One idea I've found helpful when getting to know a new partner is thinking of sex as a process rather than an event. So instead of thinking of it an either/or situation--sex/non-sex--imagine it as an ongoing physical conversation.
This silent, physical back-and-forth conversation is what makes developing empathy so important
Empathy gets devalued these days because we tend to relate it to kindness or 'niceness' which we equate with bland, boring, or that you're being a pushover. Certainly, It's not as sexy sounding a word as dominance, mysteriousness, attraction, or confidence.
Empathy is something that helps us relate to other people. It helps us know when people are angry or afraid. It helps us soothe each other in times of grief.
But before you write it off as something that is just for nurturing, remember this: It ALSO helps us recognize when someone else is attracted or turned on. Not only that, it helps us recognize HOW attracted or turned on they are, which is important for getting sex, but also really really REALLY important for having GOOD sex, especially with regards to tension and release which is something we've explored in previous columns
There are three broad components to empathy.
1 - Intellectual/rational empathy: Being able to read or listen to what someone is saying and understand their point of view.
2 - Physical/emotional empathy: This is more non-verbal. It's noticing people's voice tones, breathing, body language, etc. Often it's about noticing HOW they say things rather than what they say. It might also involve noticing more behavior stuff and things people AREN'T saying.
3 - Developing a system of how to 'test' what we are seeing/reading/hearing. We need to find a way to double check if what we are picking up in 1 and 2 are correct.
A lot of people labor under the misunderstanding that empathy is successful when we correctly know what another person is thinking or feeling and if we don't then empathy didn't 'work.'
It's okay to be wrong about what someone is thinking or feeling. It's also okay to not know. Empathy isn't about being right in any one moment. Empathy is what allows us to have the conversation.
The good news is empathy can be practiced and developped without a sexual partner or even without being on a date. You just have to work at it.
A couple quick ways to practice.
- When you're reading the internet trying to recognizing points of view other than your own.
- People watching. Watch their posture, their movements, their faces. As well as listening to their words, pay attention to their tone and breathing. What do you feel watching/looking at them?
I realize these Practices might not sound super-sexy. We'll get there either on this thread or another, but for me, empathy is the foundation you need to start from. It's sort of like fencing--everybody gets so distracted looking at the sword, it's easy to forget how important footwork is.
-May All Beings Be Sexy