When it comes to sex, listening goes a lot deeper than hearing.
In Part One of this series we discussed the surprisingly simple foundation of Tantric sex, which is being present. In Part Two, we explored the value of letting go of goals. The last surprisingly simple secret of Tantric sex is listening.
When it comes to sex, listening goes a lot deeper than hearing. Of course we must listen and respond to our partners in the verbal realm (especially if we hear a “no”), but listening with the body is a deeper exploration of expression and response.
Most of us already do this, to varying degrees, in our day to day lives. We pick up on our loved ones’ facial expressions, breath pace, and they way they hold tension in their shoulders. We often intuit someone’s mood in the non-sexual realm. With sex, this is more direct and immediate. We can hear and feel them breathing, making sounds or going silent, noticing whether they freeze up or relax in response to what we are doing.
At its best, sex is intimate, vulnerable, and deeply connected. Men are especially discouraged from expressing their emotions, and some men feel that sex is the only place where these feelings can be “spoken” through the body. Steve Bearman has written in an essay called “Why Men are So Obsessed with Sex,” “Directly and indirectly, we are handed sexuality as the one vehicle through which it might still be possible to express and experience essential aspects of our humanness that have been slowly and systematically conditioned out of us. Sex was, and is, presented as the road to real intimacy, complete closeness, as the arena in which it is okay to openly love, to be tender and vulnerable and yet remain safe, to not feel so deeply alone. Sex is the one place sensuality seems to be permissible, where we can be gentle with our own bodies and allow ourselves our overflowing passion. […] This is why men are so obsessed with sex." Many of us feel our deepest selves cannot be expressed with our words, and the (hopefully) safe, intimate field of sex is the one place we can let our bodies talk.
Consent can be confusing for a lot of people. Our society is getting better at acknowledging its importance, and yes, rational conversations are important and useful. Once a person is in a sexual field, however, desires and mood can change. Some people like to be touched first before they know whether or not they want more. Sometimes an internal “yes” turns into a “no” right in the middle of everything. Sometimes our cognitive minds go fuzzy along with our verbal skills as we move and feel from our bodies.
So how do we know whether or not our partners like what we are doing? In addition to listening to what they say with their voices, we must listen to how they are responding with their bodies. If we’re not sure, we can ask. We must do the same for ourselves—trust our physical responses and follow our own instincts.
Kissing is a perfect place to practice the skill of physical listening that’s not too scary (as long as you have consent to kiss someone, of course!). The key is to slow down. Listen with your sensitive lips, feel for tension, softening, response. Listen for breathing, and feel your partner’s body under your hands. Do they lean in? Pull away? Tense up? As this communication becomes easier and more sensitive, so too does the experience of intimate touch feel safer, which means there is more room for playfulness, experimentation, and, of course, pleasure.