The idea that sex is natural is one of the many terrible ideas which – alongside Revolutionary Terror and Totalitarianism – we can attribute to the appalling 18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. It’s the source of a lot of our unhappiness about sex: “If sex is natural, why is it so difficult for me?”

Fortunately, the ‘one size fits all’ model is now challenged by the emergence of a different perspective on sexuality: the idea that we have individual erotic natures, or maps.

Those of you that have seen Netflix’s ‘Sex Love and Goop’, which I highly recommend, will have come across the idea of erotic blueprints, the creation of the contemporary American Sex Educator Jaiya.

She says there are 5 erotic blueprints: The Energetic, The Sensual, The Sexual, The Kinky and The Shapeshifter.

I’ll write about this in more detail elsewhere, but I think you can immediately see how this can be useful. The Sexual blueprint describes the person whom our society would deem ‘normal’. The focus is on the genitals,  and on arousal leading to intercourse. Because sex is really straightforward for this type, they’re liable – in the absence of information – to think of the other types as weird or deficient. They’re likely to think of the Energetic type, for example, as very easily and peculiarly put off sex by something extraneous like the duvet cover or something, rather than appreciate the Energetic as having a much wider sense of what sexuality is; the capacity to have energetic orgasms, for instance, without any touch at all. The shadow of the Sexual type is that they can be somewhat limited and goal focused. If you’re the partner of a Sexual type and not this type yourself, you’re probably bored and dissatisfied, and they think you should get yourself fixed.

Our socialisation as men and women can mask our type. Because men are supposed to be Sexual, many men have to distort their natures. Likewise for women, who are expected to be Sensual or Energetic, when a lot of them might well be Kinky, or Shapeshifting.

When I started working in this field, a map I found very useful was Donald Mosher’s idea of three distinct sexual styles, popularised in David Schnarch’s ‘Passionate Marriage’: Trance, Partner Engagement and Role Play.

Again, this is very helpful in understanding and appreciating behaviour which is not your own. My dominant sexual style is Partner Engagement: I like a lot of eye contact, talking and heart connection. The problem for my type is being with one of the other types while taking our own type as being ‘natural’. The Trance style, for instance, is very inner: this style can often be very still, because they are focused on their own sensations and experience. But Partner Engagement people are going to think they’re something wrong: why isn’t the person reacting more? Maybe they’re bored, or not into me? Likewise, if I came across a Role Play type, I’d be likely to wrongly see them through my lens as emotionally shallow and insincere. And, like the Sexual type in Jaiya’s system, the Partner Engagement type is the one approved of by our society, so the other two are liable to be dismissed.

My own attempt at creating a map focuses more on the different areas of sexuality, rather than individual types, but within this map, I can position the maps of other systems. I call this map the Compass of Sexuality, and it breaks down the areas of sexuality into 8: Agreement, Energetic Practices, Tantra, Intimacy, Innocence, Risk, Body and Play. I particularly like using this in my Couples work, because it enables me to take people to lots of different places, but then for them to explore those places in terms of their specific natures. You can read more about this here

These maps should be treated as tools, or lenses, not reality. We shouldn’t cling to them too tightly, or identify ourselves too much with our type, but used fluidly, they can be tremendously useful in explaining ourselves to ourselves, and -crucially- getting out of this idea that there is something in us which is broken and needs to be fixed. You wouldn’t call a ziggurat a broken pyramid, would you?

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