Symbols of penetration are everywhere : electric connections, roots in the ground, food in the mouth, jigsaw puzzles. Life on earth brims with the intimate connections that keep things moving. Pride week is a good reminder that the pleasures of penetrative sex can come in all sorts of stripes and shades. We've moved past procreative and homophobic limitations on what body parts or objects can go where, and past the fanaticism of certain feminists who once cried rape over every act of willing intercourse. We're moving ever deeper into exploration, experimentation and psychosexual fluidity.
Nothing else feels quite as intimate and satisfying as one body inside another; for some, nothing but entering or being entered can express as exquisitely the power dynamics they like to play with in bed.
To keep penetration of any body opening safe and sane, the watchwords are conscious consent and choice. To take the experience deeper, try lots of eye contact, breathe in synchrony with your partner, drop all that ego stuff already about what should and shouldn't happen, and stay with the flow. And check out our experts for some nifty perspectives. what the experts say
"If you really love someone, you can't get close enough - you want to crawl in under the skin. There is a sacredness to that, and a lot of power for the person being penetrated and the one penetrating. This is a mutual power, and it oscillates between the partners. Because there's a constant power exchange, it's never a given as to who's going to be the most powerful. That (power dynamic) can be used to keep the relationship alive and exciting. As a woman, you can close your vagina and work with the muscles. You can play with how much you will take in a partner and how much you will suck in or push out. The more women are willing to exercise their vaginas, the more power they have."
MARTA HELLIESEN, MSc (neuroscience), sex therapist
"Penetrative sex is viewed by two-thirds of gay men as the most satisfying kind. Most men define themselves as versatile. It's a pattern typical of advanced industrialized societies; gay identity tends to be associated with breaking down that notion of having to be a top or bottom. In gender-conservative societies you see this top and bottom ideology expressed most strongly. A barrier to safe sex for a few men is that they value insemination. They talk in quasi-religious terms about taking the essence of a man into their bodies; they like the idea of having some piece of that man with them."
BARRY ADAM, professor of sociology, University of Windsor
"Men being penetrated, it's all about their confidence that they can be loved by others. One of the exciting things happening is that women are anally pleasuring males. Eventually, both parties want to experience the the strap-on dildo. The female top doesn't have biofeedback from her dick, which is all the more reason to have dialogue, because we want this to be a pleasurable act. When I work with men, I won't even enter them digitally for three or four sessions, because I want their ass to beg (for) insertion. We tend to move too quickly. The inner sphincter keeps fecal matter inside the colon; it's not a naturally open door - you have to seduce it. I see penetration as the classic opportunity for a man to really connect with his feminine side. When he's being penetrated in a slow, progressive, warm, loving situation, it brings these emotions up."
PAUL BARBER, "sacred intimate" trained through Body Electric School
"People are exploring penetration where it is an aspect of sexual play not connected to gender-based power dynamics. That is, penetration of an orifice with a body part or a toy that is based on pleasure or power exchange as opposed to "I am dominating you because I am a male or I am taking on a male role." Penetration becomes part of a range of sexual activities, and can be removed from the gender-based lexicon of activity. I encourage people to step outside of the box they're in, and approach it with an open heart. Things (previously) put by the wayside may in a different context be the very things that take them to a new level of pleasure."
DOT WHITEHOUSE, body-centred psychotherapist, specialist, sex therapy and fertility issues
"For a lot of men, intercourse without a condom is incredibly pleasurable, and intercourse with a condom introduces something artificial. (We try to isolate) what about intercourse gives people satisfaction so they can figure out how to achieve that and still be safe. For guys who are turned on by risk, the act of unprotected sex has an added charge. We suggest using fantasy and language to achieve that turn-on instead of endangering your health. For those who want emotional intimacy and connection, we talk about testing both partners' HIV status and having an honest dialogue around monogamy. Inequities in a relationship can affect someone's ability to communicate what they need and the ability to be safe."
JAMES MURRAY, gay men's community development coordinator, ACT
"In the past, being lesbian meant rejecting heterosexuality, including penetration, but there's more acceptance of playing with penetration now. It doesn't always mean a dildo; it can be done with fingers. Lesbians use gloves to make things smoother, and there's lots of attention spent on hand grooming and making sure one's hands are ready for sex."
TARA MCKEE, workshop facilitator and sex educator