Self-care is a hot topic in wellness, but as sex expert and relationship coach Lila Darville points out, the practice has benefits for your sex life, too. Here, the Well+Good Council member reveals her four best tips for taking care of yourself… and your sex life.
Self-care can look like going to a yoga class or drawing yourself a herb-infused bath, but you may be skipping the foundational piece of self-care—because it isn’t about doing anything at all.
The key to self-care is that crucial step of actually tuning in to one’s own needs and desires, then responding. It’s being true to what you would like (and what you wouldn’t like). It’s being honest about what your needs are and moving from that place in all areas of your life. That's particularly important when it comes to sex.
Applying self-care in your intimate life requires you to be sexually authentic. To start you off, here are my top four suggestions to get you re-imagining the possibilities and creating a space to be yourself in sex.
Look at your sexual preconceptions
Let go of thoughts about what you should be doing, what you should be getting off on, and what has worked before. Instead, return to where you are in the moment and what is honest for you right now.
Typically what we see expressed in sex is the male arousal trajectory and male sexual desires, as we can clearly see in porn. Climax is the perfect example of this, too. What we all seem to be striving for in sex is the male definition of orgasm. Sure, we can climax just like a man can, but there are many ways we can experience orgasm and find pleasure outside of that. There is so much variance in the way women experience desire, pleasure, arousal, and orgasm.
There is so much variance in the way women experience desire and pleasure.
Forget performative sex and the pressure to orgasm. To expand your repertoire, you have to look at the labels and definitions you place on things. Think about what you label "foreplay" to be. What if it were called coreplay or mainplay instead. Would you approach it differently? What about your definition of orgasm? Is it limited to climax, or the “genital sneeze” the way a man typically comes? Could you imagine that your pleasure might look completely different to that? More wavelike? More ebbs and flows? More erratic? Less directional? Less structured?
Focus on the moment
Just like any mindfulness practice, this involves inhabiting your body and experiencing it from the inside. It's called interoception, the sense that helps you understand and feel what is going on inside your body. This is how you understand our own desires: by exploring what is happening in the moment. Now. This is a moment-to-moment attunement.
Listen to what your body is communicating and find the pleasure in your body. Lean into what you like and what feels good, what you want more of (not what you “should” like or want). No more pressure, nowhere to go. Just be curious.
In this way, you are meeting each moment with all of who you are and holding nothing back. This opens the gateway to truth, love, and genuine connection.
Asking for what you want is something that we don’t do enough of. We don’t do it with friends, family, bosses… and we definitely don’t do it with our sexual partners. We normally think of communicating as having a conversation, but there are effective ways to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Talking about sex and sharing our sexual desires like it is any other pleasurable activity is the first way to move everything in a positive direction, but speaking itself only encompasses a fraction of what is being communicated.
The tone of your voice, sounds, body language, and facial expressions are elements of communication that are governed by our energy. Faking pleasure only leads to great confusion.
Place your pleasure at the forefront
For me, the lesson of being sexually authentic was solidified after becoming a mother (but please don’t wait until then). I found that I was giving in every other area of my life. If I did that in sex as well, I would never desire it. Sex had to be a place where I was filling my cup rather than emptying it. Sex had to be about my pleasure, with the full acknowledgement of my needs and desire at that specific time.
Being true to yourself sexually is actually a path of rediscovery. I say rediscovery rather than discovery because we are born sensual creatures. One only has to watch children long enough to see that. They totally inhabit their bodies and their senses and move from a place of pure joy—whatever feels good in the moment. It’s not sexual or erotic, but a pure form of sensual expression.
Being true to yourself sexually is actually a path of rediscovery.
As as we grow, however, we get the messages (both directly and indirectly) that certain aspects of our sensuality are not acceptable, so we begin the gradual process of shutting those parts off.
That is where we are trying to get back to: that level of abandon, freedom, and connection to oneself. To sexually awaken, whatever that looks like to you.
It takes self-examination and radical self acceptance, followed by self-actualization. Notice the “self” part. This is an internal point of reference. Only you can do this, based upon your personal experience.
As a sex coach, only 10% of my work is the mechanics of giving instructions and techniques. The other 90% is channeling people's instinct, true emotion, and authentic intimate connection with themselves—then sharing that connection with someone else. Being your authentic self allows you to experience more freedom from inhibitions, liberation from shame and negativity, trust in oneself and others, a sense of security, and peace. All of it leads to more joy and sexual pleasure.
The greatest act of self-care is just to let yourself be you—unapologetically and authentically. And the best part? Showing up as all you are in life and in sex is completely free, and I promise no other act will leave you feeling more fulfilled and honored!
An expert on sex and intimacy, Lila Darville is a professional relationship coach who brings her body-positive, real-talk approach to stadiums full of women as the pleasure director of a show in Las Vegas called Magic Mike Live.
What should Lila write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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