I had a wonderful question posed to me before a coaching consult call last week—she asked me to explain the circles of sexuality I had mentioned previously to her so that she could use it as a framework to focus attention to strengthen her sexuality.
I flipped out with excitement.
This is EXACTLY what we should all be doing. A pro-active, introspective looking into our sexuality.
This framework is still something that I’m configuring and reconfiguring for my upcoming book but the premise hasn’t wavered. I have created a sex education program that we all SHOULD have been given growing up and that we should take now to enrich our lives and futures . We should also use it to help us provide the modeling we want provide for our kids and future generations.
I want to give you a further peak into it.
I spend a lot of time educating people that examining sexuality is WORTHY of this self-help time. When what I really want to say is it is CRUCIAL. Please, please do this. I start, however, with the most common question.
Why? Because you are reading this with one of three mindsets right now—1) you’ve already experienced a crisis or awakening that demands that you take a deeper look into this aspect of yourself (an affair, a deadening, a health crisis, a relationship disaster, etc…)and know there has to be a different or better way 2)you have a feeling deep down inside that there is something more, a better way of living in the world and deeper way to connect with others but life is busy and finances are tight and you just aren’t sure sex and sexuality is worth the time and expense but it seems to pop up nonetheless 3) you already know that sexuality is an important part of your life that could benefit you if you improve it but you just don’t know where to look for help or how to make it happen.
But you know. . .
Our culture right now spends more time looking away from each other than looking into each other. We are more focused on Facebook feeds and Netflix binging rather than cultivating deep meaningful relationships with others and ourselves. Not all the time, but more than we should. We know this. But we want to escape. We are tired from the stress of life. We have lost ourselves and have grown a distorted view of pleasure. We bounce from overindulgence to deprivation. And we feel guilt, regret and resentment.
We’ve lost touch with the essence of who we are. But the void calls to us. So we try to fill it. Or avoid it. Or cover it. And sometimes we bow to it and yearn for something to relieve us from this pain. This emptiness. But where do we turn? How do we change it? We don’t know where to get help or how to address this void so when the immediate crisis or emotion dissipates, we carry on-business as usual.
Until the next time.
I know there is another way. I know it. I’ve lived it personally. I’ve taught it to many. I’ve witnessed it. But it can be a hard sell to explain to others that I’m not saying that improving your sex life with fun sex tips is what is going to change your life and your happiness (okay maybe for a few hours), I’m saying that diving into the fascinating and complicated and meaningful world of YOUR SEXUALITY in the holistic sense is a game changer.
Not maybe. Not could be. IS.
I’ve had people say ‘Oh, you mean you teach people about spirituality.” No. or “I get it, you are doing self help work and just use sex and sexuality as the grounding for it. Sex sells, right?” Nope.
Sexuality is the core of who we are. Sexuality informs every piece of us and every piece of us influences our sexuality. Sexuality is the foundation of who we are, how we show up in the world and how we connect with others.
It is the great equalizer. The great creative life force. And one of the most powerful renewable energy sources available to us. It creates us. It sustains us. And it enriches us.
Yet we ignore it. We shame it. We avoid it. We exploit it.
Our sexuality is powerful but it is also fragile, impressionable and reactive. We have access to this amazing energy within us yet we don’t understand it, don’t learn about it and frankly, don’t realize why we should. Most of us don’t understand what strengthening our sexuality can do for us.
We all want to be seen, heard, wanted, understood and loved. All of us. Having a deep understanding of your sexuality and having the skills to communicate this understanding to others is a pivotal component to achieve these core desires.
How? Because sexuality is our core essence, when we examine it, when we reflect upon it, when we strengthen it, we bring ourselves to a deeper level of authenticity of who we are. When we connect with our true essence, we show up in the world differently, we connect with others differently and we experience the world differently.
What is the difference?
It is truth. Our truth. Of who we are. What we want. Who we need and we give ourselves the gift of truly being and feeling seen, heard, wanted, understood and loved. FOR WHO WE REALLY ARE. And because we show up authentically, we can receive and accept being seen, heard, wanted, understood and loved to a level never experienced before. The ripple effects of both the showing up (giving) and the receiving is enormous.
So how does this take us back to the sexuality education I am teaching? We all know we weren’t given the sex education we should have been given. If we received anything at all it was fear based and focused on preventing pregnancy, STI’s, sexual activity all together and as we got older we started learning Cosmo-type sex tips.
It wasn’t enough. Not even close.
We need to understand:
• Holistic sexuality education is far more beneficial to us individually and collectively than fear based “education”.
• Sexuality is the final frontier of self help that needs to be discovered and the time is now to begin this exploration.
• Learning more about your sexuality means that you will be showing up in the world as YOU ARE-authentically.
• Showing up in the world and connecting with other authentically will help you to be seen, to be heard, to be wanted and to loved AS YOU ARE which is so much more of a fulfilling way to experience the world.
• The skills you learn while examining sexuality can be transferred to any area of your life and the ripple effects are immeasurable.
• Sexuality needs to be broken down into categories that provide a framework to begin a purposeful examination.
I often have people come to me when they are in a transition in their life-a recent divorce, completed menopause, facing past sexual trauma for the first time, becoming a new mother, just started to become active sexually, in the throws of an affair. There are some things that happen in life that directly point us to our sexuality.
But that isn’t the only time to start the journey of focusing on your sexuality. This framework is a perfect springboard in teenage years or when you are raising a teenager. It is perfect when you feel a yearning to make your life better. Examining your sexuality when you are wanting to kick up the creative part of your personality. When you feel lost, when you feel exhausted, when you feel dead inside, when you think other people are happier than you are, when you feel trapped in your life, and the list goes on and on. The list also includes when things feel good in your life and you just want to know more about this.
It is never too late. Never. Sexuality moves with us through our lifespan and it changes as we change. My framework is designed to give you the holistic concept to use as a starting point and then I give you purposeful exercises and reflections to guide you to learn the skills to improve the areas that need improvement, to enhance aspects that could shine brighter and to celebrate that which is going well.
In a previous article, I wrote about the 5 Circles of Sexuality constructed in 1981 by Dr. Dennis Dailey in my examination of sexuality from more of an academic lens. I think his circles were a brilliant beginning but with most things 30 years old, it needs updating and expansion. I’ve been working on a framework of sexuality and want to share it with you.
I am going to explain the original circles, explain my updated version and walk you through how to incorporate them into your own life.
The Original 5:
These 5 circles are a well established and uniformly acknowledged by sex educators and therapists. There are slight variations but overall these are the generally accepted view of the 5. Below is a mixture of paraphrasing and direct quotes from a variety of sources about the Originals.
Awareness, acceptance of and comfort with one’s own body; physiological enjoyment of one’s own body and the bodies of other. Sensuality allows us to enjoy the pleasure our bodies can feel and can share with others. It allows us to feed good about our bodies-how it looks, how it feels and how it functions.
Skin hunger, aural/visual stimuli, sexual response cycle, body image, fantasy
RELATIONSHIP AND INTIMACY
The ability and need to experience emotional closeness to another human and have it returned and accept this closeness from another.
Caring, sharing, loving/liking, emotional risk taking, vulnerability, self-disclosure, trust
The development of a sense of who one is sexuality, including a sense of maleness and femaleness.
Biological Gender (how a body designates gender through hormones, external and internal organs), gender identity (a person’s internal sense of being a man or a woman), gender expression (how one’s characteristics and behaviors conform to or transgress gender norms and roles of femininity and masculinity) gender role, sexual orientation (a person’s sexual and love attraction to the same gender, different gender or multiple genders).
SEXUAL HEALTH AND REPRODUCTION
One’s capacity to reproduce and the behaviors and attitudes that support sexual health and enjoyment. This includes factual information and sexual anatomy, sexual intercourse and different sex acts, reproduction, contraception, STI prevention, and self-care among others.
Attitudes and behaviors related to producing children, care and maintenance of the sex and reproductive organs, and health consequences of sexual behavior.
Sexual behavior, anatomy and physiology, sexual/reproductive system, contraception/abortion/STI’s
The use of sexuality to influence, control or manipulate others.
Flirting, media messages/images, seduction, withholding sex, sexual harassment incest, rape, sexual trauma
VALUES—tie them all together. What we value holds together all of the circles and all of the circles make up our values.
(some newer version exclude ‘Sexualization’ and include ‘Sexual behaviors and practices’. I believe the model should include both separately. )
SEXUAL BEHAVIORS AND PRACTICES
This is the aspect of sexuality where we are most accustom to receiving information currently in ‘adult education’ and pop culture.
Questions to consider:
What do you do with which body parts, items, and/or partner(s)?
What are your sexual boundaries? What are your sexual interests? Fetishes? What have you done but don’t want to do again, have done and want to do again, have not tried but would like to, have not tried and never intend to. What is your relationship with fantasy? How active is your fantasy life? How does your fantasy life inform your sexuality?
The sexual desire and libido you experience internally and express externally.
Questions to consider:
How do you conceptualize your sexual emotional, spiritual and physical urges? How do you express this sexual energy?
How you define desire? What is your relationship with desire? How does your desire connect with sexual partners? What are the impediments to your desire? How you express desire in your mind, body and soul?
LOVE and CONNECTION
Love and connection are a root need of human beings and a large motivator within our sexuality. There are many types of love: Romantic love (who do you fall in love with) , self love (how do you love yourself emotionally and sexually), spiritual love, family love, global love.
Questions to consider:
How do you express love? How do you receive love? How do you define love? What are your love priorities? As humans, one of our meanings of life is to connect. With others, with our purpose, within ourselves, with a power higher than ourselves. What is your relationship with connection? How do you experience connection? How you do you seek connection?
We have grown a distorted view of pleasure inside and outside the bedroom. Pleasure requires you to be in the moment, to feel the joy in the now and to use your senses in order to fully experience your surroundings throughout your body, mind and soul.
Questions to consider:
What is your relationship with pleasure? How do you invite pleasure into your life? Pleasure inside and outside the bedroom. How active is your self love/masturbation practice? How satisfying is your pleasure life? What senses activate pleasure most for you? Least? What brings you joy? Bliss? How does your body respond as you experience arousal in the excitation cycle? Do you focus on pleasure or orgasm? Do you experience pleasure without orgasm? Do you feel a variety of orgasm intensity?
At the foundation of all sexuality is sexual agency. It is the end and beginning.
Sexual agency is your ability to know you have a say in all areas of your sexuality, your ability to discern decisions within your sexuality and your skills that enable you to react and act in a healthy way to all of the intended and unintended consequences of all aspects of your sexuality.
Power is also relevant within sexual agency. Power within sexual relations. Gender power. Power within, derived from a sense of self-worth and understanding of one’s preferences and values, which enable a person to realize sexual well-being and health. Power to influence, consent, and/or decline. Power with others to negotiate and decide. Power over others; using sex to manipulate, control or harm other people.
WHAT TO DO WITH THIS NOW
Our sexuality is complex, fluid and ever changing. It informs us about ourselves and influences every aspect of our life. It is supposed to be like this. It is such a positive thing that our sexuality grows with us. This growth at times causes conflict and forces ‘growth opportunities’ but it also provides places to shine and blossom.
Use this framework to begin the examination of your sexuality. What sections stand out to you as a place where you need work? Are feel great about? Never thought of? Don’t understand? Think about the questions I pose. Ask more questions. Ask people in your life the questions.
Come back to this framework over and over. See how your answers and interests change day to day, year to year. What are your biggest influencers (relationship, age, spiritual, self? )? What is holding you back?
I have much more that I do with these categories in my work but I want to give this to you and get your wheels started about a holistic view of sexuality.
Read this and ask me questions. I LOVE talking about this, love explaining it and enjoy all questions that arise from looking at sexuality from this lens.