Just after I arrived home from Woodhull #SFS16, I sped through Emily Nagoski’s brilliant book Come As You Are. For me, one of the most valuable takeaways was the concept of a sexual accelerator and sexual brakes.
As a rather – ahem – intense person, I was not surprised to learn that I have both a sensitive accelerator and sensitive brakes. I’m turned on by a range of things, but I also find that I turn off easily. Nagoski emphasizes that every configuration is normal, and there’s really nothing that can be done to change the basic structures. However, you can pay attention to how things affect your accelerator and your brakes in order to sort of “hack” your sexual response.
You may remember from my Woodhull posts that I was also deeply affected by #SFSConsent, which addressed pleasure in many forms. I felt so shaken by the idea of experiencing pleasure and how it relates to vulnerability. But I also knew that if I was going to get through to the other side, I would have to put in the work.
As a result, I’ve been focusing a lot on learning how to work with the equipment that I have in order to maximize pleasure and manifest the kind of sexuality that I desire.
I found it easiest to start with pleasure that isn’t sexual, but sensual. Part of this involves simply being in my body, which was hard because I have a history of dissociation. Hard though it may be, I decided it wasn’t impossible.
Heat, Softness, and Touch
I slowed down and stood under the shower spray so that the hot water relaxed my shoulder muscles, which are often achy from the time I spent at my computer. I took my time and patted myself dry with a fluffy towel. I relished the feeling of clean sheets and pillowcases. I asked my partner to brush my hair. (Brushing my own hair feels good, but having someone else brush my hair feels great.)
Femme-y and Feelgood
When I was home, I bought two body suits. (You know, those impractical garments with snap crotches.) Soon, I noticed that I was wearing them every chance I got. For me, they were the perfect intersection of comfortable and sexy. On days that I wanted to feel confident and capable, I donned a body suit. So, as part of my efforts to bring myself pleasure, I bought 3 more.
I also decided to stop and pay attention when I noticed myself questioning or criticizing pleasure in my head. For some reason, enjoying anything pinged my internal critic. At first, I had to deal with a lot of self-criticism, even for something as simple as taking extra time to do my nails, or for buying a pint of delicious peanut butter cup ice cream. The more I practiced acknowledging and then dismissing those thoughts, though, the less frequent they became. They haven’t disappeared, but they’ve certainly gotten weaker.
Accepting and enjoying sensual pleasure is a key part of easing off the brakes and onto the accelerator (for me). But sensual pleasure alone isn’t quite enough.
If you’d asked me six months ago if I considered myself kinky, I would have said no. I know about kinky things, but there aren’t many that I participate in. I like my leather in the form of couches, auto interiors, and purses. I’ve never explored D/s relationship dynamics. The only watersports I’m interested in are actual sports, in literal water.
But as James M. McGill once said, “The world is a rich tapestry, my friends.” Kinks1 aren’t limited to your garden variety BDSM staples. And once you recognize some of your own kinks, you can bring them in when you need a little inspiration.
For example, under the right conditions, I can be super into someone yelling. My hypothesis: Yelling makes me a little bit nervous, which manifests in the form of increased heart rate and a change in blood circulation. If I find the person attractive, my brain combines that information with the aforementioned physical queues and registers arousal, as long as I also know that I’m safe. It’s a kind of controlled fear, like a haunted house. For a few reasons, I’ve only really experienced this kink via media, but I’m still sort of holding out hope of being yelled at under the perfect conditions.
Something that’s a little more accessible is my proclivity for a good pair of hands. What are good hands, exactly? I don’t know how to quantify it, but I know ’em when I see ’em. And as it turns out, I’m definitely not alone! Look for pictures of great hands and you will find a veritable treasure trove.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss what might be my strangest kink: Desks. I fuckin’ love desks. A good-looking person sitting at a nice desk? Unnnff. Yes, it can be a bit impractical to get it on in the office (I happen to know a thing or two about that) but that’s part of the charm.
Beyond kinks, I’ve found some interesting turn-ons that are much more situation-dependent. One such discovery is that I absolutely love it when my partner takes the opportunity to (lightly, lovingly) roast me. He’s such a nice, gentle person that just a little reminder that he’s also witty and willing to keep me in line punches the accelerator immediately.
Since I noticed these things, I’ve been making an effort to encounter them more in my everyday life. I’ve found that doing this makes it a lot easier to activate the accelerator.
Easing off the Brakes
Accepting that I’m into some things that are, perhaps, unusual is also part of easing off the brakes. If you’re into something but you’re ashamed of it, that shame is going to make it a hell of a lot more difficult for you to get into a good sexual head space2.
Personally, I’ve found this easiest when I’m in the company of people who know what they’re into and joyfully embrace it.
The community that I’ve found among bloggers has played a big role in all of this self-discovery. But while sex bloggers are certainly a special breed, we’re not superhuman. We’re not doing anything you can’t do yourself. You can create a space where it’s totally acceptable to be into anything safe and consensual by being brave and open-minded. Or, you can take to the internet. Not much for words? No problem. You might want to take to Tumblr, where there’s a community for literally everything.
Thinking about pleasure and paying attention to my sexual accelerants has made a huge difference for me in the last couple months. I’ve definitely noticed that my baseline level of interest remains higher and steadier, so that even considering the hellish stress I’ve been under lately, I’m more likely to be up for a roll in the sheets than I was before. For me, this has been a great way to take charge of my own sexuality. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend Come As You Are, which you can purchase directly from Emily Nagoski (you can even get it signed!) or from Amazon.