Think for a moment: what really turns you on?
Perhaps you’re drawing a blank or struggling to think of some examples—and that’s okay! It’s not just you. Many of us struggle to articulate our desires and put a finger on what makes us feel aroused.
If you’ve ever felt like you’re in a bit of a sexual rut, ‘going through the motions’, or you’re not even sure of how to begin approaching sex in an enjoyable and fun way, it can help to have a long think about what truly excites you and how you can make it a part of your sex life. And there are some massive benefits to having this understanding of yourself!
“Knowledge is power,” says sex coach Georgia Grace, “And the more you learn about your sexual self the easier it will be to communicate this with others.”
Once we understand our own turn-ons, we can start incorporating them into our sexual and romantic lives and making them a real, tangible part of the sex we’re having. Engaging with our desires in a practical way like this can make us feel more fulfilled, and feeling fulfilled in bed is something we’re always in favour of.
If you want to figure out what turns you on, and learn a little bit about yourself in the process, read on—we’re going to show you how.
“The simple fact that you’re engaging with sex-positive content should help you realise that you’re committed to feeling more sexually confident,” says Georgia. “And a powerful way to that goal is to seriously consider, and make note of, what turns you on and what turns you off.”
Georgia regularly coaches individuals and couples in how to feel more confident and present in bed, and one thing she suggests many of her clients do is create a list of what they like and what they don’t.
“This is something you can do in your own time and in whatever way you’d prefer: in your head, written down on your phone, even on a huge whiteboard you keep in your room! It doesn’t matter.” What does matter is that you start sorting through all of that information and getting in touch with how you feel. Don’t censor yourself—create a private, quiet space in which you can be totally honest.
Once you’ve started writing down some ideas, you might begin to see some patterns emerging. If you find that you’re really turned on by the feeling of silk, Latex, and leather on your body—for example—perhaps you can experiment with wearing different fabrics while having sex or masturbating. And if you realise that you definitely don’t enjoy certain acts, maybe you can identify a connecting thread between them and use it as a learning experience to understand a little more about yourself.
A list is a great way to learn about your turn-ons and turn-offs, but it’s not the only way. Here are some other simple and hopefully fun exercises that we recommend:
Engage all of your senses
If the thought of starting with a blank page intimidates you, break it down a little and try to find some enjoyable things that target each of your senses. For example: what smells make you feel relaxed and comfortable? (A certain candle, your lover’s fragrance, fresh bedsheets?) What tastes do you enjoy? What kind of touch makes you feel good? How do you like to be spoken to, and what do you like to look at? Your answers don’t have to be sexual, but they certainly can be. Once you’ve made a list of the things that are enjoyable to your senses, make a list of things that aren’t enjoyable. (The smell of dirty laundry? The sound of the neighbour’s lawn mower?)
Consider the porn and erotica you consume
If you watch, read, or even write porn and erotica, have a think about whether there are any specific themes you gravitate towards. Perhaps there’s a power dynamic that appeals, or a particular plot line—or maybe there’s just a specific body type that you find yourself searching for again and again. The media we consume can reveal a lot about us, so we suggest finding out what your media says about you.
Pay attention to what you think about when you masturbate
Do you have any favourite fantasies that you like to indulge in? What do they have in common? Maybe they all centre around a certain act, person, dynamic, or situation—or maybe there’s something that they all avoid. By thinking about the things our brains naturally gravitate towards when we’re feeling aroused, we can move towards understanding what made us feel turned on in the first place.
Write down your fantasies
Everyone has a creative side, and we suggest engaging yours by crafting a quick fantasy story. Grab a blank page or your Notes app, set a timer for five minutes, and do some free writing. Don’t censor yourself, go back and correct anything, or think about what you want to say next—just write, and see what comes out. It doesn’t have to be true, it just has to get your imagination working! If you’re not sure where to begin, start with a prompt like, “I thought it was going to be a normal day, but…” or, “When my lover told me they’d try anything I wanted, I asked them to…”.
If it appeals to you, try experimenting with your curiosities in a real, physical way, in a context that feels safe and comfortable for you. Maybe you can role-play a sexy scene with a partner, or maybe meeting someone new to live out a fantasy is the right choice. However you choose to do it, consider your boundaries first, and make sure your lover is aware of what you are and aren’t willing to try.
Once you have an idea of some of your turn-ons and turn-offs, you can begin putting your new knowledge to work. Georgia suggests asking yourself, “How can you create a context in which fewer turn-offs are present? And how can you actively create a context with more turn-ons?”. Maybe you can eliminate some of those sensory dislikes and replace them with scents and sounds that you enjoy. Or perhaps you can explore more of the erotica you enjoy—with your partner, if they’d like to join you!
It’s important to understand that understanding your sexual likes and dislikes can be a lifelong process for most of us. It’s definitely not something we can expect to conquer in an afternoon, so don’t feel bad if you try a couple of our activities and don’t get the results you hope for. Continue searching—try having a conversation with a partner or a close friend, explore some erotica or porn that focuses on a theme you’ve never thought about before, or try joining an online community that discusses sexual exploration.
However you choose to continue finding out about yourself, we support you—and we hope our suggestions have helped you start the journey on the right foot.