WHAT'S THE RUSH? Sex doesn't have to just be about end goals, according to Dr Gabrielle Morrissey.
WHAT'S THE RUSH? Sex doesn't have to just be about end goals, according to Dr Gabrielle Morrissey.

A caress that eases tension - explaining karezza

Q: My partner turned to me and told me she wanted to try this sexual technique called Karezza. I've never heard of it - what is it?

A: Karezza is a gentle, affectionate form of intercourse in which orgasm is not the goal, and ideally does not occur in either partner while making love. Karezza gained its name from Alice Bunker Stockham, MD, at the end of the 19th century.

She based the name on the Italian word carezza, meaning "caress''.

Stockham was inspired by the work of John Humphrey Noyes, who taught a concept he called male continence, in which men opt to avoid ejaculation when conception is not desired.

However, Stockham encouraged both partners to pass up orgasm, insisting the practice is neither male nor female.

Although Stockham and, later, J. William Lloyd both wrote books about karezza, readers often observe that the descriptions of the actual practice seem vague.

This is because technique is virtually immaterial. It's a practice about not doing, about getting your goal-driven mammalian mating program out of the way long enough to fall into a state of relaxed union.

It's more of an experience than a practice.

As a result, each couple has a slightly different tale to tell.

It's important to recognize that karezza is not "regular sex" without the orgasm. Although karezza calls for intercourse, it doesn't look or feel anything like penetrative "bump and grind" sexual intercourse we all know.

The emphasis is on affection, and couples are encouraged to stay well away from the edge of orgasm. If you sense yourselves slipping into performance mode while making love, pull yourselves back into relaxation with deeper, longer breaths.

This relaxes abdominal breathing and reverses the increase in muscular tension as well as the urge to restrict the breathing that coincides with the buildup to orgasm.

As far as actual intercourse goes, the idea is to move far more slowly than one does during conventional sex. In addition, you may fall into total stillness frequently while making love.

Some of the most gratifying and profound experiences occur when not moving. As a result, lovemaking can go in waves, somewhat like breathing. Erections also come and go - and may arise again when you start kissing after a pause.

Kiss and gaze into each others' eyes.

Let each other know how loved you feel with wordless sounds of pleasure and reverent, or playful, touch.

With karezza you ease your sexual tension without resorting to orgasm.

Using karezza's gentle intercourse, you can make love for as long as you need to until any sexual tension melts away entirely - as long as you don't fall back into hungry behaviour, or begin fighting yourselves by going close to the edge of orgasm.

During lovemaking, the emphasis is on stillness and heart-centred feelings. If the energy begins to build into goal-oriented sensations, simply relax back into stillness.

Sometimes karezza is just pleasant, gentle intercourse that leaves us refreshed and more balanced.

Sometimes it's an amazing, heart-opening experience for which we can hardly find words.

All we can do is keep our biologically driven habits out of the way, and enjoy what bubbles up.

Striving is counterproductive.

We focus on comforting each other, not fanning sexual hunger.

Karezza, with its emphasis on generous, non-goal-oriented affection, seems to rely heavily on activating the body's relaxation response.

In contrast, ejaculatory sex is a function of the fight-or-flight (sympathetic nervous system) response. You are in performance mode, doing what needs to be done to survive (through passing on your genes).

Karezza can be a bit like watching paint dry at first - albeit with the added joys of a companion and an increasing sense of well-being. It does not produce rapid, obvious results (as, for example, a new foreplay technique might). Instead its effects are cumulative.

You may need several weeks of pleasant, but patient, consistency to see results and why trying it might be worth it.

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