Let's start by acknowledging that sexuality exists on a spectrum, encompassing feelings of sexual attraction, arousal, and connection. From being asexual to sexual, individuals span this spectrum. In heterosexual relationships, especially for cisgender women and non-binary individuals with vulvas, many find themselves less often or never being the one to initiate sexual intimacy. This article aims to assist those who wonder, "Why do I struggle to initiate sex? I want to, but I find myself stuck in the moment."
Across many cultures, people with vulvas have been conditioned to believe that expressing a desire for sex openly implies something negative about their character – that they are somehow immoral or impure. While this might be a turn-on for some, it can severely impede basic communication about sexual desires for others. If you've internalized such beliefs that hinder your sexual confidence, it's understandable, but with practice, you can let go of these limiting ideas. Here, a sex coach shares advice on how to initiate sex confidently, without fear of rejection...
Why do people avoid initiating sex?
There are two primary reasons why individuals might hesitate to initiate sex – fear and conditioning.
Fear often stems from various sources. It could be influenced by religious beliefs, past negative experiences, or an anticipation of rejection or emotional pain. The mind instinctively steers away from potential hurt, prompting individuals to wait for their partner to initiate sexual intimacy.
Conditioning is shaped by our life experiences, encompassing both beneficial lessons and limiting beliefs. Some aspects of our conditioning support us, while others restrict us. Often, despite the desire to pursue one's partner more actively, individuals may find themselves letting time pass without initiating any intimate encounters.
For vulva owners, a significant aspect of their conditioning is rooted in societal attitudes toward female sexuality, often polarized between the concepts of the "virgin" and the "whore." Cultural norms perpetuate the idea that women should not openly embrace their sexual desires. These notions might linger in the subconscious or manifest as inner voices condemning any expression of fantasies as unacceptable. Even within committed relationships or marriages, the discomfort around discussing sex persists, inhibiting open communication with the person you're sharing your life with.
Why you should be more aggressive about initiating sex
Research has shown that in long-term cisgender, heterosexual relationships, men often underestimate their partners' level of arousal and desire for intimacy. This bias might lead to hesitancy in initiating sex, stemming from a desire to respect their partner's boundaries or a fear of rejection. However, this approach can inadvertently hinder sexual intimacy between partners. To bridge this gap, it's crucial to communicate your desires effectively, express your signals more explicitly, ask for intimacy in alluring ways, and continue discovering each other's preferences. This shift can alleviate the pressure primarily placed on one partner, fostering a more mutual and fulfilling sexual connection.
Ways to initiate sex with your partner
Mastering the art of initiating sex requires effort and time to overcome fear and conditioning that might hold you back. By adopting new approaches, you can leave behind outdated thought patterns that no longer serve you. Here are two techniques to help you initiate sex confidently and feel positive about it.
1. The redirect
If you approach your partner for intimacy and they're not feeling it, there are various ways to react:
You could take it personally, leading to disappointment or applying pressure. You could simply acknowledge their response, express understanding, then tend to your own pleasure by masturbating, allowing both of you to continue your day without any distress. You might propose rescheduling for another time. Alternatively, you can check if your partner desires a different form of intimacy, adjusting your approach accordingly. The ideal choice here is anything but the first option. If you find yourself hesitating and leaning toward options 2 through 4, considering them more mature and rational, yet grappling with past behaviors, take a pause. It's essential to recognize that both of you possess unique sexual preferences, needs, and desires. Sometimes, your sexual encounters are solo; other times, they're shared. Remember, your orgasm is your own responsibility. Embrace this individuality.
Despite your partner's high libido, there will be instances when you desire sex and they don’t—and that’s absolutely fine. If they've been the one initiating previously, chances are they've experienced rejection or redirection from you. It's a mutual exchange!
Learning to gracefully accept their decline, suggesting a raincheck, exploring alternatives to intercourse, or acknowledging their "no" requires practice, especially if this approach is new to you. As time progresses, you'll notice the feeling of rejection diminish as you explore these other options. Rainchecks can be fulfilled, solo pleasures can be enjoyed, or other forms of intimacy, like mutual masturbation or kissing, can replace penetrative sex. Transforming a simple "no" into a "not now" or "how about this instead?" can help in processing it positively. Engage in a conversation with your partner about redirecting your approach when either of you isn’t in the mood.
2. "Push the clutch" at the right moment.
You can liken the sexual response cycle of vulva owners to jump-starting a car with a manual transmission. If the battery dies, getting the vehicle in motion down a slight incline allows you to pop the clutch and start the engine. Similarly, vulva owners' sexual arousal operates on a reactive cycle, unlike penis owners who tend to have a more spontaneous arousal pattern.
Studies indicate that the initial phases of the sexual response cycle differ for vulva owners and penis owners. For vulva owners, arousal tends to kick in after sexual activity begins, while penis owners often experience arousal before engaging in any sexual play. In simpler terms, vulva owners get turned on once sexual play starts, whereas penis owners get turned on even before it begins.
Considering this, my suggestion for vulva owners is to try initiating sex even if they initially feel unaroused. Sometimes, engaging in activities like kissing, cuddling, or exploring physical touch can unexpectedly lead to arousal. This approach can help create a more balanced sexual dynamic in your relationship. By reciprocating your partner's initiations, you make them feel desired and appreciated. It fosters a deeper connection and strengthens the erotic bond between both partners.
It's also crucial to allow space for various forms of physical intimacy. Couples can engage in moments of kissing, oral pleasure, or mutual masturbation without necessarily progressing to penetrative intercourse. Recognizing that sex encompasses a spectrum of intimate activities is essential. These moments of closeness and connection are vital for couples, contributing significantly to their sexual bond and ensuring their sexual "batteries" remain charged.