Ever wonder why some sex leaves you feeling kinda blah? Why is sex sometimes totally mind blowing and other times sex feels like a chore? Why does it feel like you and your partner are in two different worlds while making love?
Here is one piece to the puzzle: depth of sexual involvement. What if there was a way to not only get on the same page as your partner but learn how to go deeper for more fulfilling sex?
This theory was first published in the article “Three Dimensions of Depth of Involvement in Human Sexual Response” by Donald Mosher in 1980. It is a lens through which we can understand different motivations for having sex and what kind of experience you are looking to create with your partner.
First, Mosher suggests that sexual pleasure is stimulation that is subjectively experienced as excitement and/or joy. He writes “Effective sexual stimulation is a joint function of the density of physical sexual stimulation and depth of involvement in the sexual contact episode” He then goes on to suggest that depth of involvement is in one of three dimensions: (1) sexual role enactment, (2) sexual trance, and (3) engagement with the sex partner.
Let’s look at each of these dimensions more closely.
- Sexual role enactment is all about fulfilling a social script and embodying a sexual role. This is not just “roleplaying” in the sense of stories and costumes. Instead, it is how most of us have sex most of the time. You embody a specific erotic role (loving wife, strong husband, sexy vixen, carefree coed) and have sex out of a script of what sex means within that role, your partner’s role and the relationship between those two.
- Partner engagement is the highly romantic, emotional sex that happens when you want to merge with another person. It is all about unity, coming together and feeling the “I-Thou” connection as lovers.
- Erotic trance is sex where one or both partners goes into an altered state of consciousness, transported through the sensations of sex. Sexual trance is not about connecting with your partner or about fulfilling a script – rather it is about tuning your awareness deep within.
In Mosher’s framework, there are six levels of sexual involvement:
Think of the how easily distracted you are during any given sexual encounter. If your phone rang in the other room, would you immediately start thinking about who it might be? Or would you barely hear it? How easily distracted you are is a function of depth of sexual involvement. The deeper you go into your sexual experience, the more fulfilling that experience can be.
This framework is essential for discovering your motivations for having sex and getting on the same page with your partner. If you are wanting to drift into erotic trance, eye contact can be distracting. But that same eye contact would be essential for partner engagement sex. Wanting to feel naughty and have rough sex? Whispering sweet romantic words wouldn’t fit that role, but dirty talk might! It can be hugely helpful for you and your partner to know what kind of sex you are trying to have so you can both go deeper into the experience.
Mosher expands on the skills, techniques and attitudes for each kind of sex:
Sexual self-role congruence, sexual role perception and sexual role skills are required for involved, convincing, and appropriate sexual role enactment. When sexual role enactment is the preferred dimension of involvement, the sexual mood will be playful with high self esteem, the setting will be dramatic and exhibitionistic, the sexual techniques will be varied, the sexual style will be active and expressive, fantasies will contain a scripted plot, and sex is conceived to be an adventure or drama that leads to involuntary ecstatic expression and orgasm in which the participants are protypical men and women.
When sexual trance is the preferred pathway of involvement, the setting requires freedom from distractions, the mood is relaxed and receptive, sexual techniques emphasize repetitive, sensual pacing, the sexual style is passive and inwardly oriented, fantasies are scriptless sensory images, and sex is conceived to be an altered state of consciousness or a trip that leads to intense absorption into sensation and orgasm with faded consciousness in which the person is transported.
When engagement with the sex partner programs the sexual contact episode, then the mood and setting are romantic reminders of the love bond, the sexual techniques emphasize kissing, cuddling, and face-to-face contact, the sexual style is affectionate and mutually pleasuring, the fantasies are romantic, sex is conceived to be a loving merger, and orgasms are flowing with a loss of the self in a loving union.