Consider the word “Sensuality”.
Take a moment to reflect on what images and feelings come to mind when you think of the phrase “Sensual”.
Sensuality has various meanings depending on who you talk to. And due to media portrayal, many people have a skewed picture of sensuality. The media seems to tell us that in order to be a sensual we must be:
- A cis woman;
- Gorgeous, of course;
- Sultry, seductive and alluring;
- Wearing something enticing, like a silk slip or laced undergarments;
- Carefree and spontaneous; and
- Perpetually available for sexual attention.
In Australian television, this depiction is bizarrely summed up in cat-food commercials. See evidence below:
These ads always bother me, and so does the idea that sensuality needs to fit a whole set of strict criteria that the average woman does not always/ever meet. And they completely leave out the idea that anyone other than a cis woman could be sensual and sensuous.
But when we just look at the definition of the word “sensuality”, we get a very different picture. Here are a few definitions from different online dictionaries:
- Relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses;
- The enjoyment, expression or pursuit of physical pleasure;
- Arousing gratification of the senses;
- Relating to the senses rather than the intellect.
So, while the term sensuality is often used to refer to sexual provocation, the real common denominator of these definitions is an interest in your own sensory experiences and pleasures – including, but not limited to, sexual experiences.
And what many people do not see, is that many things in life (or everything in life) can be sensual and sensuous: the eating of a sweet orange, the embrace of a lover, a yoga class, or a gorgeous sunset.
Sensuality is important for our sexuality, but not in the way that Eva Longoria would have us think. Sensuality in our sex lives purely means having an interest and an investment in our own sensory gratification, and the sensory pleasure of our partner/s.
Sensuality from my perspective is so much more about tuning into the five senses than it is about how alluring you come across. It is so much more about being in the moment than how you look or dress. It is about knowing yourself and what feels good to your body, and appreciating how to make another being feel cherished and sensorially devoured.
But if we are not to focus on these criteria presented by mass media, how can we enhance and fully appreciate our sensuality? Here are a few ideas:
- Tune into the five senses more often, both inside and outside the bedroom. For example, start to notice the kinds of aromas your enjoy, the textures that feel good on your skin, and the tastes that bring you pleasure;
- Notice how different sensory experiences effect your mood – what kind of music makes you feel joyful, energetic, sexy or aroused; what kind of lighting in your lounge room or bedroom create a calm and relaxing atmosphere;
- Practice noticing the sensations on your skin and inside your body by pausing a few times a day and “checking-in” with yourself;
- Get to know your body and how you like to be touched – this can be done on your own or with a partner;
- Practice communicating how you like to be touched sensually and sexually – find words and phrases that help you to get your message across politely but assertively.
And lastly, remember the final dictionary definition of sensuality I gave above: Relating to the senses rather than the intellect. We spend so much of our time up in our heads – thinking, planning, analysing, ruminating – and any activity that you can do that helps to bring your mind back down into your body and into the senses, even just for a moment or two, is you investing in your sensuality.
Yoga, exercise, stretching, meditating. playing with kids, sport, and massage are all examples of activities that can help to ground us back into our sensory world.
Dr. Alice Hucker