Firstly, what exactly is mindful sex?
“If we define mindfulness as staying present and living in the moment, then the same goes for mindful sex. It’s not necessarily about having slow sex, but instead being able to be present in the experience, feeling every sensation and not being distracted by the thoughts running though our minds. We can have 'mind-fill' sex, which means our mind is racing with thoughts and distractions or we can have 'mindful' sex, which means we are consciously present in the experience and aware of every sensation. Most of us have a very goal focused relationship to sex, it's all about reaching climax. This means there is often a lot of pressure on sex and if this goal of 'climax' isn't achieved then that sexual experience is often deemed a failure, leaving us unsatisfied. Mindful sex encourages us to change our perception of what 'sex' is both as an act but also the end outcome. If we broaden our definition of sex to encompass all sexual acts from kissing to sensual touch, genital play and anal play, and move it away from being goal focused, we can have a much richer, less pressured experience that ultimately brings more pleasure.”
Do you think the sex we are having now isn’t mindful?
“We live increasingly busier, much more switched on, lives. So many of us struggle to be present and aware, especially in metropolitan areas – we are constantly stimulated, and it becomes tricky to separate yourself. For example, we are constantly scrolling through Instagram, and mobile phones in the bedroom are a huge distraction and intimacy killer. There’s also a significant difference in how men and women approach desire, which is having a knock-on effect on our sex drives. Men have a spontaneous desire, which means they are visually aroused. We, as women, however, have situational desire, so the context needs to be right. We need to be in the right headspace in order to have the same level of arousal.”
Do you need to be in a relationship to experience mindful sex?
“No – mindful sex is important for all of us, not just those in relationships. It is a personal practice that allows us to be aware and present in our sexuality so that we can enjoy heightened pleasure both solo or with others. Using mindfulness as a tool, you are making the decision to be aware and present in your sexual encounter. This can help you identify and enjoy good sex but it can also highlight when sex is bad, when your needs aren't being met and when the other person is prioritising their pleasure over mutual pleasure. It might be harder to use the tool and come to an aware and present place during a one night stand because we often worry about what the other person is thinking, whether we can trust them and if it's okay to be fully vulnerable (which is hugely important for pleasure). When we find ourselves on a one-night stand, and our thoughts are whirling and we've only just started our journey toward more mindful sex, the next best tool is communication. Let the other person know what you need and invite them to share what they need.”
What are the benefits of more mindful sex?
“Being present and aware will make you more conscious in your sexual experience. The benefit is you can feel every sensation, and you are in tune with your partner. You’ll better pick up on non-verbal cues and be more responsive to the other person’s needs. Being mindful in the bedroom will also enable you to understand your own pleasure – for example, what sensations you like, how your body reacts to certain feelings and toys. And with that heightened awareness, you can communicate more explicitly. We can’t communicate if we aren’t present.”
How can you practice mindful sex?
“If you’re a total beginner when it comes to thinking of sex and desire in this way, it can feel really overwhelming. At Ferly, we like to approach it in three stages – first, you need to understand your knowledge gaps. This can come down to something as simple as understanding your physiology – for example, what your genitals look like. I recommend beginners take a mirror to their genitals and look in the mirror – shifting the language and narrative you use around this is the first step. Secondly, take a ‘learn by doing’ approach – this involves expanding your masturbation practice into a whole body practice, shifting your mindset away from orgasm and towards pleasure. Take the time to understand your erogenous zones and experiment with touch, feel, pressure and intensity. This is a grounding practice that should re-connect you with your skin for heightened body awareness. Thirdly, it’s important to integrate fantasy and desire. Women often shy away from porn (we often feel guilty for using a sexual stimulus) so shift away from this, and explore different sources of sexual stimuli that make you feel good. Perhaps this is an erotic story or porn that aligns with your values. Don’t feel embarrassed about watching porn – it’s such a healthy part of sex. Whether you do or don’t use it, it’s a very healthy tool to use, and the key lies in finding something that makes you feel good.”
So it’s all about re-thinking how we approach sex and desire?
“In a way, yes. For example, we often think of masturbation as exploration of the genitals, but at Ferly, we say it can be much more about self-pleasure – the end goal doesn’t always need to be orgasm. At the same time, if you are coming in with a lack of body confidence, affirmations can really help to change the mental chatter you have about your body, which may be stopping you from experiencing pleasure when it comes to sex. What do you love about your body? Look at yourself in the mirror and explore your body – what do you love about it? Take a few minutes to look at that body part and shift your perception. Also, don’t be afraid to turn yourself on – you don’t always need someone else to do this. If you are struggling with your sex drive, try taking a sexy selfie of yourself in your favourite lingerie, just for you.”
How can Ferly help?
“A series of guided meditations, erotic stories and daily practices, Ferly aims to bring mindful sex to the masses. While you can absolutely become more mindful in your own time and without the help of an app, Ferly makes it fun, accessible and engaging. When you download the app, you’re asked a few questions, one of them being your main sexual concern – perhaps it’s low libido, problems climaxing, or pain, anxiety and fear around sex – and you’re then taken through an eight-week programme. Research shows it takes eight weeks to become more mindful. Think about it in the same way you’d go to the gym, you’ll start to see results, but you need to keep it up. This is a lifelong practice, and it should feel exciting and pleasurable. There is pioneering research being done in Canada that has proven the efficacy of mindfulness cognitive behavioural therapy (MCBT) and we've built Ferly on the foundation of this research. Our vision is to build the first evidence based digital therapeutic for female sexual difficulties using MCBT.”
If you’re in a relationship, should your other half also be thinking about mindfulness in the bedroom?
“It definitely helps if your partner is on board. At the start of your mindful journey, however, it’s definitely a solo journey – remember the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If you are experiencing sexual difficulties, set a ban on sex for a month – you’ll be able to unpack your mental blocks and unlearn certain behavioursin a sex-free environment. When the time is right, bring him back into your journey – at Ferly, we also offer partnered exercises, which can really help. Remember, sex doesn’t always need to be penetrative – all forms of touch, kissing and intimacy count. When you bring your partner back in, the intimacy can be amazing.”
The bottom line?
“Our sexuality feeds into every facet of our lives. As a society, we have a phenomenal understanding of our physical and mental health, but our sexual health is often ignored. At Ferly we're smashing this taboo and opening up a hugely important conversation about the role sexual wellness plays in our health and specifically, the importance of pleasure. Think of it like doing a squat in the gym. Mindful movement would equate to proper form throughout the squat, so you avoid injury and reap the most value for your effort. Mindful sex empowers you to get the most out of every sexual experience whether that's a passionate kiss, a sensual shower or a cuddle on the sofa.”
For more information visit WeAreFerly.com
*Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programmes.