5 Important Things We Learned About Sex From Experts at the Sexual Health ExpoEXPAND
Marnie Sehayek

5 Important Things We Learned About Sex From Experts at the Sexual Health Expo

At last weekend’s Sexual Health Expo, in between the tentacle dildos, genitalia-shaped novelty items and the plethora of rainbow-colored silicon doodads that throb to your playlist of choice, sexual health educators of every stripe offered nuanced and intelligent perspectives on sex. For those unable to attend, this list is a transmission from the sexperts, a distillation of their most important advice. The only thing missing here is the intermittent thwap of consensual spankings and the giddy hoots and chuckles that buzzed around the 13th floor of downtown's California Market Center. For that, readers will just have to use their imaginations. Enjoy.

1. Communication is key. Talk to your partner!
Invariably, sex and intimacy advice from the experts rides on a foundation of good communication. Whether it’s asking for or demonstrating exactly what you want in bed or sharing what turns you on or where your personal boundaries are, the sexperts suggest you loosen your lips to ensure satisfaction inside and out of the bedroom.

“Communication will solve 99.9 percent of sexual problems and disagreements,” says Chelsea Steiner, an educator with local purveyor of exotic goods Pleasure Chest. “It’s crazy that people will have sex with someone, but when it comes to talking to them about sex — eek!” she teases.

Putting sex on the table for discussion has implications that run deeper than a technical tutorial. Sexual intuitive Susanna Brisk says it’s important for partners to find the "Venn diagram of their particular sexualities,” so they can connect in a way that acknowledges their deeper selves.

2. Whatever you're into is cool if you channel it correctly.
“Anything you’re into is a valid sexuality, and I mean anything,” Brisk says, going on to explain that the weird, taboo and reviled are more than fair game on the fantasy front. “Nobody can arrest you for the contents of your own head,” she says.

Brisk emphasizes the importance of tuning in to needs and finding a way to meet them with a consenting adult, rather than suffering through repression. Even something as morally fraught as pedophilia can be relieved through roleplay like “mommy and daddy” games, she suggests. “The more [you] embrace what excites [you] for whatever reason, the more powerful [you] become in life,” she says, adding that in such reflection comes “a degree of permission to just be whoever [you] really are.”

Acro-yogaEXPAND
Acro-yoga
Marnie Sehayek

3. Consent takes practice.
“It really is important to ask people before everything when you’re first getting started with sex with someone,” says Dawn Woodard, a representative from Sex Positive L.A., who cites media representations and even “yes means yes” training videos as rendering simplistic views of a fickle practice.

SPLA is a meet-up group of members interested in exploring sexuality in designated safe spaces, from G-rated cuddle parties to more sexual group events. The group’s leadership facilitates real-life situations and models practical approaches to consent that attendees can bring into their relationships and sex lives.

“At first it can feel really awkward and uncomfortable, but ultimately it’s so empowering to both or all people involved,” Woodard says. “Be willing to openly communicate what you want and what you don’t want and accept your partner’s communication of what they want and what they don’t want.”

4. Sex is more than a physical experience.
“You need to connect your minds before you can connect your bodies in a satisfying way,” keynote speaker and lifetime achievement award recipient Dr. Ruth Westheimer tells the overflowing crowd. “Sex is not between the waist and the knees, it’s in the brain,” she says.

Many educators echo this sentiment, explaining that sex is an experience that transcends the physical. Orpheus Black, a sex educator who specializes in meditative sex, describes sex as a process. “Sex is not a means to an end. It’s a means of exploration,” he offers. “Sex can be mental, emotional, psychological or spiritual depending on how open we are … and if we limit ourselves in any way, we’re limited in every way.” Black endorses a holistic approach to sex that taps into these dimensions — “to be a whole human being with another whole human being,” he says, conceding this can be more difficult for men who are acculturated to resist vulnerability.

Joining Black on the metaphysical wavelength, sex therapist and love expert Dr. Ava Cadell coined the acronym S.E.X. for Systematic Energy X-change. “Sex doesn’t have to be intercourse or oral sex or even kissing,” she says. “It truly is an exchange of energy and it’s something that bonds us fundamentally.”

5. Nonsexual touch is just as important as sex is to overall intimacy and well-being.
“It’s very important to be caressed and be touched even if it doesn’t lead to a sexual experience to show that you are glad that you are in the company of your partner,” Dr. Ruth says.

Demonstrator Miyoko Rifkin expands on this idea through sensual acro-yoga workshops designed to facilitate partner connection. “Our relationships would be really different if we just stopped and looked each other in the eye, and really checked in with each other physically,” she says. There is power, she says, in defining the difference between sexual touch and sensual touch; even touching each other in a friendly way, like hugging, is “vital to our existence.”

“We live in such an electronic society now that people are starving to be touched, just to be gently, lovingly touched,” Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce, clinical sexologist and health educator says, picking up the thread. “People need to learn how to massage. People need to learn to touch without the expectation of sex, so that women can relax and enjoy their bodies in a way that is nonthreatening, especially women who have been traumatized.”

Losangeleskink.com brought plenty of accessories.EXPAND
Losangeleskink.com brought plenty of accessories.
Marnie Sehayek

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