If you’re not satisfied with how you’re showing up as a sexual being, sexual self-care is likely the solution. And no, we’re not just talking about masturbation or increasing frequency of partnered sex…
While it may not be commonly discussed, falling into a rut with your sexuality or feeling as though your sex life is lackluster is a really common experience. Movies and media may have caused us to feel as though our sex lives should be active, exciting, steamy, and without obstacle. But that’s not real life.
Reality is more complex than that. So if your sex life is feeling far from thrilling, that’s normal. Luckily there’s so much you can do about that. Below, is a breakdown of sexual self-care: what it is, why you should practice it, and how.
What is sexual self-care?
Sexual self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve your sexual wellbeing. Sure, that can look like masturbation or partnered sex (and increasing the frequency of both). But when navigating nuanced sexual journeys, it’s important not to limit sexual self-care to just those things.
Improving your sexual wellbeing goes beyond the obvious actions and includes things like body care, pleasure, learning our boundaries, reproductive care, and becoming clear on our sexual self view. You may not have thought that activities like stopping work to have a nutritious meal or giving yourself a foot rub before bed would be beneficial sexually, but they are! When we expand our definition of self-care by including the following areas, it’s more likely that we’ll be able to further our sexual wellbeing.
Care for your body
When was the last time that you took stock of the practices that you do on a regular basis to take care of your physical self? These types of habits can vary from person to person but they could include things like: batch cooking delicious meals so that your body doesn’t run on empty; keeping a glass of lemon water at your desk so you remember to hydrate; going to therapy for your mental health; or getting out for walks first thing to soak up that morning sunlight.
One thing that most people forget about is body awareness and appreciation. You’re probably not going to enjoy sex if you’re caught up with hating your body or if you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Body awareness looks like tuning into your body’s needs instead of ignoring its little messages. What does your body need today? Is it asking you to give—or stop giving—it anything?
Body appreciation on the other hand, is about giving thanks instead of criticism or comparing yourself. That can be a hard one! But instead of comparing things like your body shape, muscle tone, body size, or eye wrinkles to another person, can you create space to pause and thank your body for its ability to enjoy outdoor spaces, carry you to and from, breathe, or swim in cool water?
Tune into body pleasure
When was the last time that you explored your body, its sensations, and responses to touch outside of masturbation?
When we think about self touch, we might immediately think of masturbation. Or when we think about checking in with our body parts, we might think about injuries or soreness. But here’s the thing: pleasure and physical touch can—and should—exist outside of a sexual context. Body pleasure in this sense can look like exploring different types of touch (i.e. lightly grazing to deep massaging, and everything in between) on various parts.
Ask yourself: What feels good? What feels neutral? What feels irritating or bad? This information will be useful self knowledge for your sexual journey.
Know your limits, boundaries and expectations
Boundaries are absolutely crucial when we’re deciding who to have an intimate relationship with (and who not to!). Knowing your limits is part of building a solid foundation in your sexual journey. Communicating those limits helps build trust and intimacy—which only makes sex better!
If you’re not yet clear on your sexual boundaries, take some time to think about what your needs are, where your comfortability lies, what you’re open to, and what you’re not open to. In any kind of sexual relationship, it’s important to communicate things like sexual preferences, desires, fantasies, and personal limits. Think about what those are for you.
And if you think it’s going to “ruin the mood,” it won't when everyone values this sort of conversation. This type of self awareness and the conversations that follow only enhance your sexual experiences because you’ll be able to relax and be in the moment.
Don’t skip sexual and reproductive care
Taking our sexual and reproductive care into our own hands has never been more important. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined reproductive health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes."
So what can you do to ensure that your sexual health and wellness is thriving? Some things you could consider include educating yourself on contraceptives, deciding on a birth control plan that works for your needs, getting tested for STIs, and going for medical check ups.
Work on sexual-self esteem
Your sexual self view directly impacts how you show up as a sexual being. Your judgment of your ability to act in ways that align with your sexual needs and desires is linked to things like: your confidence in bed; a healthy sex life; the ability to communicate desire and boundaries; the likelihood of being able to choose partners that are right for you; and being able to use your voice to state—and enforce—your needs.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, our society has shaped our views of sex. What it should look like, how we should do it, with who, how we should perform, how our bodies should respond… and more.
If you’re feeling like your sex life is in a rut, the best plan of action is to scrap society’s rules about sex and instead look inwards.
What are you least confident about when it comes to your sexuality?
What are you most confident about?
What do you want to improve and how will you prioritize that?
Give credit to what you’re already doing well while acknowledging what you hope to work on. And ditch the social media accounts, friends, or sexual partners who make you feel bad about your sexuality!