Sex Positivity - Getting More Comfortable With Sex
Normalizing Sexuality for More Pleasure
In my 10 years of working in spaces around people’s sexuality I’ve noticed that in many circles sex is an unarguably taboo subject.
I remember a once asking for my advice. They reported struggling to answer the question of what I do for a living to her friends.
“Tell them I’m a sex coach,” I offered.
Their face scrunched up and their eyebrows furrowed “Then I would have to use the word sex. I’m just not willing to do that. What will people think?”
It’s not just in traditional families that sex can be an unmentionable subject. When I make an Instagram or Facebook post that mentions sexuality, even in the context of education, I run the risk of my platform being suspended or shut down. The algorithms view content on this subject as corruptive to the minds of the general population.
Many of my clients struggle in silence for years before working up the courage to reach out for support.
Given this climate it’s no wonder that people have a hard time talking about sex. My clients often report struggling on their own for year before reaching out. Every time someone walks through the door to my studio or joins me on a zoom call I give a little cheer that they worked through those potential invisible barriers to make a stand for themselves.
But what does it actually mean to be sex positive? You don’t have to be ready to cover yourself in body paint to bike naked through the streets of Burning Man to the nearest play party. For some it can look much more demure and conservative.
Sex positivity is simply a practice of becoming comfortable with yourself as a sexual being. It’s acknowledging that having sex for pleasure is normal and healthy. It’s accepting others and staying curious around how they express, regardless of your preferences.
Part of being sex positive is also about defining a sense of healthy boundaries and 100% being willing to say no to things that don’t feel good. Having some education around consent can be incredibly helpful here.
Ok, so that sounds great… But in a culture that still has a ton of sexual shame how do we get there?
Step 1: Be Gentle With Yourself
We’ve been raised in a culture that can be admittedly sex negative. If you don’t feel as comfortable with sex as you want to be, that’s ok! Know that you’re not alone. Sex might feel like a game that everyone else knows the rules to. Very few people had access to quality sex education growing up and many are figuring it out along the way.
A powerful place to start is simply by practicing self compassion. Higher levels of self compassion are linked to an increase in things like empathy, connectedness and.. Surprise, even more sexual pleasure.
Looking at one’s self with softer eyes can help our internal threat system to begin slowing down. From here it’s much easier to begin exploring new frontiers from a place of curiosity.
Step 2: Practice Talking About It
An important piece to healing sexual stigma is to speak about our experience. From there we can get curious about the story we have about our erotic nature and normalize the common challenges that keep us separate. Let’s look at some simple facts:
- We all exist because of sex (or orgasm)
- Most people have sex at some point
- The things we experience as “sexual dysfunction” are more common than you would imagine. They often begin to resolve when we address the fear and shame that that inhibits pleasure.
A Note on Shame…
Sociologist Erving Goffman describes that shame functions similarly to an “electric fence.” Previous experiences of pain make cows stay well inside the correct field, never touching the wire, in blissfully safe avoidance of negative feelings.
Our messages around sex work in a similar way. Are we having sex like other people have it? Are the things we enjoy normal? Every time we encounter a bit of shame from our family or partners we might get a little jolt from that electric fence and learn to stay away.
Over time this informs our stories about orientation, kink, performance, frequency of sex (and with who), and many other things that are considered sexual taboo to discuss at the dinner table.
And yet, the seemingly paradoxical thing about shame is this – The more we bring it into the light, the more it begins to disappear.
To have conversations in safe spaces where we can hold ourselves with compassion and have someone reflect that they see us in our experience can be profoundly healing.
Step 3: Develop Sex Positive Community
Developing sex positive community can be a very potent step towards normalizing sex. We have something very powerful called mirror neurons. This means that our brain changes to mimic the behaviour of others. Going to workshops and events, developing friendships with sex positive people, or working with a sex educator, sex coach or other professional can help us create a radically new experience of what’s possible. As a result of being with other people’s different ways of thinking, our baseline of what’s normal begins to shift over time.
There’s a long history of sex positive expression that has been practiced in the LGBTQ2 community. Many queer people receive sex negative messages around their orientation or gender identity growing up. To practice expressions of sex positivity in connection with others can be a huge part of many people’s experience of healing and reorientation to a positive sense of identity.
Step 4: Educate Yourself
Understanding your body can be hugely helpful when it comes to feeling more comfortable around sex. Getting a sense of how your own pleasure works will give you a deeper sense of literacy around naming your desires and making empowered requests. Exploring mindful self pleasure, reading books on sexuality and educating yourself from the vast array of resources that are available on the topic.
I mentioned earlier how education on consent is greatly beneficial. A tool called the Wheel of Consent and the Three Minute Game, popularized by Dr. Betty Martin is a powerful model for learning how to clearly negotiate desires.
Working with a somatic sex educator can expand your understanding of this model as well as support you to understand how to negotiate requests, what feels good for you, and how more effectively stand in your “no”.
People don’t become sex positive overnight, it’s a gradual process. Negative associations like body shame or religious dogma may be many people’s first memories around sex. Those experiences are still alive in many adults. They continue to impact the way that we relate to our bodies or approach erotism with potential partners.
With slow, consistent orienting towards sex positivity we can create a new paradigm. One that celebrates pleasure as a natural and healthy part of our expression.