Sara here, hitting you with a lil’ short and sweet about broadening those sexual horizons.
Let’s examine some things that make it feel difficult to let loose and express yourself when fucking, and maybe some toe-dips on what can be done about it. Cool?
Why can’t we let loose?
- Sex-negative upbringing — You know, it always interests me how we are both expected to be chaste and virginal until we are shacked up in a culturally- or religiously-accepted form of intimacy, and then apparently we are supposed to become porn stars overnight or whatever. Emily Nagoski examines this in her priceless book, Come As You Are, when she delves into morality messages and media messages around sex, referenced above. Learning stressful or worrisome stuff about sex, learning those deep lessons about morality and self-worth, or learning nothing at all and then having sexuality sprung on us is a hard deal, man. It’s OK if these are the building blocks we’ve been given around sex, because they’re fairly common — it is not your fault if your relationship with your sexuality, your body, your pleasure, your power is blunted as a result. We can hone it in. But messages that we learned from a young age about what sex “should” be can certainly serve to make it hard to let loose sexually.
- Trauma around sex — Sometimes we’ve had a bad experience, or series of experiences, that impact our ability to enjoy sex and let loose. That’s a valid and unfortunately common experience as well. In the case of trauma, the body learns that to keep you safe it must to shut off, become small or quiet or unexpressive, or makes you feel safer by avoiding sexual situations or feelings. The good news is that with both this and the above, it is possible to work through these lessons around sex that taught our body and mind to be in fight-or-flight mode. Therapy is a great tool for this, among a myriad of other remedies. Certainly this work can be done on one’s own, however if you’re finding it to be sticky, difficult, or it’s impeding aspects of your life, it’s often best to recruit some help.
- Trauma in relationship with partner — Perhaps it’s hard to let loose with a partner because of trauma that happened in your relationship that needs to be healed by both parties. Maybe your partner said the only like bodies that are more well-endowed than your own and you stored this away, revisiting it here and there to make you feel crummy about yourself, while you deflated over time. Maybe your partner made a well-meaning or bungled comment about how you look, sound, smell, or taste, that is now on repeat. Maybe you’ve survived an infidelity or other breach of trust. Maybe you find it hard to engage because they don’t do the chores you have been begging them to for the last five years and you feel belittled, like you don’t matter. If there is a relational trauma getting in your way of being able to express yourself and let loose sexually, individual and potentially couple’s counseling can be immensely helpful and healing. All this to say, some wounds may be such that a small self-help article on the internet can’t remedy them, that’s completely reasonable, and it’s possible for you to heal, should you desire to.
- Performance anxiety/spotlight — Maybe we have a harsh inner critic. Maybe we learned what sex “should” look like and that’s not us, trotting around with our bodies adorned with stretch marks and rolling slopes. Maybe the idea of doing something to “take up space” sexually like making a peep or spreading out feels perilous at best as it would place you under some sort of self-imposed spotlight. It’s rough out here. We learned so many ideas of what sex “should” be, from unrealistic sources, that when we’re out here having real life sex it feels like we somehow don’t measure up. It’s alright. I see you. We are working on growing and that starts with just thinking about it. So magnificent work, over there.
- Inexperience/Just haven’t done it before — I get it, trying something new’s got you all hot and bothered, or rather just the opposite. It can make you shrivel up faster than the pool gets George.
The truth is, all good sex-havers had to start somewhere, and for every teenager fucking in the woods, there’s a boomer just first learning that women can have orgasms (love that for you, and that you told me this while fixing my car, mechanic from Idaho). It’s ok to have not done this before. But each passing year of fucking in silence, and performing the role of stolid sex-haver, might have one feeling in a box (pun intended) with regard to their ability to be expressive during sex. That’s OK. The growth has to begin somewhere.
- Living situation prohibits it — Shacking up with the rents? Paper thin walls? Discomfort at the dog listening through the door? Whatever the case, yes, sometimes we have to tone it down to be respectful citizens. Assess whether that restriction is necessary (school trip with clergy?) or self-imposed (will Fido care??), and you may have created yourself some extra leeway. Or not, and that can come in time (hehe). Carry on, fellow human being.
Let’s try it!
- Trying some sex shit with wild abandon. No, I’m not necessarily saying you need to invest in some power tools and whips and stuff — let’s start with what you know. Let’s ask ourselves, how can we expand upon what you’re doing and enjoy already, so we can make it more pleasurable? What sorts of things make you feel excited or anticipatory that we can try on for size? While this may be a big thing like “I want to try a vibrator during sex,” it might also be a more reasonable investment, like “I want to have the lights on 75% brightness rather than 50%.” Whatever the case, a step forward toward something we like is a step forward, regardless of its size. It’s not cool to compare with others when all we see is performative media sex shit 24/7. Let’s focus in on us and what feels interesting and let it rip.
- Make some noise. Look, life isn’t porn. Porn is a fucking unrealistic representation of sex, so please don’t compare yourself to it or think I’m trying to say that you need to make the “oh fuck” grunts or “yesyesyes” squeaks or whatever it is you may have seen before.
That said, while it’s acceptable to both emote and to be more silent during sex, sometimes holding back on making noises can be hard both for the silent one and their partner(s).
Making noise and being expressive during sex doesn’t have to be deep Herculean grunting or growling, nor does it have to be at a decibel level that will worsen my tinnitus (it’s already pretty bad, thanks). It doesn’t have to be either masculine or feminine — how about we get out of the judgemental seat in our heads, thanks?? It can just be. Making noise during sex can be a tightened breath or a gasp or an exhalation, it can be a laugh or an “oh,” or even a “whoa.” It can be a sentence or it can be losing its coherency fast. It can be barely audible or it can be a pain to your neighbors. Whatever the case, the work here is first in discarding our representation of “What SHOULD I sound like during sex?” Ctrl+alt+delete that shit. And let’s press on. Maybe it’s dirty talk and maybe it’s just a statement of gratitude or pleasure. Maybe it’s a confirmation, “Oh, that’s good,” or maybe it’s a redirection, “Mmm, can you go back to that?” Maybe it’s an act of intimacy and care, and maybe it’s an act of degradation (with consent, of course). Maybe it’s an “I’m cumming” announcement (those who release fluids, this might be appreciated to have a bit of a warning) and maybe it’s a name calling. Whatever the case, grant yourself the freedom to try something new on for size, even if it’s just a half-size adjustment from before. Trying this out on your own can be helpful, and seeing what sorts of sounds your body might want to make naturally before trotting it out for another.
- Emote during sex and intimacy. Is it just me that remembers old Cosmo magazines with articles about your “O face?” Or am I creating some sort of false memory like with the Berenste/ain Bears?
I didn’t even know this was something to be fucking self-conscious about until that magazine told me to. This here’s a core memory. In with all the tidbits, and media messages about how I “should” be having sex and what I “should” do to please a man (lmao), I was made aware that I should be consciously aware of and rehearsing the way I fucking perform an orgasm. You know, the thing I should NOT be in my head during?!
Say it with me, emoting during sex does not have to be a performance. Let’s stop trying to follow a script and compare ourselves to others, and just see, what feels natural to us right now?
Your partners will likely just be glad to be there, and honored to have access to you. Notice if you fret about how your body looks from certain angles, how your voice sounds, what your face is doing, and work to gently redirect your mind from there. Focus on the physical sensations; bring your mind’s awareness back to the feelings of touch, temperature, pressure, and pleasure, whatever might feel possible in this moment. It’s ok to have to do this consciously more than once. The more we practice, the less rehearsal we need before it becomes an unconscious pattern, just like when learning to drive a car or when I just unclenched my fucking jaw while writing this for the hundredth time. You got this.
- Compliment your partner. If you want to try something a little more than sighing and moaning, but also don’t want to go as far as conjuring your inner death metal rockstar, highly recommend complimenting your partner, or the sex in general.
“That feels great,”
“Keep doing that,”
“You’re so beautiful,”
“You feel so good,” etc.etc. Love it.
We can even do this after sex too, if words are hard to access in moment. “Wow, I loved when you did XYZ.”
- Accept some silliness; mistakes will be made. It’s sex. Bodies are weird and make squirty rubbing squelchy noises. Appendages fall out, people get out of breath, breaks need to be had, all a person’s blood is in their genitals so they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. You might try something new and have it be a total flop (literally or figuratively). It’s OK. And it might make a killer story afterwards, like this one from the old museum of reddit.
Whatever the case, going into sex with a non-serious demeanor will likely benefit you. That’s not to say that you NEED to incorporate humor, but know that when human bodies start colliding, generally some funky stuff might come out of it, and it’s absolutely OK to roll with the punches and steep in the awkwardness. This is how we get better.