We all have things we’re more comfortable and familiar with sexually. For some of us it might look like strap-on sex with a long-term partner, while for others it might look like kinky threesomes. As long as you’re practicing strong communication and enthusiastic consent, it’s okay to be exactly where you are and no practice is better than any other.
But sometimes, it’s good to check in with yourself to make sure you’re in your comfort zone because you want to be, not because you’re afraid to leave it. Looking beyond your current horizons can broaden them, be a way to try new things, encourage you to go deeper into your desires and where they come from, help you be more open to new experiences, and encourage you to grow. So what do you do to get started? Here’s how to step out of your sexual comfort zone.
Practice Consuming a Wide Selection of Porn and Erotica
The sexual comfort zone is layered with not only what we do in bed and how we do it, but also who we do it with. Reading a wide selection of erotica can paint a picture of the different paths that fantasies can take – edited anthologies are especially great for giving you the best opportunity to find a story where you connect with both the fantasy and the writing – and should definitely be part of expanding your sexual practice. (Also, they’re fun.)
But watching a wide selection of porn with a wide selection of people interacting in a wide selection of ways is an extremely underrated and extremely important way to engage with different representations of desire, not only for how it can broaden the desire you show towards other people but for how it can broaden the acceptance and desire you feel towards yourself.
I’ve heard the critique that no one in queer porn is hot – which is just untrue. Everyone in queer porn is hot. It is true, however, that queer porn stars often transcend heteropatriarchy’s narrow definitions of hotness as thin, white, cis, able-bodied, and presenting in a narrow selection of ways. If you have never watched queer porn because you just don’t find anyone in it attractive, it’s worth reflecting on what messaging about beauty and bodies you’ve internalized that have led you to that conclusion. Then, work to expand.
Consider the place you are now a beginning, rather than an end. Seek out three queer porn scenes with setups you find hot, but that feature stars to whom you might not normally be drawn. Then, seek out three scenes with people you find hot, but with actions or set-ups that are outside of your usual repertoire. (If you never watch porn, there’s no time like a pandemic; I recommend director Shine Houston’s award-winning Crash Pad Series) While you watch, pay attention to the moments that challenge your view of what’s hot. Where does the resistance live in your body? While giving yourself permission to feel that, where can you also connect with moments of desire?
Investigate Your Own Desires and Boundaries
Sometimes, it can be helpful to have a framework for where you’re starting so you can have a better perspective on where you want to go. Working with a yes/no/maybe list can be a way to create that framework and get in touch with lots of different elements of your sexuality. Scarleteen’s yes/no/maybe focuses on safer sex, sexual responses, and vanilla sexual actions; That Other Paper has a more kink-focused yes/no/maybe; and Autostraddle has a queer-specific, more visual worksheet. Take your time alone to work through the list over a few days, really sitting with and thinking about each item. When you’re not thinking about what you should want and are just thinking about what you do want, where does each item fall on your list?
When you’re done, focus on the yeses and the maybes. What are you already happy with or bringing into your sex life, with partners or alone? What do you want to make more room for?
Share Your Desires and Boundaries with a Partner
If you have a partner, doing a yes/no/maybe list alone separately and then bringing them together can help you identify new places to explore. If you’ve each said “yes” to something but haven’t tried it together, what can you do to introduce it into your sex lives? If someone wrote “yes” for something and someone else wrote “maybe,” what does having a conversation around that look like? (Like any conversation around sex, have the conversation in a time and location where you’re not actively trying to have sex if you want the best chance of success.) There might be more room to explore together than you think.