Imagine you’re in the middle of having sex with your partner, and they ask you, “What do you want to do next?” On its surface, this might sound like a caring, considerate question. But in the moment, many people panic and struggle to come up with an answer. That’s because a lot of people feel like they don’t really “know themselves” sexually. They don’t understand what they want or like. If you’ve always felt like your sexuality was some distant, hidden part of yourself, here are some straightforward steps for uncovering and understanding what you like when it comes to sex.
Most people don’t realize that they already know so much about their own likes and dislikes in the bedroom. A lot of people hear the question, “What do you like?”, and build it up to be complicated in their minds. Like the answer needs to be a 20-point, step-by-step list. But what you like in the bedroom can be as simple as, “I like soft kisses” or “I like to cuddle after sex.” It’s also important to note that the things that you like about sex don’t have to be wildly pleasurable or orgasmic either. This is another way that people tend to overcomplicate the question. A soft kiss doesn’t need to make you have an instant orgasm in order to be a valid “like” in the bedroom. As long as it makes you feel good, it counts!
To start getting a better sense of what you already know you like, imagine that you were describing sex to an alien who had absolutely no concept of what sex was. If you had to really get into the nitty gritty details, how would you describe sex? How would you describe your own likes and dislikes? Another way to explore this is to write a piece of erotic fiction that includes several different sexy scenes. What elements end up making it into your story?
Another way to explore what you like is to examine your past experiences. What’s the best sex you ever had? Can you think of one to three different memories? From there, consider what, specifically, made those experiences so wonderful. For example, maybe you realize that in one of your favorite sexual experiences, you were super playful and silly with your partner. Or maybe receiving oral sex has always been your favorite part of having sex. What about the worst sex you ever had? What, specifically, made those experiences so terrible? For example, maybe you have a memory where you and your partner were both dead silent, and didn’t communicate during sex at all. Or there was a time when you played with domination and submission and didn’t enjoy it. Those memories are chock full of details about what you want or like. Very few people take the time to examine their history to look for clues about what they like, but this is such a valuable step.
A lot of people only think of sex as something that you do with a partner, but you should have a relationship with your own sexuality that’s entirely separate from whom you bring into your bed. One of the best ways to better understand your sexuality is to develop a masturbation practice. Take the time to explore your own body. Touch different parts of your body in different ways, and discover what it responds to. Play with different fantasies and scenarios, and see which ones turn you on. Learn how to be more present in your own skin and in the moment. This can also be a less stressful way to try things out, since there won’t be another person in the room with you. You can have so much more space to examine your own reactions.
If you want to understand what you like in the bedroom, you have to experiment with new and different things, both on your own and with your partners. There’s just no way to fully know whether or not you’ll like something unless you try it. Of course, you may also have boundaries that you know you don’t want to go beyond. For example, maybe you know that you’re not open to a threesome or group sex. You’re definitely allowed to have boundaries, and you should have them. (Writing out a list of your boundaries can also be a great way to explore what you like in the bedroom.) But at the same time, it’s also wonderful to give yourself permission to explore things in a safe and controlled context. Let’s say that you’ve never been super into the idea of having sex in doggy-style position, but at the same time, there’s nothing about it that feels unsafe to you. If you don’t have a hard boundary around doggy style, it very well may be worth giving it a shot! If there’s a specific item that you’re not sure about, try fantasizing about it or talking dirty about it with a partner, without actually doing it. That can be a great low-risk way to try it out.
In order to understand what you like, you have to be able to pay attention to your experience in the moment. You have to be able to know if something feels good or not. For example, if you have your partner experiment with spanking your butt, do you actually like the sensation of their hand on your skin, or the experience of feeling like you’re being “punished”? This sounds incredibly obvious, but the reality is that most of us are very distracted during sex, and don’t end up fully registering whether or not we like something unless it’s at an extreme end of the spectrum. But there are so many more nuances that we can be open to as well. I’m not saying that the goal is to be 100% present 100% of the time (that’s just not possible for any activity in life). But if you’re trying to get a sense of whether or not you like something, try to spend a little extra energy observing your own experience.
Your likes and dislikes in the bedroom are constantly evolving, based on your experiences, new or changing relationships, and your own personal development. You’re never fully going to know every single detail of exactly what makes you tick in the bedroom, and that’s OK. Part of what makes sex so fun is that there’s always something new to explore and learn.
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