Dr. Amy Demner, LMHC
Licensed psychotherapist and sexologist
As a young girl, Karen* loved stuffed animals. They provided comfort, friendship and an innocent introduction to sexual pleasures. At age seven, a teddy bear between her legs gave her a pleasant sensation. When she first masturbated at age eight, then had sex for the first time at age 16, a stuffed animal was either at her finger tips or rubbing against her feet. Karen didn’t know it at the time, but she was developing her “Love Code,” a life-long subconscious programming of attitudes, understandings and feelings about love and lust.
Two periods of psychosexual development occur during a lifetime. The first time of heightened sexual awareness is between the ages of three and eight. Children at these ages become aware of gender, both anatomically and stereotypically. They discover what feels good; is exciting and erotic; and looks, smells and feels sexy. Puberty signals the second love code development phase, when sexual interest and awareness is again heightened.
Sexual experiences during these critical development periods, often unwittingly chosen and possibly skewed by trauma, form the basis of a person’s mental menu from which sexual decisions and choices are made.
In Karen’s case, her preference for stuffed animals became essential to her having a satisfying sexual experience. When her husband grew tired of the unwanted furry guests in their bed, the strain in their sexual relationship led them to counseling.
Karen’s husband was uncomfortable because he felt as if he was making love to a young girl. Karen was ashamed and embarrassed by what she thought was an abnormal situation. When the stuffed animals were removed, however, her sex drive diminished.
The first step in their sex therapy, was the completion of a Love Code history, a one or two-session process that involves discussing a series of questions related to childhood experiences. Such questions can include: “How did you first learn about sex?”, “What was your parents’ attitude toward sex?”, “When was the first time you discovered what feels good?” “How did your parents respond to your body changes during puberty?”, “How was affection shown to you physically and verbally?
The couple’s love prescription was two-fold. First, Karen’s Love Code or menu of sexual arousal items had to be expanded. She was able to accomplish this step by her picturing her husband as the source of desire. As a couple, they learned to have fun experimenting. They wore furry items to bed, lied on furry blankets and rubbed fur all over each other. By reframing the use of fur, the couple enjoyed greater eroticism and closeness.
Although simple personal experiences like Karen’s help frame the Love Code, numerous external forces also are influential. This long list includes parental reaction and teachings about sexuality and gender issues, societal norms, media and religion. Physical surroundings and lifestyle conditions, as well as visual and physical experiences play into the development of the sexual script. More subtle internal influences are tougher to decode. Shame and guilt, for example, impact tremendously an individual’s ability to acknowledge or recall experiences.
In short, however, the love code is set. It determines a person’s ability to have loving, intimate, warm and sexually pleasing relationships.
If you think your love code needs to be unlocked, watch for these signals:
- Sex leaves you feeling unfulfilled, unhappy or emotionally distraught.
- Fantasies interfere with your ability to connect with your partner during sex.
- Feelings of shame and guilt about sex prevent you from enjoying the experience.
- You and your partner disagree about what is sexy, so you suppress your choices and have unsatisfactory sex.
- You seek emotional and sexual intimacy, but are unable to experience it.
- You don’t feel sexy because you are overly conscious of your body image during sex.
- You feel immature and ashamed about the need to incorporate childhood
- You've never formulated with yourself or another person what is positive, healthy and good about sex.
- You hide your sexual preferences from your partner, then sneak to satisfy these urges.
- You have to disconnect yourself from your body in order to have sex.
Everyone deserves to get the most out of life through healthy, exciting and fun sexual relationships. Unlock your Love Code and find out how to pump up the passion in your life.
*Karen’s name and her story have been changed to protect client confidentiality.