heart illustrating mental, physical and emotional sex

Kevin here. . .

Today, I want to post about my understanding of the mental, physical, and emotional types of sexual expression. It took me years to understand this distinction, and that understanding has helped my development as a lover. I believe the deepening need for connection that we feel as we age can be facilitated by an understanding of these three types of sex.

Mental sex

This sex is of the fantasy, the sex of the mind. And to me, it is perhaps the immutable and most mysterious of the three. Fantasy arouses almost all men and many women. Some women report having none, but most of us men do. These fantasies are as diverse and protean as humanity itself. I first became aware of sexual fantasy in early adolescence when delicious ideas flickering through my mind aroused me and brought my attention to my genitals. That arousal could be sustained and intensified by elaborating the fantasy or by masturbating.

Nobody knows exactly why any particular fantasy is arousing. Why does it excite one person and not another or why that specific fantasy? I have read lots, trying to find the answer. The best explanation I found is that the illusion allows a person to become aroused without fear, which our particular psychosexual upbringing implanted. An example is that fantasies often include being forced into sexual activities. The idea is that being coerced into something relieves the guilt. I am not sure that I buy that explanation. And besides, fantasies are often so weird that it is hard to see how they might work to enable arousal.

Our culture accepts some fantasies but condemns others. And, many feel a deep shame around their fantasies. So let me say right now, all fantasies are acceptable. We should not be held accountable for our fantasies any more than for our dreams. We are, however, held responsible for our actions. So, if your fantasies revolve around violent rape, torture, or pedophilia, then get the help you need! Otherwise, cast off your guilt and learn to live with your fantasies. You sure can’t make them go away!!

Note of caution: Fetishes are simply fantasies that are necessary for arousal. If you cannot get aroused without focusing on your favorite fantasy, then you have a fetish, which is clinically called a paraphilia. We will surely discuss fetishes in another blog.

Much mental sex is just fantasizing, often while masturbating. Porn is usually the same—chasing down images or stories that arouse you while masturbating, usually in a fairly mechanical fashion. The emphasis and focus are not on the body sensation but rather on the mental stimulation.

Now, I certainly don’t want to put down masturbation! Lord knows I have done my fair share, and it is an important outlet for many people. But masturbating to a fantasy is a poor practice for satisfying, connected sex with another person. And, focusing on your fantasies while you’re making love is not conducive to deep connection, to say the least. However, mental sex can be a great part of partner sex when a couple includes their fantasies in their sex play. (Ha, another future post!)

Physical sex

This sex is of our bodies. It is what little kids do when they play with their genitals. They accidentally find that it feels good, and they do it, at least until someone discourages them. As we reach adolescence, those good feelings around genital stimulation, accidental or intentional, become supercharged. Later, many of us discover that when we are aroused, our entire bodies become hypersensitized, and a simple touch can become intensely erotic.

Sex that focuses mainly on the pleasurable physical sensations is sometimes called sensualism. I love it. I adore lying on our massage table, eyes closed, deep inside my own space, aroused, and with a pulsating erection as Vicki tenderly massages my entire body. That floaty, intense, body eroticism is what I call physical sex.  

Masturbation can also be physical sex. If your attention is on your body sensations and responses rather than your fantasy and your focus is on touching your entire body rather than just the genitals, then you have a sensual ecstasy!

Physical sex is much more conducive to connected partner sex. Knowing how our own body loves to be touched and conveying that to your partner is powerful. And, I take great joy in letting Vicki lie back, close her eyes, and savor the sensuality and eroticism of a sexual massage.

Emotional sex

This sex is of our heart, love, and connection. It is epitomized by those intimate moments during sex when our feelings for our beloved overcome us.

Now, we approach the heart of connected sex. Yes, mental sex can be fun with a cooperative partner or one who shares your deepest fantasies. And yes, the shared sensual eroticism of touch on your aroused body is delicious. But for me at least, emotional sex is the essence of connected partner sex—it is the intimacy that bonds us together, and that connection is what I crave the most as I age.

When I have to interrupt a sexual massage or change positions so that I can gaze into Vicki’s eyes, when I start to tear up at the intensity of our love for each other as we sit in yab yum. . .that is emotional sex!

However, sex reaches an ecstatic peak when it includes some of each of the elements—the mental, physical, and emotional. And as we age, I think most of us need more emotional sex added to the mental and physical sex than when we were younger. I hope this post increases your understanding of sex and helps you to have the great sex and intimacy that is our birthright.

Vicki here. . .

Thanks, Kevin, for breaking sex down into the mental, physical, and emotional components. It’s an interesting way to explore this very complex human behavior, and I’m going to do the same by providing my take on each one.

Mental sex

Kevin enjoys sexual fantasies far more than I, which is not surprising since men tend to fantasize sexually far more than women. That said, I have women friends who have powerful sexual fantasies and, to their credit, act on them.

Personally, I have few sexual fantasies, and I don’t have specific scenarios I want to act out. When I do fantasize, it’s about the emotional experience Kevin and I have while making love. Thinking about it, I don’t fantasize about what we did or could do during sex but about the peak moments of connection that we share while doing it. Feelings of strong connection combined with physical arousal hold the erotic charge for me—that’s what I think about when I want to arouse myself. That is my fantasy.

When Kevin has a fantasy, he wants me to play it out with him. I think of it in my mind while I’m getting the room and the toys ready. But I usually don’t get sexually aroused while envisioning it. I plan the moves and then let the erotic moments build and guide us, surprising us in ways we hadn’t imagined beforehand. Playing out a fantasy with Kevin is super fun because we never know where it’s going—we just let the energy take us on an adventure. And, it always thrills us.

Physical sex

Well, I can’t talk about physical sex without mentioning the obsession our culture has with the mechanics of it. . .the how-tos of  hugging, kissing, touching, and stimulating the erogenous zones and genitals, and the diagrams of various positions couples can assume during intercourse. Sometimes, these sex-ed instructions read like an automobile mechanic’s manual! And, I don’t think I’m alone remembering having my nipples turned like dials on a meter with the intention of arousing me.

The thing is that our body and soul are one. Put another way, my body is home to my emotions, and when you engage one, the other always jumps on board. No getting around that. So, expecting the body to become aroused by doing specific mechanical things to it—without emotional connection, kindness, care, or intimacy—is simplistic thinking.

I’m not saying that sometimes I don’t just want to get off. That’s where vibrators and quickies come in. But once I feel Kevin’s loving presence, I immerse myself in the sensuality of his warm hands running the length of my body and his lingering, teasing touch on my thighs. Yep, that memory brings a tingle to my torso!

The truth is that I love to be touched, and my body craves it the same way it does wholesome food. I personally access physical sex through the doorway of emotion.

Emotional sex

As I said earlier, I am turned on by the emotional connection that occurs during our lovemaking. Meaning, the times I am most erotically charged are when I feel most emotionally connected with Kevin. And, I would guess that at those times, he is feeling equally connected to me—that way the life energy flows through both of us as one.

Sensual touch and sensations of physical arousal are very much a part of that. But I also experience orgasmic waves of energy roll through me while I lie naked at his side, sharing breath and eye gazing. Once I feel safe and deeply connected, which the breathing and eye gazing rapidly establish, the floodgates open, and I am in bliss. But I can’t do this alone. I need his physical presence and loving attention for that to happen.

Only recently in my relationship with Kevin did I realize that our intimate connection is what arouses my libido. Since it’s only been these past few years that I’ve truly felt safe and emotionally connected, sex was never as satisfying in the past as it is now.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Share in the comments below!