For my last SexIs column, I wanted to share some thoughts about how to turn me on that I've gleaned from reading through old columns and simply exploring sex in my personal and professional life. In truth, the real answer to that equation would be a blank column, because there is no one way, or even one thousand ways. There are infinite ways, as many as there are people in the world and days in a year, and I’m always amused and surprised when something that did nothing for me with one lover turns me on with the next—and I’m not necessarily talking about in bed, although that “rule” applies there too.
When I like someone, it’s usually some quirky, very possibly dorky, trait or action of theirs that stays with me far beyond the strictly sexual. That will make me notice them, and keep noticing them, will make me pay attention with my brain, my biggest sex organ. Maybe they’re impressed that I know who playwright Sarah Ruhl is, maybe they cook me an amazing meal, maybe they take a book I’ve given them and toss it on the ground in a way that’s so ferocious I can only wish it were me being slammed to the ground. It may be as simple as remembering something I said so long ago that I no longer remember it myself.
I don’t want to feed into the stereotype that women are more “sensitive” than men, so I’ll speak only for myself and say that how a person acts in bed is, for me, intimately connected to how they act out of the bedroom. I’ll lose interest in even someone who I click with between the sheets if in the rest of their life, I can’t respect them. Similarly, I’ve fallen for people and climbed into bed with them because they utterly charmed me, or made me laugh, or simply made me curious. I’m definitely sensitive, but it’s more than that; I like to get to know someone inside and out. That turns me on more than any specific sexual act, because it informs the erotic side of things.
The best way to turn me on is to be yourself, whoever that is. Way too many people posture and try to seem like someone they’re not, and I find that confusing. When I’m intimate with someone, I want to be truly intimate, in all ways. I don’t want to mimic intimacy in bed but then feel like I don’t really know them once we’re done fucking. There’s no particular type of person I’m looking for, no physical or age or race or gender ideal; I’ve been attracted and dated and slept with an array of people, and I like that each person's specialness has taught me something new about them, and myself.
Probably the sexiest thing a lover can do for me is bare part of themselves, and I don’t mean taking off their clothes. It sounds obvious, but it’s actually very easy to keep a large part of yourself locked away while still seeming to give yourself over to ecstasy. Perhaps it’s easiest to appreciate when someone is submitting, when that baring means becoming physically vulnerable, but I think dominants can bare themselves as well—good ones, anyway. It’s something I have to remember when I’m in that position.
It can take me a while to fall for someone, to get truly turned on, and once I do, it can be hard to turn that off. I see exes sometimes who I haven’t been with for years and there’s a little part of me that wonders, “What if?” The reason for that isn’t because I am dying to rush into bed with them, but because the part of themselves they bared for me, the parts that we shared with one another, is still intact and forms the basis for friendship, with a twist of nostalgia.
I love being surprised, and after being sexually active for over half my life, I am happy to report that it still happens, all the time. I never want to be so set in my ways that I can’t allow for sex and lust to open me to new ways of looking at both the world and my body. When I’ve found myself needing to recharge and take a break from sex in order to restore myself to a place where I can be fully present, I have done so, because otherwise I’m cheating both myself and the other person, only giving them a small part of me rather than waiting until I can offer my whole self.
I’m writing this sitting on my new lover's couch under a blanket wearing only a sweater. I can get turned on just by thinking about this person, if I let everything else wash away and focus on how they make me feel. It’s not even something they have to participate or be in the room for; their essence stays with me, which is good because I have a lot of travel coming up that’s going to mean being apart from them.
So that was a very long-winded, roundabout way of saying that there are an infinite number of ways to turn me on. It could be a kiss, a smile, a spanking. It could be a comment, or a piece of clothing, or a sensation. It could be submission, or dominance, or chocolate. Whatever it is, I want it to make me feel special, unique, wanted. I want it to wash out all the other claims on my attention, my heart, my desire. I want it to make me feel like this could be my last moment on earth, and I’d be okay with that. Even if that lasts just for a second, if it’s the right second, it’s worth it.