Hot sex is how you got here in the first place. Heart sex is how to stay together.
I first got interested in sex when I was 8 years old and was introduced to the pleasures of touch by my equally adventurous neighbor, Caroline, who was the same age. Since no one had told us anything about it, we just played around and enjoyed getting to know each other in this secret way we were sure no one else had discovered. Sixty years later, I’m still exploring and learning. I’m not sure what happened to Caroline—but my wife, Carlin and I, are still together after thirty-two years. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
1. Hot sex is our genes’ way of ensuring the survival of our species.
We all know about hot sex. It’s the kind of sex that drives us to find a partner, have intercourse and orgasms, and then to do it again as soon as possible. Hot sex is natural and it is part of our genetic heritage which ensures that we have more babies and our species will survive.
If it didn’t work so well, none of us would be here today. Think about it: None of our direct ancestors died childless. Our parents had at least one child. That would be me, as the only child of Edith and Morris. My grandparents had children and so on all the way back to the beginning. Pretty amazing when you think about it! Our ancestors may have been humanitarians or mass murderers, smart or stupid, kind or mean. But they all did what it took to find a mate and have a baby.
2. Heart sex is the way we learn to bond with our partner and experience deep love.
As a teen-age boy I was much more interested in hot sex than heart sex. I was taught that a “real man” learned to get to first base, stole second base if necessary, made it to third, and did his very best to make it all the way home. The difficulty was finding a girl who was willing to play along and figuring out how not to have babies.
As I got older and fell in love, I found that heart sex was good. It was nice to touch and play and fondle and talk and listen and plan and dream together. It seemed that the women I fell in love with especially liked this kind of sex, so I learned more about it. But for me, “real sex” always involved intercourse and orgasm. As I got older I found that it was actually fun to have sex without intercourse and to have intercourse without an orgasm.
3. There are hidden problems with hot sex.
As a psychotherapist I tried to learn everything I could about how people could have a joyful, happy, and sexy relationship. It never occurred to me that there could be anything wrong with having orgasms. “More, bigger, better” seemed to be a good mantra for happiness. But a colleague recommended Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships by Marnia Robinson and it has opened my eyes to new possibilities.
Robinson suggests the same desire that initially draws us to a potential sexual partner also causes us to find flaws in them. “An orgasm feels great, and if it were the end of the story, lovers would be able to do what comes naturally in the bedroom and live happily ever after,” says Robinson. She goes on to say, “The problem is that sex—especially the kind with lots of orgasms all around, leading to that feeling of ‘I’m definitely done!’ (sexual satiety)—isn’t an isolated event. Orgasm is the peak of a much longer cycle of subsequent changes deep in the brain.”
It seems that these changes can cause us to become more irritable and restless. Our genes care little about our happiness. They want more babies with a variety of partners. Anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, estimates that we’re molded to stay together for about four years. Across fifty-eight diverse cultures, she found that divorce rates peak then. But we don’t have to let our genes rule our lives.
4. Heart sex offers a different direction.
Years ago I remember learning about some of the practices of Eastern cultures that taught the pleasures and the joys of having sex without orgasm. It sounded a bit strange and I tried it a few times, but sex without orgasm seemed like bread without butter, cake without ice cream, or life without the possibility of parole. In other words, not very … well, sexy. But as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve changed my view.
Here’s how Marnia Robinson describes her experience with heart sex. “When we got together ten years ago, my husband, Will and I began our relationship with bonding-centered lovemaking. We emphasized generous affection, and did not pursue orgasm (although orgasm still occurred on rare occasions). This type of lovemaking is an ancient practice that is hinted at in various traditions. I now think of it as karezza (from the Italian for ‘caress’) pronounced ka-RET-za, a term coined almost a century ago by a Quaker physician named Alice Bunker Stockham.”
Stockham said, “The technique is not based on control. During intercourse you are not seeking to avoid orgasm or to manipulate your bodily energies; you are merely closing your eyes, feeling those energies stream into your heart, head and genitals and those of your lover, and allowing them to circulate … . You are always relaxing, falling back into the heart. Effortless awareness is the key. All your energies will be drawn upward, diffused throughout the body … . As this takes place, lustful tendencies will be transmuted into feelings of love and the need for conventional orgasm will lessen.”
I recommend people try heart-centered sex. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to do than one would think. It does take some willingness to explore new ways, connect on a different level, and feel new feelings. I used to think that only hot sex was manly and anything that didn’t lead to intercourse and ejaculation was wimpy. I don’t think that anymore.
5. Hot sex plus heart sex leads to the best sex.
Hot sex is necessary when you want to create babies and it’s great when you want to explode in the arms of mind-blowing passion. I wouldn’t want to eliminate it from my life. But it is nice to know I can limit it, since it can become addictive. We live in a world with an endless variety of sexy potential partners. Our brains evolved at a time when there were only a few sexy potential partners around in the village. Now the world is our village and we interact with many more potential partners and can have endless variety of sexual beauties on the internet that will do “anything we want them to do.” It’s easy to get hooked on hot sex.
Heart sex brings us closer together. It allows us to relax in the comfort of a partner we love. We don’t have to worry about orgasms and can enjoy the pleasures that come from being closely bonded. It also relieves stress and allows us to make love much more often. We don’t have that feeling of distance that often comes after orgasm or that feeling that we must “do it again, and again, and again.” Bigger, better, faster isn’t always the best way to live and to love. Deeper, slower, easier has a lot to be said for it. I’m interested in your experiences. What do you think?
Image credit: marc falardeau/Flickr