Stepping out of the page into the sensual world.
To where the water and the earth caress
And the down of a peach says mmh, yes,
Do I look for those millionaires
Like a Machiavellian girl would
When I could wear a sunset? mmh, yes,
And how we’d wished to live in the sensual world
You don’t need words–just one kiss, then another.
Stepping out of the page into the sensual world
Stepping out, off the page, into the sensual world.
And then our arrows of desire rewrite the speech, mmh, yes,
And then he whispered would I, mmh, yes,
Be safe, mmh, yes, from mountain flowers?
And at first with the charm around him, mmh, yes,
He loosened it so if it slipped between my breasts
He’d rescue it, mmh, yes,
And his spark took life in my hand and, mmh, yes,
I said, mmh, yes,
But not yet, mmh, yes,
Kate Bush, Sensual World
I’ve talked a lot over the last several months about sexuality and communication: but I have not really addressed the point where those two intersect. Sensuality.
Yes, I know, sensual is usually defined very differently, in fact, dictionary.com defines it as:
1. pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly.
2. lacking in moral restraints; lewd or unchaste.
3. arousing or exciting the senses or appetites.
4. worldly; materialistic; irreligious.
5. of or pertaining to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.
6. pertaining to the philosophical doctrine of sensationalism.
I think that numbers one, three and five apply roughly to what I am thinking, but I would suggest that they are not quite complete. Because I think that a sensual experience, at least for me, is very much tied up with intimacy, as well.
This is one of the topics my honey and I discussed in depth last weekend, and since then I have been thinking about it quite a bit. You see, for me, the most significant interaction between two people is not sexual, but sensual.
He and Laura have been spending a lot of time together this month, and I have been able to test my beliefs regarding jealousy and polyamory. Going into this, I had told him that I was pretty darn sure that I would be okay with this, but I had to acknowledge that I could not be absolutely certain until I was faced with the situation in real life. Knowing this, we were moving slowly and I was paying careful attention to my state of mind, to any twinges I felt, to past experiences that were invoked along the way. Partly, because it was the right thing for me to do, but also, partly knowing that these are issues that he still has to fully come to terms with as well. The hope was that if he could experience this on the ‘safe’ side of the equation, then he would hopefully be able to apply any lessons we learned, and experiences he had to his feelings and reservations regarding Eddie and I.
In any case, we talked about this a fair amount and I had to admit to him that I have had a few twinges. (even once we got past the difficulties I found in dealing with past, unrelated, experiences that the situation invoked.) Surprisingly to him, although not to me once I looked at it, those twinges invariable appeared not when he was talking about physical interaction between the two of them, but rather, when he described a moment in time where they were cuddled, talking, sharing and learning about one another.
Some part of me thinks that his may even be a gender thing: anyone out there with similar experiences, I’d love to hear what you think on that!
As I thought about the feelings I was having and how to understand where they were coming from, it occurred to me that there are actually two primary reasons for this. First, on some level, I believe each person in our lives brings out slightly different characteristics of our total person. So when my honey is with Laura, she is seeing parts of him that I may never know. Or at the very least, the sum total of who he is will appear differently to each of us as different characteristics are exaggerated or minimized. I realized, of course, that this was not something that she was taking away from me. It was something I would never, and could never experience no matter how long we are together or how intense our relationship gets. Once I then turned it around, I realized that, in fact, it was an opportunity – for all of us. It is an opportunity for my honey to explore more of who he is. And it is an opportunity for Laura and I to show one another what we see and find of value in him. So this relationship, instead of taking something from me, was really providing a unique opportunity to know him even more. It’s a beautiful thing.
But there is also a second reason for my twinge. Sensual Intimacy.
With sexual intimacy, it is possible to be cold or distant. Animalistic tendencies can push to the fore. Emotional responses, though real, are potentially fleeting or visceral and they can be false. A result of biological responses. Hormones, pheromones, adrenaline. This is not the case in a deep, established relationship, But it can be; true in new, fresh and exciting relationships and is usually true in relationships based primarily on sex.
By comparison, sensual intimacy can not be cold or distant or false. Because it requires a level of comfort and vulnerableness be intentionally sought out. It involves both honest communication (or at least it does for me and my honey at this place we have found ourselves) and a significant lack of self consciousness with another person.
I realized that this was a trigger in me precisely because Eddie and I never achieved that sensual intimacy when we were kids. Partly because we were kids, and partly because we recognized a boundary between our friendship and our sexual relationship, so the two pieces never co-existed – or at very least rarely coexisted.(there are a couple of moments I can think of where this boundary may have dissipated, and those are precisely the moments from our life that I remember most vividly.) So this is something new we will need to explore between us. And it is one of things that I am most anxious for – to be able to be with him and spend the time to get to know the person he has become – and allow him to do the same of me. To find that comfortable place between us and just be.
At the same time, this creates a difficulty for my honey. Because he and Laura found this place so easily and he does not see it is more significant than sexuality, he came to realize that in my mind (regardless of my conscious intent), he has already crossed a boundary that will leave me with some bitterness if we cannot find a way to make this all work. He has intentionally moved slowly with Laura so that we may gage our ability to embrace this lifestyle. But because we look at it differently, he has already ‘gone all the way’ in my mind, and I will want to do the same.
So of course we continue to talk about it and I am working very hard at trying to see his perspective on this, just as he is doing with me. Regardless of where we go or the path we take, I have no desire to paint him into a corner simply because we have different views of intimacy. At the same time, we both recognize that the thought is already there for both of us, and now we need to address that together.
(Originally Published January 26, 2007)