“Not all sex is alike…There’s intimate sex, anonymous sex, gentle and sensitive sex, rough and aggressive sex, sex that expresses love, sex that’s purely physical, sex that is emotionally connecting, sex that is isolating, raw sex, spiritual sex, naughty sex, sterile sex, boring sex, passionate sex, spontaneous sex, planned sex, playful/experimental sex, routinized/scripted sex, selfish sex, selfless sex, self-conscious sex, freeing-abandoning sex…” Dr. Richard Nicastro
I read the above as the opening paragraph of an article entitled “Passionate Sex Creating a Sexual Playground Together” by Dr. Richard Nicastro, a psychologist and marriage counsellor. While I think I understand what the good doc was trying to say, I do wonder about the accuracy of his initial thesis. Is it that there are different “types” of sex floating around out there in the relationship stratosphere for us to grab hold of, or is it that we encounter sex differently at various times based on our needs, experiences and understanding of sex?
He went on to describe a multi-layered sexual-self which interacted with sex in different ways at different times. With this I wholeheartedly agreed. A couple could then experience a dilemma if the factors which drove their sexual relationship in early marriage changed after a number of years. For example, in the early years of hot, heavy passion, a couple may take certain sexual risks and try to “push the envelope” to add dynamism to the sex life. As the years roll out however, the sexual-spark may become dimmed and as a result how sex is enjoyed, may change. But is it that this reflects two separate “types” of sex or is the couple merely responding differently to their natural relationship journey? And is sex solely determined by our individual experiences and preferences or is there such a thing as a preferred sexual ideal that we should all strive towards?
If we carefully examine how we look at the other aspects of our lives, we will admit that in most areas, we respect the concept of an ideal scenario. We generally believe that the principles of a healthy body include good diet and exercise. Even though we may not always practise it, we believe that sound financial management includes the ability to save, invest and also to be disciplined and frugal in spending. The level of dedication and hard work that we apply to our studies, to a large degree determine the success we experience in our careers and so on. We understand fully in most other areas of our lives; that fulfilment is contingent upon how much we are willing to commit to the principles of the ideal.
Although a few of us will succeed in life while apparently “breaking all the rules”, this does not deny the existence of various success ideals. For example, for the entrepreneur who never had a formal education, but has a natural knack for making money, the principles of good financial planning must still hold sway if he is to be a successful businessman. An accomplished leader is capable of balancing the servant-hood of leadership with his/her ability to direct; this is the preferred scenario of good leadership.
If we accept this understanding of a “success ideal” in other areas of our lives, why are we perhaps unwilling to apply this concept to sex? Is it because where sex is concerned there is often an underlying thread of selfishness which urges us to place our own needs first, do as we please and to hell with the consequences? Are we afraid that the idea of an ideal may perhaps curtail some of our sexual freedom?
While I do agree that sex is experienced differently based on what we know and understand about it, I still believe that our human sexuality should be affected by what I term the basic, intrinsic, created values of sex. And sex is too important an activity not to require some forethought.
Like anything else in life, sex is not valueless and simply confined to our individual realities. It does not exist in a vacuum but is connected in a larger than life way, to our collective humanity; after all through it the human race survives. This is why our sexual decisions affect those closest to us; it’s never just about “doing what makes us happy!” If it were, then rape and abuse as “sexual experiences” would be acceptable. These sexual values or principles, of which I speak, include selflessness, serious commitment, honesty, vulnerability and openness to giving and receiving pleasure without shame. Of course this list is not exhaustive. While we may have relatively good sex without following these said values, I do believe that our connection with them has the potential to give us the best sex ever. So whether sex is perceived to be naughty or nice, spontaneous or planned, sensitive or aggressive, then these values should still hold sway; especially in a committed relationship like marriage.
Instead then of separating the act of sex from the individual by giving sex a label or type, it may perhaps be important to reframe how we perceive it. In other words, there is sex, but then there are different types of people at different levels of emotional maturity, with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, needs and expectations who will then experience sex in all the ways that Dr. Nicastro suggested.
Does this mean that some of us may not prefer to have sex in a way that is distinctive or individual to us at any given point in time? Of course we will have our individual sexual tastes and preferences and these are certainly not set in stone. Be that as it may, it is important to recognise that on the road to great sex, we should perhaps strive towards discovering the “sexual ideals” which are more likely to grant us a fulfilling sexual relationship.