Sexual Health & Erotic Intelligence:

Reconnecting with the Full Spectrum of
Erotic Aliveness for Health and Wellbeing

by Victor Warring

Male Peacock

If you have ever walked into the men’s* clothing section of most department stores you will most likely see a similar array of clothing colors; navy blue, grey, black, beige, khaki green, sometimes red. This is the range of colors that much of society has said is appropriate for the clothing expression of men, whether they be men by assignment or identity. To choose otherwise can take some effort, and often an extra level of confidence for those seeking the clothes that match their desires. I’m speaking very generally, of course. Some men ache for more color and style availability, and will easily seek it out for themselves. Some may turn their eyes achingly towards the women’s section of the store, envious of more color and style. Some don’t pine for anything else, content with the choices available to them.

*Author’s Note: The words men/male encompasses a diversity of bodies, genitalia, gender identities and gender expressions. Throughout this blog, the word “men” may speak more to the experiences of men who identify as cisgender and heteronormative, but all experiences of manhood are welcome to resonate with this writing.

I am a somatic sexuality educator and coach. In the work that I do, I support people in “ReWilding” their erotic and sexual lives, inviting them to step into their full sexual aliveness, and to deepen their erotic intelligence. Within this invitation is the understanding that developing your erotic intelligence is about more than sex. It’s about finding the health, creativity, and passion in your life by having access to the entire palette of erotic possibilities available to you; to tap into the full spectrum of your erotic aliveness.

In many ways, the men I see in my practice have the same choices and limitations available to them in their erotic lives as the color choices available to them in the department store; a limited selection based on the assumptions of what is appropriate for the gender expression of men.

June is International Men’s Health Month, a month for bringing awareness and education about issues that affect men’s overall health. Our culture often keeps our eroticism and sexuality compartmentalized in small categories, disconnected from other parts of our physical, emotional, mental, and reproductive health. We are usually able to talk about the prostate and the importance of having it checked by a physician. We are often less skilled in talking about the importance of erotic pleasure in a healthy life.

I want to invite that level of awareness and attention to men’s erotic health or erotic intelligence, to bring understanding that our sexual lives are interwoven with our whole lives, and that our erotic health is part of our general health. For men, this often means having permission to access the full range of erotic possibilities available to them; to look beyond navy blue, beige and maybe red.

Peacock Feathers

There is a myth that men, holding more socially sanctioned power, have complete and unfettered access to the erotic and the sexual; that the world is so centered on male desire that there is no need for them to explore the depth and width of their eroticism. In fact, so goes the myth, that to offer men more in the erotic realm is to keep privileging the privileged. But the impact of a culture that tends to repress sexuality in general doesn’t result in freely expressive men. It typically results in more constricted men, more truncated gender expression, more rigid and oppressive gender rules in regards to sexuality, less listening and attunement by men to their own bodies and to the bodies and desires of their partners.

So for International Men’s Health Month, I invite you to flip this script! Let’s invite in the fullness of male sexuality to foster more erotically intelligent, alive and attuned men!  Let’s de-compartmentalize pleasure and eroticism and integrate them into the broader context of overall health. Let’s invite men into the full color spectrum of their erotic desire, perhaps to find new and expansive ways of experiencing their bodies, their pleasure, and their erotic connection with other bodies.

Here a few practical, experiential ways from the perspective of my somatic work to experiment with inviting in more of the spectrum of your erotic intelligence:

1. Create a Practice of Self-Pleasure.

Develop a robust self pleasure practice. This should be a non-goal oriented, non-orgasm focused (but coming is okay) exploration of self touch, pleasure and desire with the same mindfulness and regularity you would bring to a yoga or mediation practice. Consider this an opportunity to learn your ways of building pleasure and arousal, moving it around your body, expanding pleasure beyond just your genitals.

You can experiment  by pleasuring yourself using only physical sensation (without fantasy, porn/erotica). This can be especially useful if you’ve been conditioned to only respond to external arousal. You can also experiment with different positions; standing, lying, moving, dancing. Create an erotic environment that fully supports your practice with all the items you want or need at your fingertips; an erotic specific space. Practice becoming an expert with your primary sex partner…you!

2. Try Pleasure-Mapping

This is a practice where you explore different zones of your body getting to know the well traveled routes of pleasure, as well as the lesser known, novel and nuanced routes of pleasure in your body. In this practice, explore parts of your body that you don’t ordinarily find interesting or erotic. You might also want to explore parts of your body that have felt taboo or off limits. You can explore what it’s like to touch these zones at different states of arousal, noticing if a particular zone becomes more compelling at higher arousal states.

Since the anus is a widespread cultural taboo zone which carries gendered implications for many men, some men find completely new pleasure experiences in both external and internal anal play explorations. Make a map to your pleasure!

3. Incorporate Everyday Erotic Practices

These are practices to expand your eroticism by integrating it into your everyday life. We tend to think of eroticism and sex as the same thing, interchangeable. However, eroticism is bigger than sex. It is your connection to life energy, creativity, curiosity, and passion. Therefore, eroticism is something that can be taken into your everyday life.

Can you be in your erotic self while shopping at the grocery store, driving your car, or going through your work day? Can you bring more of your aliveness, creativity and passion to ordinary moments with your partner, your friends, your parenting, yourself? What does it feel like to be more consistently alive and engaged with the world?

4. Consider Adding Toys and Props

When you walk into a sex-positive store such as As You Like It (which I hope you do) there are a plethora of toys, tools, objects, and clothing. You can use this abundance to explore! Which one’s catch your interest? Which ones do not? Which ones seem interesting, but perhaps you assume they are not made for your gender or your body? Maybe you see a toy that was made with your body parts in mind, but in a way you’ve never considered.

This is an opportunity to expand your curiosity for pleasure toys and devices that might be interesting to play with. This exploration might even include investigating a type of toy that you have been trained to think isn’t for your body, but who knows, maybe it is! If it piques your interest, maybe it’s worth a try.

The folks who work in sex positive stores (like myself) will be happy to explain how different pleasure tools work, and also to give you the space to explore and experience for yourself… as much as you can in a store of course!

5. Expand Your Definition of Sex

For many people, especially cisgender, heterosexual folks, “sex” tends to mean that penetration is involved; typically a penis entering a vagina or anus. Everything else is often described as “foreplay” or “making out” or some other euphemism that downplays the fact that it is sex. Penetration is seen as “real” sex, the main course. But this type of language is limiting, because there are many reasons why penetrative sex may not be wanted, warranted, or desired. It can also leave penis owners with the feeling that only penetration with a sufficiently erect penis matters which can create its own set of pressures, insecurities, and focus on performance.

Expanding your definition of what sex is allows you to tap into a fuller color spectrum of erotic possibility and create more pleasure, more connection, and lessen harmful expectations of your sexuality. If you are the owner of a penis, you can even play with pulling its hardness or its insertion into anything out of the equation entirely. See what happens when everything isn’t centered on moving towards penetration as the definition of sex, you might be surprised what kinds of pleasures you discover!

Male Peacock standing on a rock

These are just a few practices to help you explore and expand your erotic intelligence. There are many more out there to discover. You are limited only by your curiosity and desire.

During this International Men’s Health Month, remember that the expansion and exploration of your erotic intelligence is important and worthy of your time and attention. You can integrate the expansion of your erotic intelligence into your sexual health and overall health. You can have all the colors you want.

In a world where men are often socially expected to know everything already, to get by with little self reflection on health, and to make do with limited and restricted expressions of pleasure, it is a radical act to become a more alive and erotically abundant man. 

Good health, good play and good exploration!

Victor Warring Headshot

About the Author: Victor is an employee at As You Like It: A Love Revolution in Ashland, OR. He is also somatic sexuality and relationship educator/coach, erotic activist and public speaker. His focus is on “rewilding” sexuality and relationship; supporting people in understanding their innate human-primate desire for connection and eros and integrating that with their domesticated, socialized values. Victor works with individuals, people in relationships of all types and communities navigate their way into erotic wholeness.

To access more of Victor’s work, visit his website at embodiedintimacy.wordpress.com.

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