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Sensuality and domesticity

Sensuality and domesticity

Sensuality and domesticity

Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist who has explored the tension between the need for security and the need for freedom in human relationships. Perel promoted the concept of Erotic Intelligence in her book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, which has been translated into 24 languages. Sensuality and domesticity

Please read the attached article and share your thoughts.  Sensuality and domesticity

(You can watch Esther Perel’s Video for the extra credit on the discussion board as well :))  Sensuality and domesticity

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Erotic Intelligence By Esther Perel

A number of years ago, I went to a presentation at a national conference where the presenter demonstrated their work with a couple who had sought therapy in part because of a dramatic drop in the partners’ sexual activity. The wife had sought more traditional sex after the birth of their second kid, but the couple had previously engaged in light sado- masochism. However, the husband was set on maintaining the status quo of their sexual relationship. Sensuality and domesticity

The presenter said that addressing the sexual dysfunction in the couple necessitated first addressing the emotional dynamics of their marriage and their new roles as parents. However, the post-show conversation revealed that the audience was more concerned with the topic of sado-masochistic sex than with the couple’s relationship in general. Several of the questioners were interested in discovering the psychological basis behind the man’s urge to sexually objectify his wife and her desire for bondage. Sensuality and domesticity

Others hypothesized that, after becoming a mother, she finally found the strength to stand up for herself and refuse to be treated like a second class citizen. Some have hypothesized that inherent differences between the sexes are at the root of the deadlock; men tend to seek independence, power, and control, while women crave for close, caring relationships. Others were adamant that these couples required more emotional proximity to break the cycle of their violent, power-based interactions.

I felt compelled to speak out after our group discussed sexuality for two hours without once mentioning the terms pleasure or eroticism. Did anyone else see this glaring omission? I made an inquiry. After all, their sexual activity had been completely voluntary. Perhaps the wife no longer wanted to be restrained by her husband now that she had a baby who needed to be breastfed continuously.Sensuality and domesticity

the ties were stronger than any rope could have held her down. No doubt others in the audience had sexual preferences of their own, ones they saw no reason to explain or defend. Why did I just think that this couple’s sexual play had to be demeaning and pathological? Softness and homeyness Sensuality and domesticity

Moreover, I questioned whether or not the pc crowd would be able to handle a woman’s enthusiastic involvement in S & M. Is it scary to think that a confident woman might take pleasure in enacting submissive sexual fantasies? It’s possible that the women who wanted to speak up at the conference were scared that by doing so, they’d be seen as legitimizing male domination in the workplace, politics, and the economy.

Perhaps, in the modern day, the principles of justice, compro- mise, and equality that underpin American marital treatment today are incompatible with the concepts of sexual dominance and submission, conquest and subjugation, aggressiveness and submit (regardless of which spouse plays which role). Softness and homeyness

Since I am not a native American but rather a European who has lived and worked in a variety of countries, I found myself wondering if the attitudes I observed in this gathering were indicative of more fundamental cultural differences. Although the couple’s sexual encounters were completely consensual and nonviolent, I couldn’t help but wonder if the clinicians present thought that the couple’s sexual preferences were too wild and “kinky,” and thus inappropriate and irresponsible, for the weighty and weighty business of keeping a marriage together and raising a family.

It was as if mature adults in committed relationships were required to abandon all forms of sexual pleasure and sexiness that veered even slightly off the beaten route of fantasy and play, especially those that involved aggression and power.

Following the conference, I had numerous in-depth conversations with European friends and therapists, Brazilian and Israeli attendees, and others from around the world. Sensuality and domesticity

coworkers who were present for the gathering. We acknowledged that our sexual outlooks differed from those of our American peers. These exchanges revealed the difficulty of identifying cultural distinctions. When discussing a topic as fraught with social stigma as open displays of sexual desire, we are all forced to reflect on our own experiences. Sensuality and domesticity

Most of the people from other countries I’ve talked to have been surprised to learn that Americans are, when it comes to sexual topics as with many others, a goal-oriented society that values clarity, directness, and “plain speech” over subtlety and allusion. Many American therapists advise their patients to adopt a preference for clarity and unfiltered directness, traits that are typically linked with honesty and openness: “If you want to make love to your wife/husband, why don’t you say it clear- ly?… And tell him/her exactly what you want.”

I tell my clients, “There’s so much direct talk already in the everyday conversa- tions couples have with each other,” as an alternative to trying to avoid indirect communication. “Why not play a little more with the natural ambiguity of gesture and words, and the rich nuances inherent in communica- tion, if you want to create more passion in your relationship?” Softness and homeyness

I was up in Belgium, a traditionally Roman Catholic country with a rich blend of Germanic and Latin traditions and influences, and I’ve always been drawn to the Latin aspects of Belgian life for their warmth and spontaneity. I bought a one-way ticket to continue my education and have never left. Some of America’s finest qualities, such as its commitment to democracy, equality, consensus-building, commitment, promise, justice, and mutual tolerance, can ironically lead to rather boring sex if taken to an extreme in the bedroom.

The norms of civility that keep couples happy in their relationships with one another aren’t necessarily applicable to sexual desire. Often relying on unfair advantages, dictatorial demands, alluring manipulations, and subtle cruelties, sexual excitement is politically inappropriate. American couples therapists, who have been influenced by the legacy of egalitarian principles, frequently face difficulties reconciling these differences.

European women, I believe, feel less internal tension between being intellectual and being sexy because of what I’d call a European emphasis on complementarity, or the appeal of difference, rather than strict gender equality. In Europe, objectifying women for sexual purposes does not automatically undermine their intelligence, capability, or power. As a result, women no longer have to choose between being regarded seriously as professionals and work- ers and expressing their sexuality and being objects of desire in the office.

Susanna, one of our Spanish patients, is a senior executive at a global firm headquartered in New York. She doesn’t find any inconsistency between her career and her urge to assert her sexual dominance, even among her peers. According to her, “I expect to be complimented on my looks and my efforts to look good.” Kind words of praise remind us that we’re still human beings who feel attraction for one another, not just cogs in a machine. If a man tells me he finds me attractive, I don’t see that as a reflection on my professional skills any more than he would on mine if I told him I found him handsome. Sensuality and domesticity

Of course, American feminists made significant progress for women in every sphere of society. Without diminishing the significance of those milestones, I do think that the focus on egalitarian and polite sex—free from displays of dominance, violence, and transgression—is a step in the right direction.

sion—is diametrically opposed to sensual need, in both sexes. The rampant sexual assault of women and children is not news to me. I do not intend to provide even tacit approval to any form of coercion. Everything I propose here hinges on having the other person’s informed consent and treating them with dignity and decency at all times. Writer Daphne Merkin once said, “No bill of sexual rights can hold its own against the lawless, untamable landscape of the erotic imagination.” Another way of putting it is what Luis Bunuel said: “Sex without sin is like an egg without salt.”

Fantasy’s Alluring Pull

Many people in our profession mistakenly believe that the vivid fantasies that characterize the first stages of erotically charged romantic love are merely a passing phase, doomed to fade away once the couple settles down and starts a family. How about the possibility that fiction, and especially sexual fiction, can enrich and energize the everyday experience of being married? From basic flirting to infatuation, from keeping in touch with former partners to cross-dressing, three-somes, and fetishes, the desire to experiment sexually is often misunderstood by clinicians as a reluctance to commit or a childish fixation on sexual fantasy.

Erotically-tinged romantic idealization that blinds one to a partner’s genuine iden- tity, such as sexual fantasies about them, is typically seen as a hallmark of neuroses or immaturity, especially if the fantasies entail extensive role-playing or scenarios of dominance and submission. By encouraging patients to forsake their dreams in favor of more reasonable and “adult” sexual goals, our therapeutic culture “solves” the tension between the boring and the exciting.

It is common practice for therapists to advise their patients to “really get to know” their relationships. Knowledge, however, is not everything, as I frequently remind my patients. The allure of the unknown, the mysterious, and the suggestive can provide a potent source of enjoyment for erotica. Sensuality and domesticity

Terry had been in therapy for a year, attempting to deal with the trauma of going from a two-person to a four-person household, from being one half of an erotically involved marriage to being one quarter of a family with two children and no eroticism. At the outset of one meeting, he declared, “All right, you want to hear a true midlife story? You will acquire one soon. We just hired this young German au pair to help us out while we’re on vacation.

She and I now jointly care for my girls every morning. I have this incredible crush on her because she is beautiful and refreshingly genuine and youthful. You know how I’ve been complaining about feeling lifeless, my strength ebbing, and my body weighing more and more? In any case, I feel revitalized by her vitality. I’m curious as to why I don’t act on my desire to sleep with her. To do it or not to do it, that is the question. I’ve been thinking about her nonstop and feel like an idiot because of it. Sensuality and domesticity

Annotated Resources Sensuality and domesticity

Barbach, Lonnie. For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality. New York: Signet, 2000. A key reference on female sexuality.

———. For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy. New York: Signet, 2001.

Badinter, Elisabeth. XY, on Masculine Identity. Trans. Lydia Davis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. This and Barbach’s For Each Other are excel- lent books on the complementarity between the sexes and the explo- ration of male and female identity.

Friday, Nancy. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. A look at women’s erotic choices by a leading figure in the field.

Giddens, Anthony. The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love, and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1992. A clear, con- cise, historical account of male and female sexual development and perspectives, sexual addictions, and contemporary relational alterna- tives. Sensuality and domesticity

Gilmore, David D. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990.

Paz, Octavio. The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism. Trans. Helen Lane. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995. Illuminating and provocative essays on the connection between love, sex, and eroticism by the 1990 Nobel Laureate for literature.

Phillips, Adam. Monogamy. New York: Pantheon Books, 1996. Witty, brief reflections on the nature of erotic desire, trust, and transgres- sion.

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