Exploring and experimenting with your sexuality can be intimidating, especially if you don't know how or where to start. Maybe you don't know what you like, what you want, or how to approach trying something you've never tried before. Whatever it is that might cause your nerves to rise or your self-talk to get negative fast, there are ways to experiment with your sexuality, or to at least to approach experimenting, that can help you move through the fear.
"What scientists call 'sexual breadth' is strongly related to sexual satisfaction, so exploring ways of broadening your sexual behaviors may improve your sex life," Dr. Nicole Prause, Ph.D. of Liberos, tells Bustle. "And there are more active or passive methods for identifying and exploring new sexual activities."
However, Dr. Prause says that that many people with a low breadth of sexual activities struggle feeling positive about their own sexuality and may have shame around their own curiosity. This is totally OK, and it's also very possible to work through. Exploring directly and finding ways to communicate about that fear can be really helpful and sexually fruitful, she says.
Below, some pros suggest some new and great ways to consider experimentation with your sexual life.
1. Journal About Your Sexuality
First off, simply getting in touch with what you feel and want is key.
"Journaling provides a shame-free, private way to delve into your own thoughts, beliefs and wants in terms of sex," August McLaughlin, author of Girl Boner, tells Bustle. "Sadly, shame stands in the way for many folks who hope to start experimenting."
Let your thoughts flow, without concern over what anyone, even you, might think, she says, and you might be surprised by what you discover.
2. Dip Rather Than Dive In
You can determine whatever pace you're ready for, but you don't need to head to the nearest fetish party the moment you decide to explore.
"It can be easy to imaging the wildest change in your sex lifestyle when we think about experimenting, but sometimes going super far straight away isn't ideal," McLaughlin says. "You might end up feeling intimidated or realizing you really aren't into a particular thing. So instead, make smaller, more gradual shifts."
If you're interested in trying anal sex for the first time, for example, start with gentle anal play during masturbation, she says.
Adriana Joyner, a therapist who specializes in gender, sexuality, and advocacy for the queer/LGBT community tells Bustle, "It’s important to go slow and honor the process of your exploration before you jump into the physical side of exploring your sexuality. I think the most important factor to understand before you enter a new sexual situation is knowing firmly where your boundaries and limits are."
Be sure you can say what you want, and what you don’t want, openly, clearly and directly, she says.
Sex should be fun, safe and consenting, Joyner says. This takes you knowing your limits up front.
3. Make A Yes, No, Maybe List
Simple enough, right?
"Lists provide a range of spicy activities to consider, which really helps if you're not sure where to start," McLaughlin says. "You simply check the appropriate box for each item, whether that's trying a new toy, spanking, or a threesome, depending on how you feel about each item now."
You can always go back later to reassess, McLaughlin says.
4. Find Porn That Speaks To You
When it comes to considering new ideas, fantasies, or experiences, porn is a place that can jumpstart the creativity. While plenty of porn might not be your bag, finding what speaks to you and turns you on is definitely a great option Dr. Prause says.
"Options like viewing pornography, potentially with a partner if you are exploring partnered activities, is a quick, easy, cheap way to survey and discuss many new activities," Dr. Prause says.
5. Educate Yourself
Educating yourself about sex is a very powerful way to explore and feel connected.
Joyner says that this could be reading articles and "how to" books, meeting new friends that have similar interests, joining social groups like a local queer meet-up group, a polyamory/ethical non-monogamy social outing, or a BDSM munch, and participating in community events.
Joyner says that things like PRIDE events that celebrate diverse genders and sexuality are a great place to get familiar with the LGBTQ community, for example.
6. Read Erotica
Erotica provides an awesome way to experience sexy acts through your imagination, McLaughlin says.
"If you're not sure what you might like to try, as far as experimenting, consider an anthology of short stories," she says. "Sometimes reading erotica is experimenting, if you've never before tried reading it."
It's so important not to judge ourselves or our desires for not seeming sexually adventurous "enough," which many people, especially women and femmes, do, she says. There is no hierarchy or competition.
7. Find A Community
Some sexual experimenting stays in fantasy or a new type of play. Other times once you begin looking into your sexuality, you find that it's a really important aspect of your identity.
"Often fears around coming out openly with your diverse sexuality comes from fears of others’ judgments," Joyner says. "These are often very real fears. One way to navigate it is to connect with others within the same community."
Having peers will support you in navigating the possible judgments and help you gather ideas about how to come out and share authentically about your sexuality, Joyner says.
Enjoying yourself, feeling safe, communicating, and going at your own pace will always be at the top of the list when it comes to delving into new sexual realms. Here's to safe and happy exploring!