Erotic Rest and Warm Sex

Queer comedian Hannah Gadsby famously said, “I identify as…tired“.

How many of us are exhausted? Experiencing fatigue? Living with health conditions that affect cognitive and physical energy levels and limit ‘spoons’?

Check-ins at sharing circles I hold invariably feature the words tired, knackered or ‘not even sure I can do the whole of this call’. In relation to the pandemic, there has been a sense of profound exhaustion from handling the uncertainty, grief, fear, isolation, and processing its enormity.

I am definitely someone who struggles to manage and maintain energy levels due to a range of physical, neurological and emotional reasons. So, I am with you there.

Sex: Pressures and Expectations

Then, there’s sex. Sex in our culture. The pressures and expectations about what counts as sex end up being internalised by us. These become our goals even if we’re not aware of them.

Swinging from the chandeliers’ is one term which means passionate and energetic sex. The average porn film depicts hard, fast penetrative sex. These films show a lot of sensations moving through the participants’ bodies and enthusiastic vocal expressions.

Mainstream films show hard passion, people in action and motion, and they sure are using and generating a lot of energy! Vigorous genital stimulation, arousal and orgasm are usually a part of escalator sex, all of which require a lot of energy. A lot of kink activity as it appears in a collective imagination can look particularly demanding for all parties involved. What with dressing up, prepping equipment and the potent energies of strong sensation and embodied power dynamics.

When we are low in energy, these expectations coming from ourselves or a partner can feel really intimidating and out of reach. This is especially likely to be the case in a longer-term relationship, where you share caring and domestic responsibilities, or where there one or more people are experiencing chronic health conditions. Stress, trauma, ageing, menopause and a multitude of other common situations can contribute to feeling ‘shut out’ of the kind of sex we imagine everyone else is having, or that we used to have.

Have you ever struggled internally or in a relationship because there simply is not the energy for high octane sex and kink activities? Have you ever gone into anxiety, despair or feeling inadequate because you just don’t have a high energy ‘performance’ in you? Have you wound up having sleepy, but not very present and exhausted sex for the sake of it, or because it’s what you think your partner wants?

How Do I Support My Clients?

Sometimes, I might support a client to explore how they can carve out time and energy for sex, how to use breath, movement and stimulating self-touch to up-regulate the nervous system (wake up, enliven, become more alert). Sometimes I might suggest they work on asking for what they want (because sometimes the thing that is on offer is not what is wanted and that will not help us wake up and be present for it). It can work small miracles sometimes to get empowered to influence our intimate lives in a direction that excites and motivates us!

Sometimes we might explore the asexual spectrum and what sex means to them. In this case, there might be some permission-giving to not have sex, and to self-care through rest and sleep instead if that is what’s needed.

Recently, I had an experience that made me think of how we can blend resting with erotic awareness. While feeling sleepy with an erotic peer who was also sleepy, I experienced what I would call ‘erotic rest’.

I Googled this term, and all I found was a smooth jazz mix on Spotify!

What Do I Mean by Erotic Rest?

I mean something like this; the experience of resting (solo or partnered) that has a consensual erotic intention and content, such as urges, desires, fantasies, daydreams, sensations in the body, sensory input and movement of energy.

You intend to allow your body and perception to be fully present to everything, a heartbeat, the breathing of your partner, your pulsating genitals and rising desire and tension. Some of the erotic ‘trip’ might be shared verbally with your partner. You are choosing not to act on the urges, desires, fantasies, and being curious about what then happens. You might breathe deeply through the experience, which can be quite powerful. There might be a lot of sighs and a sense of letting go.

It could include being in the same space, holding hands or touching, or could be a close tight bear-hug. You and your partner might be dressed or naked. You’re likely to have your eyes closed and to be dropping into sighs, having a heavy warm body, and any movement you do will be restful, slow and gentle. The resting together is a dance between two bodies, just like any other form of erotic relating with another person.

Maybe resting makes us notice the presence of erotic sensations, energy or pleasurable awareness. This awareness is something that is always there but that we don’t tune into when we’re rushing around and living in our heads.

Who Can We Practice Erotic Rest With?

Firstly, with ourselves. After a recent erotic exchange with someone online, I spent some time late at night in solo rest, completely absorbed in fantasies, daydreams and embodied sensations. I was at the border of sleep, stroking my body, a smile on my face, resting deliberately in this feeling.

Just now, taking a break from writing, I closed my eyes and yawned, which is restful and down-regulating to the nervous system. I just felt into my body and all the sensations and awareness that are there. I squeezed my pelvic floor and I felt what it was like to feel erotic (which, it could be said, is a creative, expressive life force).

Secondly, we can practice with someone else — a partner, erotic peer or friend.

There needs to be some harmony between you and the person you are sharing erotic rest with. Also, it’s not going to work if they are expecting a hook-up experience with escalating sexual acts. Equally, a cuddle with a peer who is seeking a platonic place to rest when you really fancy them and are feeling and entertaining the erotic is not really consensual and might feel ‘off’ to both people.

So, this shared bandwidth may be magically present between you (perhaps you both read this article and have started cultivating this practice), but otherwise you’re going to need to communicate. The two of you are almost agreeing you’re going to rest and practice erotic mindfulness together. That IS the practice. It is not ‘foreplay’. You get to decide whether it leads to sex or not.

Maybe you can offer your very tired person an experience of deep erotic rest, holding them or placing your bodies close. This can be full of nurturing power and could also be part of a kink dynamic, a nurturing dominant and a sleepy submissive, for example. There’s no reason why the daydreams and fantasies can’t be a kinky flavour during your erotic rest.

To me, the prospect of erotic rest is extremely nourishing to me. It is also an accessible form of sex and connection.

Warm Sex

The Sexological Bodywork curriculum features the concept of Warm Sex (as opposed to Hot Sex that our culture has given us). Warm sex is the slower, gentler, ebbing and flowing sex that maybe lasts all afternoon and has no particular goal. It does not escalate in a linear, goal-orientated way, but can be playful, unfolding and curious with tea breaks!

I see this as related and integral to Erotic Rest. It offers us a view of our body as a vast erotic playground as opposed to a machine that is either functioning or not, cooperating with what we ‘should’ be doing or not, and that can be ‘fixed’.

You are a sexual human BEING, not a sexual human DOING!

If we can embrace contented, sleepy, restorative erotic rest, we’re accepting we are mammals with human-animal needs and rhythms. We can give ourselves permission to be sexual introverts, not always having to externalise our sexuality and explode pleasure outwards. We can cultivate it within us and between us and others.

This is another form of queer intimacy that my body says a big yes to!

How about yours? Whatever kind of rest and pleasure your body is looking for, I wish that you’ll find it!

Beck.

beck thom

Further Reading

Here are some resources about rest (and pleasure) as an act of radical resistance to structural systems of oppression such as racism and capitalism…

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