Nathan is a 34 year-old man who has recently begun a relationship with a Rosalind whom he met in a disco club. He tells us that the sex is incredible – hot passionate, and exciting. He loves that she is open for anything and has no inhibitions. They see each other often but unpredictably because she has a boyfriend whom she is not ready to leave. When we explore more deeply about how he feels in this relationship, he openly admits that the situation makes him highly anxious because he cannot relax knowing that she is with him. He loves the intensity and has no interest in stopping their connection but he also knows that there is an addictive quality to it and he is aware that the anxiety he is feeling is important to explore. We encourage him not to judge this connection but continue delving into the fears that are coming up.
In a similar way that meditation practice is not sufficient for us to understand our emotional selves, it is also true for our sexuality.
In our experience, we need tools to comprehend our sexuality.
We often describe in our work that there are two kinds of love – excited, passionate, and unpredictable love or deep, cool, consistent, and reliable love
Sex is much the same.
As with emotional awareness, most of us need more understanding to decifer what is happening to us in different sexual experiences we are having and have had.
We need greater sexual awareness.
One way to bring greater sexual awareness to our lives is to explore ourselves closely in our love making.
Are we feeling open, relaxed, trusting, and safe?
Or are we feeling perhaps not that deeply relaxed, lots of excitement, unfamiliar, perhaps not so safe or trusting, and unsure of where this is going?
We differentiate these two different experiences in a simple way.
One is based on deep consistent connection, familiarity, and trust – what we call, “trust based sex.”
The other is exciting but filled with a quality of uncertainty and fear. We call this, “fear-based sex’”
Fear-driven sex can seem like love. But if we explore deeply, we will most likely discover that it is surrounded by fear.
In our work, we teach that without deep trust, the connection is fear based, not love based. It is the same with sex.
With fear-based sex, it can be exciting, adventurous, innovative, and fresh but we cannot sustain a consistent feeling of vulnerability, and feel safe to expose our fears and insecurities.
We would like to explore these two different kinds of sexuality more deeply in this chapter with the quality of non-judgmental awareness in order to become more familiar with what is actually happening inside of us when we make love.
Fear-based sex has some common characteristics. It involves excitement, hiding or masking fears and insecurities, a certain degree of disconnection from ourselves, and a lack of deep sustained connection with the other person.
Specifically, it may show itself as:
- Being involved in dominance and submission roles and games.
- Allowing our sexual boundaries to be invaded or invading someone else’s boundaries.
- Being preoccupied with the other person’s pleasure or our performance.
- Using substances such as cocaine, marijuana, or alcohol to make love.
- Being focused and reliant on excitement.
- Having multiple partners.
- Not maintaining connection while making love.
- Using pornography.
- Domination/Submission Sex
If we were abused as a child with violence, humiliation, or overprotection, the wound of being at the mercy of a person who abused his or her power over us can show itself in how we approach sex.
We may pick one or the other of the poles of being dominant or submissive.
Humiliation and disempowerment is an intolerable feeling and the longing to recover our self-respect may show itself as wanting control or revenge to prove to ourselves that we are not a victim.
We get turned on sexually by controlling the other person because our fears of being vulnerable and opening are so deep, we find that this is the only way that we get excited sexually even to the point of causing pain.
Paradoxically, our shame from being abused, controlled, and humiliate as children can show itself in the opposite way. We get pleasure and excitement by being out of control, further humiliated, and even being abused or on the edge of being abused.
- Disrespect for Boundaries
Fear driven sexuality can also show itself in disrespect for boundaries – another’s or ours.
We learn to be sensitive and respectful of our boundaries or those of another when our boundaries were respected as children and when we witnessed our parents being respectful of each other’s boundaries.
It may be foreign and unfamiliar for us to understand that true loving connection is only based on total respect for boundaries particularly in the arena of sexuality.
- Preoccupation with Our Partner or Our Performance
Another aspect of fear-based sex is when we are preoccupied with our performance or the sexual satisfaction of our partner.
This symptom is based on shame – deeply seated insecurities about our sexuality, attractiveness as a man or woman, our about our worth as a person.
Our fear is that we are not worthy of the person’s love and attention and we compensate for that fear by trying to prove ourselves by living up to high expectations.
- Using Substances or Alcohol
We asked Nathan if substances or alcohol was involved when he had sex with Rosalind. He told us that most of the time, they were high on cocaine or had consumed quite a bit of alcohol. We asked how it would be to make love without using and he said that since the beginning, this seemed to be a basic part of their connection.
This is a common symptom of fear-driven sex because substances can mask our fears and allow us to perform without having the problems that fear can cause.
Fear driven sex often has an addictive quality to it because it relies so heavily on excitement and keeping the energy high and intense.
It also helps us stay disconnected from our fears and insecurities.
But the motivation to perform, and maintain the excitement and stimulation of this kind of lovemaking is a strong incentive to use substances.
- Excitement and Disconnection for Our Partner
Deep intimacy is frightening because being truly vulnerable is frightening.
Sex can be a powerful way to connect our deepest souls with another. It can also be a good way to avoid any real connection.
The energy of sex can be extremely rewarding because in its excitement and intensity, it has the ability to allow us to escape our pain and fear.
We can enter into our own world of pleasure, relief of tension and anxiety, and bliss.
Intimate connection can easily interfere with allowing us to reach that place.
It is much easier to avoid connection and stay in the high of excitement so that it does not become complicated.
- Having Multiple Partners
It might seem radical and controversial for us to say that having multiple sexual partners is a symptom of fear-driven sex.
Sometimes, it isn’t.
It can be a legitimate and much needed exploration for someone who is trapped in a relationship where the sexuality has died or for someone who has never explored his or her sexuality.
But much of the time, this kind of behavior is a flight from the fears of intimacy or dealing with emotional complications that have arisen in a relationship.
It can also easily be a cover for sexual addiction, for using variety, the appeal of conquest, being appreciated, and new adventures to escape our fears, pain, and insecurities.
- Using Pornography
Porn goes hand in hand with fear-driven sex because it is objective and uncomplicated.
We can get stimulated sexually without having to deal with any interference from our own fears and insecurities or the other person personality.
When we bring awareness into our lives, we can gain a different perspective on all of these symptoms.