Below is an excerpt from my new book, “Be Strong, Be Smart –a father talks to his daughter about sex.” The 10,000 word book, published by Booktrope and available as an e-book or in print, is divided into sections. This is the section on:
A wise man told me when I was in my twenties that the most important sexual organ I had was my brain. I nodded my head, thinking I knew what he meant, as a twenty-year-old will, but it took me at least twenty more years to fully integrate his wise words into my behavior.
What I want to say to you is that your beliefs and attitudes about yourself, men, and your sexuality will govern you, so you better learn what they are and make friends with them.
I see the openness and wealth of information our world now has about sex that did not exist in my youth. You have access to so many words and images now. You can learn things in a few moments that it took me years to find out, and you can see things that I didn’t even imagine.
And I wonder how our basic attitude in American society has changed, or not. It seems to me we still have some Victorian-age shyness about sex that causes us to hide, snicker, and, beyond all reason and taste, continue to burp out raunchy jokes about women.
While your mom and I have not been very strict and haven’t restricted your freedom very much, we have tried to instill certain values—respect for yourself and others and a healthy, open relationship with us among them. But it seems that we too have neglected to engage you before now about sex, and for that I apologize.
I want you to come to terms with that fear and awkwardness. While I appreciate a good sense of humor as well as anyone, I think it’s a serious mistake to make remarks and tell jokes about the opposite sex or about an act that has the potential to be quietly spiritual and certainly ecstatic. The longer men engage in that sort of exchange with their peers, the more they poison their own experience. I’d like you to learn an effective way to respond, as a woman, to what is essentially men’s fear of women.
So explore your thoughts, and decide what place in your life you want sex to occupy. Does that sound strange? I think we give that kind of thoughtful consideration to food, homes, money, religion, our careers certainly, …why not sex? Do you want your sexual life to be private, open, funny, sacred, productive, spiritual, informed, romantic? Think about it. Do some reading. Talk with others. Expand your consciousness, and slowly build a stance about your sexuality that you will carry into your primary intimate relationship.
An attitude is an ongoing set of feelings and thoughts about something. Of course I’d like to you to experience freedom and joy in your life—all of it, including your sexual life. The sexual phase of your life lasts a long time, and I’m suggesting that you start with a healthy foundation that has to do with your attitudes, values, beliefs, and desires. Those are things you and I can talk about.
A creative, optimistic outlook will take you a long way in your sexual life. Sexual frustration, frigidity, and impotence are definitely related to a person’s worldview and view of self. Do you have a sense of meaning and purpose in your life? Do you have the feeling that you matter, that you are full of life energy and are ready to interact with the world in a joyful way? These questions are important. They address the spiritual nature of making love and making love happen.
That attitude folds into your feelings about your own body and your sexual urges. Get clear, accepting, and strong with yourself first; then you can take that to someone else. There is nothing about your body or urges to be ashamed of. Your body – your only body — needs to be kept clean, healthy and in harmony. Don’t make the mistake of separating the sexual from the spiritual.
One of the most important things I can tell you about sex—and about relationships, period—is work to manage your judgments. What I mean here by “judgment” is setting yourself up as a judge of someone else (or of yourself) and deciding whether others are good or bad, right or wrong. It is an imposition of your own morality on another, and it is one of the biggest obstacles to intimacy that I know of.
In the course of the coming years, you will discover how different you are from the one you love. Perhaps you will discover how different your non-romantic loved ones are from each other as well. Your job is to refrain from judging the differences and appreciate your partner for who he is—just him, there in front of you, growing like a daffodil in the garden. He has his own path, just as you have yours.
Some say that the appreciation of differences is the foundation of intimacy. We tend to love people who are similar to us, but not too similar. We love people who are different from us, but not too different.
The process of becoming intimate is a process of the discovery, acceptance, and appreciation of those differences.
Often what we do instead is try our hardest to change the person across from us, to make them something we want them to be. This leads the mind to construct a kind of self-contained bible of what is right and what is wrong. We might want a spouse who speaks to us in the right way, does the things around the house we want them to do, drives the way we want them to, and makes love in just the right way. If he does not, we will work hard to change him. Believe me, both sexes do this.
Appreciating differences means dropping that way of thinking. It means you do not have God in your pocket, continually informing you of what is good and what is bad. It means seeing another person who has a different past and a different future than you do. He has a path and he will live that out as he wants (I hope), and he is doing his best to do that every day.
A large part of intimacy—sexual and otherwise—means being humble enough to truly see someone else and learn from them, instead of insisting that something be done or expressed the way you would do it.
If you have the attitude “My way or the highway,” you will end up alone.
The sexual act gives us the ultimate opportunity to let our judgments fall away and drop into pure appreciation and joy. If you are in your head, constantly thinking about how big or small or pretty or ugly you are, or evaluating each part of your partner’s body, you will miss that opportunity. The gift you will give yourself and your partner is the acceptance of who you are, just for yourself—not in relationship to anyone else—just who you are. In other words, you are not in this life solely for him, and he is not in this life solely for you; you both are here to live your own lives and be companions on a long journey.
Sexual joy is about letting go, surrendering yourself to a union that is more than both of you, and you can only get there by surrendering your ego, your insecurities, your self-importance, and your judgments. When you can do this for yourself, you will find it a lot easier to do for others.