Posts Tagged ‘sensuality’
A duckling, newly emerged from the shell, immediately looks for something with which it will bond. In the absence of the mother duck, the hatchling forms an attachment to the closest moving thing, whether human, animal or even an inanimate object like a ball; in a process called imprinting. Our sexual response is often the result of our own imprinting. We may not even know why certain things turn us on and others don’t, but they are often the result of earlier experiences and the feelings we associate with them.
We are complicated creatures, but we are also amazingly simple. As researchers study human sexual response, there are new findings on why we like what we like, but some of it just seems obvious. For instance, a recent study showed a tendency for us to gravitate toward partners who bear certain similarities to our opposite sex parent. Freud would say it’s Oedipal, but it’s not that complex. We adapt to what is familiar. Americans eat fries with ketchup, but Europeans prefer them with mayonnaise. I don’t even like ketchup much, but because it’s what I’m used to, I like it better than mayo on my pomme frittes.
In the same way, our ideas of physical attractiveness are mostly the result of cultural conditioning. Across the globe, beauty ideals vary greatly. We may prefer smooth skin, beautiful teeth, or hard bodies, but there are places where scars, gold teeth and soft bodies define desirability. Our preferences may seem personal, but they are largely influenced by what we’ve become accustomed to.
Consider the colors you like. It is likely you have a favorite. Maybe you’ve assumed color trends are launched by hipsters or designers, or that your response to them is a matter or personal taste, but the reality is that they are largely shaped by teams of professionals in the color industry, who work to change your preferences, in an attempt to influence what you will buy. They begin by choosing palettes (also called color forecasts). These palettes are then used to to create the things you are likely to see in stores. What we may think of as color “trends” are actually an orchestrated effort to make you like what they’re selling. Their effort relies on exposing you to colors repeatedly, until you first become accustomed to them, then fonder of them as they become more familiar. (They are also counting on you to tire of those colors, in time for their next round of picks.)
Our brains are very malleable, quickly responding to things around us. Neurons and synapses are constantly readjusting according to exterior stimuli. Often called our largest sexual organ, it should come as no surprise that the chemical and electrical activity of the brain not only reacts to, but also alters our sexual response. The brain continually records and categorizes experiences, creating a mental database of positive and negative perceptions. Eventually, those associations trigger reactions ranging from arousal to repulsion. It is still not completely understood why some develop odd triggers or fetishes, but just as the deformed and putrid flesh of bound feet were once considered the height of erotica in China, our sexual response is largely the result of conditioning.
Because of the way our brains recall previous experiences, things we have found pleasant or arousing before, can become sexual triggers, but unpleasant experiences can also rework our sexual response. This is particularly true in cases of coerced sex, violent sex, or shame-inducing sex. An individual who has been raped or molested, may have trouble getting past the fear or anxiety associated with predatory sex. In fact, those who have suffered sex in a traumatic context may develop a negative reaction to what might be considered normal sex. (I’m not about to attempt to define “normal”, but for this example, let’s define “normal” as he kind of sex we can imagine Claire and Cliff Huxtable having.) A gay man I know, recounts being encouraged as a child, to have sex with a female cousin for the pleasure of voyeuristic adults. After which, the residual shame made it impossible to even think about sex with a female.
In theory, the chemicals (like oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine) released when we have physical contact with another, are supposed to help us bond to and enjoy a long relationship with a single person. However, in a culture where casual sex has become increasingly common, those same chemicals can fuel a kind of anti-monogamy addiction. Those who bounce from bed to bed, may not even realize they are reprogramming the brain to reject monogamy, as they become conditioned to the rush of new encounters, making longer relationships, less attractive and less sustainable.
Because healthy relationships require both an emotional and physical bond, relationships based primarily on sex tend to be short-lived. Casual sex may be satisfying in the short-term, but without the emotional validations we crave, sex isn’t enough to sustain a long-lasting relationship. It is an example of how what we want, may not be what we need. Even in arrangements like “friends with benefits”, the ongoing effort for both parties to balance the differences between their sexual and emotional needs, usually makes the arrangement temporary, at best. Unfortunately, without a significant emotional connection, sex for the sake of sex, becomes little more than a series of thrill rides. Even Cosmopolitan magazine, which has long advocated free sexual expression, recently cautioned men that excessive masturbation can diminish their ability to respond to sex with a partner.
What we want, isn’t always what we need. Sometimes getting what we want, prevents us from getting what we need. The reasons may be complicated, or simple, but like Pavlov’s dogs salivating for a bell, rats conditioned to endure electrical shocks in exchange for a few grains of food, or a baby duck waiting for a dog to teach him to swim or fly; we are all subject to imprinting.
Except for the day when Larry Durbin and I shared a Charms Pop at the old Elks Theater, I had never exchanged spit with anyone. In fact, I had successfully managed to avoid being spit on, touching anything that had spit on it, and until that fateful day, all the spit in my mouth was entirely my own. Unknowing innocence, was erased when my first kiss caught me off-guard with a strange mix of delight & repulsion. Sweet Mother of Mouthwash, saliva had suddenly become esoteric and sublime.
Wistfully pondering the strange delight of the kiss, caused my mind to wander back through the kisses filed away in my memory. There were kisses I’d like to forget, kisses not worth remembering, and then there were those kisses which linger as sweetly on the heart, as they once did on the lips.
There is no kiss more memorable than that first awkward, blundering, kiss. The innocent joy of mouth meeting mouth, becomes hugely significant, as what will likely be one of the lesser kisses of our lifetime, becomes one of the greater memories. In that first unfamiliar experience, our senses are awakened to the first of many romantic pleasures.
I am reminded of a terminally-ill family member, who, as she considered the short time ahead, lamented how long it had been since she’d been “properly kissed”, but she was not referring to the proper kiss. She was not referring to that multi-purpose kiss which says, hello, goodbye, and thank you like the “aloha” of cordiality. For as any woman knows, being properly kissed, borders on the improper.
The kiss is intimacy’s most basic act, yet many fail to execute it well. A “kiss & tell” confession, is apt to state whether someone was a good or bad kisser, but who is the Simon Cowell of kissing? By what standards is this judged? This isn’t the kind of question that is answered by Wiki or Ask.com, and surely we wouldn’t all agree on what constitutes good technique. If you’re reading this, it is assumed you are past needing a tutorial on how to kiss, and also assumed you know kisses should be fresh and clean; but perhaps you have yet to realize the most important thing about a kiss is not the way it feels on the lips, but the way it leaves us feeling inside.
A kiss should be spontaneous. Not every kiss is executed with natural ease, but the best kisses are both expected and surprising. In the moments before a kiss, there is a certain pleasure in wondering if a kiss is coming. The unanswered question is usually answered with uncertainty, as one or both bring their faces closer. Sometimes words are spoken, permission is asked or desire stated, but the best kisses require no introduction.
Kisses should be given and received in a way that respects the other person. They should neither stifle, impair nor impose. Wet is good, but sloppy is not. Only after being kissed by large dogs or drooling babies, should one feel compelled to wash their face. The great kiss leaves us wanting more.
A kiss should be focused on the mouth, but not confined to it, employing caresses, as it explores the surrounding areas.
A perfect kiss is urgent but unhurried. It transcends time, causing us to forget about clocks in the moment, and leaving us to remember the moment, when it has passed.
When a man kisses a women he should be in command of her affection, but not attempting to control it. There should be no pretense in a kiss. Only a lesser individual will kiss without sincerity. Kisses should never exploit the affections of another.
The best kisses hint sweetly of what is to come, yet are sufficient by themselves. They are the intimacy of flesh on flesh, mouth-play, and sweet sensations suggestive of more.
A male friend offers his perspective on kissing. Though I have never kissed him, I would venture, he has kissed and been kissed often enough to speak authoritatively. Mae West said, “A man’s kiss is his signature.” Joel, who shares his thoughts here, seems to agree.
I remember the second girl I kissed. Surprisingly, I don’t remember the second kiss. I was more focused on sliding into second base. I was a breast man then, and I’m a breast man now–with regard to quality over quantity.
How silly I was then not to realize kissing is to be enjoyed, not just a pass-through.
I remember the third girl I kissed. Perhaps I owe to her what I know today. Remember looking with her at a photo of us kissing together and she captioned the photo “The River”. Apparently a river, OK, tributary, of saliva would flow from my mouth to her puckered lips. Thinking back to the third, fourth, fifth…to today..I feel I have perfected the kiss, yet am always open to learn more.
Kissing is an art, it tells a lot about someone, and connects you on a different level than prior.
The perfect kiss begins with eye contact, intense eye contact, looking deep into the other person, feeling their energy unite with yours. Looking down at the lips, then back up into their eyes. (No elevator eyes up and down their body, for you already know, or don’t need to know, about the body.)
Closer together the lips come, and I stop, she’s ready for the lips to meet, but I hold off, just for a moment. I take my hand and gently place it on the back of her neck. Slowly, (or sometimes opting for fast n hard, as that can be quite exhilarating!) drawing her closer to me, our lips touch…I pull back, lips apart, draw my hand into her hair and squeeze just enough to hear her moan. With her soft beautiful hair in my fingers I bring our lips together again, this time with more passion. I pull back ever so slightly, place my upper and lower lips around just her upper lip and gently, slowly bite down….and then…well, I can’t reveal everything, now can I?
I’ve been on dates where a bad kiss was all I needed to know I didn’t wish to continue. One’s kiss is personal, tells a lot about the person, and can make or break an encounter.
Joel’s friend Serena shares her perspective:
I used to think of kissing as a prelude to the better “stuff,” or a way to show the other person that everything is alright.
Recently, I’ve had a kissing epiphany with the luck of finding someone who has chemistry with my lips, and myself.
A friend once described a first kiss with her partner with the few words, “It was like time stopped.”
I couldn’t relate. I know what she means now. Haven’t you ever been doing something you enjoyed so much you couldn’t focus on anything but that? A powerful massage, your favorite song played live at a concert? Isn’t it like time is stopping during that moment? That’s what I feel more times than not when I’m kissing a certain someone.
What creates this? Maybe this:
Our eyes connect, and his magnetize to draw me into him uncontrollably. The force is stopped by two soft lips and I can feel his excitement in his motions as he pulls me closer. Sometimes the motion of the lips is fast, sometimes soft and gentle, sometimes playful but in each kiss a perfect connection of two bodies and lips touching and exploring–minds connecting. A kiss is a full body and soul experience.
Indeed, as Serena and Joel remind us the kiss is so more than lip service. It is hands, bodies, minds and souls in optimistic concert.
How long has it been since you’ve been properly kissed?
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