How to Have Good Sex, According to a Sex Therapist

How to Have Good Sex, According to a Sex Therapist

Let’s talk about sex. 

It’s something we all think about—a lot. In fact, a 2011 study of 283 students showed that women think about sex about 18.6 times per day.

Sex piques our interest.

Sex excites us.

 Sex is everywhere. It’s on every magazine cover, and it plays a big role in some of the most successful advertisements, songs, movies, and books—I’m looking at you 50 Shades of Grey.

It’s human nature to want and desire sex. While desire has a steamy connotation, it doesn’t have to mean we want sex all the time. It can mean something different for everyone. It’s totally normal for some of us to have higher levels of desire for physical intimacy, while others have lower levels.

I used to feel like I had lower amounts of desire, which made me feel like I was weird. That feeling of isolation and “weirdness” was one reason I was so excited to sit down and dive deeper into what good sex is and how to have it.

 

What if we were taught that sex isn’t like what we see in the movies or on shows like Bachelor in ParadisePersonally, I think our experiences, expectations, and confidence would empower us to really have good sex. But what does “good sex” even mean?

 

When I was a teenager, I started watching Sex and the City and reading Cosmo. It seemed like sex was talked about a lot. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha would share the tantalizing deets of their latest hook-up, and the editors of Cosmo were certain we would know how to “please our men.”

As it turns out, though we think about it, we don’t talk about it very much. Considering how much we talk about other things that impact our health—food, sleep, bowel movements, working out, and the emotional part of our relationships—it’s surprising that there’s still such a taboo around talking about sex.  

I think this taboo around sex is a detriment to us and our experience in relationships. The taboo has made us conditioned to have shame around our sexual desires.

As a single, modern woman living in a time of digital dating and connection, I often think about relationships, sexual experiences, and what it all means. I started to wonder if the shame we feel around sex holds us back from having really good sex. But where does this shame come from?

There are a lot of reasons for the shame around sex, including religious upbringings and lack of education. For many of us, we were taught that sex is “bad” or “dirty” and is something that should be kept private. 

 

Considering how much we talk about other things that impact our health — food, sleep, bowel movements, working out, and the emotional part of our relationships — it’s surprising that there’s still such a taboo around talking about sex.  

 

But imagine how you might feel about sex if it was framed differently; if we were told that sex is natural and normal, very good for your health, and that everyone’s sexual needs are different—of course, within the framework that sex needs to be consensual.

What if we were taught that sex isn’t like what we see in the movies or on shows like Bachelor in ParadisePersonally, I think our experiences, expectations, and confidence would empower us to really have good sex. But what does “good sex” even mean?

 

I started to wonder if the shame we feel around sex holds us back from having really good sex.

 

To satisfy my curiosity, I sat down with Dr. Shannon Chavez Qureshi, PsyD, CST, an expert and therapist, for an interview for my podcast to find out, and what I learned wasn’t what I expected. 

 

 Know Yourself & Your Personal Sexual Desires

“Pleasure and sex is about what feels good for you, so you have to be connected to your own body,” Chavez said.

What feels good for you, what turns you on, and when you feel most confident is going to be different for you than it is for your friends or people you see online.

“Everyone’s arousal is so different,” Chavez said. “The things that turn you on, the things that excite you — people have such a unique, diverse sexuality.”

Desire is all about reward and motivation. It’s about finding positive sexual experiences.

When we get to know ourselves and our needs, we gain the confidence we need to give ourselves permission to be in control of our own pleasure and assert ourselves with our partners. There are a few ways to get to know yourself better that include masturbation, being alone with yourself in the nude, and developing a mindfulness or meditation practice.

She also recommends finding more positive sexual experiences because desire is all about reward and motivation. Once we experience the positive, we want more of that and can build out our own sexual personas.

 

Once we experience the positive, we want more of that and can build out our own sexual personas.

 

There is No Normal

This was the biggest lightbulb moment for me.

It can be really easy to compare ourselves and our sexual desires to what we see in the media. Sex in the media is sensationalized because, as they say, “sex sells.” We tune into shows like Bachelor in Paradise, filled with sexy people in bathing suits on a beach who seem to want to have sex with each other all the time. But despite “paradise” in the title, this just isn’t reality.

When it comes to questions like “how often should I want sex?”; “should I have an orgasm every time?”; “should I be turned on when my partner does XYZ?” there’s just no set normal.

We’re unique individuals with different brain chemistry, genetics, and lifestyles, so why would we need the same things when it comes to sex? Dr. Chavez said, “what’s normal?” is one of the most common questions she gets asked.

 

“Everything is OK. As long as it’s safe, consensual, and healthy for you.”

 

“Everyone’s designed differently, programmed differently,” Chavez said. “Some people feel a lot of desire, some people don’t. Some people ebb and flow, which means they may have high desire and low desire and they’re constantly changing. I tell people that our sexuality changes daily. That’s important to know. Some days you may feel it, sometimes you don’t. It’s affected by things like hormones and stress, what we’re eating, and our lifestyles, so we can’t possibly take all those factors into account and have a norm.”

She also said it’s important to understand your needs and values when it comes to your sexuality—things like what makes you feel safe, how you communicate your needs to a partner, what are your no-go zones, and what you’re open to trying.

For example, some people don’t value monogamy while others do, and some people like to use toys and others don’t. It’s all normal!

“Everything is OK. As long as it’s safe, consensual, and healthy for you,” she said.

 

Communicate Your Needs

Dr. Chavez said, “the more you talk about it, the better your sex life is going to be.” This means finding out what works for you and your partner and being open to having conversations about it.

Here’s the hard truth: people aren’t mind-readers. They don’t know what you need or want unless you tell them. Talking about it can be really difficult, especially since we’re socially conditioned not to.

But think of it this way: if you go out to lunch, would you expect the waiter to know what you want your dressing on the side and no blue cheese? Probably not.

 

Here’s the hard truth: people aren’t mind-readers. They don’t know what you need or want unless you tell them. Talking about it can be really difficult, especially since we’re socially conditioned not to.

 

I asked Dr. Chavez about feedback and the fear that comes with giving and receiving it.

“…When it comes to sex, we get so self-conscious,” Chavez said. “We need feedback. What we can do is recognize that it’s not criticism, our partner’s not shaming us, they’re just letting us know and creating an understanding of what they enjoy and what they like … Sex is very imperfect. So I think we can normalize that and be open to feedback.”

 

Developing Confidence

From body image to self-worth, developing confidence can be hard for both men and women. All we want is to really be seen by someone, yet we deeply fear that all of our insecurities and vulnerabilities will take center stage. 

But confidence is super sexy. When you’re confident, you radiate an undeniable energy. Your confidence will help you feel empowered to open up the lines of communication.

One way to develop more confidence is to practice self-love and compassion, as per VeryWell Mind. When you feel like your negative self-talk starts to take over, try recognizing something you really like about yourself. Maybe it’s a personality trait or a part of your body.

When we start to see ourselves the way the world does, we become unstoppable and can take control of our sexual experiences. Dr. Chavez also noted, “men cannot give you an orgasm, you give yourself an orgasm. Men create the environment for an orgasm to happen …” If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is!

 

All we want is to really be seen by someone, yet we deeply fear that all of our insecurities and vulnerabilities will take center stage. 

 

Eliminate the Shame

This might be the hardest one, but it’s so crucial. 

The first step is to understand where your shame stems from. Many of us have experienced trauma that impacts how we experience sex. Trauma doesn’t always mean something sexual—it can be small, nuanced things that shape how we feel about ourselves and relationships like being made fun of in high school for how we look or growing up with strict religious beliefs about what sex means.

Dr. Chavez said, “ … it helps you be more present and helps you let go of some of the negativity that may be driving some of the shame, or the embarrassment, or the comparing yourself to others.”

The next step is to talk about it! We feel validated when other people share our stories. Try opening up to your friends about something you’re feeling when it comes to your sexuality. You might be surprised that they feel the same way.

A couple of other quick tips from Dr. Chavez:

  • Try getting dressed up for a date night.
  • Find ways to engage in play and creativity.
  • There’s no “should” when it comes to sex.
  • Remember we all have sexual issues, and you’re not alone! 

So let’s be like Nike and “just do it.” Let’s have good sex!

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