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Eros and Aging - Page 8


Fortunate couples, or those who've been educated about mature, committed sexuality, learn what might be called the five main, interconnected goals of sex: (1) to share pleasure and enjoyment; (2) to deepen intimacy and satisfaction; (3) to reduce or alleviate the emotional stresses inherent in sharing a life with someone; (4) to reinforce and even enhance each partner's self-esteem and confidence; and (5) to fulfill the traditional biological function of procreation.

Realizing and accepting that it's normal to have sex for multiple and fluctuating purposes, and that many times each partner may have a different "agenda," can reduce a couple's conflict and promote cooperation. A couple can avoid the arguments that can arise when one or both have conflicting, one-dimensional, or restricted ideas about what sex is "for" or what it "should mean"—for example, that it "should" always be romantic and soul-stirring or that it "should" only be for procreation. With a more realistic and flexible attitude toward sex, each partner can enjoy various roles, accept each other's differences, and appreciate the range of meanings that sex has at different times.

Sexual variability and flexibility allow partners to integrate the three basic styles of arousal arising from the person's focus of attention: (1) on the partner (partner–interaction arousal); (2) on one's own physical pleasure and sensual/sexual sensations (self-entrancement arousal); and (3) on fantasy and playing out erotic scenarios (role-enactment arousal). Youthful sexual response is usually based on partner interaction arousal, but, with experience and age, men and women often expand their sexual style to include self-entrancement arousal and/or role-enactment arousal.

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