The question “Am I normal?” is, well, totally normal. We all wonder sometimes if the way we look, talk, act, and especially the ways we have sex or want to have sex are “normal.” Because how do you know if you're sexually normal? We don’t talk about sex. (But we do watch a lot of porn, which definitely isn’t “normal,” unless you’re a porn star.) With basically no outside feedback, it can be really hard to know if you’re the only person out there who really, really digs getting their toes sucked or prefers oral sex to basically anything else or hates being touched on the nose, ever. Pile on all of the puritanical baggage that Americans carry around with us and you’re pretty much guaranteed to wonder at some point or another if your sexual preferences are normal.
But it’s time to trash that question altogether. Think about it. The only thing that “Am I normal?” does is make people feel bad about their sexuality. It restricts us from exploring what we’re really into and pushes us all into the same box. Also, it presumes that there is such a thing as “normal” sexuality which there just isn’t. There are seven billion people on Earth and each person has their own specific set of turn ons, turn offs, preferences, and sweet spots. With that much variety, “normal” is nonexistent.
So no more “Am I normal?” Ask yourself these five questions instead.
1. "Is It Safe?"
“Safe” can mean anything from making sure you’re using the correct protection against STIs and pregnancy to ensuring you have a safe word for BDSM play to letting a friend know exactly where you’ll be when you go out to meet a hookup from Tinder. It’s also not always what you’d think it is: the craziest-looking BDSM scene involving a full St. Andrew’s cross could be safer than condom-free penis in vagina intercourse. Always ask yourself: Is this safe? Have I taken the necessary precautions to protect myself and my partner(s)?
2. "Is It Consensual?"
Are both you and your partner(s) down for whatever it is you’re doing? Have you asked? Have they asked you? Consent is a tricky issue for a lot of people, partly because they’re worried about “ruining the mood” but you know what the biggest mood killer is? Sexual assault. There’s an easy way to avoid that, though and that’s by always, always making sure you have consent (and have given consent!) when you’re about to get it on.
And just a reminder: minors and animals can’t give consent, so they’re absolutely never to be included in sex play.
3. "Will It Hurt Anyone?"
So obviously some sexual play is supposed to hurt, right? BDSM, for example, is characterized by people taking pleasure from physical pain — but I’m not talking about that kind of hurt. I’m talking instead about the kind that leaves psychological scars. Before entering into sex or sexual play with someone, take a second to think about whether or not your actions will result in psychological pain for anyone involved: yourself, the person or people you’re playing with, and any partners who aren’t present. Would hooking up mean one of you was cheating? Would anyone be heartbroken if they found out? Are you going to walk away from this feeling awesome about the sex you just had or are you going to beat yourself up for the next two weeks? Think about it.
4. "Does It Turn Me On?"
Ask yourself if what you’re doing really turns you on or if you’re doing it for other reasons. Even if it’s not favorite thing ever, it’s OK to go along with a partner’s preferences because you get pleasure out of their pleasure but don’t ever do something that actively turns you off or makes you feel uncomfortable. Also, make sure that if you are playing along for your partner’s sake some of the time that you also get time in to do the stuff that you like, too. Sex is all about the give and take.
5. Does It Turn My Partner(s) On?
The flip side to that, of course, is making sure that your partner is turned on by what you’re doing too. The best way to make sure they are? Ask! “Do you like that, baby? How does this feel?” are good places to start. And when they answer, pay attention to body language as well as verbal responses. If they say “Yes,” but their eyes are saying “Mmmm, not so much,” then it may be time to pause the action and check in about what you’re doing or switch to something new.
So no more asking “Am I normal?” Stick with these five questions and you’ll do just fine.
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