Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Sexual Needs Part 10: Our Need for Sexual Adventure
Posted Jun 09, 2020
If Char Meredith was right in saying "It's a sin to bore a child," then what are we to say about our boring one another in bed? In my book, We're All Like This, readers are asked, in the spirit of a thought experiment, to imagine having the perfect sex life, perfect in every way. Then imagine that perfect sex life without x: is it still perfect? The experiment is a way of exposing our sexual needs to plain sight and, really, we need to do this for ourselves because none of us have been taught to be aware of our sexual needs.
So... imagine the perfect sex life. Then remove all risk and all adventure. Everything is familiar. Everything is predictable. Nothing is new. Nothing ever will be. Nothing. Still perfect?
For most of us the answer is, "No, that would be decidedly not perfect." Becoming aware of this need is relatively easy. The problem is we are largely unfamiliar with potential solutions so most of us tend to focus on creating a sense of sexual adventure by focusing exclusively on the titillating elements of our sex lives. Titillating? The arousal to physical stimuli. Why? What did you think it meant?
So we try new sexually provocative outfits or new positions requiring our partner to become the love child of a yoga teacher and Gumby. Or we try new rooms in the house or even places out in the world where people get arrested for doing that. But when we're done with the lubes, parachutes, and chafing fabrics of our adventure, we're left with the same old boredom because there is a limit to the stimuli a titillating agent can supply. Any heroin addict can explain this because, after the first few highs, the rest of the addiction is about running faster and faster just to feel normal.
Perhaps with a little help from famed clinician Dr. Seuss and a few surfers from California we can begin to understand the nature of sexual adventure in a broader sense. First, from his classic tome, Oh, the Places You'll Go!, the good doctor weighs in,
“I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that
Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.”
The meaning is obvious: Seeking out adventure in unusual or exciting activity normally requires us to face potential hazards. First of all, we're trying to face the hazard of fears of what might happen if we do anything different, what some call our "hang ups." But, hold on: Don't we also risk "bang-ups?" Of course, terrible things might happen. Resolving the extreme potential of a good day of surfing with the risk of sometimes scary surf conditions, West Coast surfers have been known to cite the adage, "No wave, no ride."
So, we must face both the possibility of things potentially going wrong with the knowledge that lifelong boredom is simply not an option. We want our sexual intimacy to be adventurous, to take us places we've never been, seeing things we've never seen—including seeing the invisible parts of our inner selves. We begin the first steps of the journey as described by the good doctor:
“Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”
"But," says our frightened inner self, "Do I have to?" The easy answer is, "Of course not." You are the captain of your sexuality, the decider of your sexual fate. But, is there really so much to be afraid of? And where would I start?
Imagine your partner (or yourself) sharing a previously undisclosed sexual thought, fear, memory, fantasy, or desire. Can you feel your adventure juices start to flow just at the very thought of this? We are stepping into the unknown. Our partner is risking that we might judge them or prove unsympathetic or even dismissive and bored by their fearsome attempt at letting us know them more deeply. Perhaps their sharing amounts to no more than putting a pinkie toe into the surf (looking for that ride, right?). But it’s a start.
And here's how you respond. In facing even a small effort at disclosure from my partner who's stepping into the unknown territory of this disclosure, I have to pay attention. I have to listen. Then breathe. Then smile. "Thank you for sharing that." You can then draw close for a hug or even make a disclosure of your own at a similar level of risk.
But what if we want a lot more adventure, more disclosure, more safe sharing of our sexual selves than our partner can tolerate? It's true that for some of us, the lack of adventure will create significant problems, including possible loss of the relationship. This is true because someone who doesn't want to treat our bedroom as a “playground for grownups” really doesn't want to know me in this way, creating the potential for a lifetime of profound loneliness. But we should all remember that patience and consistency can make a big difference here, so try those as you continue to share your sexual truth.
Seuss, Dr. Oh, the Places You'll Go! Penguin Random House LLC., 1990.