“Sensual” isn’t the same as “sexual”: The practice of pleasure extends beyond the bedroom

Understanding sensuality as a mindset is an effective way to enjoy life on a daily basis

By Gia Lynne From her book :On Blossoming: Frank and Practical Advice on Our Bodies, Sexual Health, Sensuality, Pleasure, Orgasm, and More”
I am a pleasure-positive writer, educator, and personal coach and am dedicated to researching and teaching the craft of pleasurable living and healthy sexuality. Fascinated by human sexuality and how that connects to our quality of life, I offer a unique perspective on pleasurable living having been raised by an intentional community that offers courses on relationships and communication.

I wrote the book “On Blossoming” because I realized I had an opportunity to tell a story from a unique perspective: so many guardians raising youth now wish that they’d had better, more comprehensive and inclusive sex ed growing up, but I realized I was able to provide sex ed from my own lived perspective of being raised with excellent, clear, and accurate education that has allowed me to live the fulfilling, healthy life I have today.

What is sensuality?

First, let me start by saying that sensuality has kind of a bad rap in our culture. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “sensual” much in the way that you’d guess: pertaining to the senses. But, as the OED tends to do, there is a fuller definition that I don’t think we always consider when using this word:

Involving gratification of the senses; of, relating to, or arising from physical (esp. sexual) urges or desires and not the intellect or spirit; carnal, fleshly, base. In more neutral sense: relating to, characterized by, or involving enjoyment derived from the senses; physically enjoyable or pleasurable.

In the first sentence, that oddly negative connotation is evident from the words “base” and “carnal” and also in the way that sensuality is put in opposition to intellect. Who is to say our use of the senses are not having to do with the intellect, for surely, we could not enjoy our senses without use of our brains, the source of intellect?

In addition, the OED mentions the association with sexuality. For many, the two words are used nearly interchangeably. Often sensuality is used merely as a softer, mood-lit version of sexuality. There’s a silk-sheets and red-roses mystique attached to the word that has more to do with advertising, as far as I can tell. Through the Huffington Post, you can decide if you’re “Sexy, Sensual or Intimate—What Is Your Sexual Style?” and through Cosmopolitan, you can “Uncover Your Sensual Side: Enhance Your Own Pleasure and Have Him Groveling for More!” Both subjects associate the word sensual with sexuality or with sex itself, which is quite commonplace. The word is frequently used as an outright marketing gimmick. I found from a quick Google search that the word “sensual” is used to sell everything from lip gloss to wigs to massage oil.

But I was raised understanding this word in a different way. It’s a word that was defined for me in the way we prepared food, cleaned the house, and got dressed for dinner. I saw it in the way my mom and dad kissed goodnight and in the way we resolved arguments in our regular house meetings. It was evident in most aspects of our decision making, planning, and in our individual communications to one another.

Sensuality is about paying attention to your senses. We have five senses through which to experience the universe: taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell, and we also have “conceptual thought,” our mind or what we think about. A sixth sense, not just an M. Night Shyamalan movie from the nineties. We are sensing beings.

For me, sensuality is more of a mindset than it is a “Sexual Style,” in the words of Huffington Post. Paying attention to your senses requires being in the present moment. Often, we can get caught up thinking about what is to come, the future, or what has already happened, the past. But I’ve found that when I’m living my life in present time, I’m taking in what’s around me in that very moment. I don’t think about how the place I’m in reminds me of when I was a kid, or how I wished it looked different. I see that place as it is and without value. It’s the most effective way to enjoy your life on a daily basis.

Here’s a practical way of thinking about this: ever since I was in college, I have loved a good cup of tea. It started as a way to warm up during long hours of sitting and reading and also as a minor procrastination while getting work done. If I was stuck midway through getting a thought out, I could always spring up mid-sentence and make a cup of tea and stretch my legs for a moment. It certainly looked (and felt) a lot better than checking Facebook for the hundredth time. This tea habit eventually grew into a practice and I found that I enjoyed the entire ritual of making tea, from boiling the water to swirling the final dregs in the bottom of my cup. It’s a pause, a moment in my day that results in something so simple yet infinitely pleasurable.

Standing at the kitchen sink, I take in the orchids that crowd our window box. Each bloom reaching out and declaring “hello” with its bright, round face. Their long stems wind through the various pots and containers and filter the morning sunlight. The cup is hot in my hands and the steam warms my chest. That first sip says so much—the right amount of tea, the right amount of milk, and that bitter kick that makes my lips purse just the slightest.
This is a form of sensuality; it’s taking in all that is around you. I’m going to make tea first thing in the morning because I like the caffeine boost but, with each cup I make each morning, I have the choice every step of the way to make it a sensual experience. Alternatively, I could rush into the kitchen, grab the first cup that I saw, give it a quick rinse to slough out any leftover debris from the previous use, fill it with hot water, and drop a Lipton tea bag in there and be on my way. Plenty of mornings look like that and I still leave the kitchen having produced the necessary cup of tea. But when I do take those steps with the kind of attention that I described, I feel different; it makes a difference in my body. There is often a solidity and a calm that comes with being deliberate and creating pleasure in any given moment.

On Blossoming: Frank and Practical Advice on Our Bodies, Sexual Health, Sensuality, Pleasure, Orgasm, and More

“On Blossoming: Frank and Practical Advice on Our Bodies, Sexual Health, Sensuality, Pleasure, Orgasm, and More” by Gia Lynne. Copyright 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Available on Amazon:  $21.95 Hardcover   $14.95 Kindle

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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