Getting naked with someone new for the first time? Suddenly. So. Aware. Of. How. Your. Own. Labia. Behaves…
And where to even start with the sorry state of affairs also known as: ya knicker drawer. Not a hint of lace, soft tulle or *red* have been seen in the vicinity since circa 2019. Lockdown did us dirty.
Whatever wobbles you’re feeling and however they manifest, it’s completely normal to lose your way with sexual self-confidence from time to time, especially when it comes to meeting someone new in the covid era.
So, if you’re looking to take that next step but you’re unsure of how to reconnect with your erotic power, here’s how to get your confidence back on track and foster self-compassion in 2022. Because despite what might be going on in your head, you deserve great sex.
Unlearn toxic ideas about sex & give yourself permission to embrace your sexuality
Confidence isn’t purely performative, it has to come from within. If you believe you’re enough and capable of pleasure, your body will listen and follow.
Shame is often the reason we feel unable to give and receive pleasure; a symptom of the sex-negative society we live in. Sex negativity perpetuates the idea that sex is unnatural, disgusting, harmful, dangerous, risky and shameful. Allowing yourself to feel pleasure and explore your sexuality without judgement is one such way to flip that narrative on its head.
Think about a time when you’ve felt empowered by your sexuality. What made you feel that way, and how can you channel that confidence with your new partner or future sexual experiences? There are so many reasons why someone might feel out of touch with their erotic self, be it stress, grief, cultural messaging, gender dysphoria, body confidence or ill health but with practice and self-compassion, we can diminish that inner critic, learn to trust ourselves again, befriend our bodies and, in turn, feel safe to let someone else in. Repeating affirmations such as, “I am entitled to feel pleasure” and “I deserve to feel good” can help foster that connection with your erotic self and create a foundation for experiencing joy.
Accept real sex isn’t perfect
Klaxon: it’s not like the movies. Or porn. Sex in real life doesn’t get the privilege of redrafts, soft-focus light and art direction, it’s a messy, silly and gloriously imperfect human experience and leaning into that can be erotic and liberating in its own right. Sometimes things don’t slot together as they should and the transition between one position to another isn’t graceful and that’s more than ok. It’s a human body, not a puzzle piece. Treat sex like yoga and embrace the wobbles. Often the deepest sense of belonging and connection happens in those flawed, not-so-polished moments. Reckoning with our imperfections and letting go of the expectation that sex has to be aesthetic from every angle to be pleasurable can lead to increased intimacy, heightened arousal and a more satisfying sex life.
Get comfortable with exploring your own body
Touching yourself is an elite form of self-care, as fundamental to your wellbeing as taking a shower, journaling, or folding yourself into a downward dog. Taking the time to get to know your body and exploring your own pleasure is the portal to confidence both for you and for them – because mutual masturbation is hot. Pleasure and confidence go hand in hand, and if you can get comfortable with asking for what you want (and listening to what they want), both parties will likely have a better time. Communication will provide all the social lubrication you need for 10/10 intimacy.
Be open with your partner/s
Whether you’re simply nervous about being naked in front of someone new or you’re dealing with body image related anxiety, sexual trauma or chronic pain, working through those emotions by being open and honest with a sexual partner is a prerequisite for feeling confident and enjoying great sex. Let them know what feels good and what doesn’t, set boundaries before getting intimate and if penetrative sex feels like too much of a big step, spend more time on connecting in other ways, focusing on sensuality without the pressure of sex, whether it be through conversation, non-sexual touch, slow dancing, rubbing, massage, hand-holding or cuddling with a movie.
Set the tone
Mood is everything. Bright lights and cold clinical vibes rarely inspire anyone to take off their clothes. When it comes to the warmup, set your standards high and ground yourself in the present. Whether it be a sexy playlist, mindfulness techniques, candlelight or decorating your body with strawberries, whatever helps get you out of your head and into your body, do more of that. If you’re to channel main character energy in the bedroom, then you need a decent setting for it, folks.
Accept that dating right now is different
After two years of various lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, the chances are your seduction skills are a bit on the rusty side. The pandemic changed the way we date so there’s nothing wrong with taking it slow and easing yourself back in gradually.
The back and forth of traditional dating apps can feel monotonous, often taking months to set up an IRL date and leaving plenty of time to overthink or get in your head about meeting someone new.
Not so with Thursday – the ‘Cinderella’ dating app that offers a fun alternative approach to dating. As the name suggests, the app is only usable on Thursdays, giving you just 24 hours to match and meet a potential suitor. Dating needn’t be drab!
Founded by Mr Love himself (yes, that’s very much his real name), Thursday goes live at 00:01am, giving singles a limited time frame to set up an in-person date before their messages vanish at midnight, never to be seen on the app again. Since members only need to devote one day a week to their dating endeavours, you can skip the small talk (and the time-wasters) and head straight to the good stuff, enjoying the thrill and curiosity of getting to know someone without the burnout that usually comes with daily swiping.
Outside of the app, the company also hosts an AfterParty event each week, inviting members to meet in bars across London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and NYC, helping to bridge the gap between online and in-person dating and facilitating connection on a weekly basis. Get your tickets through the app and show your Thursday profile at the door to join the party. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always next Thursday! Download the app here.
Remember it doesn’t *always* have to end in orgasm
PSA: orgasms are not the be-all and end-all of sex. When we put pressure on ourselves to reach a climax, pleasure often falls by the wayside because we’re not able to be our authentic selves. Forget about performance and instead focus on what feels good for you and for them. It sounds simple but centring your experience around pleasure-oriented sex instead of goal-oriented sex alleviates some of the stress and anxiety associated with sexual performance – remember sex is just one part of physical intimacy.
Because sex toys aren’t just for long-term lovers. They can be a great source of communication, fun and connection if the mood feels right. From solo play to partnered fun, understanding your body and what turns you on is not only empowering for you but a turn on for your partner. Whether you show them what you like using toys as your preferred love language (the ultimate ice-breaker if we do say so ourselves) or you let them take the reins, introducing toys to your oeuvre offers plenty of opportunity for shared excitement and kink.
Of course, if you’re a missionary only kinda couple, graduating to anal beads might be a step too far but there’s no reason why some beautifully vanilla sex toys can’t join the party. What’s more, we know most clitoris owners need clitoral stimulation for sexual gratification, so this can be a great way to ask for what you want without any awkwardness and realise your sexual fantasies at the click of a button. A bullet buffer if you will.
Here’s a selection to get you started:
And always remember protection
Sure, it’s not as appealing as self-love and sext toys but from a practical standpoint, making sure you’re well equipped for the adventure will give you one less thing to worry about. Pack accordingly and relax.
Photography by Dainis Graveris