In life, some people are more confident than others. And when it comes to what it means to be sexually confident, it definitely varies from person-to-person. “Sexual confidence is feeling good about yourself as a sexual being,” Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach, Florida and the co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, tells TZR. “It’s being comfortable in your own body and being able to communicate your wants and needs to a partner.”
Take 35-year-old *Tanya, for instance (who is using a pseudonym to protect her privacy). She was dating her boyfriend for a year and said the sex was “OK” but not mind-blowing. “I just thought it was the way it had to be,” she tells TZR. “It’s nothing I would have raved to my friends about. But when one of them started raving about her sex life and how amazing it was, I wanted mine to be like that, too.”
With some encouragement from her friend, Tanya decided to bring the issue up with her boyfriend. “And you won’t believe what he said: He thought I was happy with how it was going, so he didn’t want to bring it up and potentially make me uncomfortable,” she explains. “Which just goes to show, communication really is key in all facets of a relationship.”
The two started seeing a sex therapist and learned how to talk about their wants and needs more — what they were comfortable with and what they weren’t. “It really changed everything,” Tanya says. “If your sex life is subpar, I really encourage you to talk to your partner about it and get help from a third party if needed.” Ahead, experts further explain what sexual confidence is, as well as how to increase yours.
What Does It Mean To Be Sexually Confident?
“Being sexually confident is not an act that you put on for a partner, it is a feeling you have within yourself,” Dr. Donna Oriowo, owner and lead therapist at AnnodRight, “who helps Black women feel free, fabulous, and F*cked,” tells TZR in an email. “It means knowing and communicating your boundaries.”
Needle adds that sexual confidence is not always something that is ‘“fixed” either. “It is not as if you are sexually confident or you are not,” she explains. “Someone might be sexually confident in one situation, but not in another. Or they may be sexually confident at one stage in their life, but not another.” She also says sexual confidence can exist on a continuum. “It is not an ‘all or nothing,’ you are or you aren’t,” she adds.
The one thing sexually confident people know, however, is that they deserve sexual pleasure. “As a result, they feel comfortable asking for what they want and need, as well as setting — and sharing — boundaries of what they will (and won’t) do sexually,” she says. “They also care about what their partner(s) want sexually. When you are sexually confident, you are more likely to enjoy sexual activity and be present to focus on all of the sensations and arousal from a sexual encounter. It allows you to get out of your head and focus on sexual pleasure.”
Karyn S. Eilber, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and professor of urology, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as CEO and co-founder of GLISSANT Intimate Wellness, adds to that. “Having sexual confidence is similar to having confidence in any other aspect of your life,” she tells TZR in an email. “You should feel empowered to tell your partner what you like and don't like; try new things; say no; pleasure yourself; seek medical or other treatment if your sexual function isn't what you want it to be; and feel comfortable in your own skin.” But, for some, this is easier said — or thought about — than done. Speaking of which ...
Some Ways To Increase Your Sexual Confidence
Before we get into how to increase your sexual confidence, it’s important to look at where a lack thereof comes from. “Fear and anxiety can be big players when it comes to lack of sexual confidence,” Julianne Arena, founder of healthcare platform Waves of Awakening, tells TZR in an email. “It may be fear over pregnancy, infection, inexperience, past experience, or trauma. Those situations and feelings can sit with us for a long time and present themselves with future encounters.”
So how can you boost your sexual confidence, especially if you’re on the shyer side? “How does anyone become more confident with anything?” asks Eilber. “It’s by having success with a situation that hasn't been successful, which usually requires positive reinforcement and a safe environment. One way to gain sexual confidence is to get a partner you trust and who makes you feel safe.”
Needle adds to that, saying, “First, explore yourself as a sexual being alone and spend time getting to know your body and becoming more comfortable with it. Spend time looking in the mirror to see what you look like. While doing that, be sure to hone in on at least one thing you like about your body or genitals.” She says to also get to know your body in terms of what feels good and what doesn’t. “If you don’t know what turns you on, it will be that much more difficult for a partner to know and be able to give you pleasure,” she explains.
Oriowo agrees and says you can become more sexually confident by masturbating. “It teaches you more about your own body and what feels good for you — and it can give you a starting point for communicating with a partner,” she says.
Needle adds there are some other easy ways you can get in touch with your own sexuality. “Exercise is a great way to increase your sexual desire and pleasure, and to feel sexier,” she says. “Or read an erotic novel, or watch a sexy movie or pornographic video. Or walk around and dance naked! The idea is to start getting in touch with yourself as a sexual being.” She says additional ways to do this is by strutting around the house naked once in a while, or by buying yourself an outfit you feel sexy in. “Do things to become more in touch with your own sexiness,” she says.
She also recommends practicing mindfulness. “This way, you can stay in the moment when engaging in sexual activity rather than focusing on anxiety or worrying about how you look or are performing,” she says. “This can help improve sexual arousal, too.”
And, like Tanya learned, communication is also key. “Communicate with your partner(s) — talking about what you like, want, and find arousing is so important,” says Needle. “A partner is not a mind reader, so if you want to feel good during a sexual experience, be sure to let your partner know what you want — and feel free to take some control of that yourself, as well.” And, during the sexual activity itself, Needle encourages speaking up. “You can even communicate non-verbally by guiding a partner’s hand or body,” she adds.
Arena also stresses the importance of becoming more self-aware mentally. “Get in a better space,” she says. “Are you in a good place? Do you need to talk to someone and work in therapy on current or past issues? We are often raised to think of intimacy and sex as ‘bad’ — and those feelings and emotions can rear their heads when trying to connect with someone. Working on those issues can help build that confidence over time.”
To that end, Oriowo says you can can also see a sex therapist, coach, or doula. “Seeking a trained professional, especially a therapist to start, can help you work out complicated feelings and thoughts you have been socialized to have about sex and sexuality,” she says. “A sex therapist helps you to work on the sexual concern or issue you bring up. It can be anything from not having the sex life you want to dealing with trauma, and more.” She says you can see a sex therapist as an individual and/or as a couple. “It doesn't have to be one or the other,” she adds. “Sometimes, we have our own individual stuff to work on, and sometimes, we have couple stuff to work on. Think ‘both,’ not ‘either/or.’”
Oriowo also recommends joining a community of some sort. “We don’t build confidence and self-esteem in a bubble,” she says. “Finding a community where you can talk about your feelings — and the things in the way of your sexual confidence — means you can learn what others have to say. And you can lean on a community as you find your way into your own sexual confidence.” Her Facebook community is called “Free, Fabulous, and F*cked,” for example, and there are many out there if you look.
Sexual Confidence Can Ebb And Flow With Age
Arena points out that confidence grows over time and with experience. “Having worked with women for over 20 years, I see the confidence in self and in sex shift with age,” she says. “There is less pressure to please others and, therefore, focus on one’s self. There is more ease in identifying and verbalizing one's own needs, wants, and desires.” She says that, for example, younger women who have a good grasp on who they are, where they are heading, and are in charge of their bodies, often display more confidence with intimacy and sex. And, those who are older (say 50+), often find their own source of confidence. “With older women, who are not so focused on fear of pregnancy, it may allow for more freedom and spontaneity.”
Eilber adds that, as women get older, many will experience some type of sexual dysfunction that can be related to hormonal changes associated with aging, like menopause. “Sexually confident women will take charge and do what they need to do in order to regain the level of sexual satisfaction they deserve, whether it’s taking hormones and/or using lubricants,” she says. Arena echoes this. “Addressing issues of sexual dysfunction can also help restore confidence,” she says. “There are treatments available to women, such as Cliovana, which rejuvenate and restore the female orgasm.” And speaking to your healthcare provider can also help you come up with solutions.
Why It’s Important To Be Sexually Confident
“It is important to be confident in the bedroom, but certainly not a requirement,” says Arena. “We are hard-wired for intimacy and connection. Confidence leads to frequency and regularity, and we likely all need more of the intimacy and connection that may have been lost over the past two years.” She points out that sex also has many health benefits, including boosting the immune system. “I always hear from patients, ‘After sex, I say to my partner, ‘We should do this more often! Everything always seems better, easier to deal with, more enjoyable, when we are having more frequent sex.’”
Eilber adds that, traditionally, sexual confidence was misconstrued as being promiscuous. “Fortunately, sexual health and wellness is being recognized as a part of one’s overall health, just like mental health,” she says. “Whether it’s the bedroom or the workplace, it’s always important to be confident wherever you are, so that you can ask for — and get — what you deserve to make you happy.”
And Oriowo sums it up well, saying “It’s important to be confident in the bedroom because it means you are less likely to have sex you don’t want to have and you are more likely to experience the connection and pleasure you do desire.”