What’s “Wall-Socket Sex”?!

There are powerful ways to erotically transform your relationship.

This intriguing term is one I first encountered in reading the eminent sex/relationship therapist David Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage (1997). In this seminal work, the author claims that he was himself introduced to the phrase by a couple he’d worked with. So what, exactly, is wall-socket sex? And assuming that you might aspire to such electrically charged eroticism, just how might you go about achieving it?

By way of introduction, let me suggest that such heated sexual intensity requires you—and your partner—to stay focused on all that you like and admire about each other. Regardless of whether your partner meets all your preferences and ideals (doubtful, in any case!), learning how to unconditionally accept them as they are is an essential prerequisite for such erotic marital ecstasy. You also need to summon up the courage to face, and totally embrace, your (as yet “unleashed”) sexual potential—free of all the inhibitions and constraints that have arisen because of fears your partner might object to the nature and dynamism of your primal desires.

Perhaps more obviously, both of you must be willing to let go of the various adult roles and responsibilities that till now have impeded the fullest expression of your eroticism. Consider that if you gave in more to your emotions and senses earlier in marriage (or during courtship), it’s precisely because you felt secure enough, trusting enough, confident enough, to “release” your inborn sexuality: a gift all of us are endowed with, but all too ready to relinquish if we fear our partner will neither confirm nor support such predilections.

Extravagantly “turned on”—electric!—wall-socket sex also hinges on deep feelings of closeness to your partner. And this can be a major challenge. For it requires that you overcome your defenses and make yourself wholly vulnerable to them, that you intimately confide in them things you’ve been withholding—again, because you’ve been afraid that the person you most rely on for validation might not accept this “safeguarded” part of you. And that’s why Schnarch stresses how crucial it is to learn both how to “self-validate” and “self-soothe” when your partner resists accepting some basic aspect of you, or your sexuality. For consciously holding onto your self in the face of such conflict, and making your personal integrity a higher priority than protecting yourself from possible disapproval, is in Schnarch’s view critical to the vital change and growth you’re potentially capable of. Which—at least, indirectly—can lead to the most thrilling sex you’ve never even dreamed of.

But because of its difficult, even demanding, preconditions, such wall-socket sex is hardly easy to achieve. It requires radical honesty, a sharing of one’s most personal self that’s almost guaranteed to raise anxiety levels. Part of you may wonder whether you can afford to expose yourself like this. Your ego (self-defensive in all things) might vehemently object, assuming that you’re putting yourself at some grave, indefinable risk. Yet cultivating a truly intimate (and no-holds-barred) sexual relationship necessitates that you first create (or co-create) a relationship that’s more trusting—and so more emotionally intimate. And, as Schnarch emphasizes, this venture is not for the “faint of heart.”

Still, if you have the strength of will (and a strong enough ego!) to work toward accommodating—and unconditionally accepting—the relationship differences that have limited your intimacy in the past, your spousal connection can truly be transformed. And in a fashion that can lead to far greater satisfaction (sexual and otherwise) than anything you might have imagined.

As I suggested at the outset, Schnarch regards himself not as a sex counselor (or mere “technician”) but as a sex/relationship therapist. As such, he’s not interested in teaching techniques that might, at least temporarily, enhance a committed couple’s lovemaking. Rather, he grasps that blissful sexual experiences reside not in the body (or sex organs) but in the head and heart—and their combined power to electrically “merge” a person with their significant other. Sure, focusing on pleasurable sensations during sex may provide its own gratifications (and with eyes securely shut so as not to open yourself up to any lingering insecurities about how your partner feels about you!). But rhapsodic, whole-body-pulsing sex requires maintaining—and, in fact, magnifying—your deepest emotional bond. Doubtless, your physical senses are part of the picture, but they’re hardly key in feeling an ecstatic, erotic “union” with your partner. Which is one reason that wall-socket sex can occur independent of intercourse, orgasm, or even direct genital stimulation.

So, assuming you’re up to this spectacular adventure of discovering the outer limits of your sexual potency, just what does the wall-socket sex you’re now “eligible for” look like? In Schnarch’s own words (from Passionate Marriage):

“Wall-socket sex aptly describes the sustained electric jolt of sex on the boundaries. [It] involves physical and emotional union in the context of consuming mutual desire, heart-stopping intimacy, and deep meaningfulness. It includes multiple levels of psychological involvement and taps all capacities that are uniquely human, including mutuality, integrity, and spirituality.”

And it should be added that in an earlier book by the author, Constructing the Sexual Crucible (1991), he also discusses this phenomenon—characterizing wall-socket sex as “nonvolitional and nonself-conscious ‘sexual abandon,’” intimating that it’s spontaneous and can’t be “willed”—only prepared for by restructuring your attitudes and beliefs, as well as developing a closer emotional tie with your partner. And he emphasizes that such transcendent sex can occur only “in the context of a tranquil but firm grip on oneself” (which I’ve already alluded to as “holding onto yourself” in anxiety-inducing situations). Finally, it’s about self-integration: uniting your head and heart with your, well, genitals.”

Schnarch’s characterization of what happens during wall-socket sex is worth quoting in full, so vividly does it capture this extraordinary, ultra-arousing experience:

  • Time stops.
  • External reality fades; there is a sense of being transported to another place and time.
  • Your consciousness changes, so that, for example, separate acts blend into a single prolonged event. A million delights merge into one.
  • Boundaries between you and your partner shift or cease to exist. You feel your partner next to you—without touching—as if your bodies are intermingled. Your skin feels open, your pores enlarged.
  • Your emotions appear on your partner’s face. You see your essence embodied in your partner. He or she knows exactly how to touch you. S/he moans at the exact instant everything seems transcendentally perfect to you.
  • Your partner’s face “melts,” taking on unusual or unexpected emphasis and character.
  • You watch your partner undergo age changes. You know exactly what he or she looked like in childhood, or will look like when older. You see the child and parent in your partner.
  • Profound mutual caring and joy overflow the bond between you. You’re moved to tears, appreciating other people past and present, and what it means to be human.

If this description isn’t “gasp-worthy,” I can’t think of what might be. For it clearly portrays a spiritual reality capable of shattering your very sense of identity. “It pairs,” as Schnarch puts it, “intense sexual responsiveness with increased maturity, self-understanding, and self-control.” And this is why the author contends that young people simply aren’t grown up enough for such transformational sex.

. . . So the question is: “Are you?”

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© 2013 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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Top 25 List: February 2013