What Is Embodied Sexuality?
We all hope to experience pleasure and nourishing connection with our lovers. But many of us aren’t taught how to set boundaries, ask for what we desire, or track and attune to our internal experience (or our partner’s). And many of us haven’t been shown how to share when we are withholding because of shame, performance pressures, or unspoken expectations.
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.
Embodied sexuality is a creative process
Embodied sexuality is a personal and interpersonal co-creative exploration. We are engaging directly with the experiences we feel and perceive. We are present to our body, our senses, and our states of mind. We descend from interpretations, worry, control, and self-evaluation into the real-time experience that our heart, gut, sex and soul are having.
The challenges of embodied sexual expression
In our society, intellect and “doing” are idealized, while the the power of our presence and ‘being’ are overlooked or minimized. Yet our presence is what allows us to stay attuned, connected, and in our bodies. We’re pressured to produce and perform to achieve status, validation, and a sense of being enough. This burden of expectation can shut down our senses of sexiness, authenticity, relaxation and innovation.
Two of the biggest challenges to feeling confident and embodied are social messages and performance pressure.
Social Messages of Shame & Repression
Our culture points us towards images of who we “should” be, instead of inviting us to descend from our head into our body, our senses, and our unique and powerful self. When we connect to our senses and body, we emanate a radiant confidence and presence from the inside out. It is a timeless quality of beauty, sexiness, and power.
Our sexual expression has long been targeted as a source of shame, guilt, and control. Reinforced over time as inappropriate and taboo, our sexual and sensual nature has a reputation of being dangerous. Our sexual energy is acceptable for procreation or seduction, while its other creative expressions are sequestered into the shadows of judgment or guilt.It’s been been banned as off-limits and immoral. It’s an act that occurs “behind closed doors” and is suppressed in public.
We live in a culture in which performance pressures reign. Sexual pressures to impress our lovers - with fancy positions, stamina, and being a sexual dynamo in bed - are given to us as the rulebook for success. This misdirected messaging can devastate our confidence and orient us away from our instinctual wisdom body. Messages that we are “not enough” or “there is a right and wrong way to have sex” turn our attention outside of ourselves and cause internal division. Performance pressures result in a diminishing quality of presence, connection, pleasure, and joy.
It is common to become overly focused on a partner’s pleasure, and not notice what needs we have and may be overriding. It’s also common to get lost in performance pressure or habitual ways of having sex, and lose contact with the juice that is available when we stop trying to do it a certain way.
When I drop the pressures of performance and agendas, I find that my body wisdom emerges to guide me. To do so, I have to be relaxed, and not in my head, but rather in my senses and animal body.
Violent Cultural Messages
All genders live in some version of an inherited paradox, where mixed messages confuse us with shame.
As women, we might be shamed for having a strong sexual drive and labeled as sluts, which is intended to control our “hedonistic ways”. Or we may be labeled as prudes for taking our time, setting boundaries, and needing emotional connection before we open our body to another person sexually.
Meanwhile, men are force-fed a “heroic strong man” persona whose value is measured by sexual skill, prowess, and the size of his cock. The expectation that a man should be erect and at the ready whenever desire calls is a violent and shaming message.
Men are often celebrated for their sexual conquests, while women are shamed for their hunger.
People of all genders, including genderqueer people, have to fight to find themselves outside of the boxes they have been offered.
When we notice and attend to our feelings of shame, these parts of us can find a warm place to rest inside of our own being. We begin to radiate a quality of presence, love, and acceptance that is nectar for ourselves and the world.
Navigating Cultural Disembodiment
We are born as embodied creatures. Then, in both subtle and direct ways, we’re taught to rely on conceptual ideas of who we should be, and to move away from our intuitive inner guidance. Once the conditioned concepts of who we “should be” set in, we may reorient our attention away from our sensory wisdom and toward our conceptual mind.
Culturally, we’ve learned to value our intellect, disregard our feelings, and treat our body like a machine, often driving ourselves into illness and burnout. When we’re disconnected from our bodies, we live primarily in our thoughts and habitual emotional patterns. From this narrow view, we miss a reservoir of wisdom that waits patiently for our attention.
Embodied sexuality practices
Sex is a creative and ongoing exploration of discovering what creates pleasure and connection. It is an invitation to enjoy being alive in your body while feeling the aliveness of another. The journey of self-awareness and self-expression invites you to discover how freedom and safety unlock confidence and access to your desire and intuition.
The practice of embodiment helps you break away from your habitual survival strategies and reactivity. To embody is to study, identify, and own the unconscious defensive patterns that stop the flow of your sexual expression, desire, and presence. For example, if I’m suddenly triggered by a thought that “I’m too turned on” - or “not turned on enough” - while in the flow of delicious erotic experience, a defensive strategy of fight, flight, or freeze will likely arise.
TRACKING & NAMING REACTIVE STATES
When I’m in a reactive state, I’m living in my head, trying to fix or solve a problem with zero attention on the rest of my body wisdom. I become compartmentalized. The best chance I have of getting out of the downward spiral is to accept that I’m in it. Rather than falling into exhaustive flailing attempts to change it, sometimes just naming my trigger with my partner is enough. Sometimes all I need is a few minutes to myself to reconnect and feel the reactive wave moving through. The addiction to fix and figure it out often extends my suffering, so I’m always exploring new ways to surrender and call the flow back into play. One very powerful tool is called, “Name it to Tame it.” Naming the fear makes it less real, especially if our partner doesn’t try to fix it or take it personal. It can even be intimate and healing if our partner can hold space for us move through it.
It takes self-awareness, humility, and practice to stay attuned to the points of connection or disconnection you feel within yourself or your lover.
Our reactive tendencies are natural and part of our primal wiring, but they can keep us compartmentalized and cut off from the fullness of our erotic life force. Once we become aware of what’s occurring, we can slow down and expand to take in reality outside of our mental stories, projections, and dualistic views.
We are all reactive and controlling in unique ways. I notice that when I interrupt patterns of control, assumption-making, and judgment towards myself or others, I naturally become more receptive and less contracted. I don’t will myself to change with aggressive judgments or shame. I notice what’s happening, let my system settle, and interrupt the impulse to add more criticism to my situation. The smallest sign of acceptance and curiosity will fuel a flame that reunites me with my erotic nature.
A BASIC FORMULA FOR EMBODIED PRACTICE
Self-awareness: Pay attention to patterns of thinking, feeling, and protection. Overtime, build awareness and identify your mental and emotional triggers. Educate yourself on your reactive tendencies and the ones you notice in your relationships.
Create space and pause: Create space to reflect! Cultivate a practice of turning inward to examine what’s going on. Suspend autopilot habits. Pause when you sense the slightest reactivity, which is easier to access when you pay attention to your body sensations.
Manage triggers: Gather tools and support to manage your reactive states. Discuss reactive patterns in relationships rather than getting trapped in blame and shame games. Stop shaming yourself or blaming your partner for being the problem. Everyone plays roles and no one is perfect. Your authentic sexual desire and expression matter
Your authentic sexual desire and expression matter
We have all been sexually conditioned by culturally inherited “appropriate and inappropriate” expressions of our desire-body.
Our gender, sexual orientation, culture, geographic location, and family view are just a few contributors of the tapestry that weaves the worldview and inner terrain of our sexual and erotic life.
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.
In my own journey, sex, vulnerability, safety and intimacy have become a portal for healing the parts of myself that long to come home. They help me remember the truth of who I am. When exploring this path with people I love and feel safe with, I open infinite channels of healing while also grounding into my sovereignty. I remember I am a spiritual being in a sensual and erotic human body.
To learn more about embodied sexuality practices, such as identifying your turn-ons and embodying your authentic sexual expression, read on here.