Casual, Committed or Conscious Sex

I am a somatic experiential erotic educator with a busy practice in Vancouver, and from time to time I will contribute articles to Sexlife Canada on topics inspired by my work.

A recent email conversation with a friend of mine got me thinking about the differences between Casual, Conscious and Committed sex and how to get more good sex in general.

My friend is a woman who is beautiful, smart, unattached and very busy as a full time grad student. Here’s what she wrote:

How can a lovely lady like myself find someone to play with? I know, it should be easy, but really it's not. I'm very busy, and I don't have the time to go out cruising. And I don't really like doing that either, so I signed up on an online dating site, but I'm really inept at this. I mean there are lots of guys on there I'd consider hanging out with, but I think I'm being shy! I check all the guys out, but then jam at making contact. Should I try the following:

1. Contact ten guys and set up dates. This feels like an obvious one.
2. Actually say on my profile I am interested in casual sex. This seems risky, but it is in fact true. Bad idea?
3. Consider other ways of meeting people. Perhaps you could suggest a few? Are there other sites I should look at?

There's also a lot of things I'd like to experiment with now that I am single again, like a threesome and group sex, but I don't know where to begin. Other than emailing you. :)

Its weird because I know I'm a pretty sexual person but I am holding back for some reason. I think it's the personal safety issue, which is important but there must be a way for me to safely get what I need. So your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s what I wrote back:

I sympathize. Dating is hard. Online dating is a huge investment in courage and energy. Here's my quick advice. Be honest about wanting casual sex on your profile - it's ok to own your sexual desire - you are a pioneer in that regard. When arranging the first date just be clear that sex is the goal but you want to check if you are compatible with the other person first by having a conversation. Be clear about what you want and don't want, referenced on your own embodied yearnings rather than what you think might please someone else, and what you need to feel safe. Communicate that up front to any potential "play partners" and see how they respond and use that as a guide on whether to take the next step into being physically intimate. I'd recommend for a first physical date getting starting with something like a massage exchange and see how that goes before moving to other activities on future dates.

In a further email, after second thoughts, I wrote:

I don't think you are looking for casual sex but rather conscious sex with all the nourishment it has to offer without the draining emotional entanglements that traditionally come with "committed sex". That reframe might help. There are others who want that as well.

The more I think about it the more I just don’t like the term casual sex. I don’t think anything as powerful and mysterious as sex, something that makes people so vulnerable and touches them so deeply, can ever truly be casual. I also think the implicit meaning of “casual sex” is that it’s somehow not as worthy as “committed sex”. In my opinion we need to drop the tired old idea that in order for sex to be good and satisfying there has to be Love/Commitment/Emotional Attachment involved.

So I’d like to use the term Conscious Sex instead and explain what I mean and how to get it.

For sex to be Conscious and good (and often awesome) there needs to be Consent, Pleasure and care given toward the Well Being of all parties involved – these are the three pillars of what’s called sex-positive culture. Notice how Love and Exclusivity are not in there. There are lots of nourishing aspects to sex like playfulness, novelty, healing, intimacy, and general hot goodness that don’t require emotional entanglement (or somebody crashing on your couch and eating all the food in your fridge). Yes being in a loving committed relationship is great too. But sometimes, like in my friend’s case, life is just too busy and complicated for that.

Of course there is always the option of hiring a professional.

So if you think that Conscious Sex is what you want here’s my step by step plan to get more of it. I’m expanding on the quick advice I gave my friend:

1. Own your sexual desire. Here is something that might help. Sexual desire – or call it Eros – is actually the mysterious and powerful creative force of the universe moving through your mortal coil. It’s Good. Don’t listen to those nasty voices in your head trying to tell you otherwise. They’re just 1000 years of prudish-shaming-religious-fear-mongering crapola.

2. Get specific about your sexual desires. Can you imagine timidly whispering, “Umm you know I want umm sex.” That just won’t get you what you want. You have to declare it and know what sort of sex you want based on your own desires! Here’s a tool to help you figure that out - a Want Will or Won’t checklist. (Courtesy of Becca at Her whole site, which is awesome, is full of fresh sex education advice. Go check it out.) WWW checklists contain, in chart form, many different possible sex acts which you can mark Want! Will… or Won’t. Using this list will help you get specific on your desires and also where your desires intersect with a potential play partner’s desires. That’s where the Consent, Pleasure and Well Being of Conscious Sex happens!

3. Get clear about your non-sexual needs. These could include needs for safety. Or needs around how much time you want to commit. Or needs for privacy. Or needs for not having to deal with other stuff unrelated to sex. Or needs about personal autonomy. It’s good to be clear about this up front.

4. Put yourself out there. Now that you’re clear about what your desires and needs are, you can communicate them confidently to the world through dating websites or personally. Checking out sex positive workshops and communities is a good route to try too. Or just be old fashioned and go out in the world, be your unabashed sex positive self and try to pick up (bring supportive friends with you).

5. Make first contact. Talk about sex and see how it goes. But while doing so pay attention to other things. Do you find them attractive? Do you like the way they smell? Do their desires intersect with your own? Does communication with them flow easily or is it an effort? Use this information to guide you as whether or not to take the next step – having a play date.

6. Make a play date and try out some of the less intimate Want! activities on your list. Personally I’m a big fan of a massage exchange to check out someone’s communication and touch skills. If there is a nice flow of erotic energy there then you can move on to more intimate activities on your Want! List, if not, move on. Hey you’re doing it. You’re having Conscious Sex.

7. Repeat from step 1. The nice thing about this process is that you’ll learn new things about yourself and about sex as you do it. The first few times through the steps may be challenging. You are learning new skills. Give yourself a break and don’t worry about getting it right. You’ll get better at it.

So that’s it. Go out and get the Conscious Sex you crave. Send me reports.