LOVE LIVES

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The Faces of Love and Sex

The Love World

The Sexual Stage

Sex and The senses

Common Sex Positions

Variations - Standard and Exotic

Other Entry Ports

Rhythm and Release

Love Songs

Love Machines and Love Potions

Fantastics

Sexual insight and Destiny:  Finding New Fulfillment Afterword

The Sexual Stage

As with any drama, the Stage setting in which the Act of love is carried out can enhance or detract from the emotional intensity of the experience. But in this case the setting is of consequence only to the actors; there is usually no audience. Those situations in which an audience is present are in one way or another highly ritualistic ones. In twelfth-century Cambodia, for instance, it was the custom for brides to be sexually initiated by a priest in the presence of the wedding guests. The priests were paid handsomely for their services, with those noted for their expertise drawing the highest rewards. No priest was allowed to perform this ceremony more than once a year and was presumed to remain celibate otherwise. From the psychoanalytic point of view, such customs are seen as a way of ensuring that any pain the bride may experience during sexual initiation will not be held against the groom who has been chosen for her by her parents; any negative feelings the bride may have are given a ritual outlet.

More recently, in eighteenth-century England, the wedding guests sometimes attended the sexual initiation of the newly married couple, although the groom himself performed the act. The bridesmaids would lead the bride to the nuptial chamber, undress her, and place her on the bed. The groom was undressed by his male friends in another room and then brought into the bedroom. The couple then had intercourse while their guests clustered around the bed, offering ribald encouragement.

Obviously, in order to perform under such public scrutiny, the wedding couple could have had few qualms concerning either their physicality or the enjoyment of sensory pleasure. But other qualities of the love world, particularly intimacy and spontaneity, would necessarily be sacrificed. Indeed, privacy during the sexual act is basic to the full achievement of the love world. Only in a very few isolated cultures is sexual intercourse carried out regularly in the presence of others. In both the examples mentioned above, the public performance took place only once and under ritualized circumstances.

Even among primitive societies, privacy is generally sought out by the couple. In the classic work fantastics Patterns of Sexual of Behavior , by Clellan S. Ford and Frank A. Beach, a study shows that people living "in unpartitioned, multiple dwellings rather than private family dwellings prefer to have sexual relations outdoors by a ratio of 9 to 1." The Kiwai tribe demonstrates the desires for privacy particularly clearly, since its dwellings have changed form over the years. When they formerly lived in long, unpartitioned houses sheltering several families, the Kiwai usually had intercourse in the privacy of the bush, making use of the natural screening of the surrounding vegetation. But today, living in small one-family houses, these people have changed their customary pattern, and marital intercourse takes place in a separate room in the house.

The importance of privacy or inhibition, however. For if the qualities of timelessness and have a foreshortened spatial intimacy that characterize the love world are to be achieved, privacy is essential. One reason alleged for the popularity of sex and senses among some couples in recent years is that it supposedly allows the couple to explore the purely genital aspects experiences anything beyond sexual arousal and release. The lack of privacy in group sex precludes any extensive entry into the love world. Some couples even make the claim that group sex is relatively unthreatening to the marriage relationship because of the lack of emotional involvement.

Privacy carries with it, of course, a sense of security. The sexual act may take time. If, for fear of interruption, it must be hurried, full entrance into the love world will be difficult to achieve. The qualities of timelessness, transcendence, and fusion that are the ultimate objective of the sex-love relationship constitute a fragile emotional web. Ringing telephones, children playing in the next room, a playful cat or dog that decides to get in on the act-any and all reminders of the activities and responsibilities of our daily existence can easily disrupt the strands of that web. The couple who go off for a week to the Bahamas or the mountains on a "second honeymoon," separating themselves briefly from jobs, children and neighbors, are specifically trying to re-create a private world in which they need have concern only for one another. It is the sense of privacy that makes such a trip "romantic."

Yet exactly because the security of privacy is so essential to the love world, there can be for some couples a special excitement and a heightened sense of fusion if they are able to transcend the daily world even while it is close at hand. Once young couple at the beginning of a passionate relationship were spending a few days on a Caribbean resort island. As they explored one another physically and emotionally, they experimented with a number of different love making situations. The young woman suggested, in response to a fantasy of hers, that they make love near an open window in the living room. The window was in clear view of a walkway a few feet from the house, along which people were constantly passing. For the woman, the charm of the situation was that they would be able to enter into their private love existence even while being able to see the world passing by a few feet away. For both of them, however, the intrusion of the outside world proved too disturbing, and they were unable to sustain the fantasy. The risk of being seen was apparently too great, and they had to abandon the situation and begin again in another room. Thus, while the idea of flouting the conventions of privacy and undercutting the security it brings may be exciting in the abstract, many people find that they cannot do so in actuality.

To make love in natural surroundings- in the woods or a meadow, on a beach, or in the sea itself - has always had strong romantic appeal. The love scene between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster at the water's edge in From Here to Eternity, which was considered profoundly erotic when the film was made in 1953, retains much of its power in our own much franker day exactly because of the natural environment in which it occurs. But it should be noted that the two characters in that scene were absolutely alone on the beach. Sexual intercourse in natural surroundings is regarded as romantic only when the element of privacy is present; indeed, to be "away from it all" in a great open space actually increases the sense of privacy even though one is outdoors.

Sex in a natural setting involves another important aspect of environmental impact on the love world: the simple matter of comfort. In terms of actual sex positions, as we shall see in later chapters, comfort often gives way to the excitement of the moment; muscular strain on the legs, arms, or the back can be totally ignored during intercourse. But environmental discomfort is a different matter. Flies or mosquitoes, extreme heat or cold, loud noises, or flashing lights act as an irritant, reminding the couple of the ordinary world around them and making it difficult to enter fully into the love world. There is an amusing sequence in the original Pink Panther film in which a couple make love in a sled amid the snows of a Swiss mountain resort. The man obviously fails, and to the petulant complaint of his female partner, he replies, "What do you expect at twenty degrees below zero in a sled in the snow?" Love may keep us warm, but not under those conditions.

Temperature is a key environmental aspect of the sex act. Throughout history, in all cultures and languages, the sun's heat and the body's warmth - or lack of it -have been at the heart of sexual metaphor. From the "warm flush" that Dante felt upon his first sight of Beatrice to a contemporary slang phrase like "hot to trot," sex has been associated with an elevation of temperature. "Hot and Moist" immediately indicates sexuality, "dry and cold" a rejection of it, Pornographic literature down through the ages abounds with images of heat in reference to both the male and the female organs. A considerable degree of male chauvinism shows itself in such sexual imagery, however. The language of heat is most often used in respect to the female, while words of weaponry and power, such as "lance" or "Sword," are attached to the male. This was carried through into technical terms: A woman with sexual difficulties was frigid, while a man was impotent.

One patient of mine told of going to a prostitute who obviously had a thorough understanding of the importance of temperature to sex. Before performing fellatio on the man, she rinsed her mouth with hot water. Her found the sensation extremely exciting and told her so. She replied that the next time he came to see her she would put ice cubes in her mouth beforehand and assured him he would find that even more stimulating.

During intercourse, heat and cold can have a striking effect upon both the sensory and the psychological ways in which we experience sex. The skin is one of our major sensory organs, especially adapted to the perception of temperature. If a person has spent the day at the beach in the sun, the pores of the skin will be open and enlarged. The touch of the partner's hand or lips on the skin will then be felt with particular sensitivity, even to the point of pain if the skin is sunburned. But on a cool day, when the pores are closed, the skin will be especially soft and smooth, affording an entirely different kind of sensory experience. When the pores are open and the skin is especially sensitive, the physical aspects of intercourse are likely to be heightened, but often to a degree that is distracting since both partners will be unusually aware of their own particular body responses. When the pores are closed on a cool day and the skin is less sensitive but smoother, a greater pleasure in the body of the partner is likely to be experienced, making possible to achieve a more profound sense of fusion.

Extremes of temperature can heighten the sexual experience. To make love in front of roaring fire, to snuggle under a down quilt on a sub-zero night, or to slither about in the sweat of one another's bodies on a tropical night can sometimes make intercourse particularly exciting. But often in such cases the pleasure is primarily psychological. In front of the fire, one's feet may be freezing cold and one's shoulders burning hot. In purely physical terms one is uncomfortable; the pleasure is derived from the sense of being safe and alone with one's partner while the wind howls outside.

An unpleasant physical environment can have long-term effects on a couple's sexual relationship. One young woman went to London to join her lover, a man she had met in Europe some months before. They had been separated for six weeks and could not wait to be together again. But because of money problems, they were forced to take a dingy, damp, and chilly basement apartment. During the month that they lived there, they had intercourse only a few times in spite of the fact that they continued to have an intense love relationship. According to the young woman, the cold dampness of their surroundings was so at odds with the way they felt about one another that it seemed to rob them of sexual desire. It was not until they moved into a new light and warm apartment that their physical passion for on another reasserted itself. "It was very strange," the young woman said. "I've always enjoyed sex a lot, and I was wild about Jerry, but there was something about that miserable basement that made sex seem beside the point, almost dirty.'

For this young woman, it seems clear that the general grubbiness of the furnished flat she and her lover shared had as much to do with turning her off sexually as did the dampness and cold. For most people, the colors, furniture, and fabrics used in a bedroom are extremely important. We should not forget that the entire environment in which one chooses to live reflects the individuality of the person. And the bedroom is often the room in which that individuality is most clearly evident. In design magazines that feature the homes of actual people, as well as the owners' comments on their decorative choices, the importance of the bedroom is often emphasized. Many people point out that while the living room and dining room are places in which they entertain guests and are therefore designed to some extent with other people's comfort and even taste in mind, the bedroom remains an intensely personal domain. The owner will say, "This room was designed for me."

It is interesting to note that in bachelor establishments, the bedrooms are often very different from those in the homes of married couples. The male's bedroom tend to make use of dark colors, browns, maroons, and other earth tones; the furnishings are apt to be simple and dramatic. The bedrooms of couples, on he other hand, are often somewhat frilly and make use of pastel colors. In many cases the husband will admit - or even declare somewhat defensively that the decoration of the bedroom was entirely up to his wife. Left to his own devices, then, the male appears to prefer to make his bedroom into something of a lair, dark and sensual. Yet upon marrying, he allows his wife to decorate the bedroom according to her taste.