Do you want to have better sex, more frequent sex, or amp up your desire? You are
not alone. Many of the women we talk with miss the sexual desire they felt in their
twenties and early thirties, but feel lost about how to get it back. We spoke with
Barbara Carrellas, sex educator and author of Ecstasy is Necessary, Urban Tantra,
and Luxurious Loving, about how women can foster more desire and steamier
Barbara reminds us that great sex is often the result of the “right amount of safety
with the right amount of risk.” But how do we move out of our sexual comfort zones
to take erotic risks? Read our intimate interview with Barbara Carrellas to find
SPECIAL NOTE FROM WOMEN'S HEALTH NETWORK: The following article
is an honest discussion about women’s sexual health that includes adult themes and
vocabulary. If you would rather choose an alternate topic, please explore our other
women's health articles.
WHN: The struggle for pharmaceutical companies to come up with a “pink Viagra”
has been blamed on the fact that for women sexual arousal is not simply rooted in
the physical, but has a great deal to do with the psychological. Once the physical
aspects are supported, do you have tips to prime women for psychological arousal?
BC: I think people erroneously equate arousal with
desire. You can be physically aroused by something and yet have no actual desire
for it. Years ago I read a study in which volunteers were shown sexually explicit
videos featuring different sexual orientations, i.e., male homosexual activity,
lesbian sexual activity, heterosexual activity. The subjects’ genitals were outfitted
with various devices to measure arousal. When, for example, the lesbian women were
shown gay male porn or heterosexual porn, they measured the same level of physical
arousal as when they watched lesbian porn — even though they reported not feeling
aroused by the non-lesbian material. What was missing? Their desire for the gay
male or heterosexual activity.
I advocate an approach that unites physical and psychological desire. When we focus
on the erotic sensations our bodies feel, desire for more of those sensations usually
follows. Honestly, sex is a habit as much as it is a drive. When we get out of the
habit of having sex, or of feeling desire, we think we’ve lost all interest in sex.
My advice is practice, practice, practice. Re-prime your erotic pump with regular,
scheduled masturbation sessions. Stay focused on your body. If fantasies arise,
enjoy them. If not, just breathe and stay focused on what you’re feeling.
WHN: In a recent interview, Esther Perel, author and therapist said, “Sexual
desire is not about being good citizens. Sexual excitement is politically incorrect
and often thrives on power plays, role reversals, demands, seduction, manipulation…”
What advice do you have for those women who feel hesitant to act out a fantasy or
to even allow themselves to think about a certain fantasy because it seems too weird
or politically incorrect?
BC: First, know that whatever your fantasy, many
other people have wilder, more politically incorrect ones. I know — I’ve heard many
of them. You are not the sickest person in the room — I promise. And please don’t
think you have to act out your fantasies. Many (if not most) fantasies should stay
just that — fantasies! Acting them out could be dangerous on a variety of levels.
Or perhaps you could act out just one aspect of a dangerous fantasy in a safe, controlled
role-play scene. (Common fantasies, such as having sex in public and rough sex can
easily be staged in ways that are satisfying but safe.)
If shame and guilt are crippling your ability to enjoy the pleasure of your erotic
imagination, try this little exercise. Ask yourself:
“What was the loudest message I received around sex while I was growing up?”
“How is this message still haunting me?”
“Where and when does it crop up?”
The next time you feel shame about a fantasy, stop and ask yourself, “Whose voice
is this telling me this is wrong?”
And remember, the hottest sexual experiences are a result of the right amount of
safety and the right amount of risk. So if a little fear or apprehension is present,
great! Step outside your comfort zone — feel the fear and do it anyway.
WHN: Talking to sexual partners about what we want and need in the bedroom can
be difficult for some women. Do you have any advice about how to go about that?
BC: Approach discussions about sex from an “I wonder
what more is possible for us” place rather than a “We must fix what’s wrong” space.
Ask yourself, “How can I make this a playful game instead of hard, scary work?”
One game I like is the Yes-No-Maybe game. Look up or think up as many different
sexual activities as you can. One by one, ask your partner, Yes? No? Or maybe? They
then tell you if what you named was an unqualified Yes, meaning “Absolutely — right
here, right now!” Or an absolute No, meaning, “Absolutely not — under no circumstances.
Never.” Or a Maybe, meaning, “If the conditions and timing were just right,
yes, I can imagine wanting to do that.”
WHN: Researchers in the Netherlands have found that men can be turned on by
the same images day after day, while women need new stimuli. Where can women turn
(other than to porn) for new sexual stimuli?
BC: Why leave out porn? Sexually explicit material
is a huge source of new stimuli. The trick is to find porn you like. I suggest the
work of feminist pornographers such as Tristan Taormino, Candida Royalle, Courtney
Trouble, Madison Young, Shine Louise Houston, Jincey Lumpkin, Ovidie, and Erika
Lust. Some of these directors make pornography specifically for a female or gender-queer
audience, while others try for a broad appeal across genders and sexual orientations.
Curious about what makes porn feminist? The Feminist Porn Awards, held annually
in Toronto, have three guiding criteria: 1) A woman had a hand in the production,
writing, direction, etc. of the work. 2) It depicts genuine female pleasure. 3)
It expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes
that are often found in mainstream porn.
WHN: You said in a previous interview that “Sex is play… We get very hung up
about what doesn’t work the way it used to work or what ‘the magazine’ said it was
supposed to look like. There are an infinite number of erotic possibilities.” Do
you have examples of how women might bring more “play” into their sex lives?
1) Release your expectations. Life seldom turns out
the way we planned. Why should sex?
2) Release your goals. Goals keep us focused on the
future, such as “I wonder if I’m going to be able to orgasm?” When you are focused
in the future (or the past) you are missing every juicy thing that’s going on right
now. Focus on your breath and on the sensations you are feeling right now. In truth,
great sex is simply one intensely playful mindfulness meditation.
3) Be willing to giggle, laugh, and look silly. Hot
sex is often funny, and nothing feels better than a great gigglegasm.
Welcome to a new approach to sex
Women’s Health Network is dedicated to women’s health and happiness — and what better
way to find both than in satisfying sexual experiences. For more information about
the physical aspects of arousal, see Dr. Mary James’ article on
Understanding arousal in women.
Are you ready
to explore even steamier options?
To take you even further out of your sexual comfort zone — and into a world of more
pleasure and fun — visit Barbara’s newest website Egasm.com. Don’t miss Barbara’s Top Picks from Babeland
for a look at top quality products from one of America’s premier women-friendly
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