Updated: Aug 9, 2019
Initiating ourselves into the joy of life
Wherever we look in contemporary life, eroticism seems in short supply and in high demand. A deafening silence seems to characterise our relationship with eroticism. Marked by shame and disavowal, and furtive glances, eroticism has been given very little space to thrive in our institutions and markets.
This is, as we will see, terrible for our collective happiness, because cultivating eroticism means we can embrace a most transformative way of sensing the world. Not being able to access eroticism is a recipe for unhappiness and anxiety. If you read countless internet websites and popular advice for couples, you’ll start believing that boredom and committed sex lives go hand in hand. Apparently even some evolutionary biologists believe that sexual variety is just an adaptive mechanism that was evolved to prevent incestous inbreeding. The evolutionary benefit, or curse, of this situation is that as soon as couples become familiar with each other, they may as well be siblings.
This may of course be simply avoiding the obvious conclusion: most people are boring. It's not our fault. We’ve been educated in such a way to think that cultivating boredom, distraction and a mechanical idea of sexuality is the way to have fulfilling lives. We have been told that reaching our goals, our vision, and that finding a better way to turn our economy of action into short-term results is the only way to live. This end-game mindset is a curse for anything that matters in life, including eroticism. We like to consider ourselves very liberated today. There seems to be something very unfinished about the sexual revolution. Perhaps that's because we never had the erotic revolution. Fortunately, it's never too late to be erotic.
Why everyone should be discussing eroticism
Nothing seems harder to talk about today than eroticism.
It is true that we are are waking up to abuses of power and sexuality. These abuses are anything but erotic. We know more and more about how people prey on vulnerable members of our community, such as children. We know how powerful men limit and confine women. The #metoo movement or exposures of abuse are forces for positive social change. But, this doesn't mean we can't be erotic anymore, or consider eroticism a key part of our lives. Eroticism is not about power. We should do everything we can to ensure that eroticism is not confused with power and domination. The erotic registers what matters in life in ways that actually challenge power. Eroticism is not sexuality. It is a way of liberating ourselves in the process of life. It creates difference and joyous dissent. It's the opposite to using power and advantage to force pleasure. Any barriers placed in front of eroticism affect us all, because eroticism is fundamentally about the freedom to explore. Today, we have become very accomplished at discussing everything except eroticism. We can talk all we want about pornography and the ins and outs of sex. All that sells. But by narrowing into sex as soon as eroticism is the topic, we are placed in a narrow worldview.
We arrive in lonely place that seems to be defined by a negative view of women. Eroticism is the purview of lonely and bored housewives, so the stereotype goes.
This negativity is not only fundamentally wrong: it is devastating for everyone because it devalues something essential to our experience of a happy life. The problem is not just that we cannot openly discuss eroticism without being marginalised. It is that our institutions and societies are not designed to support the erotic. Neoliberalism and markets have failed in spreading a sexual revolution that creates genuine liberation and wellbeing. Our societies have failed us because they have isolated sex and removed any erotic understanding. Discussing eroticism appears to create shame, confuse people, or put us out of our comfort zone. For many people, eroticism is dangerous and is best discussed in secret. There's very little supply for eroticism. A high demand however for such things as erotic fiction points to the desire for something more. This more doesn't belong somewhere else. It belongs here and now. Eroticism is simply living in the process itself, in supporting values that matter for a good life.
Teaching and initiating
We’ve never been taught about eroticism. Being erotic is difficult. It was once a fundamental way of seeing the world, part of the fourfold vision of the ancient Greek world that initiated the chosen into the world of philosophical vision. Eroticism was once a fundamental pillar of education. No longer. In most of our daily lives in the Western world today, the most we know about eroticism comes from a $1.99 book at Aldi. This is unfortunate, because eroticism is one of those experiences we all need to some degree to enjoy our lives. We’re all the same in our capacity to benefit from eroticism. It doesn’t matter if you have a partner, you’re married, you’re single and searching for love, you’re single and actively avoiding commitment, or you’re just learning about what it all involves. We may need to ditch everything we know about sex and think and observe again. We do not need the ideology of love or the mechanics of sex. We just need to work out how to be erotic.
When you hear about how fulfilled people are in their sex lives, consider if that's really true. Perhaps there are people out there who never talk about their sex lives, who might initiate you, but for whom it’s not that they’re necessarily getting more sex. Not everything is about quantity. It’s just that they enjoy it more. Sex is a quality for them. It’s become a way of seeing the world, and a way of being pleasured by the world.
To help start the conversation and provide ways of teaching and sharing eroticism, here are the 6 habits of highly erotic people. Enjoy responsibly.
Habit 1: An erotic person savours their life.
This is habit number one: savouring your life. If we can’t find things in our lives that give us pleasure, that spark joy, as Marie Kondo puts it, and that we savor, we’re going to be hard pressed to be erotic. We can enjoy stuffing our face and watching Game of Thrones, but are we savouring what we are doing? Savouring life is about enjoying variety and precise detail in intense ways, enjoying moments with a vividness and attention that’s curious and all consuming. If we don't have anything other than a television show to excite and enthrall us, we may not have mastered what eroticism can mean for us. If we can’t find the smallest things erotic, the pin on our dress, the coffee cup, the steering wheel, the smallest detail in a font, or the shape of a cloud in the sky, we’re missing the essential habit that is the erotic imagination. This is a way of seeing the world that brings everything around us into intimacy. We need to make time for this vision and allow it to consume us at any moment, in moments of bliss, excitement, frenzy and tension.
Creating spaces for fantasy and bliss is the essential habit of an erotic person. Holding that space for others if they choose to enter it, even at great risk to ourselves, is how initiation happens.
Habit 2: An erotic person cultivates self-confidence
Without having confidence in yourself, being erotic can become difficult. Resentment, jealousy, and fear can all end eroticism in a moment’s breath and turn it into shame and even anger. To cultivate this confidence, believing in the power of our own imagination is important.
It's one of the central values of the Dalai Lama's Buddhism to teach self-confidence. Independence and self-awareness allow us to have a better grasp on life. We can have a satisfying experience of life, and savor the world, no matter who we’re with or where we are. This is a value that can be maintained anywhere, and gratitude arrives as soon as we realise we can enjoy an erotic vision.
Being grounded in our fantasies is, paradoxically, how we can be grounded in eroticism.
Habit 3: An erotic person shows self-awareness
Erotic people are highly self-aware.
Erotic people tend to talk. They enjoy and savor words. But when it matters, they’re silent, and they hold a gaze or a touch. They talk until there’s nothing left to say, then gaze or touch. Enjoying moments and cultivating that enjoyment in others, through the liberal use of self-awareness, leads to eroticism.
If we show the curiosity of our mind to others, and are self-aware enough to listen to others, chances are we’ll end up being able to feel eroticism with others. Nothing is more enticing than sharing enjoyment. This sharing can wash over us like a wave.
Habit 4: An erotic person cultivates curiosity
Showing curiosity about people, seeking them out and sharing enjoyment, being curious about strangers and strange things, creates intimacy. It’s this intimacy, the powerful capacity to share details that others consider irrelevant or fantastical, such as the caressing of clouds, brings together strangers and strange things.
Showing curiosity without fear or shame is essential to eroticism. It doesn’t mean there is shame in our behavior, but we don’t let it overpower us; we savor the shame.
Showing curiosity in the strange is one of the essential features of the erotic. It makes us happy and fulfilled because it gives our lives a sense of adventure and discovery.
Curiosity rarely kills cats, but it does reveal the world as it is, rather than as it ought to be. That’s another essential tension in eroticism.
Habit 5: An erotic person challenges prejudices
It’s important to understand the great leveling fact: we’re all in some ways perverts.
By challenging prejudices in others and ourselves, we discover commonalities as we as savour differences.
No matter where we come from, we’re all united by the commonality of having a capacity to enjoy perversity. Erotic perversity is like a common resource, but to enjoy it, it must be shared freely. It’s therefore the most beautiful, rare and uncommon property we all share in common. Everything we have been taught or raised to believe will often say the opposite. There is a great responsibility in preserving consensual forms of perversity that do not relish power and domination. Supporting the freedom of eroticism is important. Sociologists will tell you some strange, almost baffling facts in our culture:
Women with high self-esteem are more likely to have rape fantasies.
Straight men like googling and ogling (or go-ogling) large penises just as much as any gay man. The largest consumer of shemale porn is the straight male.
The greatest number of sex obsessed people may be located in the Bible Belt of the United States.
If you don’t believe these facts, now is your chance to experiment and test the data. Perhaps you’ll discover that people are more erotic than you know.
Habit 6: An erotic person cultivates desire
It may seem strange, but it’s more erotic if we do not give someone what they want. Cultivate their wanting. Enjoy their wanting. Nothing is more erotic than enjoying the desires of others, and sharing that enjoyment.
Simple acts like reading can cultivate wanting. According to a scientific study by researcher Harold Leitenberg of The Journal of Sex Research, women who read romance or erotic novels have an astounding 74 percent more sex with their partners than those who don’t. It’s a no brainer that reading about erotic acts can cultivate wanting.
Don’t rule out pornography, either. It can cultivate wanting by watching pornography, although little things and daily details are even more powerful. And if you’re worried about consuming pornography, you should consider the findings of many sociologists that there is an inverse correlation between the dissemination of pornography and rape: more porn, less rape.
Pornography is not automatically violent, but it's not the end point in the erotic journey. An erotic vision can be applied to it or, even, supersede it. We need more eroticism, less non-consensual violence of all kinds.
Anxious to get started?
Perhaps you could begin by watching erotic psychologists talk about eroticism. Here’s Esther Perel, one of the psychologists who helped inspire these 6 habits of highly erotic people.
It turns out that eroticism isn’t even about sexuality.