If you’re like most people, the sex ed you got in high school focused on preventing babies and STIs. And it probably didn’t even do that very well. Most of us get to adulthood not having received nearly enough information to navigate our sex lives in the way we need to. I learned this firsthand when I spent 10 years selling sex toys to adults. And I see it every day on the app I run, OkaySo, where we answer questions about sex every day from teens who aren’t getting the information they need, as well as adults who have been living with shame for years and years.
Below are the top 10 things I think every adult should know about sexuality in order to build the happy, healthy sex life they deserve. You’ll probably notice that these are not your typical “10 things that will drive your partner wild” — these are the deeper things we all need to have.
Fact 1: We bring ourselves to the bedroom.
Sex doesn’t exist outside of who we are in the rest of our lives. We bring all of the messages that we received from our family, history, and culture into our sex lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. This creates expectations our partner might not share or shame that can be hard to let go. To truly understand ourselves and be present in our sex lives, we have to spend time digging in to those messages and learning to disrupt and distrust the negative ones.
Fact 2: Sexuality is a journey.
There is no point when we are “done” exploring our sexuality. Who we like, what we like, and how we like it can change from day to day, month to month, or over our lifetimes. This is totally normal and something to be embraced in ourselves and our partners.
Fact 3: Our partners are not mind readers.
I know it feels simple, but I’ve seen far too many couples struggle with this. We have to express with words how we’re feeling, what we like, and what we need. Our partners cannot figure this out without help. How do we have these sometimes difficult conversations? A lot of open and honest communication, a willingness to be vulnerable, and some really great listening.
Fact 4: Everyone is different.
In my many years selling sex toys the most common question I was asked was “Which one is the best?” The answer is that there is no “best,” there’s just the best for you. That doesn’t just go for sex toys, that goes for everything. Everyone is different — one person’s too hard is another person’s too soft, one person’s I don’t like that is another person’s I love it. This what makes sex fun! We get to explore and learn about ourselves and someone else.
Fact 5: “Good” sex is not a formula.
There isn’t any one way that you have to feel or any one thing that you have to do to be a good sex partner or have a good sex life. There isn’t an amount of sex you need to be having (and most people aren’t having as much as you think) or a way you need to feel or a trick you need to learn to have good sex. It can be whatever you want or need it to be.
Fact 6: Pleasure matters.
Our partner’s pleasure and our own pleasure deserve an equal amount of attention, care, and curiosity. If you’re only in it for your own pleasure and not your partner’s or, conversely, if you’re only focused on your partner’s pleasure and not on your own, that means there’s something missing and it’s time to think about why that’s happening and what you can do about it.
Fact 7: Orgasms are nice, but not required.
There is a lot of effort, energy, and worry expended on whether or not orgasms are happening in a sexual relationship. While orgasms are nice (don’t get me wrong), they should not be the only “goal.” Pleasure, intimacy, and connection are wonderful goals that don’t involve the pressure of orgasm. In fact, worrying too much about orgasm can actually make it harder to achieve. So focus on connecting first, and then orgasms should they happen.
Fact 8: The clit is where it’s at.
Important fact: 75% of people with a clitoris will need it to be stimulated in order to reach orgasm. I’ve lost track of the amount of people I’ve talked to who were convinced that something was wrong with them because penetrative sex didn’t feel amazing. But in fact, the clitoris is the only organ in the entirety of human bodies that exists solely for pleasure. It has 8,000 nerve endings, it extends back into the body, and it’s amazing.
Fact 9: Your penis size is fine.
Did you know that the most Googled question about sex is about penis size? Our culture has created this idea that bigger penises are always more desirable, but it’s just not the case. Vaginas and anuses are erectile, flexible tissue. They don’t have a size that they need to feel full — they expand to surround whatever is penetrating them. Are there some people who might like an extra full feeling? Yes. Are there others who find that painful and uncomfortable? Also yes. So if you’re average, don’t stress it. Focus on what actually brings your partner pleasure instead of assuming it will be the size of your penis.
Fact 10: Sex toys are awesome.
I’ve talked to many people who thought sex toys were only for people who were having “issues” or needed to “spice things up.” I’m here to tell you using sex toys, whether you’re single or in a relationship, can be awesome. They can provide types of stimulation we can’t experience any other way; they can help us reach orgasms in new ways; they can change how we experience pleasure with a partner… and so much more. So if you’ve been thinking they’re just for “other people,” consider learning a bit and seeing if anything sounds exciting.
I can almost guarantee you that none of these things were covered in your high school sex ed classes. So if a lot of this was new to you, that’s ok! This is your journey and wherever you are on that journey is right where you’re supposed to be. I hope the next steps, wherever they take you, are filled with curiosity and joy.