Sexuality is about enjoying sexual pleasure with a lover. We experience pleasure both psychologically and physically. Men enjoy the erotic and genital stimuli that lead to orgasm. Women need to make more of the sensual and emotional stimuli sex may provide. Any part of the body may be involved in sexual activity. There are three main categories of anatomy: firstly, the external sex organ (related to orgasm), secondly the internal genital organs (related to reproduction) and thirdly erogenous zones that may include almost any part of the body (related to sensual pleasuring).
Male and female erogenous zones are similar in anatomical terms. They include the labia or the length of the penis, either side of the labia or the testicles, the entrance to the vagina or the base of the penis, the perineum and the anus. For a man there is also the prostate gland inside the anus. Both sexes can enjoy being stroked or kissed on the mouth, nipples, ear lobes, neck, back and feet with varying pleasure depending on the person.
How we express our sexuality depends on how we feel about ourselves as sexual beings. We find different situations and people more attractive than others. Even the most promiscuous men are not attracted to every potential partner available. We have specific qualities that we are looking for in a lover. Sex is political and social. We have sex with someone who impresses us, who is above us (or below us) socially. We have sex with those who are ‘socially significant’ to us. If we think nothing of them then sex has no value. This true for men and women, just for different reasons. For women it is purely social, for men it can be both sexual and social. Sex is about power. Power to arouse. Power to dominate. Power to seduce.
Many people never look for any form of competition in their relationships. Others find the idea that they are attractive to others, or that their partner is attractive to others, is what keeps their sexual relationship alive and vibrant over decades together. Some people enjoy a variety of sexual activities both alone and with a partner. Others limit themselves to intercourse. Some enjoy a variety of lovers while others prefer to be loyal to one partner. We tend to associate ‘passion’ and ‘lust’ with first encounters and illicit affairs rather than marital sex. Marriage and romance are both associated with love more than sexual pleasure. Marriage is foremost a social contract rather than an agreement to enjoy sexual pleasuring.
Traditionally women were assumed to engage in intercourse either for their partner’s benefit or because they wanted children. Today there is considerable promotion of the idea that women can also enjoy sexual pleasure even if for different reasons. Given the difficulty women have in being aroused or experiencing orgasm with a lover, sexual relationships continue to be focused primarily on intercourse and male orgasm.
Sexual pleasure can be elusive, particularly for a younger woman. But she can enjoy the novelty of being desired, the pleasure of evoking a response in a man and the ease of arousing a lover (especially if he’s a young man). After years together, there is hopefully more trust and communication. A couple can discuss different approaches to pleasuring. A woman’s body changes and becomes more responsive to sensual caressing. She can enjoy more sensations. Her clitoris becomes slightly less hyper-sensitive. All of this depends, of course, on the quality of the relationship.
As an older woman sex can be more erotic if the couple has invested in some communication over sexual pleasuring. Many men are not interested in any sexual activity other than intercourse. But if a woman has a more sensitive and imaginative partner, there is more time and more trust to explore beyond intercourse. An older man has more time to spend on sexual pleasuring because his arousal is not so immediate and does not consume his full attention as when he was younger.
Some couples may enjoy dressing up or using fantasy role play to play act sexual scenarios. Some couples are attracted to tickling, spanking and other so-called kink activities. It’s all part of the fun. What appeals depends on personality and a person’s fantasies. BDSM has become popular as a means of adding variety for couples who want to spice up their sex life.
BDSM involves the use of physical restraints that limit a person’s range of motion, the infliction and reception of pain, and the play-acting of submissive and dominant roles by consenting adults. To increase safety, couples use a ‘safe word’ so that the person in the submissive role can stop all activity. They also discuss in advance what they agree to be the limits on allowed activities.
Enjoyment of sexual pleasure is not just about responsiveness. Many men are too timid or too embarrassed to explore what they might enjoy both alone and with a lover. Attitudes in society (driven primarily by individuals with low responsiveness e.g. women) cause others to be ashamed of their own thoughts and curiosity. This a shame because there is nothing wrong with enjoying sexual pleasure.
… it’s time to talk about what most men could initiate more of, and that is non-sexual intimacy. … It involves any kind of intimacy that isn’t centered around sex. It can include making time to talk, cuddling, engaging in fun activities together, and so on. (Stephan Labossiere 2012)