Does understanding your sexual needs impact your sexual wellness?

We act on our needs and desires only after we can identify them. It just so happens that understanding these needs and wants will improve your sexual experiences, increase your knowledge surrounding sexual health and wellness, foster greater sexual enjoyment and emotional intimacy, and promotes sexual hygiene.

First, let’s chat about how we can identify and act on our needs and desires.

Realizing Your Needs and Desires 

Everybody, and every body, is different. What is healthy, pleasurable, or a wellness practice for you, might not be to someone else. We all have different needs and desires – tuning in and listening to them is the part that often trips people up. In your quest to identify your needs/desires/concerns, I want you to keep these three steps in mind:

  1. Tune in
  2. Identify
  3. Express
  4. Plan

Let’s walk through the details of each step so that you have one more tool in your toolbox on the journey to self-exploration and understanding.

1. Tune in

When I say “tune in,” I mean tune into your body and listen. Sometimes, this is called a body scan. One method of doing this is to get comfortable (sitting, laying down, etc.), close your eyes, and starting at your toes, identify any sensations, acknowledge them, and reflect on them. It’s important to remember that we do not judge what we are feeling, but rather sit with those feelings and reflect on them. This might feel difficult, uncomfortable, or even unsettling at first, but that’s all part of the process.

2. Identify

As you move up to the top of your head, focusing on each body part as you go, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • What sensations am I feeling?
  • How do these sensations make me feel?
  • If you find yourself judging an observation, why might that be?
  • What feelings are coming up?
  • What does my [body/part of my body] need right now?
  • What does my [body/part of my body] want right now?
  • What do I need right now?
  • What do I want right now?
  • What would make my body feel better right now? And, is this something I can do for myself?

3. Express

    After you’ve identified the desires and needs of you and your body, you can express them – whether that’s to yourself, to a partner, to a doctor, etc. It’s one thing to internally acknowledge a need or desire, but another thing entirely to use your voice. Women and marginalized groups have historically been made to feel that their needs, desires, hopes, fears, and voices are not worthy of being heard. Also, stereotypically, women have been, and continue to be, socialized to be quiet and put others’ priorities ahead of their own. So, if you feel nervous about expressing yourself or stating that you have needs… it’s not because you are weak or lack the chutzpah, but rather, you (and all of us) are products of the society we live in which didn’t give us the skills or vocabulary to express ourselves.

    4. Plan

    This is where many Type As will feel most at home – now is the time to move forward with the new knowledge you have about what you need or want. This might mean that you have a discussion with your partner, make a doctor’s appointment, or look in the mirror and tell yourself what you need to hear.

    Real-World Application

    Let’s look at a hypothetical situation where we can apply these four steps. Our example and case study will be about Alex. Alex has been feeling disconnected from her long-term partner, Sam, whom she loves dearly. Their relationship is great other than this feeling of “something is missing,” that Alex can’t quite identify. 

    Alex reads this blog post (good for Alex) and knows that when Sam and she are having sex, she checks out mentally to brainstorm her to-do list for later. So, Alex decides to try out what she read here. 

    The next time Sam and she are having sex, she asks Sam to take a beat so she can do a body scan. She notices that her toes are cold, she desperately needs to reapply lube, and she realizes that she has checked out because while she’s enjoying herself, the experience could be far more pleasurable if they were using a vibrator also. 

    Sam, despite feeling nervous and not wanting to offend Alex, says:  “I feel a bit apprehensive about saying this just because I never want to offend you. I’m really enjoying myself, but the experience would be even better if I used my vibrator too. Is that cool with you?” Alex says, “of course!” Sam continues, “Also, my feet are a bit cold, so I’m going to grab socks. While I grab some socks, can you find the lube?” Then after their scavenger hunt for the vibrator, fuzzy socks, and lube, then they both have a million orgasms and go to bed (it’s a work night and sleep is important). 

    Hooray for Sam! (Notice how Sam did not apologize at any point for having needs/desires or expressing them)

    Sexual wellness is not just about your physical being, and tuning into your desires isn’t a skill we are taught. Take the time to get to know yourself – it’s not self-indulgent, it’s self-care. 

    Written by:

    Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH

    American Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist