Mindful Sex: What, Why and How with Sex Therapist Casey Tanner
How is mindfulness really connected to our sex lives?
When it comes to our sexualities, most of us were taught NOT to pay attention. Perhaps our parents avoided conversations about sex altogether, or maybe we had a really awkward experience in sex education class. Most of us were taught to refer to our genitals as something other than their anatomically correct names. All in all, our culture has a lot of avoidance around sexuality.
Mindfulness is the opposite of avoidance. It gives us permission to be with our sexuality, get curious about our bodies, and, ultimately, to enjoy pleasure.
How does mindfulness improve the quality of sex?
Frequency of orgasm is correlated with something called erotic focus. In other words, people who are able to sustain focus on their body and pleasure during sex, rather than on anxious thoughts, report more enjoyable sex and more orgasms. Anxiety is one of the number one complaints I get when people talk about why sex is difficult. Anxiety decreases blood flow to the genitals, making orgasm more challenging. Mindfulness has been shown to decrease anxiety both in the moment, and over time.
Is getting out of your head during sex and mindfulness the same thing? Or two different skills?
Often people associate mindfulness with having a mind that’s totally blank, or with being totally out of your head. In reality, you can be mindful even while being with your thoughts and feelings. It’s less about getting out of your head, and more about being intentional about thoughts and sensations you choose to focus on. It’s not about being thoughtless, but rather about being present with the thoughts you’re having.
Replacing performance-oriented thoughts with pleasure-oriented thoughts is one way to be mindful. For example, rather than zeroing in on the thought that you’re worried you’re not going to orgasm, try focusing on the thought that whether or not you orgasm you can still enjoy sex. Fantasy is a great example of how you can be in your own head while still being mindful. Focusing on erotic fantasies can absolutely be part of a present and mindful sex life.
How do you find time for slower sex?
We often think about sex as the last thing on our to do list – the activity that might happen if we have enough time and energy at the end of the day. I recommend, however, reprioritizing sex the same way you’d prioritize an important appointment or friend hang. Don’t be afraid to block off time in the calendar.
How does SILA help with slow sex and mindfulness?
We’re often so goal and orgasm-oriented in our sex lives that we forget to enjoy the journey, or to notice the way our body reacts as it moves through the different stages of pleasure. While most vibrators are associated with speeding up the process, SILA is designed with a soft, broad mouth that does not touch the clitoris. SILA also uses sonic waves to massage the clitoris from multiple angles. This prevents discomfort and overstimulation while giving you more control over when and how you orgasm. SILA is the ideal toy for someone who comes super quickly from a typical vibrator.
Can SILA be included in foreplay?
SILA can absolutely be incorporated into your warm up. Because SILA is gentler than your average vibrator, you can use SILA to increase blood flow and lubrication and to help prepare your body for penetration. SILA can also be used alongside penetrative sex to incorporate more clitoral stimulation.
How to connect your mind and body during sex?
We experience sex through the senses, so my favorite way to connect mind with body is to actively ground yourself with each of the 5 senses. Think about what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what your skin is feeling, the smells, and the tastes. Some of what you notice might be sexual – the smell of a lubricant, the taste of your partner’s skin, the feel of their body on yours. Other things that grab your attention may not be sexual; you might hear your dog in the next room, or the hum of the air conditioning. Once you are mindful of the experiences of your 5 senses, however, you get to pick and choose which ones you give your attention to. Practice shifting your attention to the sexual sensations in order to improve your erotic focus.
I am a queer-identified therapist and consultant who combines evidence-based research and systemic business coaching to cultivate powerful relationships – with your clients, your relationships, and yourself. Specializing in gender and sexual diversity, I partner with individuals, relationships, and institutions to expand limited mindsets, foster courageous behavior, and empower meaningful change around gender and sexuality.