Ways to build your sexual confidence

“Confidence is sexy!”

You’ve almost certainly heard some variation on this phrase at some point. Perhaps you’ve heard that it doesn’t matter how you look or how experienced you are in the bedroom, as your confidence is the main thing that will turn your partner on.

I’m a big fan of sexual confidence. In my experience, it can both make you a better lover and make your own experience of sex more positive and pleasurable. But confidence is complicated and simply telling people to feel it has never helped anybody.

The fact is, we live in a culture that makes sexual confidence extraordinarily difficult. We’re surrounded by very specific narratives about what sex is supposed to look like, what constitutes a good sexual relationship, and how our bodies are supposed to look and behave. For those who don’t meet these standards (which is almost all of us, because they’re near-impossible by design), this can lead to low self-esteem, reduced sexual confidence, and a less satisfying sex life.

Ways to help build your sexual confidence

It’s impossible to solve the problem of sexual confidence in one article. For most of us, building and maintaining our sexual confidence will be a lifelong journey and a continual learning curve. But if you’re looking for a few ideas to get you started, here are some things that have helped me and my sex-positive friends.

Engage with body positivity

Sexual confidence is strongly connected to body confidence. This is particularly true for women, femmes, and others assigned female at birth since we’re so often judged on our appearance first and foremost.

One of the most powerful steps for me in building sexual confidence was engaging with the body positivity movement. Body positivity is the idea that all bodies are good bodies, and that everyone deserves to love their body regardless of their size, shape, skin colour, ability, or gender.

Here are a few easy ways to start bringing more body positivity into your life:

• Follow body-positive influencers and hashtags on social media.

• Buy and read some key books on body positivity or body neutrality. I love The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen, and Beyond Beautiful by Anuschka Rees.

• Whenever you have a negative thought about your own (or someone else’s) body, acknowledge it without judgement and replace it with a positive affirmation.

• Engage in healthy practices (such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep) out of self-love without the goal of changing your body.

• Think about what your body can DO, rather than just what it looks like. In this context, that might mean focusing on the amazing sexual pleasure it can give you and being grateful for that.

As your relationship with your body improves, your sexual confidence will follow.

Focus on your solo sex life

Your first, and longest, sexual relationship is the one you have with yourself. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, giving yourself permission to explore sex by yourself is one of the biggest steps you can take towards greater sexual confidence. Regular masturbation adds more sexual pleasure to your life and improves your experience of partnered sex by teaching you about what you like.

How do you touch yourself? Try slowing down, noticing the sensations, and paying attention to how your body responds. Try touching areas other than your genitals and experimenting with different kinds of touch (faster, slower, direct, indirect, firm, soft, etc.) You might be surprised by what you discover.

Sex toys are a fantastic way to enhance your solo sex life. A new vibrator, dildo, butt plug, or stroker can help you to explore a world of new sensations that can’t be achieved with your hands alone. Some people even experience orgasms for the first time with the help of sex toys! But even if you can get off easily with just your hands, I encourage you to give toys a try.

Consume erotic media

Porn is sometimes erroneously associated with lower sexual confidence. However, if used mindfully, erotic media—from visual porn to written erotica and even erotic audio smut—can have a hugely positive impact on your sex life.

Watching, reading, or listening to erotic content is a great way to explore your interests and discover new things you like. I’ve often stumbled across a clip or story and found myself thinking “well I never knew I was into this, but maybe!”

You can also use erotic porn and erotica to help you communicate your desires to your partner(s) if you’re shy. Sending them a porn clip of an act you want to try, or sharing a passage from a favourite erotic story, can be a very effective and sexy way to get communication going.

But erotic content can have a benefit even if you keep it entirely to yourself. As we’ve discussed, masturbation can help you get to know your own body, and regularly practising solo sex can boost your libido for the long haul. Good tasteful pornography portrays sex as natural and beautiful, which can help you to cast aside residual feelings of shame or doubt over your own right to sexual pleasure.

Help your sexual confidence by building your sexual communication skills

I used to think that in order to be sexually confident, I had to pretend I already knew everything. What I’ve learned since, though, is that sexual confidence and vulnerability go hand in hand. Perhaps the sexiest thing a new lover can do is to ask me what I like and then really listen to the answer.

Building true sexual confidence means taking risks and saying what you like and need. You and your partner(s) can support each other in this vulnerability by fostering an open atmosphere where you can each say what you want without judgement. If you don’t feel safe being sexually vulnerable with your partner, that might be a sign of a deeper problem within the relationship.

Sexual confidence isn’t about knowing it all. It’s about communication, listening, adapting, and being curious about all the things you don’t know.

Give yourself a break

Sexual confidence isn’t a one-time thing, and it won’t be static throughout your life. It’s completely normal to feel more confident one day and less confident another day. Give yourself lots of permission for your confidence to fluctuate. It can be affected by your mood, the state of your relationship, external stress, and your hormones or menstrual cycle.

Confidence is sexy, yes, but it’s also a process. Give yourself permission to be where you are today.

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