Note: This article was originally posted at the beginning of 2021, but we’re republishing it now because the advice is just as true (or more so!) than it was a year ago.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’m like Farmers Insurance: I know a resolution or two because I’ve made a resolution or . . or 42. But honestly, for most of my life, I rarely stuck to them for more than a few months—and I know I’m not alone in that.
New Year’s resolutions aren’t easy to stick to because we often set stretch goals without knowing the real why behind them and because we don’t give ourselves the infrastructure needed to actually achieve them. Our resolutions tend to look more like to-do lists than actual goals. We try things like “work out three times a week” or “fold every load of laundry as soon as it’s out of the dryer, which are great (though honestly, I’ve never met anyone who has achieved the laundry thing, so maybe drop that one) but are just…tasks.
Resolutions shouldn’t look like a daily to-do list; they should be the goals and aspirations you have for yourself, like “prioritize my mental and physical wellness more” or “take better care of my home.” The tasks might help you get there, but they’re not the whole picture.
When you set a task for yourself, you’re basically assigning yourself a chore. But when you set a goal, you probably have a meaningful and motivating reason behind it. Here’s the thing: If you don’t have a clear reason for setting goals for yourself, then don’t bother (unless you like feeling bad that you dropped your resolutions). But if you do have a motivating reason? Go right ahead.
So, I’m sharing with you three sex-positive resolutions for the New Year that I think are actually worth pursuing. These changes can improve not only your solo and partnered sex life, but just your life in general. I’m including some reasons why you might want to pursue these resolutions, but the best reason is the one you come up with for yourself.
1. Practice sexual self-compassion
Sexual self-compassion is the more intense cousin of regular self-compassion. When it comes to our desires, fantasies, bodies, and behaviors, our biggest critic is usually (probably always)…ourselves. People who report having more pleasurable sex lives also tend to report higher levels of self-confidence, and that includes being patient with our struggles, needs, and boundaries.
If you’re dealing with sexual shame, a history of trauma, unpleasurable sex, or bad feelings about your body, I recommend starting here, because a little self-compassion goes a long way.
- The reason: You deserve to live a life filled with pleasure, and you also deserve the time and space that you need to figure out what that actually means for you. Judging yourself doesn’t help you achieve your goals and live a pleasure-filled life, but self-compassion can.
- The work: When you notice that you’re self-shaming, take a breath and ask yourself what you really need in that moment. What would it mean to care for your needs instead of belittling yourself for them? Ground yourself, then either write down or speak aloud what you need. Give it to yourself. Once you become comfortable with this, try it with others. In the meantime, let go of the “shoulds” of your sex life. The only thing your sex life should be is consensual and pleasurable—the rest is only by your design, not by anyone else’s.
2. Explore your sexual desires
For some reason, many of us assume that we’ll just magically know what we like in bed. The reality is that pretty much all of us were raised in sex-negative environments. That means we’ve been taught a few things that just aren’t actually true, like “the only ‘real’ sex is penis-in-vagina intercourse”, “you can only be fulfilled if you’re in a monogamous relationship,” or “porn is always degrading and bad.”
(Just in case you missed it the first time around, those are all lies.) Because our world is largely sex-negative — meaning that society is scared of sexuality that doesn’t fit neatly into a few designated boxes — it’s very common for people to feel like they’re wrong or broken if they like a certain thing or if they don’t like something. When it comes to desire, fantasy, and arousal, the “shoulds” show up way more than anyone ever needs. So, let go of the “shoulds” and the harmful stuff you learned earlier, and figure out what a fulfilling sex life means to you.
- The reason: You deserve to define what sexual happiness and fulfillment mean for you, without judging your desires through anyone else’s lens. Your desires are bigger than the boxes the world says you need to fit into, and embracing them in all their complexity leads to greater pleasure and also confidence in other areas of your life.
- The work: Try out different forms of sexual media and see if any spark some feelings in your mind and body. Find written erotica online (even fan fiction), listen to audio erotica with services like Dipsea or &Jane, or find queer-friendly, body-positive porn through services like PinkLabel.tv. Find more suggestions for exploration and experimentation here and remember, you can do this journey on your own or with partners.
3. Strengthen your sexual communication skills
If you’re looking to improve your partnered sex life, then strengthening your communication skills is one resolution absolutely worth pursuing. Many of us hold the belief that our partners should just kinda know what we want, how we like to be touched, and what we’re not okay with—all without telling them. Even more of us just feel awkward saying something like “could you move your fingers like half an inch to the right, please?” in bed.
If we want to have pleasurable partnered sex, we have to be open and engaged sexual communicators even before sex actually begins.
- The reason: Truly pleasurable partnerships (even if they’re just one-night partnerships) take communication and effort. My wants and boundaries are important and they deserve to be advocated for, and my partners deserve for me to listen openly to them. And any partner worth partnering with really, really wants to hear them.
- The work: Use tools like Mojo Upgrade or We Should Try It to jumpstart a conversation about what you’re interested in doing in bed. Plan a regularly-scheduled sex talk date where you and your partners check-in on your sex life (as a quick pro tip, don’t have this date in bed—try it over dinner or a cup of coffee, or even while out walking the dog). When you start to feel self-conscious or like you’re having a surprising reaction, acknowledge it. It’s totally okay to have some feelings here, so don’t push them aside.
Whatever resolutions you pursue in this new year, know that I’m cheering you on! Here’s to healthy, pleasurable, and sex-positive new year.
About the Author
Cassandra Corrado is an independent sex educator who teaches at colleges and universities across the United States. Formerly a victim advocate, she mostly teaches on topics related to un/healthy relationships, violence prevention, LGBTQ+ health, and sexual pleasure.
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