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Sexual exploration: How to experiment your way to more pleasure

Molly Frances|2022.01.21

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Imagine you're on a date with someone who’s captured your sexual interest. The conversation turned flirty a while ago, and both of you are riding the wave of that rush. Suddenly they lean in and whisper, "So, what are you into?"

Your heart races, and a rushing sound fills your ears. Your head swims with possible responses. What am I into? What sex stuff excites me? If you've never taken the time for sexual exploration, you may not have an answer that is true to your identity and honors your values about sexual behavior.

When you're masturbating, it's essential to understand what your body likes and how your sexual arousal cycle works. When you enjoy sex with a partner, you want to communicate your desires. You need sexual exploration. Read on for some tips on sexual exploration and how it can improve your sex life.

What is sexual exploration?

Sexual exploration is the age-appropriate exploration of body parts and sexual desire. It often starts in early childhood when children realize that touching their private parts feels good. During adolescence and beyond, sexual exploration can include masturbation or consensual partnered sexual activity.

Sexual exploration is a healthy part of human development. People engage in sexual exploration to explore their bodies, find out what sorts of touch result in sexual arousal (and what doesn't), and even to help figure out their sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, if people experience shaming for touching their genitals or suffer sexual abuse, they may not feel comfortable with sexual exploration. Most sex education programs don't discuss sexual exploration beyond mentioning sexual attraction. The lack of education and a culture of silence surrounding sexuality can derail healthy sexual exploration.

Sexual exploration should continue throughout your lifetime. Young adults may have different sexual needs than adolescents, which will keep changing as they age. Your sexual needs can vary based on your life stage, the fluidity of sexual orientation, or even illness or injury. Exploration is the way to keep up with your body.

What are the benefits of sexual exploration?

Not only can sexual exploration can help you answer the question "what are you into?" on a date, it can open up new worlds for you. People who engage in sexual exploration know what they like and don't. Sexual exploration is the key to creating a sexual relationship (with yourself or with partners) that meets your needs and aligns with your values.

Sexual exploration allows you to share your desires with a partner or use them to make your solo sessions so satisfying you don't spend time looking for a partner. Exploration helps you learn how to identify sexual feelings, initiate sexual experiences, and discuss sexual preferences without shame.

What is the difference between sexual exploration and sexual experimentation?

Sexual exploration involves approaching masturbation and shared sexual experiences with an air of curiosity. You're exploring bodies and sensations and trying to paint a picture of what a fulfilling sex life looks like for you. Sexual exploration makes your sexual health a vital piece of your well-being and helps you define and navigate sexual feelings and engage in appropriate decision-making during sexual interactions.

Experimenting is trying something out to see what happens. People often use sexual experimentation to describe behaviors deemed promiscuous or taboo. As long as the sexual experimentation or exploration you're engaging in is consensual, safe, and with age-appropriate partners, there is no such thing as promiscuity or taboo sexual behaviors. Sexual experimentation is sexual exploration. Explore or experiment how you wish and with whom you want to, whether that’s queer partners, threesomes, non-monogamy, light bondage, breath play, pegging, or something else.

How do people explore their sexuality?

Sexual fantasies, watching or listening to erotic stimuli, discussing and exploring sexual attraction, and even shared sexual experiences can be curiosity-driven activities designed to help you learn more about your body and your partner's body.

Masturbation

Sexual exploration often starts with masturbation and other self-touch. But don't worry if you've had sexual intercourse and never masturbated. It's never too late to start!

Rather than rushing to orgasm, start slow and seduce yourself. Use candles, music, or other elements to set a scene that activates all your senses. Dance or explore your naked body in front of a mirror. Let the sight and feel of your body turn you on. Experiment with a variety of erogenous zones, different positions, types of touch, and sex toys to find out what you like.

Shared sexual experiences

You can explore your sexuality through consensual sexual experiences with someone you trust. Positive sexual encounters can help you figure out whether you enjoy giving and receiving oral sex, have any interest in anal sex, prefer intercourse to other types of sex, or want sexual activity that doesn't include penetration.

If you're engaging in sexual exploration with a partner it's best to think of your experience as sexual play. This can be difficult to initiate, especially in a culture that focuses so heavily on heteronormative penis-in-vagina sex. But sex is supposed to be fun and playful, and partnered sexual exploration is an amazing way to keep that focus.

Try opening a conversation about sexual play with your partner by discussing something you're curious about. For example, "I heard about nipple play leading to orgasms for some people and want to try it. Tonight, can we grab some massage oil and try different types of nipple play?" Phrasing what you want as an invitation to explore, rather than a denial of intercourse, may help your partner more readily accept your invitation for sexual exploration.

Sexual fantasy

Before you can build (or rebuild) the sex life you want, you can imagine it. Fantasizing is an ideal start to sexual exploration. Sexual fantasy can be particularly powerful for people questioning their sexual or gender identity.

Try enjoying erotica featuring same-sex and opposite-sex partners. Which one gets you going more? Maybe you'll discover a sexual interest in all genders! Enjoying a specific type of erotica doesn't mean you're gay or straight, but it can be a place to start exploring, especially if you've only been in romantic relationships with people of one gender.

Sexual fantasy can also enrich your exploration with a partner. Try enjoying erotica together or sharing sexual fantasies using questions designed to get you talking about what you'd like to try. You may find out you share some sexual fantasies you've never discussed that take your sex life to the next level.

Inspiration for your sexual exploration

Sexual exploration starts with curiosity about your body and the variety of sexual experiences available. Sexual exploration should be a regular part of your sexual health routine. Your sexual desires, preferences, and needs will change over time, and if you stop exploring, you may miss out on some incredible opportunities for pleasure.

If you're looking for inspiration to begin another round of sexual exploration, try listening to Secret Rooms, where a single woman seeks sexual and professional inspiration in a BDSM club.

Curious about group sex? Listen as Cass seduces Elliot and Lola, and the three decide some sexual exploration is the perfect way to end their evening.

Listen, light yourself up.

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