Sexual interactions require a special kind of confidence, because what you’re revealing about yourself is so personal and intimate. When you talk about sex face-to-face, or engage in sexual activity, you’re putting the entire package of who you are on the line.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Then you start worrying — what if this comes across as weird? What if I seem like a slut — or a pervert?
From an early age, the adjectives we’re taught to associate with sex are all negative: slutty, naughty, seedy, filthy, dirty. So is it any wonder that when we experience sexual self-doubt, the associations that spring to mind are shameful and embarrassing ones?
That’s despite the fact we know the terminology that we should associate with sex is pleasurable, erotic, joyful and adventurous. But old habits die hard.
The problem is that, for most of us, sexuality is learned in private, furtively and embarrassingly, without a teacher. As a result, you find yourself asking: am I doing this right? Is this deviant? This feels good but is it too weird?
With little guidance from anyone else, most people make it up as they go along, learning what they can from giggling friends, the illicit world of porn and erotica, or some unsatisfying and uncomfortable sexual encounters.
I’ve often wondered how sexuality would be different if everyone had a private sexual tutor during their teenage years, someone to explain, instruct and correct. How our sex lives might have turned out if everyone was instilled with a bit more confidence earlier on. It’s actually quite a good idea for a story I think. But it’s never too late to learn those lessons…
Some people are lucky enough to have such tutors, of course. They’re the ones who enter into healthy sexual relationships, and get to learn about their sexuality by interacting with others, without shame or judgement. They’re the ones with the sexual confidence others envy, the ones who make life seem so effortless and cool.
Of course, most of us aren’t that fortunate. But most people don’t have a personal trainer either, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get themselves fit. You just have to get into training, and take responsibility for building up your own sexual confidence.
Sexual confidence is the remedy to any embarrassment you feel. Learn to talk casually about love and sex. Imagine a persona for yourself: a cool open-minded adult. Then, in sexual situations, ask yourself: how would they act? What would they do?
Begin to consider every sexual situation as a training opportunity. After all (and this might seem counter-intuitive) most of the time we interact with others sexually, we do so fully clothed.
- Explicit scene in a movie? Don’t giggle, nod approvingly.
- Someone is flirting with you? Tease back.
- See a couple fondling at a party? Rather than frowning at their brazenness, smile at their adventurousness.
- See someone topless? Ignore them, because it’s literally no big deal.
- Conversation with friends veers onto sex? Be forthright. Talk like an adult, not an adolescent.
- Witness something sexually inappropriate? Never be too embarrassed to stand up for yourself or others.
- People talk disapprovingly about others’ sexual encounters? Call them for being uptight, ask them why they’re slut-shaming.
Always remember: sex is natural, everyone has fantasies and almost everyone masturbates.
As for the kinky stuff — remember, spanking is probably humanity’s most popular fetish; half the world’s population loves spanking; the other half just haven’t really tried it yet.
So if you’re in “polite company” and talking about sex, consider yourself to have a licence to say whatever you want. Don’t become part of the conspiracy of shame that perpetuates sexual embarrassment by sneering, giggling and humiliating. Learn to recognise the sexual insecurity of others, and if they ever attempt to shame you, be prepared for it, point out their childishness and treat it dismissively.
When dealing with sexual situations, erotic stories can be your teacher. Borrow from them if you need to, imagine you’re a character like Alice or Penny — two strong personalities who, whilst submissive, are also supremely sexually confident too. Or consider how the relationship between the characters in Coming of Age grows by being flirtatiously sexual.
Sexual confidence is like any other form of confidence, academic or sporting. You just need to work on it, progressively and continually. With time, you’ll feel your attitude to sexual situations begin to change, from immature giggling and embarrassment to the self-assured, opinionated outlook you’d expect from a sexually mature adult.
But being here and reading this means you’ve already started.
So welcome on your journey.