A few months ago, I was lying on the bed with a lover, cuddling and caressing. It was a sweet and beautiful moment that did not become “sexual” in the common sense of the word.
I remember this episode because, at a certain point, she looked at me with a serious look on her face, and said, “hey, thank you for not having expectations regarding what might or might not happen between us.”
That simple phrase struck me.
I was reminded, once more, of one of the big dramas in sexuality: a goal-oriented attitude.
Goal-oriented sex happens when, in intimacy, we focus on some “goal” instead of allowing the situation to unfold. Some typical goals in erotic intimacy: getting to intercourse, achieving orgasm, proving one’s ability as a lover, and other similar accomplishments. Over time, we can develop a goal-oriented attitude toward sex.
A goal-oriented attitude in sex prevents us from enjoying the present moment, and closes us down to the richness and variety of intimacy. When our intimate life becomes goal-oriented, we may find that we keep repeating the same sexual and intimate patterns over and over again—sometimes for years. As useful as being goal-oriented can be in other areas of our existence, it kills intimacy just as it would kill a good conversation.
I’m mentioning the example of a good conversation because, aside from the obvious differences, there is a lot of similarity between sexual intimacy and an intimate conversation. Conversations, just as sex, can be deep or shallow, emotionally invested or carefree, but one thing is for sure: approaching an intimate conversation with a fixed idea of the results we want to achieve isn’t a great start.
When we converse intimately with our friends, we don’t follow an agenda, but instead we carve the path of the conversation together, as we talk. We don’t really know where the conversation is going to lead, because the other can surprise us, and we can surprise ourselves.
But isn’t the situation quite similar in sexuality?
A kiss or a hug could lead to passionate, hot sex, or to gentle cuddling, or to an argument, for that matter. No one knows for sure. And yet, we often live sexuality as if, from the moment of the first kiss, we had entered a path on rails that leads to some destination whether we want it or not.
When we develop a goal-oriented attitude in sexuality, we tend to expect the same attitude in our partners. As a consequence, we may take for granted that our partner has some expectations, some goal that he or she wants to reach. When we assume that our partner has strong expectations, we often feel compelled to match them. This whole dynamic of real and perceived expectations leads to many awkward situations where people end up having erotic interactions that they really don’t feel like having.
Changing our mind is okay.
There is another reason why a goal-oriented approach to sex sucks: if there is any field of life where changing one’s mind is common and welcome, that is sexual play.
Our desires and needs constantly evolve in response to our physical conditions, our mutable emotions, and the signals we receive from our partner. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that our desires may change wildly during the time we share intimacy with someone. Owning these changes and expressing them is as fundamental as honouring the fact that our partner may change his or her mind. So much for achieving goals!
Whenever we enter an intimate, potentially sexual situation with someone, we are much better off being open to whatever might happen, and even willing to be surprised. Once we relinquish our need for control and achievement, there is an exciting, sweet trepidation in not knowing what is going to happen—but knowing what our desires and feelings are, in every moment. We can then forget about plans and objectives, and live in the present moment.
Speaking our truth.
While remaining open to whatever may happen, we can and should speak our truth moment by moment, even if that means changing our mind multiple times. Allowing ourselves to change our mind as often as needed is especially important in sexual intimacy, where emotions and desires can shift quite powerfully in a matter of seconds. If being non goal-oriented provides the openness and the capacity to embrace the moment, being able to own our desires and communicate them to our partners is the guarantee that we won’t end up stuck in an erotic dynamic that does not serve us. These two skills, openness and clarity, complement each other and allow us to experience a truly rewarding, respectful sexual intimacy.
When we drop the goal-oriented approach to sex, embrace openness, speak our truth and honor our partner’s truth, there isn’t much that can go wrong. Often, we will then enjoy a wonderful harmony of desires between us and our partners. Sometimes, that won’t be the case, and things will unfold in less sexual but not necessarily less intimate ways.
Whatever happens, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, as long as we act with integrity and love.
Author: Raffaello Manacorda
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: 西文 Simon/Flickr