The other day a friend of mine was sighing over how too many women strain his patience when it comes to having sex. I was initially a bit peeved, thinking that anyone, not just women, had the right to move slowly when it came to getting naked. But being a fast mover myself, I could understand his rant. We were both over fifty, weren’t looking for someone to have babies with, and didn’t feel that we needed to be terribly choosy when it came to a little physical fun. So why not go there quickly?
“Yes, I guess I see your point.” I told him. “Most of the men I meet want to ‘test the chemistry’ as they say. That pretty much means they want to jump into bed with me.”
“It’s more than that.” he replied. “Sex isn’t just about chemistry. It’s a form of communication. It is communication. It’s a kind of conversation. Why not introduce that early on into your relationship with another person?”
That got me to thinking: It’s true that a good conversationalist gets my interest piqued. But much of an interesting conversation happens between the lines; it’s visceral, non-verbal, chemical, physical. It’s a brief touch that promises more; it’s a sigh of anticipation; it’s noticing the condensation from a chilled glass collecting at the tips his fingers. That gets me aroused. We can be talking politics and weather, but if our bodies are communicating at the same time as our mouths, we’re fine tuning the dials for the very best reception.
One of the most provocative books I’ve read on the topic of sex and love is Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. She claims that one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made in our sexual relationships has been to over communicate using words and under communicate using our bodies. It’s a 21st Century blessing and a curse that, for many of us, our loving relationships are now utterly egalitarian, thoughtfully discussed, and thoroughly lacking in transgression. Maybe, she tells us, in order for sex to be hot we need to learn to shut up.
“The body is our original mother tongue, and for a lot of men it remains the only language for closeness that hasn’t been spoiled. Through sex, men can recapture the pure pleasure of connection without having to compress their hard-to-articulate needs into the prison of words.”
This is not to downplay the importance of verbal communication between intimate partners. Talking about what they like and don’t like has no doubt brought couples closer. But might it help if both men and women conceded that for intimacy to grow we should let our bodies do the talking more often? Perel continues:
“Favoring speech as the primary pathway to intimacy reinforces the notion that women’s sexual desire is legitimate only when it is embedded in relatedness…Historically, women’s sexuality and intellect have never been integrated…Femininity, associated with purity, sacrifice, and frailty, was a characteristic of the morally successful woman. Her evil twin, the succubus (whore, slut, concubine, witch) was the earthy, sensual, and frankly lusty woman who had traded respectability for sexual exuberance.”
I tried putting myself into the position of my friend’s date. Are we well-educated, intelligent women getting too caught up in our minds to be earthy, lusty and sensual? Perhaps. Can we experience sexual exuberance while still being feminists, professionals and good parents? I don’t see why not. But I would suggest that we women need to let go a little when it comes to spelling out the terms of lust.
“OK, then,” I said to my friend. “I dare you to say this to your next date. ‘Look, I find you incredibly attractive. You’re intelligent, witty and I want to know what you sound like when I’m making love to you. It’s just as worthy a way to communicate, in my mind, as the conversation we’re having here and now.’ Think you can do that?”
“I think I’d get a drink thrown in my face.”
“You might, but then at least you’re not going to be paying for a second date.”
So here’s my dare for us all, whether we’re out with someone new or simply at home doing the washing up: consider how you might use your body to communicate with your partner. It could be a brush of the hand down the nape of her neck, a gaze that lasts for more than a few seconds, or leaning over during the commercial break and breathing on his neck. Forget, once in awhile, this idea that we need to tell our partners what we want or desire and simply show them. Move his finger to that place where, yes oh god, yes! When we dial into the nonverbal expressions of desire, we create an intimate conversation that no one else is privy to. You develop a language which is unique to your two bodies. And over time you might just realize you’ve become fluent in a dialect all your own.
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