When I was looking through the questions for this edition of Sex Ed for Adults, I noticed an overarching theme: Confidence.
Sexual self-confidence is something that many people struggle with, and it doesn’t take just one form. You might struggle to feel confident with your body, communication, technique, or even with knowing your own sexual desires.
So, this week, we’re talking all about how you can improve your sexual self-confidence when it comes to asking for what you want, owning your sexuality, and as a bonus, understanding the value of lube.
Let’s get started. As always, take the recommendations that speak to you, and leave the ones that don’t — it’s your body, your sex life, your rules!
Q: How can I teach my partner how to give me an orgasm when our techniques differ?
Every person is going to approach sexual pleasure differently; it’s one of the great parts of being human. Even if you both have the same genital configuration (eg, you both have vulvas or both have penises), the way that you enjoy being touched will simply be different. Embrace that!
When people ask me about why they don’t have orgasms with their partners or how they can teach their partner to give them an orgasm, the first thing I ask is why they haven’t had that conversation with them yet. The answers are telling — some people feel shame about their desires, others have internalized that they shouldn’t have to ask for pleasure, and still more simply don’t trust their partner to not judge them.
But here’s the thing: There’s no shame in your sexuality, your partners aren’t psychic, and if you don’t trust your partner to not judge or shame you, it’s probably time to reevaluate that relationship.
So, if you want to teach your partner how to make you feel good during sex (whether that ends in orgasm or not), start by actually talking about what makes you feel good. I don’t just mean physical touch; how do your surroundings impact your pleasure? What about the things your partner says to you? Start there, then work up to talking about the types of non-sexual touch that feel good. Then, dive into discussing sexual touch. You may be surprised to learn that your partner may intellectually know what types of things you enjoy, but they may be struggling with actually doing them.
If that’s the case, show them. Mutual masturbation is a great way to show your partner how you like to be touched and it can be extremely erotic for everyone involved. Or, you can plan an educational sex date. Set the expectation ahead of time that you’ll be guiding them to help you feel good, and then be vocal with your instructions. Who knows, you may even find that saying things out loud helps you better articulate what it even is that you like! (Or, you may uncover a new kink).
This isn’t a one-way street, though. If you aren’t having pleasurable sexual experiences, it’s possible your partner isn’t either — so ask them about their pleasure, too.
Q: How do I begin to feel comfortable with myself as a sexual being?
Sexual shame is something that is deeply ingrained in many of us. It starts at an early age; we get messages from our family and media that sexual pleasure is inappropriate, especially for women. That isn’t to say that only women experience sexual shame — people of all genders can and do, but sexuality purity is something that is particularly prevalent in how girls are raised in the United States.
Uncovering the source of your sexual shame can be complicated, and there likely isn’t just one source. Uncovering the sources can be helpful in unlearning shame and becoming comfortable, but you can start doing that work before you eradicate the root.
To become more comfortable with yourself as a sexual being, start with the messages that you consume. Do you follow sex-positive Instagram accounts that show diverse bodies? Trans people, gender non-conforming people, fat people, disabled people, people of color? Can you think of people off the top of your head who comfortably talk about sex regularly? If not, consider shifting some of those things.
Surrounding yourself with positive and diverse images and embracing open conversations can help shift your environment, which in the longterm can shift your mindset.
Next, masturbate — and then journal about it. How did you feel before you started? What felt good? What didn’t? How did you feel emotionally and mentally during it? Masturbation time has the opportunity to be truly exploratory, allowing you to discover what you like without worrying about external judgment (though internalized judgment can still pose a problem). But, practicing solo play mindfully can help you begin to develop more confidence that you can bring into a partnered space in the future.
Q: What’s the benefit of lube for oral or vaginal sex? Shouldn’t I just be wet enough?
Lube is probably the most helpful tool that any person can add to their sexual toolkit, but you’d never know it by the way that we often think about lube. I hear it in the undertone of this question, “Shouldn’t I just be wet enough?”
People with vaginas often believe that they should only need lube if they’re post-menopausal or if their partner didn’t do a “good enough job” arousing them. The reality is that you may experience vaginal dryness for a lot of reasons like depression, high stress, anxiety, dehydration, or PTSD. Plus, vaginal dryness can happen alongside yeast infections and as a side effect of taking antihistamines, antidepressants, and even some types of birth control.
All that to say — there is no shame in vaginal dryness or in not getting as wet as you’d like. It also doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how aroused you are. Getting wet can be a physiological sign of arousal, but many people experience arousal non-concordance, which is a fancy way of saying that their body and brain aren’t on the same page when it comes to arousal. You might feel turned on mentally, but your body isn’t reacting (like when people with penises get erections without being aroused).
Anyone of any body type — even if they naturally get really wet — can benefit from a good lubricant. Lube reduces friction, which can decrease sexual pain and reduce the likelihood of a barrier method of birth control or STI protection tearing. It can also increase your pleasure while reducing the amount of time it takes to have an orgasm. Basically, lube is great. Not all lubricants are created equal (we’ll get into that more another time), but experiment and find one that you like.
I recommend using lube for every sex act. Every. Single. One.
Giving someone a blowjob? You probably don’t have a never-ending supply of saliva, so grab your handy dandy bottle of lube. I recommend using a water-based lube for oral sex. Some lubricants can taste more bitter than others, so try out a tiny bit in advance. (And as a heads-up, Sliquid is just one company that makes flavored lubes that actually taste like what they say they do.) Speaking of handy dandy — if you’re giving a handjob or fingering someone, lube is your best friend. Planning on anal play? Lube is absolutely necessary. Eating someone out? See earlier note about saliva. Visualizing vaginal sex? Lube it up. Using a sex toy? Add lube to that, too! Just don’t use silicone lube on silicone toys (they can break down the surface texture of the toy, ruining your probably very expensive purchase), or oil-based lube on latex condoms (it will cause them to break).
Making lube a part of your sexual routine normalizes it, and that’s one big shift toward increasing your sexual confidence and reducing your sexual shame. Our bodies and their needs change over time and that is 100% okay.
Have a sex question you’re itching to ask? Send it to Questions@Nurx.co and we’ll answer it in an upcoming post! In the meantime, I’ll be here cheering you on through your journey to sexual self-confidence.
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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