I was asked the other day, “What is eroticism?”. In fact, I get asked this question a lot in my work. Mostly because as soon as clients talk about sex, I introduce the idea of the erotic. Much of my work with clients focuses on helping them deepen their understanding of eroticism as a way to expand and bring more depth to their thinking about their own sexuality.
In his book, The Erotic Mind, sex therapist Jack Morin, says “We are born sexual but we become erotic.” And so asking the question of “What is erotic or eroticism?”, begins the journey in understanding a vital aspect of our human experience.
Focus on Sex not Eroticism
For many of us (especially if we grew up in the USA), our understanding of ourselves as erotic beings is limited or non-existent. We have been taught to think of sex as a thing our bodies do or, as a mostly physical experience. We have been taught to think of sex through a “performance-based” model that leaves us dependent on our bodies functioning in a specific way. It also leaves us dependent on looking a specific way in order to feel sexual, attractive, confident and entitled to experience pleasure. That way is largely determined by the media, the fashion industry, Hollywood and white, heterosexual, cis-gender, able-body privilege.
We have not been taught to understand sex by exploring our erotic nature which is an essential component of our sexuality. In fact, for some, the word “erotic” implies something negative or perverted.
But without eroticism, sex has no substance or depth. It has nothing to which it is grounded. It has nothing in which it can take root and grow stronger. Eroticism is difficult to define exactly because the very essence of the erotic is elusive. So a better way to discuss it is through description.
Eroticism is an organic energy that connects us to and flows from the larger energy of life.
It is an awakening of ourselves to ourselves.
It is the moment we feel a rush of sensation in our bodies or a jolt of inspiration in our minds or a fullness in our hearts or a spark of creativity in our lives.
It is being fully engaged with life and accepting what is.
It is breath and movement and joy.
It is love and curiosity.
It is lust and desire.
It is power and mystery.
It is about imagination and fantasy.
It is about creating something real, in the moment, through our senses and our bodies and our minds and our hearts and our spirits.
It is about wanting to access something much deeper within ourselves.
It is about longing and belonging.
It is awareness of what gets us excited, and turned on and feeling fully alive.
It can be shy or bold; awkward or graceful.
It is about transforming the ordinary to something unique and beautiful.
It is about invitation and receptivity.
It can be all these things at once because eroticism is the complexity of our sexuality and our human experience intricately linked and fueling each other.
Snowflakes and Eroticism are Unique
Remember in grade school when we were told that no two snowflakes are alike? It is the same with our eroticism; no two individuals share the same erotic template (a term I learned from my mentor, Dr Patricia Fawver). Which is one reason why intimate relationships are so wonderful and challenging and interesting and exacerbating all at the same time.
How We Become Erotic
From birth, each of us have experiences and interpret these experiences in unique ways that influence how we “become erotic” and how our eroticism develops. A new born baby, snuggled up against their mother, discovering their mother’s unique smell and the sound of her voice and her soft, consistent touch, experiences what it feels like to be connected to another through their senses. As we develop, all of our experiences contribute and influence our eroticism. As we develop, we begin to be interested in, attracted to, turned on by, certain elements in our lives, within others, within ourselves, within our environment.
The Meaning of our Experiences
We come into our eroticism by the meaning and interpretation we attribute to intersection of our experiences and our environment, our understanding of our self (which includes our physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual self), and our relationships. As all of these things intersect, we learn what brings us pleasure and connection. The trouble is, we are not taught how to pay close attention to the ways in which our life informs our erotic self. Often our eroticism is not honored and acknowledged as we are developing, so we learn to ignore its whispers.
Eroticism Needs Us to Be Present
Eroticism requires us to be present in the moment. To be aware and receptive. To invite the unknown and the unfamiliar without judgment. To explore and be curious about everything we encounter. Without this presence and awareness and receptivity, we lose opportunities to deepen and nurture our sexuality and our erotic lives.
Inviting the Erotic In
I often tell clients that sex is not an isolated activity that is separate from the rest of our day or week or the months that make up our entire lives. If we think we can be out of touch with our bodies and our emotions and our spirits as well as our relationships, our health, the environments we create, yet still have satisfying, pleasurable sex then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and confusion.
Sex that feels pleasurable and satisfying requires us to invite our lives to lead us to the erotic energy. It requires us to be receptive to what is happening and unfolding within and around us in order to access our erotic self. It is about being attuned to the consistent and organic energy of the erotic as it flows throughout all of our moments, and experiences and relationships; as if flows throughout our bodies, our senses and minds and hearts.
Today, Extend the Invitation
So I encourage you to extend the invitation today to your erotic self. Ask it to show up. Ask it to reveal itself to you by paying attention to your life, your self, moments of beauty and creativity, moments of surprise and delight, moments of pleasure and joy. Ask it to teach and inform you about the parts of yourself that will remain hidden unless gently and non-judgmentally invited. Take the time to listen and observe and acknowledge, with great respect and love, whatever unfolds.
And when you begin to connect to the organic flow of your own erotic self and energy, remember to be grateful, because in those moments it is about so much more than sex, it is about being fully alive.