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Closing your eyes during sex...why?

(Justin Pumfrey / Getty Images )
May 14, 2014|Anna Pulley, @annapulley | RedEye's sex columnist

Dear Anna,

I have been with my girlfriend for four years and I always found it odd that she closes her eyes during sex. I wish she would keep them open sometimes, as I think it intensifies everything, including the orgasm. Is there some underlying reason she always has them closed?

Dear reader,

For the same reason we close our eyes when we kiss: protection against wayward gnats.

Most of us close our eyes when we kiss because we can’t focus on the blotch of cheek or crusty ear that’s in our direct line of sight, and instead of straining our eyes, we opt to just close them. Of course, with sex, usually you’re not all up in each other’s face-bizness (depending on position and ergonomics), so it’s possible your girlfriend is taking an eye nap for other reasons.

One of those might have to do with vulnerability. Sex can make us self-conscious about our bodies, our partners’ enjoyment, our own crippling mediocrity, etc. Closing our eyes is an easy way to “check out” from those fears and focus more on the moment—what we are feeling instead of what we are thinking. It’s similar to why we turn the lights off during sex; so we can relax, savor the experience, tune in to our other senses and so we don’t have to see our jiggly bits under the unforgiving glare of 120-watt lighting.

Your girlfriend also might be closing her eyes so she can fantasize more easily. It’s harder to envision boning that Argentinian soccer team when your gaze is locked on your sweet partner of four years. This isn’t to say she’s unsatisfied in the sack—we all fantasize, it’s part of how we maintain monogamous relationships—but the longer we are with one person, the more we might need to take a mental vacay to get extra hot and bothered.

As to whether having open eyes intensifies orgasms, at least one sex therapist agrees with you. Dr. David Schnarch encourages couples to increase intimacy by having eyes-open sex, and eyes-open orgasms, so we aren’t “tuning out” our partners.“ In informal surveys I’ve conducted around the world, it seems that only about 15 to 30 percent of all couples have sex with their eyes open, and only about half that number can orgasm that way. This means that most people have to shut their eyes to ‘tune out’ their partner in order to be able to orgasm.”

The only way to know for sure is to ask your girlfriend in a casual, non-confrontational way, if you haven’t done so already. If her reasons are more of the “savoring the experience” variety, you might ask her to try keeping her eyes open as an experiment. A more intense orgasm might end up being right in front of her eyes—literally.

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