Getting Comfortable With Your Sexuality
By: Raquel Pereira, MA, LMFT-Associate, CST-C
Sex. Three little letters. One simple word. When you put it in those terms, it doesn’t seem so intimidating, right? The truth is, sometimes sex can be incredibly challenging to think about, let alone discuss. While we’ve seen a general shift in attitudes with many individuals finding ways to openly express their confidence and comfort in their sexuality, embracing our sexual selves isn’t always that easy! Viewing yourself through a sex-positive lens may be understandably difficult if you encountered several barriers and negative narratives about sexuality during your development. Consider the moments and messages that defined your relationship with sex. Displaying curiosity about yourself as a sexual being may have been taboo in your family system and social circles. You may have been shamed or made to feel guilty about exploring your body. Perhaps sex was a topic avoided at all costs, or oppositely, talked about at length to warn you of potential risks. Whatever your lived experience, it’s understandable if yours has contributed to feelings of disconnection or discomfort with sex.
If you identify with this and feel like it’s time to embrace your sexuality in all its glory, know that you’re not alone, and it’s entirely possible to get comfortable with your sexual self! Here are some tips to help you start:
SAY GOODBYE TO GUILT AND SHAME
So you grew up with a foundation of sexual narratives that were guilt and shame-based. A great piece about embracing who you are as a sexual being is deciding what that looks like from here on out. Allow yourself to let go of the messages that no longer serve you and create a new narrative that empowers you to explore without judgment. If you find reminders of those old narratives creeping in from time to time, don’t be too hard on yourself! Challenge any negative thoughts about exploring your sexuality with genuine curiosity and an openness to change. Safely exploring and growing in your comfort level with sex and changing your sexual script takes time and patience. Remind yourself that you deserve to have a healthy and satisfying sex life, and you have the power to decide how that presents in your life.
GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH YOUR BODY
When was the last time you took a good look at your body? Did you look at your genitals? If you want to create and maintain a healthy relationship with your sexuality, it’s essential to understand how your sexual anatomy looks, feels, and functions. Consider getting into a comfortable position in front of a mirror where you can easily view your genitals. To all the vulva owners out there, using a handmirror will allow you to control your viewing angles to explore those hard to see places without having to contort your body into awkward positions. Using clean hands, take your time mindfully exploring and familiarize yourself with the size, shape, textures, lumps, bumps, smells, etc. I would encourage you not to use this opportunity to be overly critical of the way your body presents. It’s not often that we can sit around a group of naked people and take notes on all the complexities and differences between their bodies and our own. Wondering how you compare to others and perceptions of what’s “normal” creates space for unnecessary negativity in your sexual journey. If you find yourself spiraling into negative self-talk, remind yourself that everyone is unique, and no two bodies are exactly alike. What you see in the mirror is your normal!
THERE’S NO SHAME IN THE RESEARCH GAME
When you start exploring who you are as a sexual being, you might find yourself trying to answer some of the following questions: How do you define sex and pleasure? What are your desires? What are your fantasies? If you don’t have all the answers just yet, don’t stress! As you transition through life and relationships, your responses may change, so nothing needs to be set in stone. Start with shaping your answers considering the person you are today and your sexual goals and preferences. If you need some inspiration figuring out your desires and fantasies, consider reading erotica, watching a few steamy tv shows/movies, or browse a few sex toy websites. Pay attention to how your body and mind respond to what you see and hear. If something sounds or looks particularly exciting, and you find yourself getting turned on, think about how you might safely incorporate it into your sexual experiences and build off your imagination. Research doesn’t have to be boring. Have fun with it!
TAKE PLEASURE INTO YOUR OWN HANDS
If masturbation isn’t part of your sexual repertoire, consider adding it in. Prioritizing your pleasure and getting to know your body on a more intimate level is a fun and exciting way to get more comfortable with your sexuality. Taking your pleasure into your own hands and exploring your body can help solidify your sexual comfort and confidence. Allowing yourself the freedom to experiment with pressure, speed, method of stimulation, etc. on your terms and in your own time gives you space to clearly define what your preferences are. Having that clear definition also better equips you to communicate your needs with your sexual partner(s). Remember that mirror exercise we talked about earlier? Try it out while masturbating! Watching how your body responds to stimulation can be a useful learning tool in your solo sex practices and partnered sex. Sometimes it’s not enough just knowing how you want to feel when you’re trying to communicate your needs. Being able to demonstrate or guide your partner(s) in how exactly you prefer to stimulate your body optimizes your chances for a satisfying and pleasurable sexual experience for everyone involved.
If this sounds doable in theory, but a little too overwhelming to put into practice, that’s okay! We all need a little support sometimes. Seeking out a trained professional like a sex coach, relationship coach, or a sex therapist is a great way to get started on embracing your sexuality.