Sex – Being there matters

Why embodied intimacy is better than bumping bodies

Read this if you want more pleasure and connection during sex without having to pay a penny or learn any weird techniques.

I am a specialist in embodiment – the subjective experience of being a body – the study of the body in the first person, rather than as an object. I normally apply this work to leadership, resilience and work matters of all kinds, however quite often I’m asked about sex. This is understandable as it’s one of the few areas most people in our disembodied culture are confronted with having a body at all (along with food and ill-health). For a while I have declined to say much about this topic as I’m keen for other aspects of embodiment to be taken seriously, and thinking of the body as primarily “sexy and embarrassing” can get in the way. Sadly, I still get sniggers and jokes when I mention the body at all in many locations so I guess I’ve got nothing to lose. After getting a number of heart-felt requests and curious questions I thought “why not”, sex is a part of life after all, we’re all grown-ups so let’s speak frankly. I will avoid too many personal details that you (or my partner) might not appreciate, though this article does contain “adult” content and graphic metaphors that the prudish would do well to avoid. I also want to be clear that I am also not a sex therapist, pick-up artist or tantra guru but someone who helps people get into their bodies and this has some obvious sexual benefits:


Showing-Up To The Party

We can only enjoy sex, and connect emotionally through sex, if we are fully present “in” (or even better “as”) our bodies during sex. Merely bumping body bits will stimulate the nervous system enough to get-off a little, but being consciously aware during sex is much much more pleasurable. We have to be conscious at the party to really enjoy it! If you don’t believe me try this now with any food you like, pay complete attention to it as you eat it- it will taste better! I suspect that being completely “present” during sex is actually quite rare, as it is with eating and other pleasures, and many people are simply “going through the motions”. Note too that we can show up to ourselves (embodiment) and also be present to the other embodied person (relational embodiment). If we are not present during sex our partner is really having sex with an object, if they are not present we might as well be using a blow-up doll. If we are not trying to relate to ourselves and our partners as conscious people during sex, we are just masturbating corpses.

Note that being body-self-aware during sex also necessities being emotionally aware – emotions are bodily sensations and if we ignore or repress them we are cutting-off from our bodies and losing out. We anaesthetise through muscular tension and the tension required to not feel will lessen our enjoyment of sex. Relaxation and embodiment therefore go hand-in-hand…or any other part of the body in hand 🙂


Disassociation – Nobody’s Home to Play

Disassociation – the habit of not being conscious of oneself as embodied, but either being “in the head” wrapped in thought, or “spaced out” with our attention elsewhere, or tense and numbed as described, is sadly now the norm in Western culture.

There are degrees of this however and one reason I think The West is so obsessed with sex is that it is “reembodying” to some degree. Pleasure and pain can drag us back into our bodies which are mostly ignored and screaming for attention. In a disembodied age sex can be one of the few times we return to the body and can be quite addictive for this reason. There is a continuum of course and having expanded this range through embodiment practice I now realise what I once thought was normal was in fact pretty pathetic. Those who left their bodies the most – as a response to trauma for example – often have difficulties with sex. Sex begs us to “reembody”, provides ample motivation for most of us and lick-starts the process so let’s heed the call.


Connection and Intimacy

Bodies naturally communicate with each other and mimic each other non-verbally. As our bodies are our “operating systems”predisposing us to certain things, and also the repositories of unconscious material, we are literally swapping aspects of ourselves with others all the time. This non-verbal communication – embodied empathy if you will – increases with synchronised movement, touch and, critically for this conversation, awareness. While there are other embodied coordination practices (such as courtship dance and military marching) sex is the exemplar. It is why people “mate” throughout the fertility cycle – to pair-bond not to reproduce. Embodied sex is more bonding because of the awareness and the emotional connection mentioned above. We do not connect and produce intimacy simply through getting our rocks off (positive reinforcement) treating our body as an “it” but through being present as an “I” (awareness) which enables “the magic of we”. Intimacy (into me see) is something I’ve struggled with over the years and where I’ve found it in sex it is through a feeling and emotionally involved embodied sex. This is literally making love with another. I also don’t want to overload sex with excess pretentious meaning and take the fun out of it with, I believe that like food it can be appreciated on different levels, and it’s worth being able to choose which level you want to play on. There’s shagging and making love and while both are good in my book, with a partner I want to really connect and be intimate with I’ll largely choose the latter.


Some Simple Embodied Sex Practices

Teaching people 69 ways to 69 or how to have 5 hour orgasam is great if that’s your thing (it’s not mine), however I think there are some more fundamental and easily practiced suggestions that can help people. Here are three, enjoy:


Sexual Bodyfulness

During sex – and any consenting kind will do, with man, woman or yourself – stay there. If you drift – and you will will – notice and come back to the sensation. Stay with the changing physical sensations here and now and spot and return from any aims, judgements, memories or plans that pop into consciousness. This is like sexual mindfulness meditation, though “mindfulness” sounds a bit cognitive to me so let’s call it “bodyfulness”. It is also important that you are not just paying attention TO your body as an object (though this can be a start) but AS a body. We are not separate from our bodies any more that body is separate from the red.



If you have difficulty with embodied sex, or want to increase your pleasure and connection, do a non-sexual embodiment practice such as yoga, dance or a simple body-scan [my video on body awareness] to get fully into your body before all the excitement. I have noticed over the years that the level of connection I feel and the strength of my pleasure is directly effected by how much embodied practice I have done in the day, although even a few minutes before can make a big difference. Remember feeling requires both attention and relaxation so anything which scatters attention like TV, Facebook or multi-tasking should be avoided before sex, and anything which helps us relax (massage, hot baths, music, appreciation,empathy, gratitude etc) engaged in. The latter is pretty standard advice in sex counselling I’m told.


It, I, We

Another practice is at any point during sex is to first notice your body as a thing. Then inhabit it as an “I” by getting curious about sensations (just curious not seeking particular ones), then connect to your partner’s awareness. How the last one is done is tricky to explain if it doesn’t make sense intuitively, but eye-gazing and paying attention to their movement and breath will help.

There are also many other embodied skills that can be used in this context such as “outreaching”, embodied empathy exercises, grounding, centring etc but I’ll leave it here for now. Enjoy.


–  Your body.

–  Staci Haines and Paul Linden both have great books on embodied sexuality for those with trauma backgrounds

–  Please suggest other books and websites in the comments for the rest of us.

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  1. Steve Lane
  2. Annie