Bells and whistles (sometimes literally), are all the rage when it comes to sexual endeavours. There are endless new positions to try, new lubes to slather, and new toys to buzz. The accumulation of experimental sexual experiences is great for those wanting to expand their horizons — more power to you.
But the pleasure and enjoyment that comes from slowing down in all aspects of our lives can be extended to sex. Case in point: One of the biggest sex trends of 2023 identified by Lovehoney is sexual mindfulness.
“We have noticed that after the first wave of post-pandemic ‘make-up for lost time’ sex, people are now looking for a holistic experience rather than quick satisfaction,” explains Womanizer sex and relationship expert, Christine Rafe.
Buzzwords around wellness and mindfulness have been inescapable for the better half of the last decade. Instagram carousels preach the benefits of respecting boundaries, TikTok therapists condemn gaslighting behaviours and workplaces have implemented catchy alliteration-based initiatives (like Meditation Mondays and Fitness Fridays).
So, what does sexual mindfulness actually mean? To Melbourne-based sexologist Vanessa Muradian, sexual mindfulness is, ironically, about getting out of your mind and into your body.
“A symptom of the cognitive-centric society that we live in is that people really find it hard to drop into their bodies during sex,” they explain to Refinery29 Australia. “It's really hard for people to just show up to a sexy encounter and expect they can stop thinking and just feel sexy, or tune into spontaneous desire.”
The benefits of traditional mindfulness practices like meditation are widely acknowledged as beneficial in dealing with chronic stress and clinical anxiety. Bringing mindfulness — the practice of being fully present in a moment — into sex, means the potential for heightened pleasure and meaningful connection (whether that’s with yourself or somebody else).
While sexual practices like Kama Sutra are intended to build intimacy between a couple, the theory of sexual mindfulness is applicable to anyone who is interested in solo sex, dating or who is coupled up.
How can we bring mindfulness into our solo practices?
In many ways, masturbation already taps into mindfulness practices. Solo sex reduces a number of distractions; you are entirely focused on your own pleasure, wants and emotions. There are ways of amplifying mindfulness though, and that comes from the willingness of trying something new and breaking dependable habits.
This exploration can extend to the content you consume when masturbating. Muradian suggests that porn can sometimes become a habitual crutch or a ‘quick fix’. “Porn can be a direct route into orgasm, whether this serves your pleasure and longer-term pleasure pathways — is subjective and your decision,” she says.
In the face of mindfulness, a streamlined and repetitive masturbation process may not allow us to strengthen our ability to access and elevate pleasure. “If you want to break the habit of quick fixes, slow pleasure exploration and masturbation right down,” Muradian says.
“Touch yourself with curiosity; squeeze, ground yourself, sensually caress your inner thighs, your neck, suck your own fingers. Once you are warmed up, [feel free to] bring in more heated touch, like slapping, biting yourself, scratching — it’s all welcome,” they recommend.
For those who struggle with feeling present during solo sex, Muradian acknowledges the myriad of factors that can affect libido and sexual awareness, one of which is the mental load of day-to-day activities.
“Recognise that if you are really fast-paced, busy [or] even anxious, getting out of your head and into your body might require more vigorous activity,” she says, adding that having the ability to consciously take note of what you do in your day (while understanding that this contributes to how you feel later and how you need to unwind sexually) will make for a better pleasure experience.
How can sexual mindfulness be applied to casual dating?
The (often dreaded) dating game is supercharged with mindlessness. Tiresome swiping, repeated pick-up lines and short-lived romances are expected. In order to bring sexual mindfulness to casual sex, Muradian suggests incorporating mindful, embodied practices in your own time, such as yoga, intuitive movement or dance.
“Ideally, movement that allows your body to guide you instead of the mind telling you what to do,” she explains, adding that this body and mind connection can help prioritise trust in your body, which can assist in nurturing a calmer nervous system.
How can sexual mindfulness enhance a relationship and coupled sexual experiences?
Of course, sexual mindfulness isn’t limited to the time spent in the nude, it flows over to the connection you have with your sexual partner and your own sexuality. Navigating a long-term relationship comes with its own set of challenges, like having your mind wander during intercourse. “The mind will chit chat more and you might feel more 'in your head' when you have been with someone a long time… so working at other ways to connect intimately is important,” Muradian says.
The practices described above for solo sex and casual sex can be just as applicable to someone in a relationship. Feeling attuned and connected to your body and mind can help build a strong foundation that gives way to adventure and exploration (with yourself or your partner).
“Finding safety and ease in your body means you can explore each other's fetishes and kinks more easily,” Muradian adds.
“Remember, though, having a good, fun and sexy erotic life takes work and commitment in a long-term relationship. Over time, sharing that trust and intimacy with someone is a really awesome safe base to grow and explore from.”