Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means it’s time to talk about sex. Whether you’re coupled up, dating, or happily single, it’s that time of year when pleasure takes centre stage. But not everyone may feel comfortable with this; indeed, for some, this kind of pressure can be daunting. Perhaps we don’t feel good about our bodies, or more challenging (and less spoken about) confident in our sexual prowess.
“Sexual confidence ebbs and flows,” says Lora DiCarlo, founder of her eponymous sexual wellness brand. “You’re not always going to feel like your hottest self – and that’s totally OK! Sexual confidence is about knowing your worth, feeling good in your body, and communicating what you like (or don’t like).” Which, in today’s world, is no mean feat, but thankfully there are various ways to help you cope.
Below, we speak to leading sex experts and relationship therapists about how to boost your sexual confidence ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Eileen Kelly, founder of sexual wellness platform, Killer And A Sweet Thang
Know what “materials” you're working with
How can you expect to tell a partner what you like if you don’t know what feels good yourself? The first step is to be comfortable with your body parts. I suggest taking a hand held mirror, laying back and taking a look at your privates. I know it sounds silly or strange, but you would be surprised how many women have never even looked at their own vagina. There is a strong correlation between feeling comfortable with one’s body and ability to orgasm.
Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I suggest getting into a self-care routine. When you feel good about how you look and feel in your skin, that translates to the bedroom. Some suggestions that work for me: taking a bath with oil in it, so my skin is soft and supple. Drinking more water to glow from within. If you don’t hit the gym, try to go for a long walk a few times a week. Trying out a new perfume or body wash and loving the way you smell. Clean fingernails; you don’t need polish if you don’t want to. Treat yourself to a new bra or underwear, even if no one else sees it. Maybe it’s time for that haircut you’ve been wanting to try, cutting bangs or doing something different. Practice meditating so you’re more relaxed – that will also show on your face and body. Pamper yourself!
Lora DiCarlo, founder of sexual wellness brand, Lora DiCarlo
Say goodbye to negative self-talk
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in negative feelings about your body. And when those self-deprecating thoughts start kicking in, it’s nearly impossible to feel sexy, confident, and worthy of pleasure. Make it a habit to sit in the bath or stand in front of a full-length mirror once a day, and tell yourself (out loud) how hot and fabulous you are. Pick three things that you love or at least accept about your body and shout it to the rooftops if you have to.
Ease anxiety and muscle tension
Connecting to your body and bringing yourself back to the present moment is crucial for feeling like your most confident self. When your muscles are tense (especially your vaginal muscles), it makes it extremely difficult to relax into pleasure. Before you start anything physical, close your eyes and take 10 deep belly breaths. If you’re still feeling tightness in your body, then we recommend trying a lube!
Kiana Reeves, chief brand educator at sexual wellness brand Foria
Whether you’re preparing for a sexy Valentine’s Day date or just trying to feel more confident in the bedroom, it’s important to make your sexual wellbeing a priority. Why? Because pleasure is an essential part of wellbeing – it’s the signal that tells our body that something feels good. When something feels good it triggers a cascade of nourishing neurochemicals (like dopamine) and helps to diminish stress, which is something we all could benefit from. Boosting your sexual confidence starts with you. So much of what gets in the way of pleasure and sexual confidence is being in your head about how your body looks, how it feels, if you’re “taking too long”, what you taste like, etc. Using solo sex as a way to practice sexual pleasure while relaxing any judgments or thoughts running through your mind can help you feel more confident in partnered experiences.
Identify what you want
Another aspect of sexual confidence is knowing what you want. This takes some discovery, which can start with exploring with yourself, but also is an opportunity to get curious and ask your lover questions about what you would like to try, or what they might want to try. Confidence can come from a sense of familiarity and practice, so try to look at sex as something where you can practice your curiosity – which will eventually lead to a lot more confidence in the bedroom.
An additional way to support sexual wellbeing is being open and honest with yourself (and your sexual partner(s)) about your boundaries and what is and isn’T pleasurable. This helps to create a safe environment that fosters connection and a more intimate experience for everyone involved.
Natasha Marie, sexual wellness expert at MysteryVibe
Adopt a sex-positive approach to intimacy
Sexual expression is beautiful. Acknowledging that our experiences and attractions vary paves the road to sexual confidence. Often our judgment of others is a projection of our own insecurities or biases. Being aware of our biases and replacing them with an attitude of acceptance and tolerance for differences can help remove the stigma from the entire sexual wellness conversation.
Journalling is a great mindfulness practice that helps cultivate self-awareness and reflection. Write down all the beliefs you hold about sex and intimacy, where you learned them, and if they serve your happiness. This can be a profound and revealing exercise that can not only uncover the root of negativity but help you re-write your narrative.
Use sex toys
Sex toys are the unsung heroes of sexual wellness and intimacy. Sex toys can elicit different sensations, bring a diversity of stimulation and novelty to the bedroom, stimulate hard-to-reach erogenous zones, and even uncover new erogenous zones you didn’t know existed. Sex toys help us cultivate sexual literacy to better understand our bodies and pleasure.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
It might seem trite and basic, but all your lifestyle choices influence the quality of your sexual wellness and confidence. It’s important to get adequate sleep, eat a nutritious diet to fuel your body, exercise regularly, and incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation into your life to equip you to navigate daily stressors.
Fantasise and talk about sex
Thinking about sex, talking about sex, and fantasising about sex might lead you to initiate more sex and increase your overall desire for sex.
The most impactful things are often the simplest. If you want to increase sexual wellness and confidence, make time for it. Pick a regular time, even if it’s only a 10-minute quickie on a Sunday afternoon between the kids’ football practice, wherever it fits. Put it in your calendar and set a reminder. Try to maintain that consistency for a few weeks until it becomes habitual. You might find that it becomes easier to get into a sexy headspace when you’ve had practice.
Neil Wilkie, psychotherapist, author and founder of The Relationship Paradigm®
Focus on the good things
Think about when you last had great sex. What was that like and how did you feel? Close your eyes and imagine that, right in front of you, is a magic space in which you are having the best sex you have ever had. What shape is that space and what colour is it? What can you see, what can you hear, smell and taste? And then, what are you feeling? Just stay there as long as you want and let all those feelings flow. It’s important to focus on all the amazing things about sex and all the times you’ve had brilliant sex – not on what could go wrong!
Set the mood
Vanilla, lavender and sandalwood all boost libido, so why not choose a perfume or light a scented candle to set the mood? Lighting is also important. For the first time you have sex with a new partner, soft light or candles can create a great ambience and help you feel less self-conscious about baring all again after months in lockdown! Use music to help get you in the mood too; this has the added bonus of drowning out distracting sounds from outside as well as hiding the noises that you both might be making if you’re conscious of anyone overhearing you. Put all distractions, including your phone or any other electronic devices out of the room, so you can 100 per cent focus on each other.
This article was originally published on Vogue UK.