In some ways, it can feel like knowing what ‘turns you on’ should be easy. After all, you’re the person in your own body ­- shouldn’t it just come naturally?

However, it’s often these very personal things that can escape our understanding. It is sometimes difficult to know how you feel about something, or what you want, until you think about it consciously – or talk about it with someone else.

If you’re wondering if there’s a side to yourself that you’re not exploring fully, or you want to know more about what you’re into when it comes to sex, then it’s never too late to begin to experiment and explore.

Starting with the senses

Everything we find out about the world, we find out via one or more of our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. This can be everything from figuring out how to walk to picking up a new language.

Learning about your sexual side is no different. We work out what it is we like to do in the bedroom from our senses. Understanding what turns you on involves not only experiencing things, but being aware of these experiences and noticing and remembering them so you can reflect back on them later.

This might simply mean trying to be aware of something that does get you excited, and then thinking what it was you particularly liked. In terms of sight, it might be a particular type of look – a hairstyle or body type. In terms of touch, it might mean being touched in a specific way – for instance, softly rather than quickly (or quickly rather than softly!). Certain smells or tastes may be particularly vivid or exciting to us. In terms of hearing, it might be noticing if you like being talked to in a certain way, or whether being told certain things feels especially fun.

These are things you can do with someone else but they’re also things you can do by yourself. If you’re feeling a bit nervous or self-conscious about sex, then sometimes starting solo can feel a little less nerve wracking. Most people use masturbation when they begin to find out about their sexuality – and this sense of discovery doesn’t have to stop as you get older.

Sometimes, watching erotic films or looking at images can be a part of this exploration – again, being mindful and thinking about what it is you like or find less interesting. Also, crucially, using your imagination can be a great way of really engaging with and enjoying your thoughts. This is something you can be creative with and over time it can help you become more and more connected to your sexuality.

Working with your partner

Once you’ve spent a little time exploring some of these ideas, it can be good to begin to experiment with another person.

We know this can feel a bit awkward. Talking about sex and trying out new things can be scary. You might feel like you’re putting yourself on the line, and you may worry about saying or doing something that will make you look stupid or weird.

It’s worth remembering that part of the joy of experimentation is that it doesn’t always have to go right. There’s no need to try really hard to get it right. Some things probably won’t work as well as others! That’s ok. It’s much better to take the pressure off and approach things with a sense of fun and curiosity, rather than feeling you are always at risk of getting it wrong and embarrassing yourself.

When it comes to talking to your partner about what you’d like to try, you might find our article on talking about sex useful. There are some great tips for figuring out how to ask for what you like, and advice on dealing with awkwardness and feeling self-conscious.

During the process of experimentation it can be easier to start small. You might like to try out something simple first – like mutual masturbation. This can help you to move onto other new things (if you do want to keep experimenting) more gradually – easing you into the process of discovery together. Again, pay attention to what you liked and what you didn’t like as much – as well as why you did or didn’t like it. Following clues like this can give you new ideas about other things you might like to try. Over time, you’ll get a better sense of your sexual identity.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that you don’t always have to have sex. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the idea that sex always means having full intercourse, but it definitely doesn’t! In fact, sometimes it can be useful to take this kind of sex off the table while you’re trying stuff out. It can take the pressure off – making experimentation feel a little less high stakes, and taking some of the emphasis off the idea of having to ‘perform’. You may find that placing limitations on the kinds of activities you’re doing can mean you end up being a bit more creative. 

How we can help

If you’re finding it hard to talk about any tricky issues, Relationship Counselling, offers a safe and confidential space where you can be open and honest.

To find out more and to arrange an appointment contact us today