Receiving Pleasure is a Practice: Two Techniques to Help
Trigger Warning: Information about trauma and healing
If you are like many people, receiving and feeling pleasure can be really challenging. It may be hard to get out of your head and into your body... for many reasons.
Your ability to receive pleasure can depend on how you feel about your body, how you feel in your relationship, the technique your lover is using, your physical surroundings/setting (are the kids/housemates home?), the intensity of your stress level...the list goes on.
The point is that pleasure is context dependent.
Here’s an example context, let’s say you are relaxed, you trust and are attracted to your partner, your partner is pleasuring you using the technique you love, AND you have the place all to yourselves. Even with all of this, it may still be challenging to actually receive and feel pleasurable sensations in your body. This is completely normal… and there is help. For one, it’s important for you to know that receiving is not passive, you can increase your capacity to receive through skill and choice!
Art by Tina Maria Elena Bak
For the scenario above, here are are two simple and profound techniques that you can choose to try during the moments of intimacy:
SOUND & BREATH.
When you notice yourself getting stuck in your head or disconnected from your body, practice breathing more deeply and making louder sounds.
A common reason that many people have blocks around receiving and feeling pleasure is that they experience overall dissociation from their bodily sensations and their emotions, especially when it comes to sexuality.Dissociation, disconnection and disembodiment can be a result of chronic stress, cultural shame around sexuality, and/or experiences that leave trauma in the body.
Trauma is essentially when emotions get stuck in the body. Think of the fight/flight/freeze stress response; trauma is like when the body goes into the freeze stress response but never quite comes all of the way out. Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of different occurrences, from sexual assault to car traffic to being on the receiving end of sexist or racial slurs. Trauma is the lingering after effects of challenging occurrences rather than the occurrence itself. When the cause of the trauma was a sexual or boundary violation, sex itself can become the stressor and be re-stimulating. In this case, these techniques should especially only be done with someone you really trust and can feel relaxed with.
The reason I emphasize trauma, is that a lot of people have at least a little amount of stuck emotions without realizing it. These stored emotions in the body often block people from receiving and experiencing their full pleasure potential.
Art by Rudd San
The good news is having stuck emotions does not mean you are broken or damaged. These stuck emotions can be freed and healed, and with that, lots and lots of pleasure can be experienced. If you already experience lots of pleasure, more/deeper/different pleasure than you have ever known could become possible for you.
If you are trying these techniques with a partner, let them know what you are doing and why you are doing it so they can support you in the process. If emotions do come up, you could ask your partner to stop and just hold you (or whatever feels right), but try not to attach a story to the emotions as they move through you. Sometimes thoughts can anchor them down or reprint them in your body. Emotions are energy in motion, if you just focus on fully feeling the emotion without attaching thoughts, it can be easier to let the emotion move, be liberated from your body, or even transformed into an energy that actually serves you. It is possible to transform once stuck emotions into an energy that actually empowers you. The key is allowing yourself to feel. It’s okay to cry during sex!
If you are with a partner you feel safe with, emotional release/expression during intimacy can be extremely powerful and healing. If you don't feel safe or empowered in your relationship, read here!
Trauma is definitely not the only thing that blocks people from feeling pleasure. A few other examples would be everyday stressors, shame around sexuality, and lack of bodily awareness/knowledge. Read here to get more knowledge about pleasure and orgasm!
Breath and sound can often help in all of these situations because both of these techniques help you stay in your body and pay attention to the sensations that are happening.
How to use these techniques?
First, try “breathing into” the area of your body that is being stimulated with long, slow, and deep breaths. Practice visualizing the breath “going to” that area of your body, and on each exhale, moan, or make the sound “ahhhhh”. This sound can really help because your mouth is open and your jaw is relaxed, allowing more energy/emotion to move. Don’t try to make moans that you think will sound sexy. Make moans that feel authentic to your body. They may sound like you are dying animal and that’s fine! Authenticity is the definition of sexy.
This breathing and moaning helps bring awareness to the sensation that is happening in your body, and it helps with overall relaxation. It’s hard to receive pleasure if you are stressed out, and it's especially hard if you are not paying attention to the sensations that are happening. That’s why receiving is active. You are actively choosing to bring your awareness through breath and expression to the point of sensation, again and again. As you do this, you may notice that pleasure starts to move throughout your whole body, or beyond the area that is being touched. Allow it to happen and keep breathing and moaning.
If this still feels challenging, which is normal, here is a bonus technique. Use a timer/clock to designate a certain amount of time to practice receiving.
I know this may sound like one of the least sexy things that you could do, but it’s magic. When it comes to receiving, allotting a certain amount of time to practice may be more effective than breathing or moaning because a lot of people feel uncomfortable with taking up space. They worry about the other person having a good time, so they never FULLY receive. Designating a certain amount of time for you to practice receiving can allow you to notice any tendencies of people pleasing and to practice refocusing your attention on pleasurable sensations in your body, again and again.Remember, receiving is an ACTIVE practice. You may notice as soon as you set the timer, your mind might fight it, thinking “I don’t deserve this.” Don’t feed these thoughts by giving them extra attention. Like meditating, observe them coming and going and just keep breathing, moaning and coming back to your body.
Photo of me, Luna Dietrich
To help you relax into the receiving, you can also make the practice an equal exchange offering. For example, you receive for an hour and your partner receives for an hour. Have one date be your time to receive and the next date have it be your time to give rather than back to back. If you feel you must do it back to back, when the timer goes off (say it was for 1 hour), don’t immediately start giving to the other person. You want to let the experience fully sink in. Notice how you may want to caretake your partner immediately after the timer goes off and do what they want to do sexually, but instead keep listening to your body and only do what consensually feels best for both of you. Cuddling? Talking? Sex? Make sure its a mutual decision. Give yourself at least another hour (or however much time you just received) before being the “giver.”
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