“Sexual expression is a somewhat vague term that is used to describe not only sexual activities we engage in but ways we communicate and present ourselves to the world as a sexual being,” writes Cory Silverberg.
Reflections of our sexuality – and our perception of our sexuality – are in most of the things we do and the ways we relate to others. Sexual expression can manifest in the media we engage with, the things we buy, what we post on social media, how we dress, or what our hobbies are. How we flirt, who we date, and how we progress relationships are all things that hinge on our chosen paths of sexual expression.
Sexting? Sexual expression. Listening to Lizzo? Sexual expression. Your dating app bios? Sexual expression. Marching for reproductive rights? Sexual expression. Reading relationship advice columns? Sexual expression. The sex toys in your collection? Sexual expression.
But despite – or perhaps, because of – sexuality’s pervasiveness in our daily lives, sex and sexual expression can be awkward to confront and dissect. We live in a sex negative society that simultaneously uses sex to sell goods and shames and legally limits sexual freedoms. We see sex everywhere, but its presence in our own lives can be… puzzling. What do we want? How much of our sexual selves do we want to show? And how do we show it?
As an awkward person myself (autistic mannerisms and behavior have always been coded “awkward”), I have struggled with these questions. I’m still exploring my sexuality and the ways I’m happiest sharing it, but in my explorations I’ve come up with some tips!
Before you push, do a check-in with yourself.
It’s important to get a little introspective about your relationship with sexual expression.
Why are you awkward around sexuality? Is it rooted in personality type, shyness, and/or inexperience… or something else? Are you struggling with sexual trauma or sex negativity? It’s important to consider if your awkwardness is actually discomfort.
Is change actually necessary for you to comfortably embrace your sexuality? Sometimes we get so caught up in fretting about what we’re not, we don’t appreciate what we are. Do you actually need to do anything different to feel sexual, or are you perhaps unfairly judging yourself to the sexual expression of others?
If you’re unable to shake the awkwardness, in what ways can you still feel good about your sexuality? Some people are just awkward, and there’s nothing wrong with that! If you’re one of those folks and you still feel expressively stunted, how else can you embrace yours sexuality?
Find sexuality role models (to aspire to, not to draw comparisons.)
I grew up in a religious, sex negative household. It didn’t occur to me until well into my 20’s that I didn’t have an example of someone who took healthy ownership of their sexuality. Having role models helps us map out what’s valuable to us (including in what ways our desires differ), and inspires us through our own journeys. Without an example, I struggled with how to express myself sexually, even though I’d been sexually active since my teen years.
So where do you find sexual expression role models? Everywhere! Sex educators like Sunny Megatron and Ducky DooLittle, sex workers like Lady Pim, sex blogs like Pretty Pink Lotus Bud and Girly Juice, sex positive tv shows like Tuca and Bertie. Peepshow Toys’ social media – Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube – and blog are overflowing with sex positive voices.
Decide what you want.
I’m pretty clumsy (a lesser-discussed part of autism) but I have an even harder time maintaining my balance when I don’t know where I’m going. If you’re not sure how you want to engage/express your sexuality, you’re going to be even more awkward when it comes up.
What kind of sexual being do you want to be? What areas of expression are you most keen on? Having even a vague idea of how you want to express yourself, and focusing on those avenues, will help ease some of the awkwardness. Want to be a suave sexter? A top with Kristen Stewart energy? A mild-mannered out bisexual with a love of painting while naked?
Experiment with ways to bolster confidence.
Sometimes awkwardness is circumstantial. Maybe having the lights on makes you feel like a scrutinized animal in a zoo, but once they’re turned off you feel free to roam and more comfortable being your full sexual self. Maybe it’s weird swapping sex stories with your childhood best friend, but you feel chattier with Twitter pals across the country. Maybe when someone is hitting on you, you get tongue-tied and anxious, but if you’re the one who starts the flirtation, you’re practically an extrovert.
- Try discussing sex anonymously. Make a throwaway Reddit account, a secret NSFW Twitter, join a forum, start a blog. An outlet detached from your identity might help you get used to expressing yourself and discussing your interests.
- Put on clothes that make you feel sexy (lingerie, boxer briefs, jeans and a sleeveless tshirt) or music to get you into a sexual headspace.
- Get educated! Read a few books, watch some Sexplanations, go to a workshop at your local sex toy shop or BDSM dungeon. Knowledge is power, of the self-empowerment kind.
- Try role playing! Role playing can help people “express themselves, try new things, and explore aspects of their sexuality that might otherwise go unexamined. And although on the surface you’re pretending to do or be something or someone else, it’s also a way to experience new levels of intimacy and vulnerability with your partner(s).”
- Experiment with blindfolds to reduce the pressure of eye contact or being observed. Read Why Blindfolds are Great for more!
Consider alternate methods of expression/exploration.
I’m a little bit of an exhibitionist. Once upon a time, I thought the only way to explore that kink was to, you know, have sex in front of other people. But I’m way too awkward to actually do that! It wasn’t until recently that I realized I could express that side of myself in other ways, like writing erotica about my sex life.
A few examples of alternate avenues:
- Porn too weird for you but still want to consume sexy media? Try reading your porn instead. Erotica, erotic comics, and yes, smutty fanfiction are all porn. Audio porn is really great too.
- Not comfortable with dirty talking? Communicate/express desire during sex (or while sexting) in other ways. Want to call someone a dirty little slut but can’t bring yourself to say the words? Draw attention to how aroused they are by touching the evidence. Want to sext that you’re thinking about someone but you’re uncomfortable with nudes? Take a picture of your mouth while biting your lip.
Explore your sexuality through the lens of an interest or hobby you love.
I did mention fanfiction already, didn’t I? Reading (and writing) sexy fanfic is was probably the gateway to sexual expression for at least 30% of my generation.
Pairing sexuality with one of your existing hobbies is a great way to ground yourself in familiarity as you explore. Pokemon Go, dancing, tabletop rpgs, makeup… Yes, even reading can be turned into an avenue of sexual expression.
Embrace the awkward.
Romantic comedy heroines, action movie love interests, and the stars of television sitcoms are often endearingly quirky and awkward. For a year, openly weird and clumsy actress Jennifer Lawrence was the internet’s relatably weird darling. 1999’s The Mummy’s main characters – Evelyn and Rick – are both incredibly awkward in their own ways, and both remain at the top of everyone’s childhood crush lists (don’t @ me.)
Shy, clumsy, and a little weird is a genuinely sexy aesthetic. It’s often fetishized alongside the idea of inexperience or modesty, but not always. Awkwardness is something we associate with our crush from next door (the one that always forgets our name and trips over the recycling.) It’s desirable. But more importantly, it’s you. And you don’t have to carve out pieces of your personality to express yourself, sexually or otherwise.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be extroverted and brazen to be comfortable with your sexuality. One of my favorite writers, Felicity of Phallophile Reviews, is shy and reserved – and yet she’s a top tier sex blogger and sex toy influencer. Shyness and sex don’t have to be mutually exclusive!