Do You Have Sex With Your Eyes Closed?

Do we know why we close our eyes in bed?

For those of you in a sexual relationship, the way you have sex says a lot. Yes, sex is so intimate and revealing an activity that it has the power to uncover and expose us; literally. Having been in and around the Performing Arts for some years, we have always been told that dance is very revealing. It has the power to strip and expose the dancer so much that whatever a dancer is going through emotionally, is often revealed through his/her dance. The same is true about sex. The way we behave sexually, says quite a bit about our perceptions of sex, our attitude towards sex, our comfort with our own sexuality (or lack thereof) and our beliefs about sex itself.

So our title question “Do you have sex with your eyes closed?” is to be taken literally, at the same time that it is symbolic of our general comfort levels with the idea of sexuality. I often say during talks to married couples or to young people thinking of marriage in the future, that sex is extremely important in to a marriage relationship. We all hope to be married for a really long time I am sure. And yes while we will share bank accounts, a mortgage, car-payments and various life-goals and achievements, the reality is, that most of us will spend a fair amount of our married years having sex with our spouses. Even though this is so, most of us if we’re honest are still uncomfortable talking about our personal sexuality. Yes some of us have sex but we don’t even want to discuss it with the person we’re doing it with. As a consequence, many remain dissatisfied in the bedroom or experience serious sexual conflict that seems to have no recourse, simply because the act remains so deeply hidden an issue.

So what does “having sex with our eyes closed” reveal? It can actually suggest a range of responses dependent on how you see it.

  • It can mean that we’re decidedly uncomfortable with our own sexuality or with sexual expression.
  • It can indicate that we’re savouring the experience and prefer to shut everything else out to focus on our senses. (Remember closing your eyes to relish a really sweet fruit or a succulent cut of meat?)
  • It can suggest that we’re concentrating really hard on the “action” to ensure that it’s as enjoyable as the last Cosmo article said it would be.
  • It can intimate an innate embarrassment with our own sexual enjoyment and or with our bodies.
  • It can mean that we actually hate what we are doing with a capital H and are there in body only, while being absent in “spirit”. In other words, it can reveal that we are disconnected from our spouse and would really prefer to be somewhere else.

I believe that if we had to conduct an informal poll to investigate attitudes to sex and sexuality, that women would register the greatest levels of conflict or discomfort. Yes, women today are far more “liberated” and overtly sexual than they appeared in the past; I will agree to that. The very revealing styles of dress advocated by many women today and the ease with which sex is discussed among girlfriends, would seem to suggest that this is so. However, my experience also suggests that this is not always indicative of true liberty in the bedroom or of a woman’s ability to “let go” sexually. This is especially true of women raised in conservative homes or those raised on sexual “mis-information”. On the other hand, men who are normally socialized to embrace their sexuality, tend to have less of an issue with the problem of sexual-conflict or discomfort. Instead, this is how men are validated and defined.

Conversely, society often forces women to bear much of the blame for incidences of sexual impropriety which involve men. Because we women are often blamed for a man’s sexual downfall or for his lack of sexual discipline, many of us imbibe the idea that our very potent sexuality is an enemy. If a woman has suffered sexual abuse as a girl or was conflicted by her body’s own betrayal to her abuser, she may also internalize the idea that to be sexual is to be bad (Remember Rihanna’s “Good Girl Gone Bad?). It’s like we can’t be sexy and good all at once. This can encourage a woman to withdraw emotionally, even in a relationship like marriage, where her sexuality should be freely celebrated. Internal conflicts like embarrassment or a deep sense of shame or even body-consciousness, can also lead to attempts at “blocking out” the sexual experience.

Serious relationship conflict is felt in the sack.

Unresolved issues in a relationship could also lead to “sexual-eye-closure” which is really symptomatic of the deeper issue of sexual disconnection and withdrawal. Unsettled arguments, insults, prolonged emotional abuse, infidelity which goes unchecked or un-confessed, physical abuse, and financial neglect are among the many causes which could negatively impact the sexual connection between couples.  Be that as it may, many continue to treat sex like an instinctive behaviour which they are unable to do without, while refusing to deal with the deeper, underlying challenges of the relationship. This is counter-productive and spells danger for any marriage.

Whether we are single or married, our attitude to our sexuality is likely to be a product of a number of influences. Our socialization, our personality, religious persuasion/faith, personal beliefs, knowledge about sex and the context of our relationship, can all have an impact on how we “behave” sexually.  A fulfilling sexual relationship where we are free to be the uninhibited, sensual creatures we were meant to be will only be possible, when we can experience a sense of peace, with regards our sexual selves.

This means ensuring that our pursuit of sex, matches the ideals which we hold dear. For example, if we know that commitment, integrity and honesty in marriage are the ideals we strive towards, then we shouldn’t feel pressured to “give it up” just because everyone one else is. We should also not settle and give in to the guy who really is not worth the time of day, just because he claims that he can’t live without our “honey”. We also should definitely not practise self-abuse, by dutifully giving sex to a husband who we know is sleeping around, exposing us to STD’s, beating the living daylights out of us or disrespecting us by not dealing with the critical issues in the relationship. Sex might be great and all of that, but surely we are worth a lot more than a few moments of romping in the sack.

Serious emotional or spiritual challenges with sex may require deep counseling or therapy. We may need to open up and share with a trusted friend, who is grounded enough to give some valuable insight. Ultimately, making our sex-lives better, may also mean laying down the ground-rules for more honesty and openness in the marriage, by practicing greater levels of communication.

So next time you’re having sex and your eyes are closed, let’s hope it’s because you’re in a place where you are clearly savouring the delicious enjoyment of a truly, great sexual experience.

When the Woman in His Head Isn’t the Woman in His Bed

When a guy that I know posed this idea some time back to a group of us (woman in head differing from woman in bed) , I thought it particularly uncanny. As a man and a husband, he actually admitted that this was a specific problem for several men. It broached a little discussion about one of the anomalies of relationships. Very often we develop an ideal about the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with and very often our real-life partner never even begins to make the grade. We girls often have this fairy-tale expectations of the tall, dashing Prince who will sweep us off our feet, support our independence, hand over the money (never mind we earn our own) be a tiger in the bedroom, meet all of our emotional needs, be a great kisser, listener, gourmet Chef and several other things all rolled into one.

By the same token, a guy wants the girl who is low maintenance but sexy to the nines, educated, confident, nurturing (as in great Mother material) , uninhibited in bed but wholesome enough to meet his Mother, not needy or clingy or a nag and don’t forget with loads of fragrant hair ( many of the females I know actually will not significantly shorten their hair because of this perception that guys love long hair, hmmm). That being said, the truth is that this conflict between reality and the ideal, is a problem for both sexes.

We often have an idealistic expectation of our future partner which may have its genesis somewhere in our childhood. Maybe if we had a good relationship with our Mom or Dad, we expect our partner to be just like them. The opposite is also true; a horrible Father will make many a girl long for a guy who is the exact opposite. It could very well also be linked to “first-love-syndrome”: a condition where we compare every relationship to our first. But this article will not focus on us girls this time around. What happens when our guy has a woman fixed in his head who bears little resemblance to who we really are? Can a guy be cured of this problem and can a relationship survive? More importantly what happens when the woman in head versus woman in bed problem hits home in the bedroom?

If I had to ask all the men I know if they were really sexually happy or fulfilled with their current relationships I don’t know how many of them would be honest. Even if they were candid enough to admit being unhappy I am not sure that they would connect this unhappiness to their own unrealistic expectations.  The truth is that continuing to live with an “ideal” in the head, can lead to all sorts of complications in the figurative and literal bed of  a relationship.When this idea of the ideal partner is extended to the sex life then it begins to take on a whole new dynamic.

Let’s face it girls, where guys are concerned, sex is right up there with breathing and oxygen. Somehow their testosterone has not only convinced them that they can’t live without sex but they usually believe that they need lots of it and in great variety! What happens then to a guy’s sexual psyche when he makes a decision to keep all of his sexual eggs in one basket as it were. I’ll tell you what. He develops a long list of expectations which he believes must be fulfilled in order that he might be truly sexually happy. After all, as far as he is concerned, since he’s giving up his philandering ways (or at least purporting to) he might as well benefit in the process. While his personality or the nature of his relationship  may preclude him sharing some of these expectations with his partner, they are likely to remain deeply embedded in his heart because he sees them as an essential part of his sexual entitlement.

Some of the primary expectations of males include:

  • an on-par sex drive or at least a willingness to provide sex on demand
  • sexual confidence and freedom from inhibition
  • a willingness to initiate sex and try new things
  • an ability to forgive and forget his sexual indiscretions (as in his cheating if he does)
  • a willingness to “praise the penis” or in other words, assure him of his sexual prowess
  • a sexy body capable of basic gymnastic contortions
  • fearlessness when it comes to talking sexy

These are not exhaustive by any means and may vary depending on the personality, religious persuasion, experience or socialization of the male. At any rate, I think we can safely say that many men have a wonderful sex ideal somewhat like this in their heads. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to please one’s partner sexually, a relationship is about growth and development in all areas, including the bedroom. It can also become a little sticky when one member of the couple -mainly the male- is setting all the rules.

It is however not only important for a couple to grow together sexually but there must be a delicate balance between compromising to please and being allowed to be one’s self. No man should force us to swing from the chandeliers in some Tarzan suit if we’re afraid of heights, simply because he likes jungle themes. At the same time as women, we can learn to preserve an element of surprise in the relationship by initiating something out of the ordinary. Preserving our sense of sexual mystery even when we have been married for several years is also an important part of keeping the relationship fresh. That means not always doing what is expected in the way it is expected. It also means switching things up a bit, flipping the sexual script (for example abandoning the missionary position for a month), planning a sexy surprise and learning how to be totally unpredictable. This can keep a man so much on his toes that he doesn’t have the time to pine over his sexual ideal. In fact we can become the new ideal and every previous lover or present fantasy, can pale in comparison.

To be fair in this discussion however the responsibility for the balance of which I speak, should not lie solely with us women. Men must be made aware that unlike the days of yore, sex no longer revolves around them. This satellite mentality is outdated and harmful to relationships. It highlights how sexually selfish men can be in expecting to have their every whim and fancy catered to at all times, regardless. As I’ve said in a previous article, fantasizing can be lethal to a relationship. By the same token, an unrealistic sexual ideal by which a man measures his partner can also spell death to his woman’s sexual confidence; especially after she’s gained a few pounds from the baby or comes home chronically tired from work. A harsh and critical response to his partner which screams rejection, can really seal the deal in deepening the levels of sexual dissatisfaction in the relationship. In plain language, a woman can’t get her sexy on if she believes she is no longer sexy.

Men must learn simply to appreciate the woman they’ve got. Taking on specific domestic chores -not as a favour- but deliberately assuming responsibility for them so their wives can be more energized for sex, can go a long way in balancing the equation. Affirming and validating their partners through genuine compliments, the provision of emotional support through listening, spending quality time together and the strengthening of intimacy through open dialogue, can significantly contribute to a woman’s sense of well being. Once those essential relationship needs are met, any woman would willingly unleash her sexual tiger to make both her man and herself, deliriously happy.