Early on, most of us are trained to believe that sex is intercourse, something that happens in the genitals when some body parts come into contact, fluids may be exchanged and it often feels pleasurable. The focus is frequently on having an orgasm or helping our partner to have an orgasm, and this has become the standard for “good sex.” It’s time to expand our horizons and understand what sex can be beyond intercourse.
When you look at the amount of time spent in sex play from the initial idea to an invitation or seduction, to flirting and kissing and getting turned on and ready for intercourse, it’s surprising to realize that the amount of time spent on intercourse and orgasm is a very small percentage of the total time. Yet that’s where the focus is and it has become the goal. We are missing a lot when our attention is on the finish line of achieving genital orgasm.
When cancer comes into the picture, many people experience sexual difficulties, and the difficulties persist over time and may worsen with time. Our bodies are dramatically altered by cancer and treatments, and the parts may not work in the same way as before. Some people conclude that their sex life is over.
If this is what you think, don’t believe it! You know the adage that “necessity is the mother of invention”? Let’s apply that to cancer and sexuality and explore some possibilities. Let’s start with the idea that the mind is our most powerful sex organ. Huh?
Our brain is like a computer in that it runs all our experiences and perceptions. Limited and negative thinking is like a computer virus. What do you do when you have a computer virus? You clean it out and reboot it. Same with your brain and its ideas about sex ~ let’s wipe out the notion that sex is intercourse and reset to the question, “What is Sex?”
If you use the letters S ~ E ~ X as an acronym, where each letter is the first letter of another word, perhaps S ~ E ~ X is
- Sensual Energy Exchange
- Sacred Energy Exchange
- Spiritual Energy Exchange
What do I mean by this? Imagine that you are sitting down with your sweetheart, about arm’s length from each other, and that you are facing each other and holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes and breathing. Imagine doing this for several minutes, breathing, gazing, holding hands, and being with each other without words. At first it might feel a bit awkward. After all, we live in a culture where we don’t even make eye contact with people in an elevator because all eyes are on the dial indicating what floor you are approaching. We’re not accustomed to eye contact, much less eye gazing.
As you sit gazing and breathing, you might feel a stirring in your pelvic area, and you might think that this means you should have sex with this person. We rarely experience closeness or intimacy like this unless it’s a prelude to genital sex. Keep gazing and breathing and you may notice that your breathing relaxes and deepens, your heart begins to melt and open, your mind opens and you feel very connected to the person you are with.
This is intimacy. Another way to think of intimacy is as “in to me you see”, along the lines of the adage that the eyes are the windows to the soul.
After a few minutes, gently squeeze hands with your partner to signal that the gazing and breathing are coming to an end. Take a few minutes and share what you experienced and what you learned.
What is it that happens when two people slow down, breathe and gaze into each other’s eyes? Is it love? Intimacy? Spiritual Energy Exchange? In my opinion, it’s all of these, and it’s something we crave. Using your mind to expand the definition of S ~ E ~ X, perhaps you just had sex with your partner.
It’s time to expand how we think about intimacy and sexuality, and redefine what sexual health and thriving can be. When we use our mind to create the thoughts and experiences that we want to have, we can create magic.
Here’s an experiment to try on for the next 30 days. Imagine that whenever you connect deeply with someone, you are creating the kind of intimacy, love and sexuality you desire. Try these or create your own ideas:
- Eye gazing as described above
- Holding hands in the movie theater
- Sharing what we appreciate and love about another person with them;
- Believing that deep love and intimacy are possible with a body radically altered by cancer
- Knowing that every moment of sacred energy exchange, sensual energy exchange or spiritual energy exchange is S ~ E ~ X
When you believe this, it becomes true for you. What we believe is what we perceive, so please use your mind to create the kind of love, intimacy and sexuality that you desire.
Barbara Musser is a respected and inspiring intimacy and sexuality speaker, educator, facilitator and author. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, she has worked with thousands of women, couples, and health care professionals, specializing in creating programs to help heal the trauma of cancer treatments to intimacy, sexuality and relationships.
Barbara is the founder and CEO of Sexy After Cancer and author of Sexy After Cancer ~ Meeting Your Inner Aphrodite on the Breast Cancer Journey. She writes a weekly Sexy Saturdays blog for The Pink Fund, the Sex and Intimacy column for The Pink Paper magazine, is the Sex and Intimacy columnist for The Plum magazine and a frequent guest blogger.