“I hate having to ‘wind myself up’ to do it,” said a Flibanserin participant, “It makes me feel broken.”
Last night was a beautiful warm summer evening, the nearly full moon peeking in and out from behind the clouds and I found myself in the midst of a sing-along with thousands of other fans paying our last tribute to the iconic American satirist, Garrison Keillor. He was leading the crowd at intermission through a long medley of old songs, songs that are in all of us from childhood but rarely strung together. Part church, part old Americana, but fully present and belonging in a way that we hadn’t felt since summer camp. I always notice and savor the moments that pull me deeply into life, where the distance between us breaks down and we are not outside, looking in, watching some entertainment, but creating connection together.
My voice lifted in the midst of thousands of people singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot and I got to thinking about what happens in those moments where we feel deeply a part of life. When we trust enough to surrender ourselves entirely to the moment, we are truly staking a claim.
As rare as that experience is in large groups, they are often equally so in our most personal intimate lives as well. We know from all the recent news about female libido and the recent controversial approval of “pink Viagra” that it more common than not for women to be cut off from their capacity for sexual desire. A big part of the problem is that too many of us are still believing that sex is only working if it begins with a spontaneous eruption of desire, like when we fell in love and were overcome in the back seat of a Chevy with our first lover. That spontaneous fire is not only passionately exciting, but more importantly, is so intoxicating because we don’t have any time or space to not choose it. Getting swept up and overcome by our own desire is the easy way to sex, because we don’t have to take any responsibility for the process. We come to believe that the only real way to our sexuality is when it just happens to us.
And yet in the course of a life time, the window of opportunity for this spontaneous sexual fire is brief. We only really surge like this when we are deep in the throes of falling in love, when our biological drive to reproduce is fueling the engine. Alternately, illicit affairs also create this kind of uncontrollable spark, with the combustion of carnal guilt driving the need. But for those of us who are trying to make sex a reality in a day to day loving relationship, we have to rethink our engagement with our sexuality. We have to surrender ourselves to co-creating the spark and being willing to claim the old songs within us.
Sex therapists call this other kind of desire “responsive”- which means that it generated by our intention and willingness to wake up our libido through our arousal mechanism. By taking responsibility for our erotic souls and committing to finding the spark in ourselves, we learn the mechanism to respond, which is the golden ring. It allows you to find access to your innate capacity for pleasure through all your senses, whether it be sensual touch, erotic scents or a sexy playlist. Giving up the idea that you don’t have to work for responsive libido frees you to all kinds of scheming and planning.
As spontaneous as that starry sing-along felt, trust me, it took tons of planning to execute so seamlessly. The same is true of our intimate moments- the more you practice accessing arousal, the more natural and easy if becomes. In fact, all the preparation starts to meld into the act itself and, just like remembering all the songs living in you, stirring the fire awake becomes an act of love- towards yourself and your partner. Learning how to get things going with your arousal mechanism will lead you back to the path of desire over and over, and there is nothing broken about this way in, except our willingness to do it.