As many of you know, I’m the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard. My most recent article, Learn To Say Yes and Make Your Sex Life Better, taking my word for 2015, YES, and weaving it into a story about how we show up for sex and give our fullest consent to it!
I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the new year, I set one word that will guide me for the year and use it to form intentions for my life. Last year’s word was intentional, this year my word is Yes.
Let’s look at Yes and how it might lead to a more fulfilling sex life—whether you’re partnered or solo. I am talking about consent in terms of putting ourselves in a yes frame-of-mind when it comes to sex. Not to say that you have to agree to sex all the time. The process of finding your Yes requires you to think about what you like about your current sexual activity and what you don’t like. Is there something you’re currently doing that you want to say No to? If you can’t articulate the “no” then you can’t fully say yes to sex, can you?
In 2013 I did some work with a sexological bodyworker, and as preliminary step we had a long Skype conversation. We talked about what I wanted to accomplish in our sessions. He asked me about my ‘No’, in order to get at what I was asking for, or saying ‘Yes’ to. He wanted me to be clear on what I didn’t want, as a way of clarifying what I did want. “If I can’t trust your No, how can I trust your Yes?” I wasn’t sure I really understood that at the time but as I’ve practiced this in various aspects of my life, not just sex, I’ve seen the power of being really present to what I am doing and what I want.
You’re the only one who can really know what this might look like for you, but here are a few examples of the process of finding your Yes:
- I know my partner loves sex in the morning but I always feel uncomfortable about my waking breath and body odors. I want to get up and ‘freshen up’ first but it feels like I’m breaking the mood. I am more likely to engage and enjoy the intimacy if I can brush my teeth first.
- My boyfriend wants me to watch a sexy video with him before we have sex – he thinks it will get me more excited. I’m not sure about that so I hesitate. Maybe I should say yes once, sharing my reservations, but being open to how it might make me feel. I can always say no thanks, even if we’re in the middle of watching the video.
- My husband doesn’t understand that my dryness is partly due to a lack of arousal. He tends to rush straight into intercourse; I need more time to get ready. Yes, I still need lube (and by the way-lube is a wonderful sex tool for all of us, dry or not) and I’d feel more aroused and interested in sex if I could tell him that I want more of _____________________ (fill in the blank).
- Just once I want to tell my partner exactly what I want sex to be like. I want to describe in detail what my fantasy would be. How he/she would undress me, where I want to be kissed, stroked, and how slowly I want it to happen. I don’t always feel like the sex I’m having is the sex I’d like to be having.
- I miss having sex but I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to find a partner just for sex. It feels a bit lame to self-pleasure myself but don’t I deserve to feel pleasure? Maybe I should try it out and see how it feels to be giving myself what I need.
If we could learn to speak about the things we want, to talk what works and what doesn’t, we would have better sex. Better sex in that we’re not holding back, or feeling uncomfortable. Better sex because we’re sharing the things that matter to us. Better sex because we found our voice and our partner listened and respected our needs. This is what consent, in this context, is all about.
We can’t really enjoy an activity if we’re not in full consent. We become unwilling participants, or slightly resentful, or we tune out because we don’t really want to be a part of what’s happening. Could it be as simple as articulating our wants and desires? What would happen if you found a way to share your vision of intimacy? If you could admit to your desires and stop doing things that don’t please you?