How to Discover Your Sexual Identity and Make the Most of It

Photo: STYLECASTER/Tory Rust

While sex is fairly straightforward from a reproductive standpoint, your sexual identity can be far less concrete and, at times, difficult to navigate (heteroflexibility? Monogamish? What?!). But with life and experience—and notches on your bedpost—it’s common to become more open to exploring and gaining a deeper understanding of your own sexuality.

Embracing the fluid nature of sexuality will definitely help you lead a more a satisfying—and empowering—sex life. And who doesn’t want that? Below, we got an expert’s advice on how to not only understand sexual identity, but how to accept and embrace it.

Why Sexual Identities Matter

Consider the last time you were aroused: what thoughts, people, movements and touches cranked you up? For a simple way to look at sexual identity, whatever turns you on is part of your intimate makeup. As sex expert, Coleen Singer explains, sexual identity is how a person defines oneself in terms of sexual attraction. You might think this is your sexual orientation, but your identity stems past heterosexualty, homosexuality or other combinations and includes other variables, like if you prefer to be dominant or submissive, if role-playing is your vibe or you lean more vanilla under the sheets, Singer says.

Though you probably won’t want to take literal notes post-coital, your sexual identity will continue to change as you have more experiences, so being mindful of your transforming kinks is essential. “Understanding one’s sexual identity is fundamental to a person’s finding the right sexual partner and overall sense of well-being. Identity formation, and specifically sexuality are of the most basic and essential aspects to being a human,” Singer explains. “Without having developed a clear self-awareness of sexual identity, one will likely experience repeated failures in new relationships.”

If you’re beginning to test out various avenues of attraction and eroticism, take these points of advice to get started safely and happily.

What Heteroflexibility Means

Not sure what ‘heteroflexible’ is? No worries, Singer says it’s a relatively new word in the seuxality lexicon. Generally, it’s a variation of bi-sexuality, with a main difference: “heteroflexible people primarily sexually identify as being hetero, but are open to exploration of same-sex encounters,” Singer says. If you fall into this camp, Singer suggests testing the waters by finding a person in your same boat, so you sail through the waves together. One site that’s often used is Adult Friendfinder. “That particular site has been around since the early days of the internet and has hundreds of thousands of listings, including bisexual and heterosexual,” Singer says. “This is a great approach as it keeps your relationship exploration very much controlled with a lot of online interaction prior to arranging to hook up with a new play partner.”

How to Explore Sex Parties

It’s not just BYOB that’s at sex parties, but BYO-open mind. There’s a wide range of triple-X parties available throughout the world, all with various offerings. While some may lean heavily on couples, including swinging or threesomes, others cater to singles and others are hetero or homosexual-specific. It can be a daunting task to figure out which one is best for you, but Singer suggests turning your attention and trust to a reputable and well-established source, like NASCA International. “This site has listings by region of the many variation of sex parties, along with contact info, club rules and protocols and other valuable info,” she notes.

How to Talk About Your Sexuality

In the LGBTQ community, one of the hardest parts of accepting sexual identity is encouraging those you love most to also take you as you are, judgement aside. This is often referred to as ‘coming out’ – but even if you’re heterosexual, your closest pals and family members might not also accept your various sexual preferences, especially if they’re out of the norm. Singer says the thing to remember when explaining your identity is being confident when you express how you feel, while explaining why it’s important to you on a personal level, that those closest to you are understanding and loving. And maybe even more impactfully, being patient with yourself, as your sexuaility will always be fluid. Singer recommends the Human Rights Campaign as a resource, especially since their mission is clear (and inspiring): “Coming out and living openly aren’t something you do once, or even for one year. It’s a journey that we make every single day of our lives. Every coming out experience is unique and must be navigated in the way most comfortable for the individual. Whether it’s for the first time ever or the first time today, coming out can be an arduous journey. It is also a brave decision to live openly and authentically.”

How to Emotionally Accept Your Sexuality

Remember the last time you felt angry? Or frustrated? Or depressed? All of these feelings happen throughout everyday routines and everyone will handle them differently. But one tactic that helps most people is talking it out, instead of keeping it inside. If you’re battling to accept how you feel toward intimate desires, a trusted loved one can help you navigate, without batting an eye or thinking differently of you. Why? You’re more than a label to those who have your best interest at heart. “Your friends and family love ‘you,’ not straight you or gay you, they love you. Talk about it. Use them to lean on. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how their support will help you emotionally accept your sexual identity,” she suggests.

If you don’t have someone in your life you’re comfortable talking to about these matters, Singer says a therapist can also be a beneficial resource, especially if you’re seeking an outside source. “They will help guide you through the process, as well as provide a safe and confidential environment to openly discuss your feelings, fears and inner thoughts,” she says.

How to Understand and Satisfy Your Libido

Much like sexual identity, your libido is going to fluctuate throughout your life too. While you might be up for anything when you’re younger, when you have your first baby, that sleep deprivation might get the best of you and the partner you choose to share your life with. This is when listening to your gut and doing what feels right – not what you’re pressured to do – is in your best interest. And if you can, try to find a partner who matches your sex drive, at least in the beginning. “One should find partners with a similar libido to avoid frustration and conflict down the road. If you know that your sex drive is begging for sex twice a day, it’s best to be upfront about that with a new partner to make sure they can keep up with your pace and sexual needs,” Singer says.