Written by Sexual Wellness Institute Therapist, Eric Anfinson, MS LMFT
One of the best ways to keep your sex life fun and fresh is through the use of different sexual positive contexts. A sexual context is a broad theme or idea that can lead you into fun things to try in the bedroom. For example, if the broader context of restraint is sexy to you, using handcuffs, rope, or holding your partner down/being held down are all expressions of that sexual context. Focusing intensely in on a single context can really make it shine or adding a new context can spice up the sex you're used to having.
When it comes to introducing new contexts to your sex life there a few barriers that people typically run into. The first for many is identifying just what contexts are sexy to you. The second is how to approach a conversation with your partner to see if they're interested in the context too. Lastly, many couples struggle with successfully integrating new contexts they've identified into their actual sex life. In this blog we'll look at how to go through each of these steps so that you have the tools to keep things exciting, connected, and fun.
What Turns You On?
This is a conversation many couples have had, but also one that often leads to frustration. Most men are inundated with sexuality and fantasy from before they even realize they have a sex drive. Women on the other hand are often not exposed in the same way and are frequently given negative messages around sexual desire. This can make the question of what turns you on feel very unfair or even shameful if you don't know.
But, How Do I Know What Turns Me On?
So how do we actually figure out what turns us on? There are many tools out there to see what might spark some desire for you. The internet has countless articles listing sexual interests, from Cosmopolitan to clinical research. You can check out a porn site and simply look at the categories they've listed (the website Bellesa has an extensive list of categories for erotic preferences). Reading erotica is another way to see what sparks your desire. There is also a great app called Kindu that helps you and your partner discover shared fantasies.
These are all great tools to explore desire but what we really want to look at with each of these things is the broader context of what turns you on about each item. If having sex on a hike is exciting to you, why? Maybe it's because you might get caught, and the taboo of that is sexually exciting. In this case, the idea of getting caught is what you find sexy and the next step is incorporating this context into your sex life.
Fantasy v. Reality
There's one last component of sexual context I want to be very clear on. There's a big difference between fantasizing about what turns you on and acting out that fantasy in real life. For example, you might find the idea of getting caught arousing from a fantasy standpoint, but when you act out this fantasy in real life you run the risk of actually getting caught, and perhaps find this potential consequence horrifying. It is important to understand the difference between what turns you on from a fantasy standpoint and what you and your partner feel comfortable acting out in real life together. Therefore, a foundation of trust, safety, communication, and consent are necessary to explore with a partner(s) sexually.
The Right Amount of Heat
Talking to your partner about sex, particularly about new sexual ideas can be very scary. I want to remind everyone just how vulnerable of a space sex is. It can be scary just to show your naked body to someone, and sharing your innermost desires and fantasies is a whole different level of vulnerability. When your partner shares a sexy context it's incredibly important to show understanding and compassion, or they may not feel safe or comfortable opening up about their sexual interests again. This doesn't mean you have to find everything sexy that your partner does or want to try the things that they want to try. It just means we don't want to respond in a way that makes our partner feel like their desires are wrong or gross. So, let's look at how and what to share, how to respond, and how to plan for fun new sex.
I Wanna Talk About Sex, Baby
The first step to sharing new sexual ideas with your partner is simply initiating the conversation. Saying something like, “I want to talk about sex,” can be a great opener. If this feels a bit overwhelming to say and hear, making a plan to have a conversation about sex avoids partners feeling caught off-guard. Saying something like, “Hey, I want to talk about a fun, sexy thing we could try together, can we talk about it tonight?" This gives you both some room to feel prepared and ready for a vulnerable conversation.
Once you're in the conversation you want to communicate the specific thing you want to try as well as the context that makes it sexy. This is a very important step because it can be very easy to try a new sexual activity and have it completely miss the context that made it sexy in the first place. If you want to be tied up because the context of your partner being dominant is a turn on and they are just sweet and caring while you're tied up then you've completely missed the point and maybe end up thinking being tied up isn't sexy after all. So, make sure you communicate the context that you are trying to explore. As a partner responding to this it's ok to feel neutral or positive about a context and still try it. If being dominant feels neutral to you but the idea of being submissive really turns you on and your partner shows enthusiasm for exploring both roles, give them a go!
Comfort and Communication
If either of you have negative feelings about a sexual context that comes up as a possibility to try, then no is the answer. We want to be sure we're not shutting down our partner for sharing something vulnerable however, so that no might sound like, "I can definitely see why that sounds sexy but I don't think I'm comfortable with that." You could also try and scale things down a bit. Responding, "I don't feel comfortable tying you up but maybe I could just try to be more dominant when we have sex or start with some sexy handcuffs," conveys openness to your partner about a context while honoring your need to explore at a level of intensity that works for you. Make sure you're on the same page with what the sexy context is and that you're both down to explore it.
2 Become 1
The last step is planning exactly what it is you're going to do so you both know just what is going to happen and there are no surprises. You don't want to try and introduce a new context or take a context further without talking about it first. Choking might be really sexy for you and your partner, but you can't try choking them during routine sex and see how it goes. This could create a breach in safety and trust between you and your partner.
With a plan in place that you’ve created together, start slowly and with lots of communication. I like to describe this phase as practice sex. If you've never done this together before you need to learn how. Even if you've done it with a past partner you need to learn how to do it with your current partner. Make sure everything is feeling good, make sure you're hitting the right context, and make adjustments as necessary. If things don't feel good, then stop. If things do feel good let yourselves transition out the practice phase and into just enjoying the fun new context you're exploring. Stick to your plan and don't take the context further than discussed. Finally, later that day or the next day, discuss how things went. How was it for each partner? Was it great but needs some practice? After this conversation the whole cycle begins again.
Consider Talking to a Sex Therapist in Plymouth, MN
So, get out there and find your positive contexts! Talk to your partner about them. Plan how to incorporate them into your sex life. Above all, have fun! Whether you want to spice things up in the bedroom, or talk about having the conversation with your partner, we can help! Our sex therapists want to help you address sexual concerns here in Plymouth, or anywhere in the state with online therapy in Minnesota. Get started by following these simple steps:
Other Mental Health Services in Minnesota
In addition to sex therapy, our LGBT & polyamory friendly sex therapists provide a wide range of mental health services at our Plymouth, MN counseling office. Other services include couples therapy & marriage counseling, EFT, evidence-based couples therapy, EMDR & sexual trauma therapy, as well as, teen therapy. In order to help serve the mental health needs of all those living in Minnesota, we also offer online counseling & sex therapy. We also provide a variety of helpful tips on our mental health blog. Please feel free to reach out with questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to begin working with a skilled sex therapist! Your sex life can be amazing. Sex therapy can be a part of that process for you.
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