If music be the food of love, turn it off. Loving well is about attention.
We all know the script. You come back to your place with your date. The energy is right, you've got your hopes up. And so you turn on the music. You create the mood.
Music and love—they go together like lips and lips (I'm thinking two pairs here). I don't believe there are any statistics about this, but I'll bet that if the date is romantic, more often than not there's music in the background. It may be Bruno Mars for some and Barry White for others, but it's ultimately all the same song: Soundtrack for Our Love.
I've stepped into this movie for most of my life. Thank you, Cream, Melissa Ethridge, Devotchka, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and many more artists for the fine contributions you've made to my love life.
Lately, though, I've taken a step back. The reason: A random remark by the sex master Ernest Greene, who's the husband of the porn actress Nina Hartley. "When we play with each other," he told me, "we don't put on music. It interferes with our ability to be truly present to each other."
I hung up with the light bulbs of a thousand "Aha!"s going off inside my head. Of course! To be a really skilled lover, the first thing you need to do is show up. That means really being there, and not just in your body. In your heart, head and spirit, too.
Showing up fully means no distractions. One thing this means is getting rid of the tapes that are playing inside your head. The ones that say "I'm supposed to do this" or "they're supposed to do that." Also the ones that say, "I wonder if he thinks my ass is too fat" or "I wonder if she thinks my penis is too small."
Wait, there's more. It also means getting rid of external distractions as well as internal ones. When you're trying to get down with your partner, you don't want the cell phone ringing. You don't want your three-year-old running around the room going "zoom, zoom" with his brand-new truck. Things like this distract. They get in the way of being fully present and attentive.
And so does music.
I'm of two minds here.
Music can be very sexy. A soundtrack can be great.
And it can also be a problem. Playing a musical soundtrack is like having a third person in the room. We accommodate ourselves to the rhythms and energies of the beat. We adapt to it. It’s not just the two of us any longer. I've got nothing against threesomes, but they can reduce the intimacy if there are only two people there.
Ernest Greene, sex master: "If you want to pay very close attention to things like your partner's breath or the nuances of the sounds they're making, music can interfere."
Every moment of erotic intimacy with a partner offers a huge variety of possible next moves. How do we choose the best one (or, at least, a good one)? How do we choose wisely, sensitivity, intuitively?
There's a straightforward answer to this—think of it as the first rule of being a great lover. You know what to do next by paying exquisitely close attention to what's going on inside inside your partner, and to what's going on inside yourself.
To do this, you need to create the right environment, inside your head and outside it.
I love music. And the best way to have a truly memorable hot date just may be by turning it off.