We’ve all heard about “sleeping your way to the top,” a derogatory phrase that is mostly directed at women in a context where female sexuality is used as a weapon. And this, we are told, is bad.
To be very clear from the get-go, this article is NOT about having sex with people in your office, nor is it about dressing a certain way or acting a certain “sexualized” way at work. None of that. But it is challenging the misnomer that sex and work are different spheres of a woman’s life and must be kept separate, else she be labeled one of the plethora of words used to describe a sexually empowered woman.
I would even go so far as to say we women are afraid of exhibiting anything remotely sexual at work, and for good reason. We’re afraid of the attention, positive or negative. We’re afraid of the influence our own sexual power can have and worry wielding it makes us a whore. We’re afraid of losing respect, which is the punishment women receive for sexualization, while men’s sexual prowess often gains peer respect.
But these two narratives of sex and work are separate and sexuality being laced with fear are keeping us from fully realizing our potential, our power, and our creativity. And this keeps us playing small when we want to play big.
So what do they have to do with each other? How do sex and work support each other without crossing personal (and legal) boundaries?
It all goes back to the truth about desire. Desire is the life force of any creature, including humans. It’s our drive. It’s the biological reason why we feel compelled to do anything at all.
If we feel numb and lack desire (and so many of us do these days), we won’t have the energy to put behind projects, goals, relationships, growth, and of course, our work. And if the desires we are trying to fulfill are externally imposed or laced with expectation, we abandon ourselves to powerlessness, resentment, and struggle.
Sexual desire is just one aspect of desire as a whole, but it makes understanding the power of desire easy.
Desire is powerful because if your action is aligned with your desire, you get what you want. Sex shows us this, the way we can get lost in the flow of fulfilling desire with others or alone. And it shows us how enjoyable it can be to achieve a “goal” when you couple true desire with aligned action.
The trouble is so many of us have unaligned desires. Imagine the times you’ve felt external pressure to fulfill a sexual desire that wasn’t actually true in your own body. It feels icky, to put it mildly. Yet we are doing that to ourselves daily in other areas of our life.
In the work world, this translates to pursuing goals we don’t want and saying yes to projects that we wanted to say no to. It looks like stepping back from conversations we want to participate in because we feel insecure. It means following the pack even when your own integrity is on the line.
We’ve stopped paying attention to our body’s signals of desire at work. And when that happens, things stop flowing. They stop being enjoyable. They stop mattering to us, lighting us up, getting us the results we want.
Erotic self-care can help.
Erotic self-care is about igniting your desire, taking responsibility for your own inner flame, stoking the fire, and building your inner energy and awareness.
Relationship Expert Esther Perel suggests starting an erotic self-care routine by asking yourself two questions.
1. What turns me on?
2. What turns me off?
Many of the answers, you’ll discover, have nothing overtly sexual about them. And that’s because sexuality is not something we keep in a box on a shelf until we want it. It, like all forms of desire, is what keeps us feeling alive and moving forward.
Desire-igniting self-care practices could be anything from feeling your hair brush against your skin, doing your morning yoga in the nude, finding a jade egg or pleasure-focused class, or sitting in silence and experimenting with moving sensation through your body.
No matter how hard our greater culture rails against it, the fact remains that we humans are biological, made up of flesh and neurons and survival impulses like desire. Pretending we can ignore our bodies and still reach our full potential is like pretending sex is enjoyable without sensation.
Working WITH desire, instead of against, is the key to unlocking untold potential, creativity, energy, and clarity.
And unlocking those attributes is the key to enjoyable, aligned work that brings satisfaction and success to our lives.