There are a lot of challenges when it comes to enjoying physical intimacy. As a society, we place heavy emphasis on beauty standards that are almost unattainable for those with the wrong genetic makeup, and most of the shame we feel about our appearance has been cultivated in us by a marketing machine hell-bent on selling us creams, dresses, purses, makeup and breast implants.
Being unhappy with the way we look and present ourselves sells product, and advertisers know it. This means that we live in a pervasive culture that is always telling us that we’re not good enough, and that has an unavoidable effect in the bedroom. How many people reading this article have ever found themselves not in the mood because they felt uncomfortable in their own skin?
More horribly, many women have had physical intimacy ruined for them because of abuse or assault. In fact, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 1 out of every 6 women has been victimized by rape. One happens every 98 seconds. It’s very difficult to move toward personal sexual health when we have had our sexuality devastated by forces beyond our control.
Heterosexual women also have to deal with another problem: Men have almost complete lack of awareness when it comes to how women’s bodies work. Sexual education in the United States is often limited to abstinence, anatomy, physiology and how to use protection.
Women’s bodies generally need specific kinds of stimulation to achieve orgasm as well as foreplay, a subject that many of our male partners could be much more well versed in. A study published in The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy in 2017 found that only 18 percent of women said that vaginal penetration alone was enough to make them climax, so it’s obvious there’s a gap we need to close.
Start off solo
The first step to learning how to really enjoy sex is to learn how to enjoy sex… alone! It’s time to invest in a few toys and learn more about how your body works. Everyone likes something a little different, and being willing to experiment and learn your own body is a crucial first step to being able to communicate with your partner.
As a sex educator, my first toy recommendation would be a Hitachi Magic Wand or a similar toy that uses medical-grade silicone. Remember that you have to use water-based lube with these kinds of toys, as other types can cause them to break down. I also recommend purchasing a toy cleaner. It will keep your toys clean and stop concerns like UTIs and irritation.
While experimenting with your toys, learn the following about your body:
- How do I like to be touched?
- Where do I like to be touched?
- How do I like to be kissed?
- What kind of foreplay do I like?
- What kind of pressure/intensity do I like when I’m being pleasured?
- Do I like consistent stimulation, or do I want my partner mixing things up?
- Do I like being penetrated when I’m being stimulated, or do I prefer external stimulation?
- Do I have a favorite position I find myself thinking about or fixating on when I’m close?
- Is there something my partner does that I really like and I haven’t told them I enjoy?
- What kinds of situations do I find my mind dwelling on when I’m being intimate?
- What is my mental process for achieving orgasm?
Add a partner
After this process of self-discovery, you’ll now be armed with information… information you can share with your partner! I’ve written about how to be more vocal in the bedroom, so if you’re intimidated by sharing this newfound inspiration, that's a good place to start.
It’s also crucial to share what you're going through with your partner. Let them be involved and invested in your pleasure, and let them help and share in the process. Of course, it's OK to keep parts of this journey to yourself if you’re feeling insecure or unready to be vulnerable on this level. On the other hand, you should make being open and honest about where you are with regard to physical intimacy a priority in your relationships so you can enable your partner to take care of your needs and be supportive. Remember, your partner can’t be supportive if they don’t know you need support.
Seek expert help if needed
If you’ve been victimized by sexual assault and feel like your love life has been damaged, don’t be afraid to seek help. Mental health professionals have established ways of helping you recover from a terrible incident and can help you reclaim your sexuality. Don’t let yourself be afraid of getting the help you need. Investing time in overcoming your fears and insecurities will help you be a more complete person and face life’s challenges with new eyes and a better love life.
Your personal sexual journey of affirmation can be a rocky road, one that’s dangerous to walk alone. Make sure you don’t let embarrassment keep you from learning about and expressing the parts of yourself you most want to share with others.
Alice Little is a courtesan at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada.