Three steps to finding your sexual voice
What does it mean to have a ‘sexual voice’? It means being in touch with your desire, knowing what you want sexually, and being able to communicate your sexual feelings and needs to your partner.
If you feel you have lost, or never found, your sexual voice, I wonder if you recognise yourself in the following list?
- A people-pleaser, (‘a nice person’) who feels too shy to rock the boat in a sexual encounter?
- Someone who is scared that their partner will leave them or sulk if they say no to sex?
- A person who has always taken on a caring role, who has become used to putting other people before themselves?
- Someone who has suffered trauma and easily becomes anxious or frozen around sex.
- Someone who feels limited by traditional gender roles. For example, a man who feels he should know what to do or take charge in bed, or a woman who worries about her outward appearance at the expense of her internal sensation?
Finding your sexual voice can be difficult in our culture, which is, let’s face it, full of unhelpful messages about sex. Such as:
- Climax equals good sex.
- Harder and faster is more fun.
- Sexual desire fades in long-term relationships.
While all these statements might be true sometimes, they can also be challenged in ways that lead to more satisfying experiences of sex.
Here are my three steps for anyone wanting to discover their sexual voice. They are offered for use by people of all genders and sexual orientations.
1. Understand your motivation for having sex
There are so many reasons why we have sex. Many are positive (to connect, to express yourself, for pleasure), some are neutral and some can be negative (insecurity or obligation).
How do you feel about your motivation to have sex? Do you know why your partner wants to have sex? How do you feel about their motivation?
Most of the time, we have several reasons for having sex, with some being stronger than others. We might also have reasons for not having sex (e.g. we are tired, distracted, busy). What is the balance between wanting to and not wanting to? Getting in touch with your motivation(s) can help you to become more empowered and engaged in getting the sex that is right for you.
2. Let go of goals
Do you think sex would be better if it turned out a certain way? Are you disappointed when it doesn’t? Paradoxically, the pressure to achieve something during sex can be the greatest barrier to getting where we’d like to go. Take your eye off the goal and drop into your moment by moment experience, savouring whatever emerges, even if it is surprising or slow to begin.
It is a shift from relating to yourself as if you are a machine that should deliver, towards treating yourself with attention, care and tenderness. Doing so will calm your nervous system and allow your sexual feelings to thaw out and blossom.
3. Tune into your sensation
If you’re not enjoying the sex that you have, then some advice suggests that you express what you want to your partner. But, what if you don’t know what you want or doubt that you ever want sex at all?
Tuning into your experience is a good place to start. Instead of focusing on looking after your partner’s needs, flip your awareness to your own feelings and sensations, noticing what comes up for you, before and during sex.
If you notice an urge to stop, slow down, or do something differently, make a request, either verbally or non-verbally. At first, the signals of your desire might be faint, but each time you take the risk of bringing them into your encounter, you will strengthen your ability to tune in to yourself and build confidence in your desires.
Sometimes, tuning in leads you to notice very uncomfortable feelings. If this is the case, know that you are not alone. Find a way to nurture this vulnerable part of yourself, rather than ignoring your pain. Consider asking for support from someone you trust, who might be your partner, a close friend or a trained professional.
Traditional sex advice has often involved a ‘paint by numbers’ approach. For example, wear this, use this, say this, try this technique. But, more effective approaches encourage you to view yourself as an artist, who will find the source of inspiration in your soul. Yes, it is more demanding to be a creator rather than a follower, but it also leads to the deeper fulfilment you are probably hoping for.
Finding your true sexual self will involve trust in yourself, bravery to take risks in your relationship(s) and lots of self-compassion. The reward is that, by putting these personal qualities into practice, you will gradually grow and strengthen them.
Having a sexual voice is about more than the words you say, although these are important. It is also about the choices you make and the actions you take. If you struggle to express your feelings and needs in your life, it can eventually come to feel as if you are imprisoned. Liberating yourself does not have to change your personality but it may lead to some changes in your life. It also has the potential to lead you to deeper fulfilment and intimacy in your current and/or future sexual relationships.
If you are not sure where to begin or have reached a point of stuckness, then talking to a counsellor can support you to strengthen your sexual voice. Looking for a counsellor with a psychosexual specialism or who lists sexual issues in the areas they help with, will give you the reassurance that your counsellor values, and has experience of, talking therapeutically about sex.