Sexual Sovereignty: Embodying Your Authentic Sexual Expression
In my previous article, we discussed what embodied sexuality is, what it offers us, and how to navigate various challenges, including cultural conditioning, that arise around our authentic sexual expression.
Today, let’s go into some practical guidance and exercises you can go into at home to deepen your own experience of embodied sexuality.
Embodied sexuality is the full expression of your sexuality through your senses, mind, fantasies, heart, and presence of being.
In contrast, disembodiment is when we’ve forgotten we have a body and are caught in our thoughts, assumptions, or performance anxiety. When we are disembodied, we may withdraw or criticize others to protect our vulnerability.
Embodied sexuality is about tracking, connecting, feeling, sensing, and staying present to what arises during sexual explorations.
Identifying your authentic sexual turn-ons
We can’t control what turns us on. And unfortunately, we may feel shame or confusion related to our turn-ons.
We live in a culture that primarily educates us about sexual turn-on through movies, pornography, and cultural messaging. A culture that medicates us with messages about our body and pressures to produce and perform to prove our value. This inexhaustible amount of pressure creates a trance and directs us to reference our value externally instead of internally.
This trauma-inducing epidemic has driven us into patterns of anxiety and addiction. We live in a culture that often points us away from being in our bodies through excessive pressures to perform alongside judgmental and shaming messages. This pressure can force us towards identifying with more conceptual ideas of who we are rather than embodied experiences of our selfhood. This split can feel like a pervasive hardship and a barrier to experiencing our authentic sexual self.
Have you ever stopped to notice what actually authentically fits for you, versus what you do because you think it’s expected of you as a woman or a man?
We are moving away from tightly compartmentalized sexual roles in our culture, but there is still a steady pulse woven into our psyches that engenders us with prescribed roles that men and women “should” play in the dance of sexuality and courting.
Knowing what turns you on is important if you want to feel connected to your authentic self. It empowers you to create the experiences and conditions that ignite your arousal. When you know what you like, you can show your partner how to reach you in your most juicy and alive states.
If you want to explore what really turns you on, and your partner on, then drop your assumptions about how it should look. Some of you and your partner’s turn-ons may overlap, and some may not. It is healthy to see this clearly, instead of blaming yourself or your partners for your differences. This can be vulnerable, because what if you share your desire and find out your partner doesn’t want the same thing? What if they judge you for what you like?
Everyone is unique and different. We are setting our sexual life up for failure if we uphold the story that our partner should read our mind and know what we like without our guidance and visa versa. We are also shutting each other down if we receive feedback like, “Babe, can you slow down and touch me like this” as a personal attack and react by withdrawing (in shame) or attacking (with blame or judgment). When we are identified with who we think we need to be, instead of of staying curious and free, we construct a cage around our expression in bed and life, in general.
Joyful play emerges when we take responsibility for our desires and stay curious about our lovers. We’re not supposed to have all the answers. If your partner expects you to, then you may need to have an authentic conversation about unspoken expectations and beliefs about gender roles.
What are your channels of arousal?
Understanding your inner landscape empowers you with conscious choice. It makes it easier to clearly ask for what you want, and opens doors to more intimacy. There are multiple channels of sexual turn-on. Below are some general categories to help you identify your blueprint.
Are you aroused by feeling cherished, or by telling your lover how precious and special they are? Do you get turned on by sweeping your partner off their feet, or by being rescued and taken care of? Do you enjoy surprise gifts, romantic dates, flowers, and courting rituals?
Do you love expressions of affection through soft, slow, sensual touch? Do you melt when your lover says your name softly, as they run their hands through your hair or across your cheek? Do you long to hear that you are the one, the one who has all your lovers affection and attention “forever”? Even if you know it’s not going to necessarily last forever, the idea may create a sense of safety, turn on and heat in you, if you are a romantic. Romantic turn-on tends to be less overtly sexual and more about cherishing, safety, feeling special and chosen.
Do you get turned on by imagining you and your lover tearing each other’s clothes off with a primal hunger? In the kitchen, in the car, anywhere?
This is passionate play. Do you grin at the words, “I want you so badly, I can’t hold back, I want to eat you alive”?
You may like the thrill of transmitting, through your eyes and body, a primal hunger. Or you may crave to be a willing prey: quivering, stalked, consumed.
The lead-up to this kind of unfettered desire is often driven by primal impulse or tension built over time through limited availability or access to your lover.
Power Dynamics (Dominance & Submission)
Do you melt when your partner knows exactly what they want? Do you yearn to trust them enough to surrender and be taken? Or do you crave total control and the full expression of your power?
We live in a culture where dominance has caused a tremendous amount of violence, fear, and repression. Dominance doesn’t have to be violent; in fact, it can be loving and nurturing. Mutual consent can be an empowering container.
Tension and play arises when one partner leads with desire and power (dominance) while the other feels safe to be an object of their partner’s full attention, care, desire and commanding presence (submission). This channel of turn-on can activate healing and connection through exchanging power and attunement through a safe space of play and clear consent.
Do you feel turned on by gazing into someone’s eyes and feeling the depth of their soul? Do you make love in ways that open you to a sense of yourself beyond your physical senses? This channel is about subtle openness and awareness, remembering oneness, and experiencing cosmic love and merging through sexual expression.
Are you most turned on in the natural world? Maybe you get aroused by the smell of warm salty air in the tropics, or by plunging in cold rivers and warming on sun-heated rocks, or by wrestling in the grass smelling the earth. Do you enjoy feeding your lover food? Does the opening of flowers make you quiver?
If so, you may be an ecosexual: one who makes loves with the Earth through your senses.
Exploring your erotic blueprint through movies, books, and art
These are just a few common categories of turn-ons. Romantic turn-on is the story we’ve been taught the most in mainstream western culture. I invite you to reflect and identify your own if these channels don’t ring true for you.
What are the environments and situations that turn you on? Maybe you’re like me, and you enjoy all of them, depending on where you are, who you’re with, and how relaxed your mind and body are. Maybe your preferences are constantly evolving.
If you’re still not sure, take notice of the kinds of movies you watch that turn you on. For romantics, it might be movies like Sleepless in Seattle that draw you. For power dynamics, it could be movies like 9 1/2 weeks or 50 Shades of Grey that get you hot.
One of my favorite movies is called Dangerous Beauty. It’s full of romance, passion and power. The main character, Veronica, lives as a poet, sapiosexual and courtesan who brings passionate and heartfelt medicine to the men in Venice. Eventually, she is accused, of being a witch and danger to society by the inquisition of the church. Her accused crimes are the ways she seduces and catalyzes passion, love and emotional connection with the men she serves as a courtesan.
What turns me on the most are the power dynamics and the impact of the patriarchy hunting her and threatening execution in contrast to the men who defend and course-correct history by standing behind a courageous woman who risks her life to stand in her truth, passion and heart in order to change history.
Gateways to sexual sovereignty
To become embodied in our sexuality, we must know ourselves. A good place to start is in the following five areas: fantasies, pleasure, boundaries, attachment style and triggers.
As you read below, I invite you to feel the following questions in your body, and answer spontaneously.
Know your Fantasies
What do I know about my fantasy life? Do I have one? Do I trust it, judge it, or feel shame about it? Do I get to express sexual fantasies in partnership?
Do I watch porn? If so, how do I feel about watching it? What turns me on and what doesn’t?
What feelings do I seek to experience through sex? (i.e love, belonging, power, control, play, intimacy, etc.)
What turns me on the most? What shuts down my sexual appetite?
Know your pleasure
What sensations happen in my body when I’m present and turned on?
When does my body feel most relaxed? What helps me feel safe, at ease, and connected?
When do I shut down my self-pleasuring or pleasure with my partner? What am I telling myself about how I should be or how they should be?
How much pleasure can I open to?
Do I get more turned on by touch, verbal appreciations, quality time, playfulness, creating with someone, playing with power dynamics, or giving and receiving gifts?
Know your boundaries
What are my boundaries — physical and emotional?
Do I feel comfortable and empowered voicing my boundaries? Voicing my “NO”? Voicing my “YES”? Do I say, “Slow down,” or “Not yet,” or “Can we do this differently”?
Do I feel receptive to others’ boundaries? How do I respond when someone else’s boundaries trigger a sense of shame in me? How do I deal with rejection?
Have I set unconscious limits on my capacity to give and receive?
Know your Attachment patterns
Most of us don’t realize, when we get into a sexual relationship, that our attachment patterns are going to reveal themselves and expose our vulnerability. How do you navigate and understand your needs for both connection and freedom?
Do you struggle with how to navigate your simultaneous need for connection and autonomy? Every couple eventually realizes that they can’t meet all of each other’s needs. Do you feel clear about how to outsource the needs that aren’t met by each other, while maintaining commitments, safety and connection?
Do you feel overwhelmed when someone needs you a lot? Do you also love the safety and feeling of belonging that their reliance gives you? How do you feel about playing caretaker?
How do you handle feeling needy? Do you feel afraid your partner will abandon you if you don’t have consistent reassurances of their commitment and care for you?
Do you feel confused by contradictory experiences? You may not want to be anywhere but on the couch snuggled with this person tonight…and the next morning, you may want to run away from your lover’s consuming need for your attention. If you often feel a push-pull like this, do you know why?
How do you navigate the balance between domesticating as partners and fueling your sexual fire together?
Know your triggers
Your erotic intelligence flows when you create the internal and external environment that supports its expression. It is essential that you get to know exactly what helps you feel safe, relaxed, and turned-on. And it is just as important that you know how to respond when you get triggered.
What are my emotional and physical triggers?
What’s my primary reactive tendency when triggered? Do I withdraw? Do I lash out? Do I become overcome with anxiety, depression, anger, or shame?
What are some new ways I can establish self-awareness and safety when I’m triggered?
Practice tracking the shame patterns or subconscious beliefs that arise in your inner dialogue, such as, “I’m unlovable, too much, not enough, better than, less than, etc.”
Our dynamic sexual turn-on is a lifetime adventure
The more intimate you become with knowing your desires, the closer you are to unearthing vast treasures on your path of self-discovery and erotic exploration.
You are here to be the authentic erotic creature you are. You are not here to be someone else’s idea of erotically powerful, or to express a false version of your erotic power because it pleases someone else.
Embodied sexuality is the opportunity to enjoy expansive realms within your own being as well as intoxicating intimacy with others.
It’s an invitation to merge, surrender, and dissolve the illusion of separation.
Want to learn more about topics in this article?
For more on boundaries, read my article, Mapping Your Relationship to Boundaries.
For more on fantasies, read my article, Fantasies: What They Teach Us About Our Erotic Architecture.
For more on attachment, read my article, How Does Attachment Theory Relate to Sex & Intimacy?