(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Pleasure

Several years ago I served on the Task Force on Human Sexuality of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  During that time I hear someone say there were two basic Christian attitudes towards sex.

—   “Sex is filthy and disgusting, and you should save it for the one you love.”

—    Sex is God’s great gift to humankind–but we shouldn’t talk about it or notice that it feels good.”

We grow up in a culture that has been heavily influenced by the Puritans who founded our nation. These were men and women who were thrown out of Europe because they were moralistic troublemakers!  Puritanism remains with us, even if in contemporary America it goes by other names.

This cultural bias comes from confusing pleasure with hedonism.  We fear that if we value pleasure for its own sake, we will lose our capacity for intimacy, become degenerates and generally go to hell, literally or figuratively.

The gay community shares our common cultural heritage.  As a community which has defined itself as much by what we do as by who we are, a certain amount of our behavior has been shaped in reaction to our Puritanical roots. We are not prisoners of your tired, old morality, we shout!  We are proud, we have style, and we are sexy as hell!  We imagine ourselves enlightened and freed from the anti-sexual ties that bind.

Despite what we might think, it’s rarely so easy for us to escape our culture.  We carry old assumptions that are with us still.  We carry them with us to our circuit parties, our bedrooms and every place else.  Sometimes we hear those voices clearly, feeding our internalized homophobia.  Other times they are more subtle.  We find sex less fulfilling than we think it should be.  Maybe we can’t put our finger on it, but there is something that keeps us from claiming our birthright.

As Gay folk, our love making is not procreative in the traditional sense.  If your partner is someone of the same gender, lovemaking and parenthood are generally separated.  Our sexuality is useful growing in intimacy with one another and for cultivating delight and pleasure in our lives. At our best, there is a message for the world in our lovemaking.

Ever notice how men tend to be very “goal-oriented?”  That’s true in a life in general, and it’s also true about sex.  And what are the goals of most male sexuality?  Erection, orgasm and ejaculation.  In fact, the urge toward these goals is so powerful that they replace pleasure itself.  Sex becomes something to accomplish – even a chore, at worst.

And all too often, lovemaking becomes routine and predictable and becomes….boring. Can you recall the last time you were having sex and were not aware whether or not you had an erection?  Probably not.  Erections take on a mystical quality in man-sex.

Depending on which survey you believe, the average length of heterosexual intercourse is 3-10 minutes.  No one has surveyed Gay men, but I bet the data would be more similar than different.  “Getting it done” that quickly makes sense if sex is something to accomplish.  If your intention instead is to cultivate intimacy with your partner and a deeper sense of pleasure, 10 minutes isn’t long.

Focusing on a goal can create a sense of stress rather than delight.  And for all the apparent potency of phallic stuff like sports cars and office towers, erections are fragile things that disappear quite easily.

Let me make a few suggestions for cultivating more erotic pleasure in your life.

  1. Put the sense of “playing with yourself” back in masturbation.  Take a deep breath.  Slow down.  Focus on the subtler sensations that last longer than most orgasms.  Feel your skin.  Stroke your face.  If you usually don’t use lubrication, try using some.  If you already use it, try warming the lotion or oil or gel before you apply it.  Experiment with different lubricants.  Try corn starch, for instance – good for lighter touch.  If you use visual or written erotic material to “stoke your fire,” don’t let them distract you from the contact with your own body.
  2. The next time you are sexually intimate with a partner, again take a deep breath (or several) and slow down.  Look into his eyes.  Let your face relax.  When you touch your partner, do so slowly and in a way that drinks in the mystery of his body.  Vary your touch – light touch as well as firmer.  Surprise him a little.  Surprise yourself!
  3. Sometimes we are more comfortable giving than receiving.  We are “human doings” rather than “human beings.”  Practice being.  Let yourself receive.  Make sounds.  If something feels good, let your partner know.  Share your delight and watch it multiply.
  4. Let go of goals like having an erection or ejaculating.  Erections are only necessary if you are doing penetration sex.  Flaccid penises have a beauty all their own.  Let yourself just enjoy what you are experiencing in the moment.  Relax.
  5. Communication is an important part of good sex. Be gentle, positive and supportive in asking for what you want.  And purr when you get it.  If you want to try something a little different with your partner, talk with him first, and away from the bedroom (or wherever else you intend to get intimate!)

I have a friend whose evening prayer is to thank God for putting all of the nerve endings in just the right places.  I like that.  Here’s to a lifetime of exploring your nerve endings!

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.