The Power of Intimate Rituals

April 9th, 2010

The question of whether intimacy and love-making should be spontaneous or planned is one that gets between many couples. There are two issues in question here and it is important to tease them apart if you are going to make sense of either.

“Passion is the quickest to develop and the quickest to fade. Intimacy develops more slowly, and commitment more gradually still.” — Robert Sternberg

The question of whether intimacy and love-making should be spontaneous or planned is one that gets between many couples. The essence of the issue is that many believe that spontaneous combustion sex, the kind that drives the very early phases of biological pairing, is the real McCoy and that other types of planned intimacy are somehow less than. There are two issues in question here and it is important to tease them apart if you are going to make sense of either. The first is the widely held belief that sexual gratification is a natural and direct result of lust and sex drive. The second issue is whether planning for and about our sexuality detracts from or enhances the access to our sex drive.

There are clearly arguments for both sides. In the early phases of intimate relationship, which is heavily dependent on the biological imperatives of sexual attraction, the sheer magnetic force of two people’s intense attraction is enough to create serious sexual fireworks. This is the nature of human pair bonding; it is built into our genetic code to reproduce. Expecting that level of spontaneous sexual attraction in a relationship over time is both unrealistic and prevents the relationship from exploring deeper and more mysterious realms of sexual bonding.

Analyzing historical texts from any time period demonstrates just how much planning and ritual has gone into sexual satisfaction over the millennia. When sexuality was culturally understood to be the sacred act that it is, ritual was required to participate. The rituals themselves enclosed the mysterious connection and even more enigmatic quality of orgasmic release into a much broader experience of connection to the divine. This is the core of Tantric yoga practice.

On the more mundane level, planning ahead for sexual activity does actually give your brain time to wrap itself around the leap to another reality, which if you are lucky, sex gives you access to. As I have said many times, your brain is the sexiest organ in the body. It is control central for the arousal, desire and orgasmic processing in the body. For many people, the spontaneous combustion ideal of sexual attraction just doesn’t allow them to open up to the experience in quite the same way.

What’s more, is that creating ritual around sexual practices also leaves space for spontaneity. Thinking of a ritual as a framework rather than a rigid direction allows for improvisation along the way. Changing the music, adding different accessories, exploring different breathing techniques, slowing down or speeding up the touch are all ways of rediscovering sensuality together.

Although we all long for being swept away by a spontaneous overpowering intimacy, finding a shared ritual to explore sexuality over years may just provide access to a whole different level of sexual appetite.

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