Sexual exploration could be used to describe most of what we do throughout our lives when we talk about, think about, and have sex. For many of us sex and sexuality are a bit of a mystery, and you can think of the process of sexual discovery and growth as one of exploration. As a sex educator I get all sorts of questions and requests, and I think about most of them as questions about sexual exploration. How and where you start any sexual exploration can depend on a lot of things. One way to point yourself in a fruitful direction is to think about why you're interested in learning more about sex. What is it you're hoping to find? Here are a few of the most common reasons people give when they ask me for help around sexual exploration:
- want to learn more about sexual bodies
- looking for tips on exploring sexual pleasure
- hoping to understand sexual diseases and dysfunctions
- come up with ideas on spicing up long-term relationships
- find support in expressing what feels right with a new partner
Whether you’re looking to learn more on your own or with a partner, and whether your in a relationship or not, taking the first step in a new sexual direction can be daunting for a few reasons. Few of us are raised with positive messages about sexual pleasure. Not many of us have early access to accurate, honest, and comprehensive sex education. And frankly, most people's lives aren't set up to value and support sexual exploration for it's own sake.
Here is some context that may be helpful as you move through whatever sort of sexual exploration you’re considering.
Different Kinds of Sex InformationThe best sex information is as complicated as we are, but most of it can be divided into one of a few types of information:
- About sexual anatomy and response: the parts of our body that are involved in sexuality and what happens to them when we're being sexual
- About sexual thoughts: from anxieties to fantasies to trauma, our sexual thoughts have a huge impact on our sexuality
- About sexual feelings: the slipperiest part of any equation is our emotional and intuitive responses to sexuality. While not always logical or predictable, these are our responses. We need to understand and, in some way, honor them (which isn’t the same as always letting them guide our decision-making)
- About sexual activities: all those things we do that we call sex
We’re All Sexually DifferentThe problem with generalizing sexuality (which happens on this site, and pretty much everywhere else) is that we’re all different. Take our bodies for example. I might talk about a “typical” sexual response, or how a body part like the nipples might respond. In reality, everyone’s body is different. True, most of us have two eyes, two ears, a nose, etc. But some of us don't, and some of us have two eyes, but can only see out of one of them. Some of us have big noses, and some have little noses. Some of us have taken the body we were born with and changed it, either intentionally or unintentionally.
But when someone with specific knowledge (like a sexual health educator) starts describing our sexual bodies, most of us begin to compare ourselves to what we are being told. This is a terrible mistake. The amazing thing about sex and people is that we’re all unique. Our sexual feelings, interests, desires, and body parts are all different, which is one of the things that makes sexual exploration never ending, and sexual discovery always interesting.
Avoid Sexual ComparisonsIn North America, we put a premium on looking a certain way, and feeling like our bodies fit a certain image. This may be the worst waste of time and energy in our society (except for computer solitaire, which is probably a worse waste of time). Information on sexuality.about.com is meant only as a guide. You should read this and then compare it to how you feel. If it does not apply, then ignore it. If you can use some of the information, that is great. Try to avoid using this information to make yourself feel bad because what your body is like does not match the pictures on this site.
Become Your Own Sex ExpertIt is an old, but true, cliché that you have the ability to know more about your sexuality than anyone else. You can be your own best expert. As you seek out information, help and support for expanding your sexuality, make sure you always check in with yourself. You may not always know "best" but your experience is true, and exploration should always be on your own terms.
Thousands of people call themselves “sex experts” and are waiting to tell you the right way to have sex, to be sexy, even to think about sex. There may be something to learn from what some of these people say, but be wary of the experts who claim to have answers for you. Sexual exploration is a lifelong process, and finding answers that have meaning for you can only happen when you are fully engaged in asking the questions and seeking the answers. There are few quick solutions and short cuts, and it’s not the kind of club where you can use someone else’s membership to get inside.
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