When I teach human sexuality classes, I often ask students to list â€“ on an anonymous survey â€“ their favorite things about being close to or sexual with another person. Among the long list of kissing, touching, orgasms and expressing love is sometimes a vague description of getting to feel sensations that they’ve never before experienced.
For some people, sex brings orgasms â€“ and as often as people may describe certain foods as being “orgasmic” or a very good novel as being “almost as good as an orgasm”, there never really is anything else that is exactly like an orgasm. The neurological event that is an orgasm is unique. For most people, orgasm is a pleasurable sensation. For a small proportion of people, orgasms bring on headaches (for a lucky few, orgasms seem to cure headaches!).
Other times â€“ whether or not a person experiences orgasm â€“ they feel something else that they primarily feel during sex. Some people, when they are lying together and kissing or being intimate, have a sensation of melding into two each other. I’ve heard and read lovely descriptions of this, and been fortunate enough to experience it myself. Some people talk about looking at their bodies and not being able to tell the difference between the two. Others talk in terms of energy fields, as if they can see these auras around their body and their partner’s body connect and melt into each other. And these aren’t even the drug-induced experiences of sex!
Then there are the moments of realization â€“ the moments where you’re having intercourse, let’s say, and you step back in a moment of wonder and realize that your partner’s body is inside your body and how crazy is that!?!? As humans, we go through most of our days and most of our lives completely alone in our bodies. To have the experience of having someone be inside your body, or to be inside someone else’s body, can be rich with feelings of closeness, vulnerability, risk and union â€“ that is, if you are willing to step back and consider, with awe and appreciation, what is really going on there between you two.
Being sexual with another person can also bring about feelings of “wow” â€“ as in, “I can’t believe he loves me like this” or “Did she really just do that incredible thing with her tongue?” or “I never thought people could actually feel this good except in movies.” There are many feelings that people want to be a part of when they have sex â€“ they may want to feel naughty, cherished, loved, wanted, dominated, seductive, powerful, or demure, all feelings and identities I wrote about in Because It Feels Good, as women and men learn to navigate sex in ways that feel right to them, and that evoke something more. And these are all reasons why sex can be a very, very good thing.
Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a sex researcher and educator at Indiana University, a widely read sex columnist and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
Follow her on Twitter @mysexprofessor