Crystal J. Silk, Blogspot.com
Have you ever been too "uptight" to enjoy sex? Maybe you were nervous with a new partner. Perhaps you were stressed out about work, fearful about a life event, or just not comfortable at the moment.
How about your partner(s)? Was there ever a time your partner was "thinking too much" to get aroused, excited, or "into it"? Maybe they didn't like the way their body looked on that particular day. Maybe you just had a fight. Perhaps it was a new relationship and they were not quite "comfortable" with you yet.
In any of these cases, being stuck "thinking" can lead to bad sex. When someone is thinking, they are generally not feeling. Not feeling (especially the lovely sensations of foreplay and sex) can kill all arousal, pleasure, and the possibility of orgasm.
Luckily, there are ways to "turn our mind off" and treat ourselves (and our partners) to a little "mindless" good sex...
Your Brain on Sex
What is going on in our brains during sex? Gert Holstege and colleagues at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands sought to find out. They hooked men and women up to brain imaging scanners (positron-emission tomography). They then asked their partners to "stimulate" them to orgasm (research money "hard" at work).
Their studies supported the common experience outlined above. For both men and women to truly enjoy sex, the areas of their brains that control vigilance and sometimes fear (the amygdala) must slow down. To reach orgasm, the brain must be even more silent. This is especially true for women, where areas of self-control over desires (lateral orbitofrontal cortex) and judgment (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) also shut down (Georgiadis, et al., 2006; Georgiadis & Holstege, 2005). Hostege states that, "fear and anxiety need to be avioded at all costs if a woman wishes to have an orgasm".
So, "your brain on sex" is largely silent. This is especially true for areas that make us think, reason, worry, judge, etc. To truly enjoy sex, we have to be comfortable, calm, and trusting with our partners. We have to be non-judgmental and uninhibited about our behavior and desires. We also have to just "let go" and feel the sensation in the moment. In fact, the only brain areas really active during sex are the brain's "reward center" (ventral tegmental area), and the centers for receiving body sensation and creating movement.
Hitting the "Off" Button to the Brain
In our culture, the main way many achieve the "uninhibited" and "mindless" mindset necessary for pleasurable sex is through the use of alcohol. It truly is the social and sexual "lubricant" it is touted to be (pun intended). Many individuals have known a partner who responded better sexually after a drink or two. Unfortunately though, while alcohol decreases inhibitions, it also decreases "performance" through the negative effects as a depressant on physical arousal, response, and orgasm (Wikipedia, 2011). Not to mention the fact that alcohol robs someone of the ability to give the necessary consent for sexual activity (something to remember, especially for "new" partners).
Luckily, your brain does not need alcohol to run (or be shut off). There are plenty of non-alcoholic and ultimately more pleasurable ways of getting that job done...
1) Build Trust - the brain is wired to respond sexually to a partner it trusts (especially true for women). So, building trust in a relationship, even for a short-term sexual purpose, is necessary for pleasurable sex. Some simple ways of doing that include, building Rapport, being attentive and responsive to your partner's needs (with clothes both on and off), and discussing common interests. Comforting physical touch helps in this area too. Hugging, kissing, cuddling, and affectionate petting are all great ways of building feelings of trust.
Building trust is also about being non-judgmental. Many people have physical and psychological concerns about their sexuality. Letting others know that you are not going to judge them for who they are, what they prefer, or what they look like, goes a long way towards establishing sexual trust. Give yourself permission for your own wants, needs, preferences, and body too.
2) Relax Your Mind - In the short term, strongly "leading" your partner helps here. Learn to do things that "take their mind" off of whatever else is troubling them (and yours too). This may include a romantic gesture, a revealing outfit, or a bit of role playing. Whatever it takes to get them focused on you...and you on them. Sometimes, all it takes is a little sexual "surprise" in the kitchen for you both to stop thinking...and start doing.
In the long term, meditation can be a great way to relax your mind. Focusing on repeated sexual activity with the same partner can be "calming" for the mind as well. Although a bit of the "new" excitement wears off, sex with a long-term partner gets better by the very fact that we are comfortable, relaxed, and trusting.
Sometimes, however, there are "deeper" reasons for a mind that cannot relax during sex. Seeking out professional support can help here immensely.
3) Relax Your Body - The mind and the body are intimately connected, especially where sexuality is concerned. Keeping active, stretching, and reducing stress are all necessary for pleasurable sex. Sometimes a hot shower, or bath/hot-tub with a partner, is a great way to relax too. Even a few deep breaths in the bathroom getting ready for sex can be just what is required to "blow out" the stress and refocus you on pleasure.
It almost goes without saying in this day and age, but "knowing" your own body helps here too. Take time to explore your own body and find out how it works. Find out what you like. If you have a partner, explore with him/her as well.
4) Change the Scenery - Guys with long-term partners will tell you... If you want to get your wife/girlfriend "in the mood", then take her on vacation. Why? Because on vacation we are "free" from the responsibilities of our everyday life, the pressure of being judged, and the concerns of our work, chores, etc. On vacation, we can simply relax and enjoy the activities...including sex.
To get the same effect, you don't REALLY need to go to Bermuda. All you need to do is "change the scenery" from the everyday routine. Set aside some "us" time for established partners. Light a few candles...even for that short-term romance. Bring something different into the bedroom (wine, food, toys, etc.). Anything that is safe, fun, and "out of the ordinary" can help change someone's mind set and focus.
For singles interested in more "short term" romance, you can always catch someone on vacation too. You might be surprised how good hotel bars or tourist traps in your local area are for meeting someone new with the right "mind set" for short-term loving.
5) Focus on Pleasure - It is all well and good to "shut off" the mind. But, if you don't give it something else to focus on, it tends to wander. Make sure that both you and your partner are focusing on the "ohhhs and ahhhhs" of sexual experience. Take turns. When you touch, lick, kiss...make sure they are paying attention. Focus on what they are doing to you as well. Keep those sensory areas of the brain firing!
Sometimes "saying" the experiences while they are happening helps to increase the focus too. If your partner is doing something you like, say it. Tell them what feels good, where, and how. This helps you focus on the feeling as you describe it. Similarly, tell your partner the reactions you are seeing in them as well. "I can see you like that when I do X". This helps re-focus them on what you are doing...or are about to do. "Pay attention, because I'm just about to do that thing you like so much..." ;-)
We have certainly learned that worrying, obsessing, analyzing, and judging kills sex. So, turn the brain off...and turn your partner on. Remember, it is about doing and enjoying. When you meet the right person... Don't analyze. Don't worry. Don't judge. Just have fun.
Georgiadis, J.R., Holstege, G. (2005). Human brain activation during sexual stimulation of the penis. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 499, 33-38.
Georgiadis, J.R., Kortekaas, R., Kuipers, R., Nieuwenburg, A., Pruim, J., Reinders, S., & Holstege, G. (2006). Regional cerebral blood flow changes associated with clitorally induced orgasm in healthy women. European Journal of Neuroscience, 24, 3305-3316.
Wikipedia. (2011). Alcohol and sex. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_and_sex.