NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Finding Your Sexual Voice

This article will focus on what it means to find your sexual voice and discuss the steps you can take to develop this part of yourself (see my articles: Tips on Sexual Self Discovery and Sexual Self Discovery With Pleasure Mapping).

This article is focused mostly on heterosexual women because they often have problems with their sexual voice.  But this article is also relevant for heterosexual men and LGBTQ folks.

Finding Your Sexual Voice

What Does It Mean to Develop Your Sexual Voice?
Finding your sexual voice includes:
What Are the Benefits to Developing Your Sexual Voice?
Developing your sexual voice to communicate your needs to a partner is usually an empowering experience if you're with the right person (see my article: What is Sexual Self Esteem?).

Many heterosexual women have difficulty expressing their sexual desires because they've been conditioned to repress these sexual expression.  They might have been raised to believe that men should take the sexual initiative and women should be passive about sex.

In addition, based on sex research, most women experience responsive sexual desire, which means that they don't necessarily feel sexually turned on until they start having sex.  So, they're often unaware of what turns them on.  One possible way to overcome this problem is to look back on previous peak erotic experiences (see my article: What is Eroticism?).

According to Dr. Emily Nagoski, sex educator, about 15% of women experience spontaneous sexual desire where they're mentally aware of desiring sex which gets them physically turned on.

Even for heterosexual women who are in touch with their sexual desires, expressing their desires can feel too emotionally risky for many of them. Shame and worry that they'll be labeled a "slut" is an issue or that male partner might feel threatened if they are sexually assertive.

So, instead of expressing their sexual desires, they focus on pleasing their partner and put their own sexual needs last.  This is often due to the fact that many women are raised to be "people pleasers" so they focus on pleasing other people, including their sexual partners, instead of focusing on their own needs.

This can be especially problematic during casual sex when a heterosexual woman's partner might also be focusing only on his own sexual needs.  Then, both the man and the woman unknowingly collude in making sex an unsatisfying experience for the woman (see my article: Closing the Orgasm Gap Between Men and Women - Part 1 and Part 2).

Another issue is that many heterosexual women expect their partner to know what they want sexually without telling them, but their partner might be completely unaware of what they want.  Or their partner might assume that, in the absence of feedback from the woman, whatever they're doing is sexually satisfying when, in fact, it might not be.  

As a result, many of these women end up feeling sad, angry and resentful that their sexual needs aren't being met.  But this doesn't have to be the case as you'll see if you keep reading.

Why Is It Difficult to Find Your Sexual Voice?
Finding and using your sexual voice can be difficult, especially for women, in a society that emphasizes many false and unhelpful messages about sex, including:
  • Sex only involves penis in vagina (PIV) for heterosexual couples
  • Hard and fast sex is the only sex that is fun
  • Sex should be performative and always ends in orgasm
  • A cultural stigma that still exists against heterosexual women being sexually empowered
Let's explore each one of these issues:

    Sex Only Involves Penis in Vagina (PIV) For Heterosexual Couples:
Penis in Vagina (PIV) is also referred to as penetrative sex. 

Many individuals and couples have a limited definition of sex, which involves only PIV for heterosexual people. This is the message received in movies and TV programs.  In addition, sex education is generally so poor in the United States that many adolescents and adults never learn anything beyond PIV sex--if they even learn about that.

While there's nothing wrong with PIV, there are many more ways to have sexual pleasure and enjoy yourself, including kissing, erotic massage, oral sex and much more.  It's all a matter of using your imagination and being able to communicate what you want so you can expand your definition of sex.

In addition, some people don't like PIV.  For many people PIV becomes too goal oriented and adds too much pressure to sex.  In fact, many heterosexual women don't orgasm from PIV.  They prefer clitoral stimulation instead--either alone or in addition to PIV (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Script).

    Hard and Fast Sex is the Only Sex That is Fun
Once again, in addition to mostly showing PIV sex, TV programs and movies usually portray sex between two people as being hard and fast ending in simultaneous orgasm for both people.  But while hard and fast can be fun for some people at times, other people prefer slow, loving and sensuous.  They prefer to ease into sex with touching and kissing.  Or some people alternate, depending upon their mood, between with wanting hard and fast and wanting slow, loving and sensuous.  So, there's no one-size-fits all (see my article: 

In addition, hard and fast sex places a lot of pressure on a heterosexual couple.  For men, hard and sex becomes anxiety-ridden performative sex, which can create problems with erectile dysfunction.  For women, hard and fast sex isn't always sexually satisfying. They feel the pressure to appear as if they've had an orgasm.  This leads to many women faking orgasm, which is a problem in itself because their partners don't learn what these women need to feel sexually satisfied.

    Sex is Performative and Always Ends in Orgasm
There are many reasons for having sex aside from deriving sexual pleasure.  For instance, many people feel the most emotionally and intimately connected with their partner when they have sex.  

Assuming you want to have more emotionally and physically satisfying sex, it's a good idea to move away from the idea of sex as a performance, as I mentioned above (see my article: What is Performative Sex?).

This also means that sex between you and your partner might not always end with an orgasm, but this doesn't mean that the experience wasn't pleasurable.  It's a matter of expanding your sexual repertoire to discover what is pleasurable for both of you.

    A Cultural Stigma That Still Exists Against Heterosexual Women Being Sexually Empowered
Unfortunately, there's still a cultural stigma in Western society against heterosexual women being sexually empowered.  In fact, women seem to lose either way--if they're sexually assertive, they're labeled as "whores" or "sluts" and if they're passive, they're labeled as being "frigid."  So, heterosexual women get mixed messages about being sexually empowered.

In addition, many women take their social cues about from social media where women are often objectified.  This results, in turn, in women objectifying themselves.  

Heterosexual women can't change this on their own. It's up to everyone to be aware of this stigma and create a culture that embraces all women's sexuality--whether they're heterosexual, lesbians, bisexual women or trans women.

How to Learn to Voice Your Sexual Curiosity and Desires
For many people talking about sex is fraught with problems--even when they're trying to communicate their sexual desires to a loving partner in a committed relationship. 

Finding Your Sexual Voice

People, especially women, are often overcome with shame when they try to talk about sex.  Often this is because they never learned how to talk about sex and/or they don't know what they like because they've never engaged in their own sexual self exploration.

Finding Your Sexual Voice
  • Understanding Your Motivation For Sex: Your motivation for sex can vary at different times and with different people.  If you're feeling sexually turned on, you might just want to have fun.  In other words, sex doesn't have to be loving and tender--it can be lusty and exciting or it can be both--depending upon what you want.  Sex should never feel obligatory or forced on you.  
Letting Go of Goals
  • Stop Approaching Sex in a Goal-Oriented Way: Sex between you and your partner isn't always going to end in simultaneous orgasms for both of you.  It's possible that neither of you will have an orgasm at times and, rather than being disappointed, consider the other pleasurable aspects of having sex. The pressure to achieve sexual goals is often a barrier to pleasurable sex. So, instead measuring sex based on a goal, focus on sexual pleasure for you and your partner.  In addition, become aware of your own and your partner's erotic blueprint so you can have more enjoyable sex.
  • Become Aware and Attuned to Your Own Sensations: While it's important to be attuned to your partner, if you don't know what turns you on sexually, you need to take time on your own to focus on yourself.  This can mean different things to different people.  In my prior article I provide suggestions on how to discover what is sexually pleasurable for you. In addition, keeping an erotic journal can help you to become more aware and attuned.
Communicating With Your Partner
Once you're aware and attuned to your own sensations, what you like sexually, and what you're curious to explore, you can communicate with your partner.

Communicating With Your Partner

As I mentioned earlier, talking about sex can be difficult for many people.  

If you have difficulty talking about your sexual desires, you and your partner can practice talking about your sexual fantasies or, if that's too difficult, watch erotic films or porn to discover what you both might enjoy (see my article: Exploring and Normalizing Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Many people have problems discovering their sexual voice due to a variety of unresolved issues, including sexual anxiety, a discrepancy in sexual desire between partners, a history of sexual abuse, painful sexshame and guilt and a variety of other sexual problems (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy for individual adults and couples. There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Instead of struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a sex therapist so you can overcome the obstacles keeping you from having pleasurable sex.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW.- NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.