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Getting Off is Grand, But Have You Tried This Thing Called Pleasure?

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Getting Off is Grand, But Have You Tried This Thing Called Pleasure?

Ten tricks for bigger orgasms.

Eleven techniques for hotter oral sex.

The best positions for multiples.

The headlines offer high hopes for outcome-driven experiences, but often disregard one of the most sought-after and fulfilling components of sex: pleasure

Of course, sex isn’t just about pleasure. It might also involve cultivating connection, exploring intimacy, expressing emotion, releasing tension, reducing stress and embracing vulnerability.  

But in most cases, pleasure —  corporal, emotional, relational, mental and/or spiritual  —  is a core component of sex.

Unfortunately, sex, in the western world, is often reduced to its performative elements. Even ancient traditions from the East, from Tantra to interpretations of the Kama Sutra, that have a rich history of emphasizing connection and presence, have been whittled down to narrow outcomes that favor ego over experience. 

From counting minutes, and orgasms to tracking frequency and checking off boxes, our focus on getting off often detracts from the experience of pleasure itself.

What if you were to explore pleasure for pleasure’s sake?

Pleasure, the feeling.

Pleasure, the noun.

Pleasure, the verb.

Pleasure, the experience.

When we explore sexual pleasure for pleasure’s sake and discard expectations and socially prescribed goals, our sexual repertoire naturally expands and we discover new pathways to pleasure.

And anyone can prioritize pleasure starting right now.

When we prioritize pleasure, we…

cultivate consent. With mutual pleasure at the forefront of every sexual interaction, we reduce and can eliminate pressure, manipulation and dishonesty. This sits in start contrast to the goal-oriented purpose of getting off that often dismisses consent as an obstacle as opposed to the foundation of sex.

can tune into our sensations and be more present and in the moment. Mindful sex hones in on pleasure without tabulating orgasms, erections, time elapsed and other arbitrary measures of sexual satisfaction. When we bring our focus to the present moment — the sensations against our skin, the flow of our breath, and the sound and smell of our bodies — without judgment, sexual pleasure is often intensified from a physical, mental, relational and emotional perspective.

Pleasure and mindfulness go hand in hand and research confirms that mindfulness practices can help to address a wide range of sexual issues from erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety and premature ejaculation to low/no desire and difficulties with orgasm. Prioritizing pleasure through mindfulness reduces the pressure to get off while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of orgasm.

dissipate our body image concerns. As you tune into the pleasure of your body and give yourself permission to receive unconditional pleasure, intrusive thoughts are tempered and your sexual options expand to create even more space for  pleasure.

When you tune into pleasure,  you’re more likely to be at ease with your body and explore sex in new and exciting ways. Rather than worrying about how you look, you’re able to indulge in sexual sensations with a genuine focus on how they feel.

allow for connection and intimacy. Tuning into your own pleasure and your partner’s involves a degree of vulnerability and this willingness to be physically and emotionally vulnerable through touch, expressions of desire, and sharing of fantasies can lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling connection.

have sex that becomes more varied and exciting. Rather than emulating moves from porn or moving our bodies in ways that we think we should, we simply follow our instincts and engage in all the sex acts that actually feel good. If you have a clitoris, this may mean that you forgo penetration in favor of external stimulation or change positions so that you can rub and grind to your heart’s content. It may not look like what you see in porn, but if it’s what works for your body, embrace it!

When we focus only on getting off (or getting our partners off), we miss out on all the good stuff that might be messy, funny, silly, slippery, sticky and of course…shamelessly pleasurable.

Of course, getting off is grand too and it may very well be a part of your pleasure journey, but I encourage you not to allow it to be the singular destination.

So…will you commit to pleasure today?

Will you give yourself permission to embrace pleasure in every area of your life — in and out of the bedroom?

Will you commit to working through the shame associated with pleasure and rejecting messages that judge all forms of pleasure?

Your sexual pleasure journey is yours and yours alone and because new skills (like leaning into pleasure) are easier to cultivate outside of the bedroom, consider a few of these approaches to enjoy the ride starting today: 


Indulge in every bite of your next meal with pleasure. Let your sounds emanate without inhibition. Breathe, slurp, admire, smell, chew and taste to your heart’s content. Not only do we stifle expressions of sexual pleasure, but we also stymie the pleasure of food with prescribed rules (e.g. don’t make a sound) and cultural shame (e.g. counting calories). Ditch this diet culture nonsense and see if you can simply embrace and express pleasure in a delicious meal. If we can’t let our sounds flow at the table, how can we do so in bed? Food and sex have so much in common and this exercise is great practice for expressions of sexual pleasure.  

Be Mindful  

If moaning over food isn’t your thing, consider taking a mindful shower to facilitate becoming comfortable with the sensations of your body. Rather than rushing through to get yourself clean, take a moment to feel the water against your skin. Pay attention to its texture, movement, temperature and pressure. Take a few deep breaths and visualize all of your day’s worries rinsing down the drain. Let it all go with a few more breaths. When you crawl into bed, if intrusive thoughts arise, remind yourself that you’ve washed them away — at least for the day. Try this for a few days in a row to see if you become more mindful of the sensations in your body or more open to the experience of pleasure. 

Explore Yourself

Once you’re more comfortable with the practice of mindfulness in the shower, consider bringing it into the bedroom to enjoy a solo sex session: mindful masturbation.

Rather than rushing through the process to get off as quickly as you can, break the habit by taking orgasm out of the equation. Explore your entire body with your hands, lube, massage oil or toys for 10-20 minutes without trying to reach orgasm. As you get in touch with your body’s unique responses and breathing patterns, you will find that your ability to stay present during sex (partnered and solo) increases, as you will be less hung up on the performance and more focused on the pleasure itself. 

Enjoy the Ride

If you have a partner or friend without whom you can practice, consider a mindful touch activity in which you take turns being givers and takers. Set time aside and clear the room of distractions as you caress their hand or face for ten minutes; the next day (or the next time you’re together), switch roles. Learning to be a taker and simply enjoying pleasure without the need to immediately reciprocate is a powerful skill that is often ignored. Many generous lovers struggle to be a taker, so take note of how you feel in each role — especially if you experience discomfort in receiving pleasure.  


And finally, reflect upon your sexual values. Use these prompts to jot down your thoughts and consider sharing them with a partner or discussing them with a friend or therapist:

What does sex mean to you? 

Describe pleasure in your own words? 

What makes sex pleasurable and is it always pleasurable? 

What does sexual pleasure feel like? 

When was the last time you experienced pleasure? 

When was the last time you expressed pleasure? 

What is the difference between the experience of pleasure and the expression of pleasure? How does sexual pleasure show up in your body? 

What do you love about sexual pleasure? 

What do you find intimidating or off-putting about sexual pleasure? 

How can you expand your sexual pleasure horizons?

You don’t have to try all of these strategies at once, but if you slowly integrate some of these approaches into your daily and weekly routines, you’ll likely find that pleasure becomes more powerful. And as you shift your sexual focus from the temporary experience of getting off to the permanent, but evolving experience of pleasure, you’ll likely find that your sexual horizons become similarly expansive. Of course, there is no right way to experience sex or pleasure, so trust yourself knowing that you are the ultimate expert in your own sexual experience.

  • About Jessica O’Reilly

Jessica O’Reilly

 Jessica O’Reilly is an award-winning sexologist and relationship expert who facilitates workshops across the globe. She is the host of the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast and co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Seduction and Foreplay.

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