by Dr. Charmaine Saunders
In case you haven't realised it yet, sex is fun! And so is the interaction between the sexes, in many forms. Too often, we get caught up in the drama, the intensity, the physicality of sex and we forget to enjoy the experience in a total and sensual way.
In this article, we're going to look at ways of having fun with sex, relating with romance. Let's keep in mind, as we start on this pleasurable journey, what Dr. Michael Clarke calls the `23 and a half hour foreplay,' in his book `Sexual joy in marriage.' What he means is that everything a couple does before going to bed to make love constitutes sexual preparation, all the little gestures, the smiles, body language, touching, silent messages that say clearly, `I want you.' We could probably take this further and suggest that a couple's entire life together is about sexual foreplay because if they're not getting along outside the bedroom, they're not going to have much fun in bed.
When I speak of romance, I don't mean the literal kind, involving candlelit dinners, sexy night attire and slow dancing, although it certainly can entail all of the above. Romance is an attitude, a mood, a feeling, so let's start our journey there.
A romantic mood can be created by combining various components but the key ones are music, setting and feeling.
The best music for romance is neutral and unobtrusive. It should not dominate or be very specific, for example, it's better to have background music than a favorite artist who will distract you from each other. At the end of the evening, it might be better if you can't remember what record was playing! Soothing, pleasant and anonymous - they're the key elements. Music has the power to whisk us away like no other art form really can, and it is tremendously relaxing so what better way to create the right mood?
The setting for romance is vitally important. Whilst sex is often more exciting in inappropriate and awkward places, This is not true of romance.The more luxurious and comfortable the physical setting, the more lovers relax and this makes for better sex. If you're uncomfortable, you want to get it over with, but for prolonged and pleasurable love-making (which doesn't have to be all intercourse, by the way), a soft bed or couch, satiny covers and huge, fluffy cushions are the order of the day.
Take some trouble over the planning for the evening. Be aware of colours. Some are more soothing than others, like blue, and some are more passionate, like red. Design a setting that expresses what you want for the evening. Burn incense or spray an expensive perfume around, surround the room with flowers in fancy arrangements or just sprinkle rose petals on the bed, leave some small gifts for your partner in hidden places. Just make the whole experience an adventure. It's not what you do that's important or how much it costs, but the caring that goes into the preparation.
Finally and most importantly, feelings. There are firstly the feelings that you come into the room with. You may be a long-time married couple, newlyweds or pratically strangers, so those feelings will vary, but there will also be new feelings CREATED during the evening and those are the ones you can enhance and expand on. You know how gentleness is a vital factor. As I've indicated before, romance cannot be hurried. Everything that happens during the time spent together needs to unfold at its own pace, so don't force anything. Enjoy every minute of the journey.
There may be some tension at the beginning and that's where the tips for relaxation come in handy. Feelings cannot flourish if lovers are tense, or the relationship awkward.
Once a romantic mood is created, there are many other ways to enjoy each other and further indulge the senses, apart from sexual intercourse. My suggestions may be additions, alternatives or afters. It's up to you. So many people just make love and then go straight to sleep or get out of bed without exploring the hundreds of pleasurable extras that are available. There are plenty of good books around that will tell you how to put more variety into your sex life. In this article, I'm more interested in the smorgasbord of activities that can surround or even sometimes replace the sex act. This romantic and sensual aura doesn't have to accompany love-making every time, in fact, it's probably more enjoyable as an occasional treat.
Okay, so what else can we do?
Keep in mind that romance and sexuality needs to appeal to the senses so let that be your overall theme for the evening (or afternoon!) We've spoken about music and physical comforts but let's not forget the tremendously important area of ---food! Again, it's not the fact that you'll be eating a meal as part of the occasion which requires thought, It's the type of food and how it's offered that will either enhance or detract from the mood you've created. Food is a very sensual feature of life but let's face it, some foods are sexier than others. There's nothing very sexy about a cauliflower but asparagus is a real turn-on. Other sensual choices could be almost any kind of seafood. I don't specifically know why but oysters, lobster, crabs, prawns all appeal to the tactile senses. It could be because we tend to use our fingers to eat these foods, they're also cool and delicious and the fact that they're considered luxury foods adds to the specialness of the meal. Fruit is also excellent, especially grapes, peaches, strawberries and melon. Chocolates are a delicious way to end the meal, especially if fed to each other.
My feeling about the food for a romantic interlude is that it should be less, luscious and luxurious, rather than lots, leaden and left. If I were planning such an occasion, I would not offer an entire meal as who wants to make love on a full stomach? I would have lots of little expensive nibbles like fruit, chocolates strawberries, oysters and asparagus, or a cheese platter. The whole point is that the experience should be special and it won't be if you serve the things you normally would, like a steak or casserole. It's also much nicer if you eat informally. A romantic candlelit dinner is fine for an anniversary or other restaurant celebration but in your own living room, why not feed each other off a large platter whilst reclining on a chaise or sofa? Some people like to eat in bed and others don't but that's the next obvious destination for the lovers, a fresh bottle of champagne and whatever food is left. That's another reason not to overeat - there's nothing more off-putting than a whole pile of sickly, rich foods left around on dirty plates when one is full. For once, be impractical - don't clean up or wash dishes. If your lover wants to take you right there on the table with everything flying, let him!
So, we have created the mood, nice, soft music is playing and we have heightened our senses with succulent morsels - it would be hard not to be relaxed by now. If the lovers are in love and feel very confident in their love-making, that could be the next phase followed by more foreplay activities, if desired, but what of those couples who need more preparation?
Two things are highly recommended - massage and aromatherapy. We all know the first but what of the second? They work in very well together as aromatherapy is literally therapy via the sense of smell. This is achieved by applying a range of essential oils to various parts of the body. It is gaining popularity for the cure of everything from headache to arthritis but for romantic purposes, we want the sensual qualities of the herbs to come through and to add a furtrher dimension to our loving and touching experience. Some sex therapists even recommend reciprocal massage as a form of foreplay or alternative to intercourse from time to time as it brings couples back to the sensual enjoyment of each other and away from genitalia and orgasm. Of course, mutual masturbation might develop, and/or intercourse and orgasm can be the crowning glory of the night but it doesn't have to be.
The oils of lavendar, sandalwood and rosemary are particularly effective for massage.
So far, we've looked at the very earthy senses of touch, sight, sound and taste and smell, but is there a place for cerebral pleasures in romance? For some, these could be a distraction, and for them, the joy lies in not having to think or decide anything, to just let the mind and body float through one sensation after another. For others, intellectual stimulation adds to the total experience. You may like to have on hand some videos, board games, reading material, sex aids and other toys. If you have a partner who likes imaginative fun, be inventive. These need not break the romantic mood if they are used sparingly and prevented from becoming the main focus of the interaction. If you have successfully created all the other components, seeing a sexy video or reading aloud to each other from erotic literature or playing a game like `Foreplay' or `Sexual trivia' will not seem intrusive. It's important to keep the sense of fun and relaxation going as well, and when you get your clothes off, always keep your sense of homour on. There's nothing less romantic that someone who takes themselves too seriously.
As with food, it's best not to overdo the alcohol content of the occasion. You don't want to fall asleep or have the man unable to perform! But also as with food, less is more. A small amount of quality is better than a whole lot of the banal. Offer nice wines or stick to chamagne. Beer is too ordinary and filling, spirits too potent. You should be intoxicating each other rather than letting the alcohol do all the work. Try to keep the theme romantic by paying attention to the detail, ever vigilant of appealing to the eye as well as the other senses. Keep your Coles glasses in the cupboard - only the crystal is good enough for you today, even if you have to borrow some! Watch out for any jarring in the colour schemes, table settings, clothing, bedding, everything, as it's details that will count for the overall effect.
Bathing together is an absolute must, preferably a bath with lots of lovely salts, oils, or gel, pretty scented soaps and soft, gentle sponges for lathering each other with. If a bath is impossible, shower together and for once, forget about conserving water - take your time, wash each other, touch lovingly. By all means, have sex in the shower if you wish but it's probably more romantic to use this as another foreplay activity, leaving the sex act for later. You can always have another shower or bath afterwards and this time, screw in the water!
This might all sound like a lot of trouble to go to when you can just as easily go to bed and make love. However, long-term relationships in particular need a lot of attention to prevent them from going stale, and new lovers need variety because they spend so much time in bed! So, whichever category you fall into, take the time to be romantic as well as sexy, relaxed as well as turned on.
Romance is an attitude of mind. It can include sex or can be indulged in separately. It can take place on a holiday island, at a fancy restaurant or in your own living-room. Never let limitations of time or budget stop you having romance in your life. It's about pampering yourself and your partner and isn't that always a worthwhile pursuit?
Dr Charmaine Saunders
Dr Saunders is a therapist, columnist, lecturer and 6-times published author in Australia. She is also a counsellor, university lecturer in personal development courses, contributor to national women's magazines, a panellist and writer for a sexuality TV show and a regular commentator on radio programmes. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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