What kind of sex is capable of competing with porn? In our work with people overcoming porn problems, we have found that whether you are currently in an intimate relationship or not, an approach that is power­ful enough to compete with and prevail over porn is one that has the primary goal of being intimate with a real partner. Because porn sex is all about fantasy, the sheer authenticity of sexual intimacy with another person generates new and compelling experiences for most former porn users. Intimacy-oriented sex, as we call it, provides a way to integrate the positive feelings you have about yourself and a current (or future) partner with sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm. It makes it possible for you to focus on being present in a real human relationship and express genuine emotions. It honors conditions of healthy sexuality, such as re­sponsibility, equality, respect, and caring. Nobody is exploited or gets hurt. The sex is shame-free because it is consistent with your overall beliefs, values, and goals in life.

Intimacy-oriented sex allows you to explore dimensions of sexual experience not possible with porn, such as whole-body sensuality, self­respect, trust, warmth, playfulness, laughter, nurturing touch, profound love, and spiritual connection. By taking the time to get to know and like a partner, the sexual experience comes from genuine feelings of affection and appreciation. Both partners become comfortable with each other and can candidly share desires, needs, limits, and feelings about sex. Sexual encounters are mutually satisfying—you feel the joy of loving and being loved back. And because you are being fulfilled on so many different levels, intimacy-oriented sex can help you reshape your erotic imagination, en­abling you to feel more comfortable with your sexual thoughts.

In this chapter, you will find a number of ideas and exercises[1] that can help you learn important skills needed for developing an intimacy – oriented approach to sex. You can do some of the exercises by yourself, while others require the participation of a partner. If you are not in an intimate relationship, you can read about and practice the exercises in this chapter to lay a foundation for a future sexual relationship with a partner. If you are presently in a committed relationship, you can learn the skills with your partner to heal the damage to your sex life caused by porn and experience a more fulfilling sexual connection.

The success of an intimacy-oriented approach to sex depends on your being able to forge a new pathway for your sexual energy that doesn’t in­volve stimulation from porn. To that end, the exercises provide you with different opportunities to break the connection between porn and sexual arousal. Over time, by practicing these exercises you’ll discover a new way of experiencing sexual energy in your mind and in your body. Although most of the exercises build self-awareness and intimacy skills, and don’t involve overt sexual activity, ultimately they establish a strong foundation for your being able to enjoy intensely gratifying sexual pleasure without porn.

We have identified seven skills that can help you succeed in accom­plishing an intimacy-oriented approach to sex. They are:

1. Engage in Courtship

2. Talk with Your Partner About Sex

3. Expand Your Sensory Awareness

4. See Your Partner with New Eyes

5. Increase Your Touch Vocabulary

6. Explore the Realm of Sensual Pleasure

7. Involve Your Heart in Sex

These skills are arranged progressively from those that help you build a strong and healthy foundation for a sexual relationship to those that involve specific sensual and sexual activities. Each skill contributes an important element of intimacy in sex. Because some of the exercises involve genital touch and stimulation, we recommend that you only do those that feel safe and that are consistent with where you currently are in your porn recovery. For instance, if you have been sexually abstinent as part of your recovery plan, we suggest you consult with a counselor or therapist to help you determine the appropriate time to practice a particular skill and do a particular exercise.

Let’s explore the seven skills in detail.