An excerpt from my latest book, Getting to Know Yourself Sexually; A Down and Dirty Guide
Relating to the instincts, physiological processes, and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals.
Why is knowing yourself sexually important to you? Are you craving connection? Pleasure? A shared experience? Whatever your reason, you’ll find this book supporting you in getting to know yourself and help to expand your current thinking about what sex is and the role it plays in your life.
This topic is important to me because of my firm belief in getting to you know all areas and aspects of yourself; thoughts, feelings, emotions, motivations, desires, and sensations. Doing this sexually adds another layer of richness to life with ourselves and our intimate partner(s). To do this we must experience and reflect on life utilizing our intimate and sexual relationships as a tool. In doing this we become more comfortable with ourselves, which we bring to our intimate relationships and the world.
There is a process for getting to know yourself sexually, which I myself have gone through. Firstly, I began in isolation as to better identify wants, desires, and motivations (Steps #1 and #2). Then, I shared my ideas, wants, and desires with a community of like minded individuals (explained further in Steps #3 and #4). And after developing comfort and understanding of myself, was able to share with an intimate, committed partner.
Bear in mind these steps are not linear and may not, at all times, be accessible or appropriate. As you begin to move through them you might have a new experience, leading you back to Step #1 of the process. That’s great! This is a lifelong learning process. Repeating each step with a different intention or motivation will only further your understanding of yourself.
No matter your age, taking care of and getting to know yourself sexually is as important as finding the right career, group of friends, lifestyle, or committed partner. I encourage you to keep an open mind while reading and working through this process. Who knows? You might just learn something about yourself.
…a few things to note before we begin…
Sexual trauma can resurface five days, five months, five years, or 50 years after the event occurred. If you have had sexual trauma it is important to identify triggers which send the body and mind into a heightened, reactive state of fight, flight, freeze. It is equally important to have a discussion with your sexual partner prior to a sexual encounter which may re-traumatize.
Don’t wait until you are in the moment to have this conversation. Create a way to communicate about this topic before and during sex. Discuss it during a non-sexual, non-charged, safe activity (making dinner, driving, grocery shopping). My partner calls this Casual Conversations (more about this on Step #5). Practice this a few times, revisiting when/ if necessary. I have found once this has been identified and discussed, with a process created by which to communicate in the moment, re-traumatization is infrequent or null.
If sexual trauma is something you are beginning to uncover within yourself, research sexual trauma, get help with a therapist, and find out how you can heal. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has worked wonders for me.
There is an abundance of shame surrounding sex.
“Sex is dirty – mouths, tongues, fluids, ewww!”
“You urinate from there, I’m not putting that in my mouth!”
“Sex is for the purpose of having babies only and is sinful to enjoy”
“If you enjoy sex you are slutty”
“You’ve had sex with HOW MANY PEOPLE?”
“Having sex before marriage is unacceptable, NOT OKAY!”
“Don’t have sex! You’ll get pregnant. And if you don’t get pregnant, here is the list of diseases you can get.”
Nothing is off limits. And don’t get me started on the shame surrounding genitalia shape, size, smell and taste!
“Smells like tuna”
“Tastes like soap”
When an initial judgement or feeling of shame comes into your mind as a thought, notice it before reacting and ask yourself the following:
Where is the judgement, or feeling of shame, coming from?
Whose judgement is this? Your own? Society? A past partner?
And most importantly, Is it true?
Remember: Sex is natural. Thoughts and judgments are natural. Reacting to thoughts and judgments surrounding sex is a choice. Only after full deliberation should one act. This takes time and effort. If you are dedicated to this practice of self-reflection, anything can be accomplished, including not shaming yourself or others based on sexuality.
Step #1. Self Reflection
No one knows you better than you know yourself. Having considered this, many of us do not know ourselves well when it comes to our sexuality. You may not have had the opportunity to explore these differing aspects because of the culture you grew up in, the relationships you’ve had, or the social group with which you interact. Using Self Reflection as a tool, one can become aware of beliefs and feelings toward sexuality. Ask yourself the following questions to uncover your beliefs:
-How do I define being sexual?
-What is my belief on the nature of sex? Its purpose?
-How do these beliefs impact my willingness to look at my sexuality?
-What taboos do I have towards my own sexuality or sex in general?
-What is my reaction when I think about sex? With myself? With others?
-What is the value of shared sexual experience?
a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.