Sexual context is the theme under which we have/explore sex. It encompasses all of the elements—internal and external—that influence our sexuality at any given moment. This context depends on both personal and environmental factors—right from where we are and how we feel about it as well as who we are and how we experience ourselves. It affects our perception of sexual cues, our sensations, our arousability, and much more.
Every individual have different needs from their sexual context. Some like change, some like peace, some want to set the mood, some need to their toys, etc. all of which help in building desire and arousal. In 2010, a research by clinical psychologists Katie McCall and Cindy Meston led to identification of four categories of sexual cues that are key to sexual desire:
Love/Emotional Bonding Cues: It requires one feeling close and emotionally connected to their partners in a given moment is part of what makes them feel like having sex.
Explicit/Erotic Cues: It include creating more sexual cues like reading, or hearing something sexy happening. You might not be in the mood for sex at all, but then an external stimulus helps you feel engaging in sex.
Visual/Proximity Cues: It indicate me times certain types of behaviors, actions, body types, or body parts that just get you going when you see them.
Romantic/Implicit Cues: It include intimate situations that just have a romantic vibe to them like watching a sunset, giving/receiving a massage, etc.
These cues help in understanding the different contextual factors—internal and external—that support and contribute to our personal experience of enjoyable sex, creating realistic paths to sexually empowering ourselves. Some of these cues may matter more to you or your partners depending on your/their needs to set a sexual context or build your desire.
Finding your sexual context requires conscious investment to understand what contextual cues tend to make you feel turned on or help you feel secure and safe. Once you know what they are, you can focus on bringing more of those elements into your life so that you can access and communicate your desires with anyone, anywhere.
Here's how you can begin exploring what contributes to your sexual context:
1. Consider your last pleasurable experience (solo or partnered) and the events/activities prior to the experience. (For example: you played your favourite music that helped you get in the groove)
2. Make a list with 2 columns—internal and external. In the "internal" column, jot down adjectives that best describe your emotional state, and how you felt physically at the time of this experience. In the "external" column, jot down adjectives that best describe your physical environment like sounds, sensations, smells, visual elements.
3. Consider how these internal and external factors contributed in helping you receive pleasure and sensual/sexual enjoyment.
4. If you have had more than one pleasurable experiences, add them to the list. Once you are done try to look for patterns in these factors that have contributed to your pleasure experiences.
Once you understand what helps you feel connected to experience pleasure with yourself and your partners, start incorporating a little bit of these elements in your daily routine. This could be through self-care occupations, investing in leisure, or anything else that works for you, but a regular investment is what it takes to allow your mind and body to experience great sex!
If you haven't had any sexual experiences and want to understand how to create a sexual context for yourself, here's what you can do:
Start solo by creating a pleasure toolkit which includes something for all your senses. For example: You can have dim lights or scented candles, a playlist or record, a fluffy blanket and pillows, a mirror or other erotica, etc. The idea is to create an environment that calms you by catering to all YOUR sensory needs.
Remember, it does not have to be anything extravagant, unless you are into that. It just has to be something you seek for yourself and your environment on a regular basis to feel safe, loved, connected, desirable, and pleasurable.