t work? What if nei­ther of them has de­sire? What if the sex is just plain bad? If SORD and her part­ner are wor­ry­ing about the an­tic­i­pated sex, or even catas­tro­phiz­ing over it—a jar­gony term mean­ing they imag­ine it end­ing in dis­as­ter—that can make it damn near im­pos­si­ble to re­main in the present. The good news is that mind­ful­ness can help with the ten­dency to get lost on the thought train.”

So here’s what you’re go­ing to do, SORD: or­der a copy of Brotto’s new book and read it with your girl­friend. And while you wait for the book to ar­rive, you’re go­ing to try a mind­ful­touch­ing ex­er­cise called “sen­sate fo­cus”.

“She will in­vite her girl­friend to touch her from head to toe, mi­nus the gen­i­tals, for 15 min­utes—with­out the goal of trig­ger­ing arousal or de­sire,” said Brotto. “SORD’S role is to pay at­ten­tion to the sen­sa­tions emerg­ing and cur­tail any thoughts by redi­rect­ing at­ten­tion to the here and now. And re­lax. Af­ter 15 min­utes, they switch roles so SORD be­comes the giver and her girl­friend is the re­ceiver. This is not fore­play. It is not man­ual sex­ual stim­u­la­tion. It is a mind­ful­ness ex­er­cise de­signed to teach a per­son to re­main in the present while re­ceiv­ing sen­sual touch.”

There are solo mind­ful­ness ex­er­cises, SORD, and some good, com­mer­cially avail­able apps out there that can walk you through them. But if your goal is re­con­nect­ing with your girl­friend, Brotto strongly rec­om­mends that you two work on mind­ful­ness to­gether.

“My view is that a cou­ple-based mind­ful­ness ex­er­cise like sen­sate fo­cus will get them to their goal of mind-blow­ing, mind-know­ing sex,” said Brotto.

Fol­low Brotto on Twit­ter @Dr­lori Brotto.

CON­FI­DEN­TIAL TO CANA­DIAN stu­dents in On­tario: thank you for walk­ing out of your class­rooms to protest the scrap­ping of On­tario’s sex-ed cur­ricu­lum by Doug Ford, your newish (and thug­gish) pre­mier. Every stu­dent de­serves an up-to-date sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion that cov­ers re­pro­duc­tion, plea­sure, con­sent, tech, sex­ting, sex­ual abuse, and LGBTQ is­sues. Watch­ing stu­dents stand up against Ford’s re­ac­tionary, big­oted, sex-neg­a­tive ass­holery has been truly in­spir­ing. Keep it up!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.