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Sexy Soundtracks

“The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and prayer.”  -Marcus Aurelius

I have serious sexual music habits. Ever since I can remember, in the many years of making love to my husband, there has been a familiar soundtrack playing, animating our sexual encounter with its rhythm and bass in the background. It probably began as our way of covering up anything that might have been overheard by our kids sleeping down the hall, but slowly and imperceptibly, my dedication to the artist of the year, or as my husband would probably argue, artist of the decade, the familiar notes of my habitual go-to songs became a powerful aphrodisiac, igniting my memory of previous sexual interludes and awakening my sleeping libido with a little night music.

I have tried introducing more contemporary music that I have learned about over the years from my kids into my limited playlist, but usually I just find it distracting. Not that surprising considering that our auditory cortex, where vibrations become sound in the brain, activates multiple regions associated with emotions, movement and memory, which are all fundamental to living inside our sexual selves. Hearing the familiar tracks from some of my favorites, like David Gray, Norah Jones, Melody Gardot, or even the old love songs of Billy Holiday, has the feel of being wrapped up in musical lingerie. When that music is heard in other contexts, even at the mall, my arousal mechanism gets pinged and I smile to myself about how that trigger is alive no matter where I am. Because I have had so many amazing sexual interludes while these songs have played, just a few bars in, I can reliably rev up my fantasy engines.

Our brain’s capacity to make sense of music and know it as part of ourselves is at once highly complex, yet totally basic and almost universal when it comes to the emotions that are stirred by the listening. Multiple studies have shown the links between musical exposure and specific emotional responses that are consistent in babies as young as 9 months. Our physiology changes when we listen to sad or happy melodies; Sad songs manifest in us as slower heart rates and lower blood pressure levels. In contrast, happy songs activates dopamine- our favorite songs  can give us the same hit of happiness as chocolate, make us high like drugs, or ignite the ecstatically sexual.

Listening to music is good for you. Studies show that it has helped people recover from strokes and other injuries, reduces pain and improves cognitive skills. No wonder everyone at the gym has earplugs in… Our favorite songs also increase our endurance. So if you don’t yet have a musical habit, this is one that is worth keeping and cultivating. My old reliable soundtrack is hard wired in me to elicit memories, awaken physical sensation, and even stir old fantasies. It is a space that I can fall into without trying, floating among the lyrics, diving into the beat, and surrendering myself into sexual spaces that would be harder to find in silence. This is what I tell myself anyway when I wonder if I should grow up beyond my current music habits…. I think it is true. It feels true every time David Gray starts crooning “Babylon.” Marvin Gaye once said, “Music, not sex, got me aroused.” I think he meant, “Music and sex – got me aroused….” Because really, hearing Marvin invite us to “Get It On” -how could you not?