The Status Quo of Sex
Culturally, we have an idea of what sexuality looks like. As individuals, we absorb and internalize this idea through the books we read, the videogames we play, the movies we watch, the songs we listen to—it’s basically all around us. Even the pornography we watch can be a small, limited slice that doesn’t represent the grand spectrum of sexuality! And the ideas we are fed aren’t always healthy, nor do they align with everyone’s values, interests, and personality.
Getting to Know You
The good news is that your body and your subconscious know exactly what they need, and they will happily tell you as long as you ask it the right questions. So, how do you ask the right questions? The answer is that you try new things. You don’t necessarily need a partner to try new things, either. You can find out what you need to know by yourself.
Sexuality is not just an intellectual thought experiment. Sure, some things you will know right off the bat that you wouldn’t enjoy. But many things, maybe even most things, you will need to try in order to understand if you like them. That’s because our society has baked a ton of stigma into all things sexual.
You may hear of something that’s stigmatized (like using a sex toy, having sex with someone who shares your gender, anal sex, or even visiting a sex worker), and your first reaction may be that you wouldn’t be into it. But often, that’s because we are trained to reject things that aren’t considered normal. But when we allow that to happen, we reject activities that could bring us great pleasure and joy. It’s difficult to distinguish between what we think we won’t like due to stigma and our innate intuition, but it’s so important.
Your Sexuality Is at Your Fingertips
To get started exploring your sexuality, all you need are your hands. Find some time to spend by yourself and engage in self-touch. Self-touch is distinct from masturbation because typically, during masturbation, you jump right into touching your genitals. When doing self-touch, you take a moment to caress every square inch of your body gently. Try different rhythms and patterns, and notice what types of touch you like or areas on your body that feel good and are under-explored. This helps you get to know your body and how you can turn yourself on—and it will be helpful information for your partners, too.
When was the last time you gently massaged your scalp or traced your fingers around your ears? The body is full of highly sensitive areas that are all too often ignored or, worse, not acknowledged as erotic in the first place.
Then, try a new sensation. Use a sex toy or your shower head or whatever you have on hand to experience new ways to stimulate yourself erotically. If you’ve never tried an anal toy, maybe today is your day!
You probably already know a little bit about what turns your mind on. But you may have blind spots about potential paths to pleasure that could be life changing. People generally stick to a handful of fantasies or ideas when they are aroused, and that’s often a mistake. Getting stuck in a routine limits how much you know about yourself.
To learn more about what you like, you’ll have to start trying new things again. Don’t dust off the same stale porn search term you’ve been using for a decade. Do something completely different. Listen to audio erotica about a topic you’ve never necessarily considered sexy before—perhaps a fetish or plot that you’ve never entertained before. Or maybe you want to listen to an erotic poetry reading that gets your creative juices flowing. Try to find something beautiful about someone you wouldn’t typically be attracted to. Read an educational book about sexualities that differ from yours. Attend a sex party or go to a kink class. Perhaps you forego porn entirely and use your creativity and imagination for the next week to get yourself off. Even if you aren’t sure you’ll like it, you won’t know for sure until you try.
Treat your sexuality like you do your appetite for food. You don’t have the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day without getting tired of it. Try something new.
And yes, you won’t like everything you try. But even if you learn one new thing that you’re interested in exploring, fantasizing about, or making a reality, you’ll have opened up a portal for self-exploration. Better yet, the process will help you realize that being open-minded, empathetic, and curious gives us all the chance to feel more joy.