Onika Henry is a Tobago-based, trained sex educator (MEd Human Sexuality) and a certified sex coach. She designs and implements workshops, training, and psycho-educational counselling, to address sexual health concerns.
Have you ever been in any of the following situations and asked yourself these questions:
a) How do I carry myself modestly on the streets... and then get wild and freaky beneath the sheets?
b) My boyfriend wants to try all kinds of things and I’m always so reluctant. How can I be less inhibited and more free to explore?
c) I hardly ever initiate sex. My partner is the one always asking. How come I feel so shy when it comes for asking for sex?
d) I am really interested in having sex, yet I say nothing to my partner and instead I drop clues and hints that I want to “get it on.” Why can’t I just say it?
These are not uncommon questions. And while they seem to happen more often in religious communities, it is not at all unusual to find that women from all walks of life have experienced these concerns. These statements describe one of the top ten sexual concerns that women would present to a sex health professional (sex educator, sex counsellor, sex coach and sex therapist) – they don’t initiate or respond to a partner’s sexual overtures. These women suffer from sexual inhibition and they often bear it in silence, until a partner who loves and cares for them forces them into a position that reveals the problem. Often, they find themselves in a position where they want to appease a frustrated or disappointed partner, or they recognise that they are missing out on enjoying or experiencing an important part of their being.
Before I get into the possible causes, here are a circumstances to note – disclaimers maybe. There really is no true normal range for sexual desire because it naturally fluctuates throughout life, due to all kinds of situations (health, relationship issues, ageing, stress, pregnancy, etc). And sometimes there is a sexual mismatch or uneven desire in a couple, where one person’s “not enough” is another person’s “too much.” In these situations, it’s not sexual inhibition that’s the issue. In other words, for those with sexual inhibitions, they want to, there is the desire, but something is blocking them from getting into action.
WHAT CAUSES SEXUAL INHIBITION?
So where did this all start? Why would anyone be so self-restricting when it comes to enjoying their sexuality and sexual pleasure, even at the expense of a loving relationship? Interestingly, causes of sexual inhibition among women mirror those for men. These include:
• sexually negative or repressive messages received in childhood
• a history of self-loathing your body
• a lack of experience
• sexually related incidents in which you were shamed or ridiculed
• long term virginity
Additionally, and perhaps more specifically for women, there may be issues of:
• guilt, shame or fear of sex
• inability to orgasm
• history of sexual trauma or abuse
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR RESOLVING SEXUAL INHIBITIONS?
So how does one begin to find that inner sex goddess, maybe even that dominatrix that’s been longing to show herself all these years? Let’s look at options for resolving sexual inhibition. Some or all of the following may be applied depending on your particular situation:
1) Review your sexual history
Get to the root cause of the inhibition. What happened in childhood or young adulthood that may have been traumatic or that impacted negatively on your sexual worldview? Was there shame about your body? Did you defy your religious teachings about virginity, sexuality or relationships? Did the messages you receive about sexuality make you feel that “good girls” aren’t sexually expressive or that “decent women” don’t actively seek sexual satisfaction? If the issues are really deep and troubling, you will need to have this processed and healed with the aid of a therapist. After therapy, seek out a sexual health professional (sex counsellor, sex coach or sex therapist) to help you with the more practical side of sexuality. The goal here would be to identify the cause and then reframe the issue/s and look at it/them differently.
2) Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to resolve past issues and to let go and heal from childhood upbringing. It is also essential that you give yourself permission to enjoy your sexual being. Believe that you are worthy of being sexual, worthy of receiving pleasure, capable of giving pleasure and know that it is your right to be sexually fulfilled as part of health and well-being.
3) Learn some erotic skills
Work with your sexual health professional to develop, or perhaps more accurately, identify your sexual persona. This involves exercises and techniques to help you unblock your inhibitions and help you explore and identify the kind of lover you are or want to become. This is the really, really fun part, so choose a skilled professional who will be with you and guide you along this journey.
4) Get some sexuality resources
Find books, DVDs, erotica, etc that show positive and empowering images of sexually assertive women. Different images would appeal to different people, so choose based on your comfort level and your values, but don’t be afraid to go a little outside the box, to truly discover who you are. Engage in activities that will safely liberate you sexually, at different levels – maybe Latin dance at the physical level, or erotic novels for the intellectual/mental level.
Bottom line: don’t give up on enjoying your sexuality. And note that you don’t have to go on this journey alone. Find a trusted sex coach/counsellor/therapist, who can make this experience a wonderful and safe one. The world needs sexually liberated women!
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