As a kid, I had a lot of curiosity — paired with a ton of shame — about sex. That combination meant that I had a terribly unhealthy relationship with my own sexuality.
I can’t tell if it came from my upbringing, or society, or just the lack of discussion around sexuality in my school and my family. I suppose it could have come from a variety of different areas of my life, but nonetheless, this unhealthy sexual relationship with myself is something I’ve had to really work on for years.
In my opinion, sexuality isn’t just about who you’re attracted to or what relationships you have. It’s also about you — what you like, how you view your body. It’s about self-exploration, positivity, and empowerment about sex, rather than feeling shame or discomfort or confusion.
I had also experienced sexual trauma at a young age, so that meant that my relationship with my sexuality was even more complicated. For a while, I saw sex as something private and taboo and even damaging, rather than basic, healthy human nature. I’m also bisexual, so I didn’t always feel like I was “normal” compared to everyone else before I discovered my identity. (So queer people especially, this is for you!)
And let’s not forget that in society, too, sex is seldom spoken of. You rarely hear it in TV shows, unless they’re made for adults. If a kid says “sex” at school they’re more likely to be sent to the principal’s office than they are to actually have a conversation about it. In fact, most kids still think “sex” is a bad word, and they whisper it like it’s some sort of unthinkable swear word instead of just a normal function of life.
This narrative that society has around sex is completely unacceptable, and almost everyone has unfortunately fallen victim to it at one point or another. I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only one who has had to dedicate years — close to decades — of time and effort to build a healthy relationship with my sexuality.
So if you’re wondering where to start, here’s my experience.
Educate yourself (with sex-positive sources)
A big part of accepting and celebrating sexuality is becoming more comfortable with it. That was my biggest problem when I was starting out this journey, but one thing I found super helpful was just educating myself. I read a lot of sex-positive books, listened to podcasts about sexuality, and did a lot of informational research about sexuality and how to develop acceptance around it. The thing that helped me the most, though, was following sex-positive social media accounts. I loved being able to see so many strong people in my feed who talked so openly and proudly about sex, and who posted about their bodies and their experiences and their advice — with the goal of helping others. Seeing people in the media have a healthy relationship with their sexuality was inspiring to me, to say the least, and it gave me the motivation to dig deeper in my own life.
Talk to friends and family about sex (or find people who you can talk about it with)
I made a lot of progress with sex-positivity and celebrating my sexuality when I had friends to talk to about it. I even shared my journey with my family, and they were completely supportive. I know that isn’t everyone’s situation — whether it’s friends or family or both, there are plenty of people out there who can be toxic and unapproachable about sex-related things — but if you can, try to find some people who you can talk about it with. Breaking the silence is an important step towards self-acceptance. It will hopefully normalize your experiences and give you the courage to explore yourself and your desires rather than feeling that your sexuality is strange or unwelcome. And you don’t have to share all the gritty details. Maybe just start with funny sex jokes now and then, or laughing about each other’s weird hookup stories. Every little bit helps.
Get comfortable with your own body — and be kind to it
What do you do for self-care? What can you do to incorporate your body into that? Maybe it’s taking a candlelit bath. Maybe it’s giving yourself a manicure or pedicure. Maybe it’s sleeping naked. Maybe it’s getting a massage, shaving your legs, exfoliating your face… I don’t know. Regardless, it’s crucial to find ways to take care of your body while you’re exploring your own sexuality. Look at your body in the mirror. Listen to music while you’re getting dressed and ready for the day. Anything that you can do to get comfortable with your body and establish some positive experiences with it is going to be helpful to you. And make sure to nourish your body, too — eat yummy, healthy, exciting foods, and if you’d like, do something that you enjoy for exercise. These, too, will help promote self-care and teach you to appreciate your body, which is a big step. After all, you can’t have sex with yourself or explore your own sexuality in a healthy way if you are ashamed or repulsed by your own body.
Take time to reflect
Don’t leave yourself in the lurch! This will be a learning experience, and at times it might be difficult or emotional or even confusing. Understand that this is normal, and give yourself space to process the things that you’ve learned and discovered about yourself. Maybe that means writing songs. Maybe it’s scribbling a diary entry at the end of every day, or just when you feel like it. Maybe you take photos or make an art piece to sort through your feelings. No matter what it is, make sure that you have a creative or expressive outlet. That way, if you struggle with shame or confusion or negativity or self-hatred, you can process it and hopefully develop more understanding. This also encourages honesty and transparency, and the more you have of that, the better and easier your journey will become, especially in regards to sex.
Encourage yourself to shift your narrative about sexuality
What do you do when a thought about sex or sexuality comes into your head? Do you feel shameful? Do you dismiss it? Do you cringe? Do you try not to think about it? Whatever your response is, if it’s negative, it’s worthy of modifying your perspective. Encourage yourself to dive into those thoughts. When one goes through your head, either internally or out loud, tell yourself, “Hey, this is normal, this is healthy.” Your body is speaking to you, and telling you that this is a topic worthy of exploring. Your body is worthy of love and understanding. And if you ever feel shame, ask yourself what you can do in that moment to alleviate the shame. Can you hop on a sex-positive social media account? Can you listen to a song about self-love and acceptance (“Born This Way,” perhaps — ha!)? Can you stop and take a moment to tell yourself, “I am learning, and I am normal, and I have no reason to be ashamed”? Develop a way to address these negative narratives so that you can encourage more positive ones.
Step outside of your comfort zone and explore!
Obviously, don’t do anything you don’t want to do, but feel free to explore as you see fit. Try a new masturbation technique. Dance around naked for the first time if that’s what you want to do, even if you think it’s dumb. Write erotica. Watch videos. Talk to others. Whatever you need to do to step outside of your comfort zone and start feeling sexually liberated — do that. There are millions of possibilities, and nothing is dumb or weird or bad. As long as it’s what you want to do, and it makes you feel good and healthy, the sky’s the limit!
And always remember this: you are beautiful. You are normal. And you are worthy of love, care, health, and acceptance. Treat yourself with respect, and always do what is best for you.
Good luck out there!