Erotic hygiene: spring cleaning for your sensual psyche
Given how stuck at home and stuck on our devices many of us have been for the last forever of the pandemic, I find the concept of erotic hygiene to be more pertinent now than ever.
Chances are you’ve never heard the term “erotic hygiene.” I hadn’t either, but while thinking about the whole concept of ‘spring cleaning,’ I began to think about what it is that needs cleaning most urgently right about now. It might be your home, sure, or your sex toys (important!), but let’s please not neglect those undefinable sensual arrangements within us that allow us to feel the sun and wind on our skin, that allow us to feel joy or heartbreak, enticement or provocation.
Let me ask you this: how erotic, how sensual, how connected, how embodied is your experience of life—in the day to day? Could you answer a question like that? I’m not talking about your sex life, or the hella kinky V-day you had—though these facets might very well count. Regardless of whether you’re single, coupled up, dating, or simply sampling the wares—how erotic is your relationship to your self, to your body, and to the world?
If you’re puzzled, and have begun imagining yourself masturbating in a lilac field, doing kegels in a subway station, or wearing a butt plug at a work meeting, here’s a little secret: the erotic is highly personal, and the erotic may include sex, but is oh-so-much-more than all that. Living an erotic life means actually inhabiting your body—being in your body as opposed to in your head, one might say. And in order to inhabit your body, it is necessary to be present in the moment, or rather, to be here now. Not just when engaging in acts that society has deemed ‘erotic,’ but rather, as often as possible.
Defining erotic hygiene
I found one mention of ‘erotic hygiene’ on the entire internet. The blog, written by embodiment educator, writer, and embodied empowerment facilitator Stefana Serafina, is beautifully written. In fact, it’s downright erotic.
“The erotic life, don’t we want it?” she asks.
Lamenting “a world where flat screens are the way we reach for connection and knowledge, and Productivity is the silent ruler,” she calls erotic hygiene “truly essential.”
“…my shoulders, or yours, hurt from leaning toward the computer for too many hours,” she writes, “and then again your body moves mechanically in the kitchen and something deep and tender is lost while you, or I, stuff down a sandwich while scrolling down the ‘news’ feed of Whatever. When the erotic is not woven into our next ‘ordinary’ moment but is put instead on the shelf until the next time we ‘practice’ or the next chance encounter–– this is what I’ve come to think of as poor erotic hygiene. What I am saying is that unless the erotic, as best as you and I know it on the interior of our bodies, becomes a measure for how well we live every inch of our life–– unless the erotic becomes the pivot around which our being centers again and again, unless it infuses the way we work, eat, gesture, move our bodies through space and turn toward to meet those we encounter, unless our voices spill toward someone in deep notes that have the power to caress from a distance–– unless the erotic is lived as the fabric of our moments, our lives are not erotic, and, oh, what a loss!”
Serafina goes on to describe how cultivating erotic hygiene is to go through life with a certain openness, to take pleasure in all we can, yet to avoid overindulgence, which ultimately dulls our experience of pleasure. She insists (and I believe her) that the body is designed “to meet life as a lover, to savor pleasure and ache…to participate, to be part of the moving symphony of earthly moments, to risk its own death for a dance with life! Our bodies have already agreed to death, from the get-go, all for this––a chance to live unquestionably, erotically.”
Seriously, shivers anyone? As someone who works all day in front of a computer and is just beginning to emerge from an interminable pandemic winter, I feel this poignantly, urgently, and with great emotion. If you do too, consider the following ways of shoring up your erotic hygiene in order to feel more alive, attuned and sensual of body, heart, and mind.
Try not to rush.
This one is huge for me. As a freelancer, I always find myself moving swiftly from one deadline to the next. It’s rise-yoga-shower-breakfast-work work work, no time to savor the morning sun because if I don’t keep moving, my routine lags, my work lags, and I have to work longer hours. What I learned recently: rushing sucks the joy out of life and replaces it with stress, subtle though it may be. To address this, I have made tangible changes: I quit the clients I can’t stand; I only schedule as much work as I can handle each day without rushing; if people are impatient with me, that’s not my issue, because I’m not breaking any commitments—I’m just committing differently.
Regardless of the family or relationship configurations of your life, making quality time with yourself is crucial. What you do or don’t do is up to you, but do it without distractions!
Don’t be afraid to rest deeply.
We’re constantly told that doing is the superior state of being, but what if that’s not true? You owe it to yourself to sleep as much as your body demands it, and rest when you’re tired or in pain. It’s basic, but we so often dismiss our body’s simple requests.
Be honest with yourself about the attachments and addictions that keep you spinning away from your erotic life. While drugs and alcohol are one thing, there is also Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, and Zoom, to name a few. Or maybe you’re addicted to sex in a way that leaves you feeling empty and depressed, or feel stuck in a relationship that feels toxic. It happens. Once you acknowledge, you begin making space for change.
Be emotionally honest with yourself and others. It’s terrifying at times, but making an effort not to shy away from vulnerability can change everything.
Make time for nothing…or for being creative.
Some will scoff at this. Particularly those writing their theses, or those with kids. But I say, where there’s a will, your erotic life will find a way. Make time to do nothing, to sharpen your imagination. Often, this new wide open space can lead to inspired writing, crafting, painting—or just much needed dreaming. This is where your erotic life begins to thrive.
Cultivate sensual sanctuary.
Candles, incense, dim lights, calming music, and bubble baths are common go-tos, but do you. Sometimes what we think of as indulging is actually just treating oneself with love.
No one can lead a fully embodied life all the time; no one’s erotic hygiene is perfect. But I feel certain that becoming better acquainted with the ideas I’ve shared here and doing (or not doing) what you can, when you can to live your best erotic life—that’ll make all the difference. Your love and sex life will surely thank you, but so will all other facets of the movingly complex erotic being that is you.
Happy spring cleaning, everyone. <3