Sexual dry spells

Dry-spellWhen I wrote a blog post about uninvited celibacy, it became freshly pressed and opened the floodgates on comments from men and women in similar situations.

A great time to think about the meaning of sex turns out to be when you aren’t distracted by having any! Whether celibacy is by choice or is a situational dry spell like the one I’m in, being sexually dormant offers an unusual window into what it means to be sexually engaged.

At least that’s what I tell myself. My dry spell is two years-old. After the death of my mother in 2011, I joined my elderly father 650 miles away from my house. My love life (and the rest of my life) has been in limbo ever since. I have intimate friendships but nothing physical. I suspect it’s like being an athlete sidelined by an injury. You want to get back into the game, but your situation is that you’re required to rest, so you spend hours thinking about your sport.

I’ve made some observations about sex during my dry spell:

MALE SEXUALITY’S GUTTER IMAGE

Male sexuality has taken a huge drubbing in our culture over the last few decades. It’s slumped in the gutter. Men are often depicted as jerks and losers whose primary interest is getting off. Sex is often portrayed as a mechanical romp without feeling or intimacy. It’s all about — and just about — bodies. Yawn.

There’s a serious shortage of truly interesting male lovers depicted in the media. Seriously. I can think of few examples of men who impress me as fabulously inspired lovers. Not just a hunky babe magnet, but someone who brings heightened consciousness to bed. A true love god. Men in porn are like bottom feeders. I cannot remember seeing one and thinking, “Wow, he’d make a great friend.”

As a man, I carry the legacy of my gender brothers. Being loverless ironically reminds me how lame the social blueprint of sex is. Our sexual standards are very low. Sex gets seriously dumbed down. We get just  a comic book version of its potential. I have heard women say something like, “When it comes to sex, men are like dogs.” When I look at how sex is portrayed in the media, I have to agree. Woof. That’s not the kind of sex I want.

Men have little sexual self-respect because it’s not something taught or nurtured in the culture. Men end up with very little pride in their contribution to making sexual magic. If men are perpetually depicted as using women for sex, that’s what men aspire to be unless through some personal miracle they learn a different way. Lacking positive male role models for sex, young men become robots. Dog robots.

REAL MEN HAVE REAL SEX

Real sex is so much more than, well, sex. It ‘s more than pornographic body play. It is a mixture of great treats for the mind and heart with sensual arousal. Great lovers know this instinctively. They know that it is all about connection, and they make love with ideas as much as they make love with kisses and caresses. They make mental and emotional connection with their mate. They are mindful more than habitual.

We’re taught in society to treat each other more as toys than as co-creators of a fabulous journey. This tendency we have to treat each other as roles and objects goes far beyond sex, of course, but in my world, lovemaking is one route out of being superficial. It is a gateway into the deep pool of intimacy. Sex puts me in touch with deep feelings, which makes it spiritually profound. A statement such as that sometimes brings up chuckles or a sarcastic retort, which I translate as another sign that we have trashed sex with our demeaning representations of it.

Many of us are taught to think that “I want you” really means “I want access to your flesh.” Many of us are not taught that it could mean, “I want to embrace your soul as you embrace mine.”

ENERGIZE

You don’t often hear it expressed this way, but I think that making love is about energy exchange. Thoughts and intentions you have express themselves in whatever you do physically. They flavor it like ingredients used in cooking. If you’re upset, stressed, resentful, or something like that, your lovemaking will feel much different than if you are happy, loving, giving, and truly excited.

You won’t truly understand “energy” until you are sensitized to feeling it for yourself. The only place I recall seeing this presented in any mainstream movie was in the 1997 film Bliss. The movie showed a maverick sex therapist who taught the bliss value of energy exchange over the habitual physical orgasm production that most of us are taught.

I have been fortunate enough to experience energy flow first hand. An overall feel-good sensation fills me. Moods swing up with heightened energy. Satisfaction pervades the spirit. With heightened energy, sensuous touch feels hotter and better leading to that swept-away feeling.

Grasping energy exchange changes everything. Even cuddling by itself can be surprisingly exquisite. The body feels incredible and the mind fills with juicy deliciousness. Sometimes I’ve experienced the energy pop being so intensely blissful that traditional sex paled by contrast. How is this so? Energy! Consciousness! I’ve never seen this described or depicted anywhere outside of my own life.

LETTING GO

Under the right conditions, sex provides the perfect climate for letting go emotionally like a wild wind storm. The freedom is incredible. When I am sexually free and spiritually naked, my mind fills with wonders — visions, memories, feelings, fantasies, the energy buzz. I can man up or boy down. I can make rational sense or with permission zone out into a creative wilderness.

Since I know how important this space is for me, I do everything I can to make sure my partner has the emotional freedom to let go, too. That could entail encouragement. It also includes not judging or criticizing, especially her fantasy life and turn-ons.

Giving good head is more than oral sex. Giving safe mind play is precious. More damage is done when the opposite happens, yet we’re taught in thousands of ways to keep people locked in boxes of controlled conformity, especially when it comes to sexual behavior.

THE GIFT OF GIVING

Having no lover reminds me how much I treasure giving intimate pleasure to someone special. Pleasure is a two-way street. I receive so much energy and joy from giving energy and joy. It is a palpable, primal connection when it happens naturally. Perhaps it is simply that I was raised to be a pleaser and support person, but I feel less fulfilled as a human when I cannot pursue this craving. I feel like a honey bee transported from a lush garden to a vast desert with no blooms in sight for miles.

My romanticizing is not about materialism — wining and dining, buying affection with gifts, artificially pumping up egos, seducing and deceiving. It is much more about spiritual romance, the God-rendered magic of mate attraction, natural (no drugs needed) ecstasy, and the compelling drive to know and be known.

So here I am stuck again in the paradox of today’s sexual consciousness. I yearn to deeply please a partner body, mind, heart, and soul … in a world where sex has become so devalued it is beheld with grave suspicion. “Men are dirty dogs. Of course they want sex. Woof.”

When I am without a lover, I find myself especially empathic to women who suffer from sexual neglect. They often feel hopeless and damaged. Loneliness is painful. Of course they mirror for me my limbo life. I project upon them my cravings for harmony and intimacy. I fantasize that I could touch them in a way beyond what they know. Not me doing them, not me having all the answers, but us opening to each other in a journey of mutually-supported exploration.

DRY SPELLS

We tell ourselves stories to make sense of our worlds. With the dry spell I tell myself stories about why I don’t pursue love, what my family obligations are, why past relationships dissolved and what I could have done differently. I wonder if at age 64 I am too old for new love, too old to sexually attract anyone, or too young to be thinking insipid thoughts like that.

20 thoughts on “Sexual dry spells

  1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    “I wonder if at age 64 I am too old for new love, too old to sexually attract anyone,”

    Life is about seasons. My Dad is in his mid 70’s. My Stepmother passed away about 10 years ago, and he didn’t date for years. My Dad has found love again. He is in love and it’s wonderful to see him so high on life, and it’s not just a dopamine high. Although my Dad continued to lead an active life these past 10 years, he was lonely. Anyone can get a release. He wasn’t looking for a release. He wanted an intimate connection with another. He has that now. It’s wonderful to see him so happy.

    No, you are not too old!

    Another insightful post, Joshua. Loved it.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Victoria, I’m with your dad. I do not want just a release. I want an intimate love connection. There is nothing like that kind of energy. Of course I do know people for which it has happened as it has for your dad, but when I listen to my self-talk channel, I can hear the doubts that it will happen for me. Naughty self-talk.

      • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

        Internal dialogs (self-talk channels) are like the mainstream media. Need I say more?

        You know what, Joshua? I relate to your post, and I know I’m not alone. I am celibate. I consider it voluntary because I won’t settle. I’d rather remain celibate for the remainder of my days then to ever be used again as a vessel for someone to masturbate in.

        Having a genuine intimate connection releases healthy, bonding hormones that are beneficial on a grand scale. I made a simple and short video about some of these benefits. I’d like to share it with you.

  2. Joshua Bagby says:

    Victoria, thank you for sharing your video. You bring up some interesting points to ponder. I’ve been a fan of oxytocin, especially as it explains so well why I love extended hugging/cuddling so much. Understanding what was going on made such great sense. Conversely, my current situation’s lack of touchie-feelie friends has, I suppose, put me into oxytocin deprivation/withdrawal. I had not thought of it that way, though.

    One fascinating roadside attraction of this … and I wonder if anyone has studied this … is the joy of bonding with someone virtually. A few months ago I was involved in a brief virtual romance that was very intense for a few weeks. Even though we were hundreds of miles apart and had no physical relationship, we had such amazing mental/emotional chemistry that we felt quite bonded. My whole mood shifted. I was much more creative and enthusiastic. When it crashed and burned, I felt deeply crushed. I’ve never considered the role of oxytocin here, and how it might be dispersed on a psychological basis alone. (Is this why I sometimes fall in love with some of the characters I create in my writing?)

    I had not thought of myself as celibate by choice, but in the last coupe of years I have also not pursued sexual signals beamed at me from women when I did not feel a full connection. I felt I was being approached out of their sexual hunger, not from a place of love or a desire to share in true intimacy.

  3. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    (Is this why I sometimes fall in love with some of the characters I create in my writing?”)

    Haha, you oxytocin junkie, you. 😀 Thanks for watching the vid.
    When I learned some of the science behind prosocial behavior, including pair-bonding, it made it seem so much more magical and empowering. We can chose to stimulate our own biochemicals, and those which bond us as a species, as friends, as lovers, etc. We can also control the intensity. It can be done, with intention and caring, mindful behavior.

    Learning about the soup of biochemicals that take place between lovers was eye-opening, and enlightening to me. A lot of my questions were answered, like why do men sometimes pull away after sex. —> Vasopressin. This allows me to step back and assess from a biological POV, and not take things too personally or get too self-reflective. Why do couples sometimes get edgy or moody around each other after spending hours and perhaps days making love? —> Prolactin. It puts on the brakes for a while to prevent us from wanting to do nothing but have sex, due to the huge (heroine like) surges of dopamine that accompany orgasm.

    Learning about “The Coolidge Effect” helped me gain a better understanding about why some people (especially men) lose sexual interest with their committed partner. They, themselves, my not understand this evolutionary urge. It doesn’t mean we give into it, it just helps us understand why we may have such urges ‘and’ thoughts. I think you will find this website fascinating. Their posts have been featured many times (in series) on Psychology Today.

    “Reuniting: Healing with sexual relationships.”
    http://www.reuniting.info/science/oxytocin_health_bonding

    To the left you will see several articles, including “The Coolidge Effect” that I can’t recommend enough. Here’s an excerpt from the linked above:

    Here’s why. Falling in love calls forth a soup of neurochemicals, including oxytocin’s bonding effects. However, as we’ve explained in other articles, conventional sex tends to over-stimulate the pleasure/reward center deep within the brain. Specifically, a neurochemical called dopamine (ideal levels of which are also necessary for attraction between mates) drops after orgasm. Therefore bonds can erode. Low dopamine can also create psychological distress.

    Over time, this roller coaster of highs and lows leads to subconscious defensiveness and emotional distance between partners. Once uneasiness enters your intimate relationship, the bond between the two of you tends to weaken. That is, you produce less oxytocin. So you can see how biology’s agenda unravels your relationships over time despite oxytocin’s bonding properties. The best plan? Consciously encourage oxytocin production with caring behavior. In this way you protect and strengthen the bonding connections in your brain and tap the health benefits discussed above.”

    So, you see, Joshua, you are on the right path, and you’ve got the research to back you up, lots of it. 🙂 The thing I am very aware of now is that with pair-bonding, neural connections tend to deactivate in a specific part of the brain that has to do with critical social assessment. The purpose is to keep the couple together long enough to ensure offspring. So in the beginning our brain fools us into mating, even though we may not really be compatible with our partner outside of biology. That’s why I think that building a strong foundation of friendship first is essential.

    I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you in your last relationship. I think virtual relationships can be very intimately rewarding and successful. My sister is a wedding photographer and over half of her clients built solid relationships online. It can be risky meeting people online, but better online than in a bar or church, lol. I think the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.

    Ooops, this turned out longer than I intended, and yet there’s so much more to say on this fascinating subject. I’m enjoying the dialog. Thank you.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Victoria, this is all intriguing stuff and has my creative mind in a whirl. I have been having the most fun thinking of how it would be to savor a love relationship where people consciously manage their brain chemistry. “Hey, honey, let’s manufacture some oxytocin tonight.” It is fun to translate the academic/scientific model of brain chemistry into ordinary romantic dialogue and behavior. Really fun!

      There is so much here to comment about that I am in overwhelm! A little history: I was a big advocate of online relationships and have been online since 1990. I wrote one of the first books about love/personal relationships online. It was ultimately a publishing disaster because technology moved so fast that the book, which was written about text-based electronic bulletin boards (BBSes), was obsolete several months after publication when web technology emerged. I still think it is a great way to meet people and form relationships even though, as we both know, there are hazards, too. We both have stories!

      As you said, there is so much more to say on this fascinating subject, and I look forward to pondering it and reading from the links you mentioned. Thank you!

  4. nikkir1972 says:

    I like how you express yourself and the sincerity in your words. I am finding there is a lot to comment on and not sure where to start, except to say that I truly understand the meaning of bonding with someone virtually. I think a lot is said about online relationships and often it is negative, but I have found that it is a deeply emotional and spiritual connection. I’m not sure everyone is capable of entering into such a relationship though. It takes time, patience, intelligence and creativity. If someone is into instant gratification and general discussion of reality T.V. (as I can tell you are not) then it’s unlikely to go well for very long. You are definitely not to old. Age makes us older (obviously) but we are still the same person inside with hopes and desires and a need to connect with someone else. That never gets old and it is universal. Thanks again for such a thought provoking blog:)

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Nikki, I agree with you about virtual relationships. I think they can be most incredible for sharing at a level that often doesn’t occur face-to-face. I definitely agree that it is not for everyone, but I think it is particularly delicious for people who like to express themselves in writing. Besides having a long history of online virtual relationships, I began relating this way through snail mail. That was loads of fun. It was of course much, much slower than today because of the physical mail delays. But it was sensuous and satisfying … again with people who loved to write.I also have a history of creating some sweet friendships and love relationships that transitioned to in-person.

  5. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    “Hey, honey, let’s manufacture some oxytocin tonight.”

    Exactly! For many, this may seem clinical and unromantic, but it’s certainly not for me. Like I mentioned earlier, I see it as empowering and much more. Imagine the positive message it sends. This knowledge has become a tool to help me optimize my relationship with others. Metacognition (knowing about knowing) and self-directed neuroplasticity catapulted me into a new awareness. We don’t have to live like sacrificial, celibate monks and meditate for hours on end to tap into interconnectedness, and wire/rewire ourselves to experience well being.

    Joshua, as I read your last reply, I could sense your enthusiasm and that you captured the essence of my post regarding our potential as a species, as friends, as parents, lovers, etc. That excited me. It seems to me that few really grasp the implications of this knowledge, if they become aware of it. Gaining a better understanding of our neurotransmitters and the impact that the environment has on them (and visa versa) is key to increasing prosocial behavior—empathic, cooperative, peaceful co-habitation. I could ramble on about this, you have know idea, lol. I’ll spear you here.

    It is cool to learn your book was one of the first about love/personal relationships online. Not so cool about the side-effects of ever-changing technology. I was sorry to read about your publishing misfortune. I’m sure it was a fascinating read. Today, almost a quarter of a century later, we can definitely see the enormous benefits of being a part of the global online community. I thrive in this environment.

    Btw, for clarification purposes, I meant to write “heroin”, not “heroine” in my last post. One last note: my email is listed in my gravatar. Drop me a line when time permits. I’d like to stay in touch outside of WordPress. I consider you my new friend.

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Victoria, I think it would be right up my alley to have a flirtatious good time with a mate about boosting our oxytocin levels. Why not have fun with it? I can think of all sorts of romantic (and saucy) ways to play this out. With a deep love connection and permission to be zany, this could be most delightful.

      Of course I also see the therapeutic side, too. I recall how much I enjoyed playing with my dog when I had one, and I know the values of “therapy dogs” for various places like hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.

      My publishing misfortune happened for several reasons, one of which was the rapid change in technology. Another was not having a full understanding of how the publishing industry worked, both for me and, as it turned out, my publisher, who, while he had much niche marketing success, was not that skilled in a more general audience target market. He made some fatal errors.

      I am presuming that you don’t really want to spear me. Spare me the spear … unless it’s candy or something. 🙂

  6. AdonaiShekhinah says:

    Victoria, I shared your video with my daughter, who is fairing best with the love relationship she is in, since our time in the homeless shelter last year.

    I also love that you included God…because that’s how I get through my reality with PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression since the homeless shelter. I could not do this if not for the very real feeling of God’s love which embraces me in a profound way.

    Joshua….Excellent post. I’ve been celibate for a number of years. It started after my marriage ended in 1998. I have did try a couple of years in a row, but that ‘dog’ thing seemed to be in effect. At which point I went completely celibate till 2004, when I had the amazing experience of God in the Lover. After that, because of circumstances he was my only lover, but I saw him infrequently – geography and other things being the issues.

    At this juncture, I have been celibate for 3 and a half years or so.

    I can’t lie…I want God in the Lover and the Lover in God. I’ll gladly be celibate until the Lover in God can be mine.

    🙂 Don’t lose heart Joshua…they say what you seeks, seeks you. Perhaps it’s time for you to open the door to it fully and not pre-judge the energies at work, sometimes there is a distortion in the delivery due to social expectations of showing interest. 😉

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      I like the idea that what I seek seeks me. Woo-hoo, that can be a lot of depth. I must say that I am learning a lot through this period. It may be something like how you describe “God in the lover,” for I am one who sees love-making way beyond physical terms and deeply into the wholistic (body, mind, heart, and spirit.) I definitely don’t want band-aid sex; I want the whole enchilada.

    • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

      Hi AdonaiShekhinah,

      Thank you so much for sharing my video with your daughter. I was sorry to read that you were in a homeless shelter for a season, but also happy to read that you have been healing. I appreciate you sharing a part of your life that is very personal. You have a beautiful outlook on life.

      *hugs*

      • AdonaiShekhinah says:

        Thank you…I wish I agreed right now with the idea of having a beautiful outlook…but…. (that’s the PTSD talking)

        I HOPE I usually have a good outlook…I’ve worked really hard for it. ❤

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