The Joy of Mindful, Asynchronous Sex

One-way pleasuring can help cultivating a mindful focus & enhance partnered sex

Posted Jun 24, 2015

In response to my prior blog, in which I attempted to start a linguistic sexual revolution (or at least bring the too often unnamed clitoris into public consciousness), one male reader wrote:

It is a shame that the "Love Button" does not get "attention" or is nameless! It is so unique, beautiful and feminine, yet most men are oblivious to its anatomical structure and how to stimulate it externally and internally. Every man should find some quiet "unselfish" time with his lover and explore her clitoris. Have her lay back and close her eyes, slowly explore and observe. Listen to her breathing, watch her chest rise with each deep breath. Hear her moans and watch her wriggle. I try to do this with my wife every Sunday morning and it is a loving and giving experience that pays huge dividends!!

When I wrote back, telling this man that he is a “role model,” he replied further, asking, “How can a man be in love with a woman, sexually intimate with her and not explore the most sensual part of her body?” He further explained that “It is almost always an asynchronous experience and I am totally fine with that.

This reader’s endorsement of what he describes as “asynchronous” sex is consistent with a common suggestion of therapists working with clients struggling with anxiety-induced sexual problems—and that is to engage in “non-demand erotic pleasuring.” In my book for women struggling with low sexual desire (A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex), I call this “playtime” and explain that:

….the idea is to take turns playing with one another’s bodies….during playtime, one partner pleases the other, with the partner being pleased under no obligation to reciprocate or to reach orgasm. It is this lack of pressure for intercourse and orgasm, as well as the non-mutuality, that makes this so effective. The giver can learn what it feels like to give pleasure and the receiver can fully relax and revel in his or her own pleasure without worrying if it is time to do something for his or her partner or if she is expected to orgasm soon.”

Such playtime can come in several varieties. For example, one partner could simply pleasure the other, and receive nothing (but the joy of pleasuring their partner) in return. Or, a couple could take turns pleasuring one another in the same love-making session. In other words, a couple could take turns being the giver and receiver of pleasure.

Women having sex with women are already aware of this turn-taking model for sexual encounters. In lesbian relationships, the partners generally take turns pleasuring one another—with a great deal of this turn-taking focused on clitoral stimulation (e.g., manual stimulation, oral sex). Give this prolonged, “one-sided” stimulation of a woman’s key sexual organ, it is no surprise that women reach orgasm much more frequently in same-sex sexual encounters than in heterosexual sexual encounters. Several writers, including those for the Daily Mail and Men’s Health, suggest that heterosexual couples take a lesson from lesbian couples and engage in more focused time spent on clitoral stimulation as a sexual activity in and of itself, rather than only as a prelude to intercourse.

I am certainly not suggesting that heterosexual couples forgo intercourse. After all, this is the way that most heterosexual men reach orgasm. It is also often a very enjoyable and erotic activity for women--although as described in a prior blog, not a sexual activity that often results in orgasms for women in-and-of-itself. For female-centric orgasms, I am simply suggesting that heterosexual couples give clitoral stimulation the focus it deserves. This could mean prolonged oral and/or manual clitoral stimulation (even to orgasm) before intercourse (which certainly does not preclude continued stimulation during and/or after intercourse). Or, as my reader suggested, clitoral stimulation could be an asynchronous sexual activity in and of itself.

During such clitoral-focused asynchronous sexual activity, the receiver can immerse herself in the sensations with no pressure to perform. She can focus on her sensations without her mind wandering to concerns about taking too long, if it is time to do something for her partner, and/or if it is time to move to intercourse. In other words, during asynchronous sex, the receiver can connect her body and mind in space and time—or in other words, she can cultivate the mindful focus that has been shown to increase orgasmic capacity. As explained in a prior blog, mindfulness can put an end to "spectatoring" during sexual encounters; you can't be in your head and immersed in pleasurable body sensations at the same time. As so aptly stated by Rachel Weinstein, being mindful during sex means actually being in one’s body during sex.

This is easier than it sounds. Becoming mindful during life—and especially during sex—takes practice. It’s difficult to turn off one’s busy and often self-critical brain during sexual encounters.  To learn this key mental stance, I generally suggest to clients that they first cultivate a mindful focus during their daily activities and then transfer this to sexual activities. A wonderful first place to start is during solo masturbation. A key second place to apply this mindful focus is during asynchronous sexual activities—whether as the giver or the receiver. Learning to be mindful during asynchronous sexual encounters can then transfer to synchronous (more two-way, give-and-take) sexual encounters. One of the greatest sexual ironies is that the best partnered sexual encounters occurs when both partners are totally immersed in their own pleasurable sensations. Besides being fun in-and-of-itself, asynchronous sex can help cultivate this mindful focus. Now there’s a dividend.

Note: For asynchronous stimulation of a woman's clitoris, there are great tips to be found in this brief video and article from men's health featuring sex expert Debby Herbeneck.