How to explore your sexuality, according to sex experts


Maybe you have a tingling down there during Portrait of a Lady on Fire (#Reliable). Maybe you’ve only been attracted to women your whole life, but now you’re having some crazy sex dreams. your male platoon instructor passed out. Or maybe you’ve kissed people of all genders for years and are just trying to find a label that works for you. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been exploring your sexuality (or want to be), you’ve come to the right place.

“It’s totally normal and common to explore your sexuality to find out what you like and don’t like at one or more times in your life,” says Marla Renee Stewart, queer sex educator, MA, expert in Lovers adult wellness brand and retailer. In fact, a survey of 12,000 people published in Sex Research Journal found that sexuality changes dramatically (substantially!) between your teens and your early twenties and then again from your early twenties to your late twenties, suggesting that exploring your sexuality is not not just common, but necessary to achieve self-knowledge.

As for WTF exactly is your sexuality? Washington based sex therapist Katrina knizek says that sexuality is a broad and broad term that names a number of things. These include: who you are sexually attracted to, who you are romantically attracted to, your favorite relationship structure, how you like to be touched, what time of day you like to have sex, your erotic content preferences, your beliefs past and present about sex, your faults and fetishes, your past sexual experiences, and more.

But generally, when people talk about “exploring their sexuality,” they want to find out who they have the capacity to be sexually, romantically, or emotionally attracted to (i.e. their sexual orientation), Knizek says. And if that’s what you’re here for, you’re in luck: Ahead, queer sex educators and therapists offer tips to help Dora the Explorer into your sexual orientation.

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First of all, do I need to label my sexuality?

Big no! For some people, tags provide identity security. Gabi, 28, from Boston, says: “For me, identifying as bisexual is like coming home.” Using the term, she explains, allows her to take ownership and feel valuable in her lived experiences.

“Labeling yourself also has the benefit of helping you more easily find people with similar experiences to enter a community with,” says Knizek. (Think lesbian book club or bisexual bowlers.) Having one or more tags can also be helpful when you’re actively dating. “It gives you something to put in your Tinder bio, or lets you name genres that interest you if someone offers to settle down,” she adds.

At the same time, others find the labels of sexuality overwhelming. “I’ve dated people – women, men, and non-binary people – but I don’t want to identify as bisexual, pansexual, or omnisexual because labeling myself makes me feel like I’m locked in,” says Ash, 22, Hartford.

Even still, some people find that one label is ineffective in naming their desires and choose to stack two or more labels together. Personally, I identify as a queer, bisexual dyke because the trio names my lived experience better than any label individually.

Before you decide to remove labels entirely or add one (or more) to your identity laundry list, you should know what common sexual orientation terms are. Here are several to consider:

  • Queer: Unlike asexuals, queer people regularly experience sexual attraction or desire.
  • Asexual: Asexuality is an identity and / or orientation that includes individuals who have no sexual attraction towards anyone, of any gender.
  • Bicurious: Bicurious is a label for people who are looking to find out if they are bisexual or not. Typically, “bicurious” is considered a temporary identity.
  • Bisexual: Describes people who have the ability to be sexually, romantically, or emotionally attracted to people of a gender that is similar to theirs and different from theirs. Sometimes also defined as an attraction to two or more genres.
  • Demisexual: An orientation on the spectrum of asexuality, demisexuality describes people who lack the capacity to experience sexual attraction to someone with whom they already have a romantic or emotional connection.
  • Fluid: Describes people whose sexual orientation changes over time or is constantly changing.
  • Gay: Name people who are sexually attracted to people of the same or similar gender.
  • Graysexual: Also on the spectrum of asexuality, “grissexuality” is a term people use when they rarely experience sexual attraction.
  • Lesbian: The historically most accurate definition of a lesbian is that of non-men who are attracted to other non-men. But sometimes the term is also defined as women who feel attraction to people of the same or same sex.
  • Omnisexual: Used to describe people who have the potential to be attracted to people of all genders.
  • Pansexual: Name the people who may be attracted to anyone, still of their sex.
  • Queer: A generic term that someone could use if they are not heterosexual, queer, or cisgender. Sometimes used by people who do not fit into any other category of sexual orientation.
  • Examination: A temporary label for someone who is currently curious about their sexuality.

    Okay, what if I wanted to explore my sexuality, but I’m in a relationship?

    Fingers crossed, it’s a happy, healthy and fulfilling moment. And if your ship is, good news: it’s still entirely possible to explore your sexuality and / or sexual orientation while being booed. This is true whether you are in a monogamous relationship (i.e. you are for each other) or in an open or polyamorous relationship (you are able to explore other people sexually, romantically and / or emotionally).

    “Your sexual orientation exists and is valid whether you are actively dating and sleeping with gender, or all the genres that appeal to you, ”says Knizek. In other words, you are still bisexual if you only have sex with someone of a different gender than yours, and you can still be a lesbian if you are currently dating a man. -identification, not current or past relationship or sexual history, determines sexual orientation, ”she says. Noted!

    How exactly can I explore my sexuality?

    To start your exploration, Knizek recommends filling your social feed with people across the spectrum of sexuality. “These influencers will give you an idea of ​​who you can be or what your future might look like,” she says. So as you scroll, notice which creators you see yourself in.

    If you are a Very Offline Person â„¢, you could intentionally and respectfully put yourself in queer spaces. For example, you can grab a beer at your local queer bar or buy your next read at a gay-owned bookstore. Also try: listen to an LGBTQ podcast.

    Then think, think, and think again. Knizek suggests spending time nodding or writing about issues such as:

    • Who do I feel most magnetically drawn to in my life?
    • In what ways do I want to explore my sexuality?
    • Where did I learn compulsory heterosexuality?
    • Which label (s) make me feel good out of my mouth?

      Oh, and don’t forget, you can masturbate! Defined as any practice of self-pleasure, regular masturbation can help you understand what turns you on and what turns you on. “As you touch each other, fantasize about a variety of genres and watch straight and queer (ethical) porn to find out who appeals to you the most,” Knizek explains.

      Should I go out?

      You might want to tell someone that you are currently exploring your sexuality, or that you have explored your sexuality and have chosen some new labels. Or, you might not want to. Either way, you don’t need do anything. “It’s a personal decision,” Knizek says.

      On the one hand, “sharing your sexuality with other people can be a powerful, wonderful, and empowering experience,” she says. On the other hand, if the receiver doesn’t respond to the news with the kindness you deserve (* sidelong eye *), it can also be a scary and unsettling experience.

      Suggestion from Stewart: “If you are dependent on someone or if going out could endanger you, consider the benefits and consequences of sharing this information for your own safety. »What if to tell someone Is cause a sticky situation, do what you can to get to a safe place as soon as possible. Maybe even call The Trevor project, an LGBTQ youth service center, at 866-488-7386 for help or advice.

      The bottom line: Knizek points out that while many people are nervous about exploring their sexuality, the process “can be fun and fulfilling.” And who knows? You could have a good solo, partner, or multi-partner nookie along the way, or just find a new group of buddies.

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