Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Art of Slow Dance

Saba7o/namaste LOVEanese! I'm really excited to post so soon again. Thanks so much for all of your wonderful comments on my last post, I really appreciated how well-received it was. This post is going to be a bit of a quickie. I just want to start by saying that I encourage you to check out my older posts (especially if you're a new reader). I update them often with new resources. I recently did that for this post about body image and its connections with relationships, as well as this one about love, relationships, and technology.

I also have some recommended reading for you for this week (which I always post to the LOVEanon Facebook Page as well):

1. The first is an op-ed article out of the New York Times offering research and statistics about why Men Need Women. Basically, it discusses, for instance, how when men become fathers of baby girls, they tend to take on certain feminine traits like understanding and empathy. And this also manifests in different aspects of their life (such as their work).

2. The second is a series of photos from BuzzFeed titled, "Pictures That Will Make You Believe in True Love." It's really warm-hearted, and incredibly cute.

3. The third is an absolute MUST READ! It's from Science of Relationships, and outlines 5 key aspects that are predictors of relationship satisfaction, and 5 aspects of relationships that actually aren't correlated with relationship satisfaction. Definitely check it out! It will really make you rethink what we are often told is important.

Surprisingly, while you'd think a mutual love of Star Wars would be one of the 5 predictors of relationship satisfaction, it actually isn't.

Now, on to the post itself. This past Thursday, I went to the Hard Rock Cafe here in Bangalore for a live show. My friend is the bassist/lead singer for the band One Night Stand, and put on a great show. After the show finished, the DJ put on hard rock music (as you'd expect), and at one point, he put on a slower song. I can't remember exactly which one it was, but I went over to my friend Theresa, and asked her to dance with me. It was so nice to dance again with someone--and the right way. It was in that moment, I began to think a lot about the "art" of slow dance. 

For those unfamiliar, Wikipedia says it well:

"A slow dance is a type of partner dance in which a couple dance slowly, swaying to the music. This is usually done to very slow-beat songs. "Slow dancing" can refer to any slow couple dance (such as certain ballroom dances), but is often associated with a particular, simple style of dance performed by middle school and high school students. When two partners dance together, the lead partner typically holds their hands against the sides of the following partner's hips or waist while the follower drapes their hands on the leader's shoulders. The couple then sways back and forth with the music. Foot movement is minimal, but the pair may use their feet to slowly turn on the spot. Because the dance requires little physical concentration, participants often talk to each other while dancing. Some couples who have a close relationship may dance very closely together, in a "hug-and-sway" fashion. Slow dancing is often considered to be just hugging and swaying, rather than an actual dance. This simple form of slow dancing is common at dances sponsored by schools or by religious organizations, such as churches or synagogues."

If you grew up in the U.S. (and maybe Canada, for instance), you generally associate slow dancing with middle/high school and embarrassment because "in Western popular culture, slow dancing can serve as a symbol of adolescent social awkwardness.

Remember this?

Luckily, as you get older, you generally develop your dance skills a little more, so that it (hopefully) becomes more like this:

 Well... or at least more like this:

It really doesn't matter if you're in a regular dance club/discotheque in Beirut, Bangalore, Berlin, or Boston, chances are, you will never hear "slow dance music." You have to go to a jazz club, or a special music night in order to hear it. And when we imagine those things, except for the few young people who may appreciate it or think it's cool, most of those events are thought of as being for middle-aged and older people.

Historically, the concept of slow dancing came out of ballroom dance, specifically, the waltz (which, apparently, when it debuted, was a very racy and scandalous dance because it involved two individuals being very close together--at least when compared to how people normally danced at the time (think Pride and Prejudice)). Obviously, dancing has come a long way since...

When did this ^                            Become that ^ ???

Wait a second here... let's think about this. How can "bumping and grinding" be perfectly OK (socially-speaking) in most clubs in the world today, but when it comes to taking someone by the hand, holding them close, and swaying with them, that's largely absent from the general dance environment/scene? Sure, they played love ballads at prom in high school, but after you graduated, it basically stopped. As if it was society communicating to you that the hard part's over, and you won't have to do that again until you attend a wedding in your mid-to-late 20s.

Let's think about this. As you know, I've mentioned how much I like slow dancing in the past, and even documented one of my slow dance experiences, so perhaps I'm a bit biased. But, regardless, I think this general lack of affinity for slow dancing comes from two key places. The first (as high school demonstrated so clearly) is that no one ever really teaches you how to slow dance. If you're lucky, you pick it up over time, or see someone who knows what they're doing (professional dancer, parents, family, etc.). And I honestly don't think people really do know how. Luckily, there's this nifty thing out there called the Internet.

I'm not sure if you've heard of it.

Thankfully, there are all kinds of great tutorials for how to properly slow dance online. This one from WikiHow is really great (and has pictures too). If that's not good enough, head over to YouTube. There's many good instructional videos (if not perhaps a bit under enthused), including this one and this one.

Taking into consideration the fact that often, we're not taught how to slow dance, coupled with the awkwardness and the embarrassing memories generally attached to slow dancing, perhaps it's understandable why a 20-something who's had a few drinks at a club doesn't want to necessarily start swaying (although they might by the time they're trying to go home). But that's not enough for me, I want to go deeper. I think it also connects to a topic I've blogged about before that is especially applicable/relevant to people younger than 35: the fear (and general avoidance) of intimacy. Slow dancing is incredibly intimate, especially if you do it right. Your faces touch, the music is sweet and romantic, you're very close together, you can almost feel the other person's chest moving up and down when the tip of your nose grazes past their cheek. Ya Allah! It's incredibly intimate. Yet, I don't think that's the kind of feeling most people either go out in search for, or want period. Maybe I'm conflating two unrelated things. But even though "grinding" has proximity and a hypersexual-nature, it's not necessarily intimate--and I would argue is often quite shallow. It's amazing to me how it's become so easy to ask someone to rub their ass on you, but asking a girl or guy to slow dance with you is tantamount to being asked to go to the moon without a space shuttle. It's both almost impossible AND undesirable. 

Thus, awkward memories, a lack of education, and a fear of intimacy may all play a part in why slow dancing is largely a lost--but not forgotten--art.

(Image via Gwendolyn McShepard/GPY Galleries)

And with all that said, I want to encourage you to slow dance. Even if it's not at a club or B018, or Sky Bar, or whatever, dance. Find someone who will appreciate it, appreciate you. Put some nice music on, light some candles, and spend the night swaying together. THAT is romance, and is easy to make.

Oh, you don't have good music? Not an excuse. Not anymore anyway. Go to 8Tracks (here's a great one), go to, go to SoundCloud, go to TuneIn, go to iHeartRadio, go to GrooveShark, go to Pandora, go to Spotify, go to iTunes, go to Google Play, go to YouTube, go to MySpace even! Do a Google search! Here are some of my favorite songs that I recommend, a little old, a little new, some you'd expect, others you wouldn't. Many are in English, but some in other languages (including French, Spanish, Hindi, and Arabic) (in alphabetical order by artist):

Skyfall -- Adele
I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing
-- Aerosmith
Nothing At All -- Alison Krauss
I Can Love You Like That -- All-4-One
I Swear -- All-4-One
Moon River -- Andy Williams

You Should Know Where I'm Coming From -- Banks
And I Love Her -- The Beatles
Forever -- Ben Harper
Walk Away -- Ben Harper
Comin' Home Baby Feat. Michael Bublé -- Boyz II Men
Whiskey Lullaby -- Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss
Forever -- Breaking Benjamin
Close To You -- The Carpenters
I Get Along Without You Very Well -- Chet Baker
What's New? -- Chris Botti
Let There Be Love Feat. Michael Bublé -- Chris Botti
Wicked Game -- Chris Isaak
I'll Never Smile Again -- The Chris McDonald Orchestra

Everything's Not Lost - Coldplay
Fix You - Coldplay
Colorblind -- The Counting Crows
Cannonball -- Damien Rice
Crash Into Me -- Dave Matthews' Band
Everybody Loves Somebody -- Dean Martin
A Lack Of Color -- Death Cab For Cutie
Thank You -- Dido

Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran
I'll Be
-- Edwin McCain
Lets Call The Whole Thing Off -- Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

I Can't Help Falling In Love With You - Elvis
Aníron (Theme For Aragorn And Arwen) -- Enya (Composed by Howard Shore)
(Fun fact: Aníron means "I desire" in the constructed Elvish language of J. R. R. Tolkien's 6-book epic, The Lord of the Rings. However, the song only appears in the film trilogy, not in the books.)
Saajna (Unplugged)
-- Falak Shabir
Murder By Mistletoe -- The Felice Brothers
Embraceable You -- Frank Sinatra
Fly Me To The Moon -- Frank Sinatra
If You Go Away -- Frank Sinatra
Witchcraft -- Frank Sinatra
Iris -- The Goo Goo Dolls
Name -- The Goo Goo Dolls
Tell That To My Heart (Amor Venme A Buscar) -- Il Divo
Without You (Desde El Dia Que Te Fuis Te) -- Il Divo
Echo -- Incubus
Angel -- Jack Johnson
You're Beautiful -- James Blunt
Fly Love (from the movie, Rio) -- Jamie Foxx
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson jazz cover) -- Jamie Lancaster & Karen Souza
A Beautiful Mess -- Jason Mraz
I'm Yours -- Jason Mraz
Say -- John Mayer
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room -- John Mayer
Si Volvieras A Mi -- Josh Groban
El Amor (La Tendresse) -- Julio Iglesias
Il Faut Toujours Un Perdant (Hey) -- Julio Iglesias
No Me Vuelvo A Enamorar (I Won't Fall In Love Again)
-- Julio Iglesias
Por El Amor De Una Mujer -- Julio Iglesias
Crazy -- K-Ci & JoJo
All My Life -- K-Ci & JoJo
You And Me -- Lifehouse
Amazed -- Lonestar
She Will Be Loved -- Maroon 5
Shim El Yasmine -- Mashrou' Leila
Inni Mnih -- Mashrou' Leila
You Don't Know Me (the instrumental version is great too) -- Michael Bublé
Lost (International Pop Mix) -- Michael Bublé
You're Nobody 'Till Somebody Loves You -- Michael Bublé
Home -- Michael Bublé
Over And Over Again Feat. Tim McGraw -- Nelly
Don't Know Why -- Norah Jones
Come Away With Me -- Norah Jones
Turn Me On -- Norah Jones
When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge

Baby I Love Your Way - Peter Frampton
Half Light -- Porcupine Tree

Such Great Heights (Performed By Iron & Wine) - The Postal Service
Habbaitak Ana -- Ramy Ayach
It's Only Love That Gets You Through -- Sade
Truly, Madly, Deeply -- Savage Garden
Kiss From A Rose -- Seal
Chasing Cars -- Snow Patrol
Moondance -- Van Morrison
Here Without You -- 3 Doors Down
Love Song -- 311

If all else fails, just stick to Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra, Norah Jones, and smooth jazz. You'll never go wrong with them.

What do you all think? Do you agree or disagree with my arguments? Think I'm forgetting something? Let me know what you think! Also, let me know your favorite slow songs. I'd be happy to add them to the list (it's definitely not an exhaustive one).

Spread the love (and slow dance some more),
-Ogie, MA

P.S. Get ready for an exciting announcement at the end of this week!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Benefits of Selfless Sexuality

Saba7o/Namaste LOVEanese! Today's post is going to be a bit more theoretical than descriptive. I say that because I want to talk about a topic that's not necessarily been researched much, but is more in the philosophical/spiritual realm of relationships.

Today's post is all about sex. But before you get too excited (pun intended), it's not exactly what you think. As I've mentioned in this post about sexuality and sexual health resources, I don't really like to talk about it for multiple reasons. One is that there is no inherent connection between love and sex--only a socially constructed one. Second, is that there are a lot of great resources out there already that address it in a much better way than I could since it's not my field of expertise (see the link above for examples). And lastly, it's not the focus of this blog. However, when I identify overlapping concepts that I think are worth mentioning, then I am happy to discuss it.

First of all, I want to present an article that is semi-connected to this post's topic. It's a very robust, yet non-judgmental analysis about how delaying intimacy can benefit your relationship. I highly recommend the read, and encourage a lively discussion! You don't necessarily have to agree with the author or agree with their points, but I suggest to at least hear them out.

Now, the main concept I want to discuss is what is mentioned in the title: selfless sexuality. So, what exactly is this? Let's define some concepts first so you understand what I mean. It is basically the idea that you are putting your own desire for pleasure aside to maximize the pleasure experienced by your partner. This article gives a broad overview of the concept, and a writer and yoga teacher provides a wonderful overview of what exactly selfless sexuality is and why it's important in this article. Let me highlight a few really important paragraphs to contextualize the definition:

"Sex is a bonding and creative function that has become a big business with an emphasis on selfish pleasure. Our society is saturated with highly charged sexual images, the media exploits and dehumanizes sex, the medical industry has all kinds of pills for women not to be fertile and for men to be fertile longer. There are societal pressures on everything from how much sex you need to be happy, to what sexual preferences are culturally acceptable."

She continued:

"Habitually, the senses grab for pleasure and satisfaction without any thought of the other person or the consequences. When someone is concerned with fulfilling his or her own needs and doesn’t consider the other person, this affects us on a deep level because of our expectations of love. We have to understand what sex is and that it cannot fulfill all of the desires and expectations that are imagined. When there are so many mixed messages, we become disconnected from who we are and want to be."

I hope that now it's a little more clear as to what it is. This isn't just a topic relegated to providers of spiritual or holistic well-being. Even this article by Ask Men (which I would normally never quote) said this:

Be selfless: "For the time being, your pleasure will come solely from giving her pleasure. Don't worry about it being no fun for you, since you're both going to get equally worked up by the end of it. For starters, the more you turn her on, the better she's going to feel, and the more eager she'll be to return the favor. But more importantly, use this opportunity to think about the importance of your own gradual arousal to great sex. Anyone can get off quickly, but the sex you'll remember for a long time is the kind where your arousal builds. You can only get turned on like that by enjoying your woman's body in a variety of ways."

It actually makes sense though (and not just about "returning favors"). Think back to this post about Thomas Merton's philosophy on loving yourself and selfish vs. selfless love, and this post about body image and it's connections to relationship well-being. First, remember that a relationship is 100/100--not 50/50. So, just like it's important to love yourself, then share that love with the other person, selfless sexuality dictates that when you mutually put the other's pleasure before your own, not only do you both benefit, but it creates better sexual experiences as well as a closer relationship. Tied to this, the more comfortable you feel with yourself, with the other person, and especially about your body, the more enjoyable a sexual experience with be. Thus, another aspect of selfless sexuality is making the other person feel as comfortable, as beautiful, and as appreciated as possible.

This concept generally works best when it's applied to a committed relationship, however, it's not solely reserved for them. I often advise against having multiple partners, but everyone is at a different stage in their sexual education and experiences. I think that the concept outlined above, even when applied outside of a committed relationship, can still lead to better sexual experiences. Of course, it is a two-way street, and works best when it is being applied by both lovers.

This isn't a magic bullet, however. You also have to take the time to figure out your partner, what they like, what works for both of you--as well as yourself, your own wants, and your own desires and preferences. That's another reason why I don't necessarily support having multiple partners. Imagine it's like a meter (or something that fills up over time). And the more you are with someone physically, the more your meter "fills up"--with understanding, comfort, love, passion, intimacy, respect. But if you jump from person-to-person, your meter just restarts. That doesn't mean that you aren't filling it (with pleasure and passion, for instance), but basically, the more you're with one person, the more you'll understand them as a lover and as a person. Now, this also depends if 1. you're both committed to making the other person feel better, and 2. if you're interested in more than just the physical pleasure (for instance, the emotional fulfillment that comes from being with someone you really love/care about).

This U.S. carnival game is how I visualize what I discussed above. In this game, you shoot water at a target, and it makes the car move up towards the top. Whoever gets the car to the top first is the winner. Imagine when you're constantly exploring your sexuality with one person, you're car is always moving up. But when you go from partner-to-partner, you're always restarting the game in certain ways--specifically when it comes to understanding yourself and your wants, but more importantly, your partner and their wants/desires/needs/preferences.

Anyways, I'll stop there. I realize that--especially given the intended audience of this post--many people aren't having sex. That's fine! And, in fact, the authors of this blog (similar to mine in that they use references and research) provide a lengthy and detailed description of why delaying intimacy can actually benefit your relationship. It's definitely worth the read, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

But regardless if you are sexually active or if you aren't, or if you make out with people, engage in oral sex, but not intercourse, or a host of other sexual activities, remember that sexuality is a very natural part of life, and is biologically no different in its importance to life as is the need to eat food and drink water. But with that said, I think it's important to recognize that, without making sex into this overly sacred occurrence, there are ways to practice intimacy and sexuality that are more considerate and appreciative of the other person.

There are many reasons why is this important as well, aside from the already-stated fact that it has the potential to improve your experience with your partner and create stronger intimacy. One of these is that, according to this article citing a research study gathering data from American adults, women have about one orgasm for every three a man enjoys. According to the article, the gap between men’s and women’s frequency of orgasm is impacted by social forces that privilege male pleasure. Thus, the idea of selfless sexuality here has feminist undertones as well in that it encourages equality in the bedroom, and an emphasis on the other--especially since the desire for sex is not inherently more of a masculine trait than feminine one.

So, what are your thoughts and comments? Do you agree with this concept? It is a workable framework for an intimate relationship? Do you think it overly endorses monogamy or another concept some find problematic? Let me know! I'm eager to see your thoughts!

Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA

P.S. Be on the lookout for an exciting announcement regarding LOVEanon to come next week!

P.P.S. I saw this infographic about the female orgasm and felt compared to share it, specifically because it actually touches on some of the aforementioned points: