Exploring Your Turn Ons: Dimensions of Sex and Core Desires
The sexual mind is complex. Influenced by early childhood experience, struggles, trauma, social norms (and taboos), and present day emotions, what turns each of us on is unique and nuanced. Opening up dialogue with yourself and your lover(s) about your desires and preferences is a window into each of your depth and a pathway to more pleasure, self-love, self-expression and secure attachment.
Here are two common areas where lovers can differ, which when unacknowledged can not only dull arousal and pleasure, leading to low desire, but can be sources of disconnection, hurt and even shame.
- The 3 Dimensions of Sex - Sex researcher Donald Mosher offers three primary psychological dimensions that we enter during sex: Partner Engagement, Sexual Trance and Role Play (Mosher’s termonology adpated by Celeste and Danielle, co-founders of Somatica® Institute). When you’re in one dimension and your partner is in another, sex can feel disjointed, clunky and unsatisfying, and you might not be able to put your finger on why.
Partner Engagement is the dimension of sex we see represented in mainstream media: eye contact, romantic and passionate touch, loving words. People who like to play in this dimension get most aroused from being in connection with their partner.
Sexual Trance is when we go inward during sex. It is a highly embodied, energetic and for some even spiritual experience. In trance, the eyes are generally closed and the focus is on sensation and your own inner experience. When one person tends toward trance and the other likes eye contact and romantic words, the latter individual may feel slighted, maybe ever used, when in reality the trance partner is just connecting in a different way.
Role Play is when we take on different personas, maybe even wearing costumes, or play out our socially expected roles, such as gender roles. Sex is play for adults, role play is a wonderful way to get into the energy of play, and on a deeper level reclaim your sexual shadow.
As you can see, there is value in playing in each of these dimensions, and flowing between them, but most people have one or two that they find most arousing. Which do you tend toward? What about your partner(s)? Have you tried all three?
- Core Desires - These are the top 2 or more feelings you want sex (and the buildup which is 90% of the game!) to elicit. Often unacknowledged and complex, your core desires are informing who you find most attractive and what experiences (settings, types of touch, words, outfits, roles, etc) you find most arousing, orgasmic and emotionally satisfying.
Start to explore your core desires by visualizing your hottest sexual experience or fantasy. You can also reflect on details of porn or erotica that you like best. What was the hottest thing about the experience/fantasy - the thing that made you wet and orgasm in an instant? What were the feelings that you had? Did you feel: desired, powerful, exposed, naughty, dirty, precious, eternally connected, needed, worshiped, free, in union, submissive, goddess-like, dissolved, deeply present, dominant…? Something else?
Don’t expect to have your core desires figured out overnight, but do start to pay closer attention. Remember, whether they are conscious or not, your core desires are working for you!
Knowing your partner’s favorite dimensions of sex and core desires can take sex and your relationship to a whole new level. But exploring and peeling back the shame on your own turn ons is where it all begins. As you explore these for yourself, and later with your partner(s), remember that there is no right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, so long as the experience is within everyone’s boundaries.*
When you get curious about and appreciate the intricacies of your and your partners’ turn ons, you create space for both/all of you to be more fully yourselves, not only in the relationship, but out in the world too.
By Allie Andrews, Somatica® trained Sex, Relationship and Intimacy Coach
Photo Credit: @bensasso
*If you tend toward people pleasing and sometimes find yourself enduring sex that doesn’t feel good for you, read my article on embodied boundaries. As you explore with someone, it’s important to have your boundaries in place!
- The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Sexual Passion and Fulfillment by Jack Morin, PhD
- Coming Together: Embracing Your Core Desires for Sexual Fulfillment and Long-Term Compatibility by Danielle Harel PhD and Celeste Hirschman MA