[Scroll down to watch an animation about the direct and indirect pleasure route]
How did we get so desensitized?
Most of us are desensitised or even numb to a certain degree. We are heavily conditioned to use our sight above all our other senses. So it comes as no surprise that many of us seek pleasure via indirect visual stimulation, rather than direct physical stimulation. Our culture that’s addicted to staring at screens and watching fast-food online porn doesn’t help with this over-reliance on visual stimulation to get pleasure. So to recondition ourselves, we have to learn to use our sense of touch more than we use our sense of sight during sex.
The direct and indirect pleasure route
There are two ways to feel pleasure when touching someone: directly and indirectly. You feel direct pleasure through direct stimulation. When you feel sensations on your skin, this stimulates your sense of touch. Sensory neurons transmit signals back into the brain, thus activating your pleasure centers. You feel indirect pleasure through the perception of pleasure. When you perceive pleasure in the person you’re touching, mirror neurons in your brain copy this pleasure, thus allowing you to feel what the other is feeling.
Seeking pleasure through the other
People often seek indirect pleasure because they do not have adequate access to direct pleasure. They can’t feel their own bodies fully, so they seek pleasure through another. This is probably why many of us are so preoccupied with what we think our partners would like us to do. Many of the couples I work with spend a lot of time trying to guess what their partners want without asking them, hoping they’ll get it right, and once they have a little success with something, they will repeat that same thing over and over again. This often results in one partner feeling like they have to please, perform for and reassure the other, causing the sexual play to feel forced.
When both partners are attuned to themselves and each other, they can access pleasure via both the direct and indirect routes simultaneously. This is key for experiencing true sexual ecstasy. But before we start focusing on the pleasure of others, it’s crucial that we first learn to feel our own direct pleasure, which is the primary way. You can recondition your senses by rewiring your brain. The ability of the brain to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life allows us to create new habits and change existing ones. Practicing this exercise will stimulate new neural connections.
Try out this exercise
Next time when you are about to have sex with your partner, try this exercise in which you will touch your partners body solely for your own pleasure. You are not doing this to elicit any kind of response from or to please your partner.
Decide beforehand that you will take turns touching each other for 5 or 10 minutes for your own selfish pleasure. Of course, this should be consensual so you may want to discuss boundaries before you start. Touching your partner solely for your own pleasure has nothing to do with being selfish in a negative way. This is about learning to be selfish in the sense that you’ll learn to enjoy the feeling in your hands for your own self.