7 Is one kind of orgasm better than another?

Some self-proclaimed experts claim certain types of sex or orgasms are better or more evolved than others. Sex Coach Dawn Serra calls BS on that, and sets the record straight on orgasms.

The number of crappy sex myths that exist in our culture is literally endless. (I know, because I've been compiling a list for a course I'm building based on those myths and it's already a few pages long at this point.)

The tight vagina/loose vagina myth.

The virgin/slut myth.

The simultaneous orgasm myth.

The bigger is better myth.

The you don't need lube if you're truly aroused myth.

The list goes on.

Frankly, these myths are incredibly damaging to all of us.

Not only do most of us have no idea that we can literally define sex for ourselves and it may not look anything like what we've been told, but many of us have internalized these myths to the point that they feel like facts - facts that we don't live up to. Which in turn leads to anxiety, stress, damaged self-esteem, and disappointing sex.

Within the sex positive community, there is a deep commitment by sex educators, sex bloggers, sex therapists, sex coaches, and other sex professionals to provide the most accurate information we have access to while also inviting people to explore their own sexual truths.

The only universal fact when it comes to sex is that no one rule applies to everyone. We are all outliers in some way.

Why? Because our sexual experiences are based on our unique body landscape, the context of our lives, our past experiences, our community upbringing, our religious beliefs, and many other factors.

The way a specific clitoral stroke feels to me may yield totally different feelings in you. And that is OK. The way that stroke felt to you today at 2pm may feel really different to you tomorrow at 9am - different time, different context, different energy, even different levels of hydration and diet...

But there are some sex "experts" that have come on the scene and do something super dangerous. They preach their personal experiences as universal fact.

They also tend to make completely unfounded claims like how to make a cock bigger or that all women want men who "claim" them or that you don't need birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy or that condoms make sex less sacred so you shouldn't use them.

Yesterday, I saw someone post a link to an older blog post written by one of these self-proclaimed sex gurus in a Facebook group I'm in. The article claimed that clitoral orgasms were distractions to the REAL orgasm, the REAL feminine experience - which is the vaginal orgasm.

I'm calling bullshit (as well as about a dozen other sex educators that I ran it past).

Orgasms are NOT the goal of sex.

Sex is not about goals. Sex is about pleasure. So, maximizing pleasure, doing what feels good in your body in that moment, is where the good stuff is. This might include an orgasm, and it may not. Sometimes sex feels super good, and no orgasm happens.

That doesn't ruin sex or make it pointless.

But if you are orgasmic, the bottom line is no matter what anyone says, your orgasm - the one that feels best in your body - is the sacred kind of orgasm.

It can be a clitoral orgasm, a g-spot orgasm, an anal orgasm, a breath-gasm, an energy orgasm, a laughter-gasm, a tear-gasm - it doesn't matter. It's the release that feels most aligned and in integrity for you in that moment. That's the magic.

And it is OK to strive for a certain type of orgasm - as long as you don't internalize the lack of that kind of orgasm as some type of personal failure or physical problem.

If you have a vulva, some of the sacred sexuality gurus will talk about energetically opening to your partner and welcoming them into your sacred vaginal space. That's cool. But it's not the only way and you don't have to put anything inside of you in order to be sacred or fully embodied in your sexuality.

You can energetically open to someone and NOT take them inside any of your orifices.

You can have an energetic orgasm with all your clothes on.

You can shed all of your masks and bare your soul to a partner in the most painfully vulnerable way without any sexual contact at all.

Just like you can penetrate yourself with whatever and whomever you'd like and it doesn't diminish your value or your sacredness one bit.

And yes - there are some ancient traditions and decades-old sexual rituals that some people choose to follow. You can choose that for yourself, as well. But you can also create your own traditions. Barbara Carrellas has done this with her version of tantra and it's spectacular, inclusive, and honors each person's own body and journey.

So, worship your clit. Orgasm spectacularly from ass play. Have delicious sex and never cum at all.

As long as you're honoring yourself and your body and the moment in a way that feels really good, then you can connect with whatever is sacred for you.

Boycott bad sex advice. Find your own truth and live it unapologetically. Because no one else in the world knows your body like you do.

/rant

Work with me

Are you curious about finding your sexually empowered self? I can help.

From one-on-one coaching to DIY workbooks and my bi-weekly group calls, there are several ways we can work together to help you find the pleasure and desire you crave.

4 What does kinky mean and should I try it?

What does kinky mean and should you try it? Sex coach Dawn Serra explores kinky sex and all the ways it can enhance your sex life and your relationship.

My first real foray into kink was when I stumbled across the Sleeping Beauty series by Anne Rice. I must have been 19 or 20 years old.

My wildly inexperienced but ferociously sexually curious self had never encountered such explicit material before. This wasn’t my mother’s romance novels. This was masochism and group sex and living inside of BDSM 24/7 and pony play and anal play and all manner of public humiliation*.

I never would have had the words for what I was reading back then.

I don’t remember much about that first pass through the books other than feeling really turned on by some of the Dominance play, some of the group sex scenes, and even by some of the public displays of sexuality. But as things got more intense, as the ante was upped in the final book, I know I hit some kind of disgust because I never finished the story.

Kinky wasn’t a word I knew or understood back then. But it was clear that the sex acts in that story were unlike anything else in my world at the time, and that was intriguing. To know such things were even possible as fantasy blew my mind.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I re-read the series. Things that seemed totally foreign and horribly embarrassing to my younger self have now become things I’ve done, enjoyed, or witnessed as part of my sexual journey.

Now I can appreciate the delicious bite of rope, the thrill of being told what to do, the surprising normalcy of being naked in public, and much more.

But that’s my journey, and the beauty of sexual expression is your sexual journey doesn’t have to look anything like mine and it can still be deliciously, beautifully pleasurable and valid. There is no one way of doing sex, of living out fantasies, of keeping things fresh and new.

If that’s true…if there is no one way of doing sex, then what does it mean to be kinky?

Google defines kinky as “involving or given to unusual sexual behavior.”

But what is unusual to me and what is unusual to you are probably different.

For some people, missionary penis-in-vagina sex is highly unusual (in fact, this is a serious kink for some folks because it is so unusual to them). For others, it might be unusual to have their toes sucked on or to have sex in the backseat of a car at the beach or to sexualize needles.

Kink is simply activities that are edgy for you. This broad, fluid definition allows each of us to have our own personal experiences with sex and kink instead of labeling only certain activities as either kinky or vanilla.

Unfortunately, the term vanilla has taken on a somewhat negative or boring connotation. The truth is vanilla is delicious and, depending on what kinds of things you enjoy, vanilla may appear on your menu more or less often than some others.

Most people define vanilla sex as traditional, penis-in-vagina sex, often encompassing a handful of basic positions. But if we apply a similar lens to vanilla that we did to kinky, then instead we might say vanilla sex is the kind of sex that you usually have, that feels normal to you.

Your normal may vary greatly from someone else’s normal.

Kinky is a gigantic umbrella, the vastness of which most of us can’t comprehend.

Needle play. Age play. Impact play. Bodily fluid play. Role playing. Pain play. Sensory deprivation. Public play. Blood letting. Branding. Leather. Sacred sensuality. Humiliation. Worship. Denial. Literally, the list is endless.

That said, often when people are talking about kinky activities, there is a general assumption that you’re probably talking about things like bondage/restraints, Dominance and submission (or power exchange), impact and sensation play like flogging or spanking or temperature, public or group sex, and the community associated with such activities.

And speaking of community, it’s worth mentioning here that there are many communities within kink that have decades of history and protocol that some people consider a core part of their identity.

Many gay, lesbian, and queer folks have found acceptance and family within the leather community. Many people who realized monogamy wasn’t a good fit sought solace in the swinging and poly communities. Many individuals who have complex relationships with their bodies have discovered deep, emotional healing in masochism or other kinds of pain.

Kinky is a personal definition, and one that’s a lot more fluid than some older resources would have you believe. But I also want to take a moment to honor and pay respect to the safe havens that many kinky spaces have offered to marginalized folks over the years.

*steps off soap box*

OK. Back to your regularly scheduled post…so, if kinky sex is sex that is unusual or out of the ordinary, the question is should you try it?

My answer is wonderfully biased and that is a resounding yes.

If you get to define what kinky means to you and your partner(s), then kinky sex means playing with your edges, exploring new things, trying on new identities and fantasies. That kind of playfulness and curiosity will only set you up for a lifetime of interesting and engaging sex.

Of course, anytime you try something new, there are a few basic ground rules that will help set you up for success, even if the act itself is a miserable failure (and that is a perfect opportunity to come together, too).

First up, make sure you and the person you’re playing with both truly want to engage in the activity in question. Let’s say you want to try some rope bondage. It cannot be overstated how important it is for you to allow your partner to choose this for themselves, too. No coercion, no manipulating, just good ol’ fashioned discussions about wants, needs, boundaries, and feelings.

That’s not say you will always be comfortable with what you’re about to do.

Discomfort is natural for new risks, and in fact, you may be trying something that is intentionally awkward, scary, humiliating, painful, or shameful. That can be part of the fun. Being informed and choosing something doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. Play with that edge a little bit. You might be surprised what you find.

Second, safe words are important for a number of reasons, especially if you’re engaging in something potentially dangerous (danger can be physical, emotional, or psychological – you may not be in physical danger during a Dominance/submission scene, but you may be in psychological danger if something triggers or upsets you). Safe words are typically very easy to remember, very easy to say, and decided well in advance of your scene.

Simplicity is important because often when you start doing things that lead to altered states of consciousness, your brain begins to turn off (this can be a yummy, delicious place to be). Remembering and articulating “arachnophobia” may be difficult. The person in the position of giving or topping also needs to be able to understand the word easily.

That’s why some folks like the red, yellow, green method which equates to stop, slow down, and I’m good. Others like plain language and simply saying “please stop” or “slow down”, but depending on the roles you’re playing, this can be confusing.

Finally, do your homework. Some kinky activities are learned skills that can take years to master such as suspension techniques with rope, needle play, or whipping. There are places in most major cities that offer 101 classes and demonstrations. You can find mentors, watch videos, and read books. Safety should always be your number one concern followed by a sense of playfulness and curiosity.

Sometimes people get hurt. This is true of any kind of sexual activity, even the “traditional” kind (I know I’ve knocked my head or stubbed a toe during vigorous sex).

If you’re playing with someone you trust, give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t intend harm, but also be clear about asking for what you need to feel safe – that can be stopping a scene, asking for cuddles, or any number of other things.

Kinky sex doesn’t have to be extreme, it won’t ruin “normal” sex, and it doesn’t lead down a rabbit hole of sin and transgression.

Often people jump to the most extreme case when they hear someone say they want to try something kinky. But bondage can be a blindfold and a silk scarf lightly wrapped around your wrists. Sensation play can be an ice cube trailing down the skin of your lover or a feather tickling the inside of their elbow.

And yes, you may have a riding crop which can be a stingy, incredibly painful tool. But who is to say you can’t use the the tip of the riding crop to gently spell out words of love and devotion across your partner’s back? Who is to say that scary knife some people may use to cut flesh can’t simply be used for the coolness of the blade or for an implied threat that never actually touches skin?

Kinky activities can be as innocent and sweet or as dark and intense as YOU decide them to be.

In fact, many people experience kinky sex as sacred, transcendent, and healing. It can be a place to shed the day-to-day and experience your body in a way that is primal, connected, and totally present.

I know that when I receive a flogging, it’s like a sensual massage – every inch of my body is tingly and alive, I’m breathing and connecting with my top, the sensation is flowing through me, and I become utterly relaxed. As someone who is chronically stressed and anxious and in control, surrendering and receiving so deeply is freeing in a way I don’t have words for.

Kinky sex offers many, many tools for your sexual toolbox. And the point of having a diverse, well-stocked toolbox isn’t to use all of the tools all of the time at maximum strength, or to use one tool over and over again to the point of complete boredom, but so that you have many options for the myriad of situations you may find yourself in throughout your lifetime.

The tools you use on a day when you’re stressed and tense will likely be different than the tools you use on a day when you feel languid and sleepy.

Yes, some people organize their entire lives around their kink. Still others dabble in their version of kink once in a blue moon.

Like all things sex and relationships, kink is but a spectrum and you get to decide how and when and to what degree you’d like to use it.

What is something kinky you’ve been curious about trying? What would you like to know more about?

Comment below and I’ll create some blog posts or videos just for you.

——-

Edited to add this link. This does go to playboy.com, but the video is not racy or sexual and it is REALLY terrific advice about doing kinky stuff safely.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/work-with-me/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]Want to explore what kinky means to you? Need help talking to a partner about your desires? [/callout]

*For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the Sleeping Beauty series are erotic BDSM novels that includes sexual servitude, Dominance, submission, group sex, pony play, public humiliation, forced sex, punishment, and much more.

 

Addyi: Is it safe and should I consider taking it?

The new pink Viagra, known as Addyi or flibanserin, was recently released. Is it safe? Should you take it? Why is it not at all what the pharmaceutical companies are claiming? Learn more about this dangerous drug and what you can do instead if your libido is suffering.

I’ve always been the fat kid. Rather, I’ve always seen myself that way.

Looking at pictures of myself in elementary and middle school, I was taller, thicker, and stronger than most of the girls my age, but in a very athletic way. Still, I’ve spent my entire life feeling like I was fat, which until fairly recently equated to feeling unwanted, undesirable, unlovable, and a host of other inferior things.

When I was in high school and college (and even now, on bad days), I would comfort myself with this fantasy of a mystical being granting me “the perfect body”.

This fantasy was beautifully alluring because instead of learning to appreciate what I had, instead of loving myself in the moment, I could pretend it all away by taking a magic pill that turned my body into that of Sofia Vergara or Jennifer Lawrence.

Of course, the assumption being if I had a body like theirs all of my problems would be solved.

*poof*

The truth is that while these fantasies allowed me to escape the pain I was experiencing in that moment, they caused me so much more harm in the long run.

I spent countless hours wishing for magic instead of using all of that time to embrace myself, to find ways to love myself, to nurture myself, to appreciate my body, or to simply be present in my life and find a way to navigate my truth.

Everything around me, even “inspiring” magazines like O Magazine, shouted at me to lose weight, to shed 10 pounds, to find clothes that “flattered” my shape, that cast the fat girl as the sidekick (because who could actually want someone fat?).

By trapping myself in an unrealistic dream, largely defined by forces outside of myself, I was feeding my shame and self-loathing.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to undo some of that damage. But now I’m much better at looking inside of myself for the answers, even if they contradict all of the messages around me.

So, what does wishing for a magical cure to be skinny have to do with Addyi, the new female arousal drug that’s been called the pink Viagra?

A lot more than you would think.

The fact is that most women in committed, long-term relationships are under the impression that they should be wanting more sex without understanding exactly how desire works. Our world is conditioning us to feel like we are broken when it comes to our desire for sex.

In fact, even though Addyi has only been on the market a few days, one woman has already told me her doctor is pushing her to try it, and that breaks my heart.

Addyi is being touted as the magic pill that “fixes” arousal, when the truth of the matter is the pill doesn’t do what it claims AND 99.9% of the time nothing is actually broken.

There is a lot to say about Addyi and women’s desire. Enough to fill a book (which is exactly what Emily Nagoski did with her AMAZING book “Come As You Are”), so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What is Addyi? How does it work? Are there any dangers that come with taking it? (Yes!) And, if you’re considering Addyi, what can you do instead? Let’s take a look.

Addyi: the not-so-good, the bad, and the ugly

When you think about Viagra, you probably get a pretty vivid picture of a guy taking a pill and suddenly finding himself rock hard. Of course, the assumption is that a hard penis equals wanting to have sex (but we know that isn’t the case at all – just because your body is doing one thing, doesn’t mean your mind is on board).

Basically, Viagra forces a physical response of rushing blood to the erectile tissue and creating an erect cock.

Addyi does not do this. It does not force blood to erectile tissue, it does not cause your vulva to swell with blood or your vagina to lubricate itself with more gusto.

According to Georgetown University Medical Center, Addyi – original name of flibanserin – “failed efficacy trials as an antidepressant and was rejected twice for its current indication before being approved.”

Instead of targeting your genitals, Addyi affects your brain’s chemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Why? Because Addyi is a rebranded antidepressant.

Let’s take a look at a few things that we all need to be aware of:

  • Unlike Viagra, which you take only when you want a hard penis, Addyi must be taken every single day.
  • People in the studies experienced higher rates of fatigue, sedation, unconsciousness, hypotension, and it interacts poorly with many medications, including oral contraceptives.
  • If you take Addyi, you cannot consume alcohol. Since Addyi is a daily pill, that means no alcohol consumption until you decide to go off of Addyi.
  • Your physician is responsible for prescribing Addyi, however, only a sex therapist/professional would know whether Addyi is appropriate for a patient. Physicians do not receive sex education training in medical school (it’s an elective even for gynecologists, which means many gyn’s can opt out of sex education in med school).
  • Speaking of physicians, doctors are receiving seven slides’ worth of training on Addyi. This means most doctors will be woefully under-informed about the risks, side effects, and limited benefits when they prescribe it.

 

Is all of this a problem if it really does help women to experience improved desire for sex?

Sadly, based on the trials, Addyi doesn’t appear to have much of an impact on patients.

Before we dive into that, let’s consider one thing.

“Hypoactive sexual desire disorder was recently dropped from the latest edition of the DSM-5. Disorders of desire and arousal have now been combined in the term ‘female sexual interest/arousal disorder’ (FSI/AD), which takes into account the fact that for many women, desire follows rather than precedes arousal.”

That quote comes from a fact sheet put together by Georgetown University Medical Center. You can see it here.

What that means is the American Psychiatric Association now recognizes that women’s desire is much more nuanced and complex than was previously thought. Back in the old days, the baseline for human sexual desire was that of 18-22 year old males. That was considered “normal” for all of us, regardless of gender, age, race, health, etc.

As a result, women were often considered lacking when it came to sexual arousal and desire – simply because they weren’t experiencing it as spontaneously and as often as young men.

Now, most mental health professionals and sex professionals recognize that our desire is actually much more dependent on context.

And so they removed “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” from the manual. But Addyi’s instructions says it treats “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” – in other words, this medicine claims to treat something that doesn’t even exist anymore.

So, what were the actual results from the flibanserin (Addyi) trials?

Women reported 0.7 more satisfying sexual events per month than women on the placebo.

Less than one. In a month.

Some experts are attributing that small increase to something else, though. The participants were asked to journal about their sexual satisfaction and sexual experiences. By simply placing a higher emphasis on thinking about sex and prioritizing it, it’s no wonder participants experienced a small bump – where your attention goes, energy flows.

What does all of this mean to you?

Addyi may offer a slight improvement in sexual satisfaction for pre-menopausal women who have had a sudden, steep decrease in sexual enjoyment.

However, due to the potential side effects, the possible drug interactions, and the lack of long-term studies on this repurposed pill, most sex professionals are strongly discouraging use.

We do expect more doctors to begin pushing patients to use this drug, but as consumers, we need to be willing to push back.

Desire is a beautiful, complex, tender beast.

If you’re truly struggling with a lack of sexual enjoyment or sexual desire, find a sex positive sex coach, sex therapist, or sex educator to help you explore and navigate what that means.

Often I find that clients are under the impression that they’re broken or that they should want sex more, but when we dig under those beliefs, we find so many other truths.

As you begin redefining sex in a way that fits with your life and your desire, without all of that noise from the outside, you set yourself up for a lifetime of sexual awareness and empowerment.

Instead of wishing for a magic pill to fix you, if you give yourself permission to begin accepting what is, exploring the beauty within, and creating something meaningful for yourself, you’ll find so much more pleasure and desire in the long run.

My advice? Avoid Addyi entirely.

Instead, unpack your sexual experience with the help of a professional. Roll around in your fantasies. Say the scary stuff. Confront the parts of your life that aren’t lifting you up. Do the work that unleashes your sexual self.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/work-with-me/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]If you’re considering Addyi or you’re ready to explore your own desire, I’m here to help. [/callout]

1 Healthy relationships & sex: One skill to rule them all

Sex coach Dawn Serra talks about the one skill that can help create healthy relationships, great sex, and even a better life for yourself. What is it? Find out in this week's blog post.

People like to dismiss the thing that is simple in favor of the thing that is more complex and validating.

Why?

Sometimes we just aren't ready to change, and if the answer is simple, we'll look for any way to avoid actually solving the problem because change is scary.

Sometimes knowing that the thing we've been struggling with for weeks, months, or even years had a simple solution makes us feel foolish or ordinary. And we like feeling like our pain is unique and important.

Of course, simple does not mean easy, and sometimes that frustration can make us want to find another way.

Most of our relationship and sex problems stem from three things: assumptions, beliefs, and expectations.

The single most powerful skill that I've found that invites a healthy relationship and a sexy connection is curiosity.

Curiosity fosters openness and allows us to let go of those unhealthy behaviors that can keep us stuck. This is true of friendships, love, sex, business, family, and even your own inner thoughts.

We are a world built on labels, rules, and expectations.

While rituals and frameworks do lend a certain efficiency and stability to our lives, too often we cling desperately to the "supposed to" and the "should" or we remain rigid in the face of new information, unwilling to change a belief because it's too uncomfortable or scary.

After all, being right gives us a sense that we have some control in this world.

If you can't be right, what can you hold on to?

Let's take a closer look at how curiosity can strengthen and heal your relationship with yourself, with a partner, and with sex.

The path to inner peace and self-awareness is paved with curiosity.

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

I am famous for beating myself up. The perfectionist in me is loud and bossy. The mean girl inside loves telling me all the ways I'm not good enough, especially if I make a mistake with someone I love.

For years, I lived a life that wasn't what I wanted because I believed I didn't deserve more - who could love me in this fat body with all these flaws? I settled, over and over again.

Our internal dialog creates the life we live. Our thoughts and feelings birth the experience we have. That's why when we're caught in anxiety or worry or a shame spiral, things can feel so utterly bleak.

One of the most powerful tools I've learned is that of mindful curiosity.

When I react to something, instead of beating myself up for my reaction, if I invite honest, open curiosity about my response, I'll usually find a powerful truth hidden under the feelings.

This kind self-inquiry means you can tap into your real needs and emotions a lot faster than if you force, criticize, and insult yourself.

It's also really powerful to use this kind of open, honesty curiosity when you want to release old thought patterns or change a habit.

Imagine you come home after a long day to a filthy house and your partner is sitting on the couch watching TV. You completely clam up and stomp around the house silently fuming. Each thing that isn't done makes you more angry.

How would this moment be transformed if you caught yourself, took a deep breath, and then got curious.

Why am I so angry?

Because you-know-who couldn't be bothered to help around the damn house.

Why does this bother me so much?

Because I'm exhausted. I had a long day and I just cannot relax if the house looks like this. It's gross.

What can I do to let go of this anger so that I can try to relax a little tonight?

I could talk to my partner and ask for help instead of punishing myself and being passive aggressive.

What can I do to make myself feel better right now?

Take a deep breath and pause for a moment.

Real curiosity isn't manipulative, assumptive, or dishonest.

It takes honesty, vulnerability, and openness to be curious which is why it's such a magnificent tool. If you aren't tied to an outcome, you invite flexibility and space for a real experience to happen.

Wouldn't a little more space in your thoughts feel luxurious?

When you're curious about your partner, you create an invitation for connection rather than building a wall of assumption.

"Curiosity begets love. It weds us to the world. It's part of our perverse, madcap love for this impossible planet we inhabit. People die when curiosity goes." Graham Swift

Having a routine means things can run more smoothly when days get busy and you're short on time. But sometimes routine means putting your partner into a box where you assume you know what they want, what they're thinking, and what they'll say in response to you.

When your partner no longer has any mystery, they become two-dimensional. There's no spark, no sense of other, which is critical for desire.

And when your partner doesn't behave in a way you expect or want, it can be so easy to get frustrated with them. Making demands of each other and assuming your partner will always stay the same is a recipe for disaster.

So, what if, instead, you both approached each other with curiosity?

Because we all want to feel seen, heard, and valued. When our partners start to take us for granted we start to feel invisible inside of our relationship, even lonely.

How might curiosity help us through a situation that would normally lead to an argument or hurt feelings?

Let's imagine you buy a new outfit or get a new haircut or do something special around the house and your partner doesn't even notice. What's your first reaction? Frustration? Disappointment? Feeling like they just don't see you or want you anymore? Maybe even anger, if you've told them how important this stuff is to you?

What if instead, you pause and get curious?

Wow. I was hoping they'd notice my new haircut. Why do I feel so disappointed?

Because I think I look really nice, and I thought they would, too.

What can I do to appreciate myself and enjoy this feeling of my fresh haircut anyway?

Maybe take some selfies and post them on Facebook. I know my sister will love this look.

What can I ask my partner that would engage them in this moment?

Maybe we can play the appreciation game or let them know I got a haircut and I'd love to show it off for them.

When you get curious, you allow space for your partner to have their own set of experiences and you realize they can't read your mind. Curiosity means approaching each other with mindfulness.

Instead of assuming your partner wants the same thing for dinner again or the same kind of sex or that their day was the same as yesterday, getting curious shows your partner that they matter, that you care about their feelings and experiences, and that you're showing up for them.

Sometimes we have to show up a few times before our partners realize we mean it, especially if they've felt invisible or unheard for a long time.

Often when you model openness and vulnerability, it creates space where the people in our lives can slowly begin to do the same.

This same curious approach is great with children and family members, too. Instead of yelling at your kids for doing that thing you've told them not to do, if you get curious and engage them in a conversation, digging into the why and the how, you may discover something new.

And nothing feels better than having someone who really wants to show up and listen to you, right?

Curiosity does take time and it takes self-awareness. That's why it's so powerful.

When you and your partner both feel important and autonomous, like it's safe to have your own experiences and feelings, that's when you can thrive together rather than drift apart.

Sex is an adventure, and an adventure requires a curious spirit and a willingness to explore the unknown, otherwise you end up lost or never going anywhere.

"The cure for boredom is curiosity." Dorothy Parker

Sex is often one of the first things that gets stale in a relationship. There are many reasons for this: we aren't taught how to navigate sexual conversations, we are never told all of the amazing options available to us when it comes to sex, we can be too tied up in what's normal or what we're supposed to do instead of what would feel good, and prioritizing our pleasure can feel selfish when there are so many other things to be doing.

Even sadder than that, for many of us, we've never had truly spectacular sex, so it can feel like something we do out of obligation rather than for the sheer joy of it.

People are so scared of saying the wrong thing, or of being rejected by a partner, or we're ashamed of what we don't know or secretly want.

Add to that the societal roles that tell us women shouldn't be too aggressive or slutty (or frigid, for that matter) and men should know how to please a woman and always get hard, and it's a mine field with any number of bombs just waiting to go off.

Curiosity in bed can transform you from an awkward or stale lover into a spectacular lover overnight.

What happens if you ask to see how your partner likes to touch themselves and try to mirror it?

What if you try a new position or a new toy and then have an after action report where you laugh and share all the wonderful and disastrous ways it totally worked or totally didn't?

What could change if you ask your partner if they'd be willing to try exploring you in a different way that you think might feel good?

When you hold genuine curiosity about your partner's needs, wants, and desires and get curious about your own body and experiences, everything changes.

It's not about getting anything right. It's this big curious experiment where no matter the outcome, you tried something new and have new ways to talk about sex.

Curiosity allows your ego to take a back seat while your child-like wonderment can come out to play.

Sex from a place of play is so much more fun than sex from a place of dread, guilt, or shame.

So, what can you get curious about in the bedroom? How can you explore your own body and needs in a new way? How can you connect with your partner in a way you never have before? What is something new you could try that would invite a sense of play?

It's time to let go of old ideas, patterns, assumptions, and expectations.

Adopt a mindset of curiosity in all things and experience the honesty, vulnerability, and openness that it invites into your life.

Work with me

Do you need help tapping into your sexy self? Are you feeling stuck in the bedroom? I'm here to help. It's what I do.

From one-on-one coaching to my Sex is a Social Skill group calls and DIY workbooks, there are a number of ways we can get you the support and inspiration you're longing for.

8 Strap-on sex: It’s fun for everyone!

Despite popular assumption, strap-on harnesses and strap-on sex isn't just for lesbians or queer folks. Strap-ons can be a fun addition to any bedroom in any relationship dynamic with any kind of body. Find out how with sex coach Dawn Serra.

The first time I was with a lover who used a strap-on harness, they pulled out a tangle of leather straps, unzipped their goodie bag and showed me three different toys to choose from. Short and thin, long and thick, and something in the middle. I felt like Goldilocks, trying to find a porridge that was just right for me.

Thanks to brave and pioneering shows like The L Word, and more recently Orange is the New Black and Sense8, most people associate strap-on harnesses with lesbian and queer sex. I know I certainly did in my lesbian and trans relationships.

After all, what could a straight couple possibly want with a strap-on harness? It turns out, a lot!

But, that’s part of the fun when it comes to sex – there’s always something new to learn or try. Sex, like life, is a never-ending journey, full of as many adventures as you’d like it to be.

So, we’re going to talk about strap-on harnesses and why you may want to explore one in your own sex life, if you haven’t already.

Strap-on 101: What is a harness?

Harnesses are devices built to hold certain types of dildos or vibrators. They can be worn for sex, for fashion, for your gender expression, or for performance (like the sexy drag kings I used to worship).

There are harnesses you wear like underwear in a variety of styles from g-string thongs to corset-laced hip huggers, harnesses that look like boxer briefs, harnesses you strap around your thigh, and even harnesses you wear on your hand or your chin.

Harnesses come in so many styles, there’s something for everyone these days. Red satin, black studded leather, feminine, masculine, utilitarian. You name it, it’s been made for you.

Most people think of harnesses as being a series of leather straps that wrap around your legs and waist, but my favorite harnesses are made by SpareParts. Their harnesses are washable, soft, sturdy, very comfortable, and most come in sizes up to 3X or 4X, which is perfect for larger bodies.

Harnesses are amazing for folks with varying abilities and bodies, too.

Imagine the power in being able to please a lover using a hand harness if you don’t have mobility below the waist or a thigh harness if you have big belly.

But, if you’re able-bodied and heterosexual, why would strap-on sex ever be something you’d want to explore?

One of the most common questions I get as a sex educator is about pegging.

What is pegging, you ask?

Pegging is when a woman uses a strap-on to perform anal sex on a male partner.

Why would that be fun to try? Let us count the ways:

  • If your partner has a prostate, anal stimulation can lead to other-worldly orgasms. If you’re curious about just how epic, check out Cooper Beckett’s piece on his hour-long prostate orgasm. Wow! Imagine being the person to give that kind of orgasm to a partner.
  • For folks with a penis, sex tends to always happen outside of the body. It’s an external experience. Something magical can happen when sex becomes an activity that happens inside of you. You do NOT want to miss this Charlie Glickman piece on why the world would be a better place if more men took it up the ass.
  • For the strap-on wearer, you find yourself in a position of power. You get to try new muscles – literally and figuratively. You get to take that penetrating energy you probably usually receive and flip it on its head. Now you’re doing the penetrating. Now it’s your energy, your power being used to enter your partner. It’s a lovely way to flip the script on sex.

 

Pegging can be beautifully bonding. If you’re in a heterosexual relationship, pegging launches you into new territory where you get to practice your communication skills and take on different roles. It can be invigorating and enchanting.

But do expect it to be a little awkward the first few times. From finding a toy that’s a size you both like to learning how to thrust just so, learning a new skill can take practice. Be patient with each other, and use loads of lube. When in doubt, add more lube.

(Don’t worry about pegging being gross, either. As long as everyone showers ahead of time, and you slap a condom on the dildo, there’s not a whole lot you’ll need to worry about as far as clean-up goes. But we’ll cover more anal basics in another post.)

And no, anal sex and anal penetration is not about being gay in any way, unless you want it to be. Our anus is loaded with tons of nerve endings, so anal stimulation can feel absolutely incredible. Pleasure does not determine your sexual orientation.

Double penetration: table for two.

I don’t know about you, but most double penetration (DP) scenes that I’ve seen involves three people – the receiver and two penetrators.

But what if you’re not into threesomes? What if you don’t have an open relationship? Is there still a way?

Yes! Thanks to harnesses like the SpareParts Deuce or Sportsheets Menage a Trois, your partner can either use their penis in one hole and add a dildo to the second or put two dildos in the harness and go to town.

Some people may consider this varsity level play time, but it’s still fun to know it’s an option for you.

Breaking the taboo – men can wear a harness, too.

As a society, we place a tremendous amount of importance on whether someone’s penis can get hard and stay hard. It’s a sign of masculinity, of value, of power, and when your penis doesn’t perform the way you’d like it to, it can feel devastating, embarrassing, and like you have less worth in bed and as a person.

That stress, of course, makes getting hard even more difficult. Stress is the fastest libido killer in the world.

So, what if it wasn’t a big deal if a penis isn’t cooperating? What if it was a tiny piece of a much larger, much sexier puzzle?

The good news is it doesn’t have to be a show stopper when a penis goes soft – from hands and mouths to toys and shower heads, there are dozens of ways to please a partner without the use of a hard cock.

But, when you bring a strap-on harness into the mix, things get even more interesting.

Maybe you like experimenting with different sized insertables.

Maybe you like fantasizing you’re playing with lots of different people by having your partner swap out various toys.

Maybe your partner’s body just doesn’t feel like getting hard, but both of you want to have penetrative sex. Strap-on and go to town.

There are countless uses for a strap-on harness, even if you have a penis that gets erect. It’s not about being broken. It’s about being open to possibilities.

When you frame a harness as just another way to add pleasure to the mix, it becomes less about a person’s body and what it’s capable of and more about having permission to feel good and have fun.

One of the most amazing things about sex is that there is no right way to do it. It’s an endless sea of possibilities and discoveries.

As long as you and your partner(s) are focused on maximizing pleasure rather than following a script laid out by someone else, there is no shame in trying things even if they run counter to our cultural stories and expectations.

So, what are you waiting for? Strap-on and have fun!

PS – I do sell the SpareParts harnesses and accompanying toys. If you’d like to learn more, just shoot me a message and I’m happy to hop on a call to discuss the options, sizing, and how to introduce them into the bedroom.

How do I bring a toy into the bedroom?

Need a vibrator in order to orgasm? Want to try a cock ring to enhance performance? Curious about butt plugs and anal? Great! That makes you normal. But how do you ask to bring a toy into the bedroom so that it's not awkward or weird? Sex coach Dawn Serra shares the secret.

When I was in my early 20's, I had a small collection of vibrators that I carefully hid in my dresser. Back then, the toys were all jelly and delightfully toxic, but I didn't know the materials were bad for me. I just knew that if I wanted an orgasm, that was the fastest way to make it happen.

Using my hands to touch myself still felt foreign, so I relied on my vibrators to get me off.

It never occurred to me to bring the toys into sex with my partner at the time. All of my friends (and Cosmo) made it pretty clear that if you were in a relationship, then penetrative sex (or in our case, since it was a lesbian relationship, fingers and dildos) was the pinnacle experience.

Masturbation was only for when my partner wasn't around or if I wasn't satisfied. Vibrators were a joke for tired, married moms (Parenthood) or women who couldn't find great sex anywhere else (Charlotte from Sex and the City).

Sex with my partner and sex with my vibrators served two distinct functions.

Interestingly, I had a sex toy business while I was in that relationship. We spent hours each week repackaging vibrators and filling orders.

I counseled thousands of women on how to introduce a toy to their bedroom, helping them to find ways to talk to their husbands and partners so that it wouldn't be threatening, and yet...I never once considered bringing a vibrator into sex with my own partner.

Toys now play a major roll in my sexual encounters. My current partner loves incorporating them into our time together, as well as times when we're apart.

Part of it had to do with finding a partner who was as committed to my pleasure as I was, and part of it had to do with me realizing that I am the champion of my experiences. If there's something I can do to make sex more pleasurable, more interesting, or more adventurous, it's up to me to advocate for myself.

So many people that I talk to worry that there's something wrong with them or their lover if they need a toy or aid to orgasm.

Only 25% of people with a vulva consistently orgasm from penis-in-vagina sex.

Even more interesting, lesbians regularly experience more orgasms than heterosexual women - 74.4% compared to 61.6% of the time.

Why? Because most vulva owners need clitoral stimulation in order to get off. And one of the easiest ways to achieve that is with a vibrator.

But orgasm shouldn't be the goal of sex. Pleasure should be.

If you are going for maximum pleasure, what would that look like? If you unapologetically declared, "This is what my ecstasy looks like", what would you ask for or try?

For many people, pleasure comes in the form of toys. Whether it's a vibrator for your clitoris, a cock ring for your penis, a butt plug for some delicious ass play, or a strap-on for pegging or even double penetration, all of it is normal and healthy.

Because your pleasure? It really matters.

But, how do you ask a partner if you can bring a toy into the bedroom?

First, realize that there's nothing wrong with you or your sweetheart if you want or need something else during sex. Our bodies are deliciously diverse, and they're changing all the time. Toys help bridge the gap between what you want and what your bodies might be able to do.

You are normal.

Once you come to terms with what you want and need (because it has to start with you), often then you worry about offending or discouraging your partner by asking for something different.

Any partner worth their salt will want you to have a great time during sex. Of course, because they want to please you, they may also feel insecure or scared that they aren't satisfying you. That's where the defensiveness can come in.

When you ask to incorporate a new toy or technique, remember to make it about you and not your partner.

It all comes back to remembering that you deserve pleasure AND that you're a team. You aren't responsible for your partner's feelings, but approaching the conversation as a fun adventure is empathetic and kind.

As equal partners who are both eager to have a great time in bed, it's easier to make it clear what you want and how it will set both of you up for success. Be specific. Be clear. And make the ask.

Here are a few suggestions for starting the conversation:

"Honey, I just bought a new vibrator. I'd love to try using it together the next time you and I are having sex. Maybe we can take turns holding it and see what kind of trouble we can get into? The thought of you inside of me while that vibe is on my clit really turns me on."

"I read about how cock rings can help me stay harder longer, and I've experimented on my own. I'd love to try it with you because I think it would be a fun experiment. How would you feel about trying that with me?"

"I've been curious about trying some anal, so I got a beginner's butt plug. I'm dying to know what it feels like to wear the plug while you fuck me. On our next date night, are you up for giving that a try?"

Of course, the way you say something matters a lot.

If you make it playful and flirty, then it helps take some of the pressure off of the conversation.

It's not about your partner being a failure, it's about you wanting to explore your pleasure.

It's OK for you to feel awkward or shy when you have the discussion, too.

If you and your sweetheart don't have open conversations around sex, or if it's been a long time since you tried something new, it's going to take a leap of faith to be vulnerable and ask for what you want. Just remember you're worth it.

Another way to make it easier is to eroticize the toy and the way you bring it into your time together.

If you pull your vibe out and just say, "Here," your partner might feel like they're at a loss.

But if you show them how you use it on yourself, if you buzz it along their body, if you slowly lube up the butt plug with a playful wink, it will feel more like an invitation rather than a demand.

Toys, aids, props, and costumes can be an incredible addition to your sexual repertoire.

Invite yourself to adopt a curious, open approach to incorporating them into the bedroom.

Because toys will die in the middle of sex and cock rings may get stuck in public hair and a butt plug might shoot out when you're riding your partner.

As long as you're in the moment and embracing what happens rather than chasing the expectation of an ideal, then you'll find you have a lot more fun and connect with each other at a much deeper level than ever before.

One last thought - if you bring up toys and your partner reacts poorly, it's OK to give them space and then have a conversation about their reaction. If your partner shames you in any way, you are within your right to tell them that's unacceptable.

Your pleasure is your responsibility, so advocate for your needs and know that you're completely normal if you need toys to experience your best sex.

Work with me

Are you ready to explore your desire and unleash your sexual self? I'm here to help.

From one-on-one coaching to my bi-weekly Sex is a Social Skill group calls and my DIY workbooks, there are a number of ways we can work together to support what's next for you.

Eight books on sex and intimacy you need to read.

If you're looking for advice on sex, intimacy, relationships, and communication, it can be hard to find books that are actually useful and transformative. Check out these eight must-read books from sex coach Dawn Serra. Your sex life and relationships will never be the same.

The world is overflowing with an abundance of amazing books, more than you could ever read in a lifetime. Fiction, poetry, biographies, even young adult stories, it’s an endless sea of inspiration and imagination.

But when it comes to books on sex, intimacy, dating, and relationships, the literary landscape is riddled with bad advice, antiquated ideas, and a shocking amount of bullshit sold as the law of the land.

(The Rules, I’m looking at you.)

Mainstream media advice about our bodies, our gender, the way we communicate, and sex is misleading at best and downright traumatizing at worst. That is to say, almost everything you see in magazines, on the news, and coming out of Hollywood is based on a set of rules and beliefs that are designed to make us feel bad and buy more stuff.

So, how are you supposed to separate the good from the bad from the downright absurd?

Allow me, dear reader, to lend a hand.

Behold. The eight books on sex & relationships that I most frequently recommend to my clients (and why you should read them).

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, a book on sexual arousal and desire in women

“Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski

This is the number one book that I recommend to my sex coaching clients. If you’re struggling with low libido or getting aroused, especially if you are a woman, this book needs to be at the top of your To Read list.

Emily Nagoski uses numerous studies and scientific data to build a compelling story for why all of the things we’ve been taught about women’s arousal are wrong, and instead, how arousal really works for most of us.

Using approachable stories and fun anecdotes, you’ll walk away from this book feeling empowered, enlightened, and much more in control of your sexual pleasure and desire.


 

Ecstasy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas is all about finding pleasure and ecstasy in ways you never before imagined

“Ecstasy is Necessary” by Barbara Carrellas

Barbara Carrellas is someone that I admire deeply. Her books are inclusive and powerful in ways that most sex books are not. “Ecstasy is Necessary” helps you to map out and discover your sexual self. Not the self that has been beaten into you by mainstream media or your family or your community – your true self.

What is ecstasy to you? What are the possibilities for pleasure? What are the endless ways you can tap into your sensual potential and unleash it in your life in practical and feel-good ways?

If you love this book, you’ll also want to check out Barbara’s “Urban Tantra” which is another book I recommend to most clients.


 

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel is a book about infidelity, erotic intelligence, and why people cheat.

“Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel

The prevailing wisdom that we see so often is this quest for intimacy in our relationships. But, what if intimacy is the very thing that kills our erotic energy, and our sex lives?

Esther Perel, known for her amazing TED talks on infidelity, posits that in order to maintain erotic energy, to keep that heat alive, we need to strike a careful balance between intimacy and eroticism. If you’ve ever wondered why people cheat and what you can do to be more aware in your own relationships to help prevent infidelity, this book is an important (and very easy) read.

It’s one of the more common reasons people seek sex coaching, and it’s one of the most common books I recommend to clients seeking change.


 

Women's Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston is a very complex and rich look at women's anatomy, including the erectile tissue, clitoris, and how to help with arousal and desire.

“Women’s Anatomy of Arousal” by Sheri Winston

Did you know that many doctors, even gynecologists, don’t know the basics when it comes to arousal and genitals in folks with a vulva? It’s true! Sadly, many doctors only receive elementary information in med school about sex (most say it was less than 8 hours in their 8 years of training).

Sex education isn’t much better. We’re lucky if we ever even hear the world clitoris mentioned. Pleasure-based sex education is something we can hope for the future, but what can we do now?

Read Sheri Winston’s book. With beautiful hand-drawn images of all those delicious nerve endings and vast networks of erectile tissue, you’ll learn how the clitoris extends deep into the body, how important your pelvic floor muscles are, and what an important role your thoughts play in how your body reacts.

This book is the most comprehensive book on the anatomy of vulvas that I’ve ever seen. The language is heterocentric, so for any queer or trans folks, just keep that in mind as you go through the tips for lovers. It also has a lot of woo around energy and chakras.

Don’t let that stop you from buying this book, though! You’ll have a new appreciation for just how incredible our bodies are after you see what we’re made of.


 

Opening Up by Tristan Taormino is a very approachable and non-threatening look at all the different ways people can explore non-monogamy and opening up a relationship

“Opening Up” by Tristan Taormino

Tristan Taormino is a powerhouse in the sex education world. From her wildly popular podcast, Sex Out Loud, to her many educational DVDs, Tristan is a legend when it comes to sex.

“Opening Up” is the most approachable, non-threatening, easy read on non-monogamy that I’ve found. It’s full of stories and accounts from real people talking about the endless ways folks are redefining what it means to be in relationships.

Unlike many books about non-monogamy and polyamory, “Opening Up” does not pass judgment on folks who choose monogamy, which is part of what makes it so approachable for folks who are simply curious. Whether you’ve thought about kissing someone else or having a play partner on the side or even having multiple live-in spouses, this book walks you through the beauty of creating a relationship framework (or non-framework) that works for you.


 

Rising Strong by Brene Brown is a powerful book on moving through vulnerability and tough situations, like the ones you're likely to encounter in a relationship.

“Rising Strong” by Brené Brown

This book is hot off the presses and I’ve already written about its impact on me. Brené’s work on shame and vulnerability is incredibly relevant when it comes to sex and relationships.

In her latest book, “Rising Strong”, she outlines how to deal with failure in a way that allows for maximum emotional growth and healing. And we all fail in life – from trying something new in the bedroom to saying something we regret to a loved one. This book will arm you with powerful tools on moving through the yucky stuff without getting stuck.

If you take nothing else away from this book, learning how to say “the story I’m telling myself is…” will revolutionize the way you argue and have tough conversations. Get this book. Read it. Share it. And reap the benefits of new awareness in how you approach shame.


 

Rewriting the Rules by Meg Barker is a book that's likely to challenge your assumptions and stories about gender, relationships, pleasure, and sex.

“Rewriting the Rules” by Meg Barker

This book is important, but it is also pretty uncomfortable for folks who aren’t quite ready to step outside the lines of how society frames sexuality, gender, relationships, break-ups, sex, and self-image.

Meg Barker takes all of the stories and assumptions we have about relationships & sex, and breaks them down piece by piece. By questioning the rules, she invites new dialog that does not rewrite the rules, but instead, invites us all to let the rules go and live in a place of constant curiosity and flow.

When you’re no longer bound by “should” and “supposed to”, you can begin to create a relationship with yourself and with others that is more authentic and meaningful than ever before. Do expect to get uncomfortable.


 

Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon is a fun, approachable look at sex with an inclusive approach that talks about everything from bodies to expanding what sex means for more pleasure.

“Girl Sex 101” by Allison Moon

Yes, this book is about queer sex. But, it is also full of body-positive cartoons, endless sex positive tips on how to actually have sex, and advice on everything from oral to strap-on sex and more.

Even if you think you’re beyond a sex 101 book, you’ll find yourself learning new and better ways to think about sex, your body, and how you can maximize pleasure with your partner. Allison Moon creates a fun, playful framework that will have you laughing out loud and nodding in agreement (the section on what makes someone creepy is especially fantastic).

Despite being a huge book, you’ll zoom through it and find lots of shareable quotes, pictures, and tidbits that you’ll want to try on for yourself.


 

BONUS BOOKS: If you have kids in your life, these two books by Cory Silverberg are LIFE-CHANGING.

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg is an inclusive, beautiful book for young children that answers where do babies come from?

“What Makes a Baby” by Cory Silverberg

This book is designed for kids from 4-7 years old, though adults will get a lot out of it, too. Cory Silverberg wrote it for all kids in all sorts of families born in all sorts of ways to parents with all sorts of bodies and genders.

Instead of dreading the “where do babies come from” question, this book will give the young people in your life a beautifully inclusive answer that lays the foundation for a lifetime of sex positivity and self-awareness.

I buy this book for every single person I know who is going to become a parent.


 

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg is the single best book for kids about sex, gender, and boundaries on the market.

“Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg

Cory’s newest book, published in the summer of 2015, brought tears to my eyes. Intended for pre-teens, Sex is a Funny Word walks through anatomy, language, setting boundaries, consent, relationships, and the feelings associated with it all.

Each section ends with a question that invites the adult reading the book to engage with the young reader and the questions are sure to create an open conversation the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

Wildly inclusive, non-judgmental, and accessible to kids of all ages, if you have a youngster in your life, you need to get this book.

Please note, the links to Amazon are affiliate links for me, so if you end up buying any of the books, I’ll get a few pennies from Amazon. 


 

This list is not exhaustive and there are so many other books that I adore that I would have loved to include here, so expect additional reading lists down the road.

If you’re struggling with a specific issue or if you’d like to learn about something (like kink) that isn’t covered here, please comment below and I’ll provide additional resources and recommendations.

As always, I’m available for one-on-one coaching or you can join my bi-weekly Sex is a Social Skill Group Calls. Check out ways we can work together if you’d like additional inspiration and support.

7 When shame swallows you whole

Brene Brown calls shame the master emotion. Knowing how shame works won't save you from the crushing darkness. How can you break free once you're trapped?

*Trigger warning: Shame. In Brené Brown’s book, “Rising Strong“, she talks about how we live in a culture that tends to hide the ugly middle parts of our stories. Everyone likes a hero, but we’ve become a culture that doesn’t really honor the pain and mistakes and the struggles that happen when someone is in the middle of their story. For me, a big part of being a sex coach is modeling vulnerability and sharing my journey as a way to demonstrate that all of us are always in process and learning.

I had a few trusted colleagues and friends read this post, and while their feedback was overwhelmingly beautiful, a few also found their own shame triggered by reading about my shame. I invite you to take care of yourself as you read this and process. Be gentle. Allow space for your feelings. And reach out if you’d like to share anything.


 

Want to know something bizarre about me?

Vulnerability is a space that I’ve come to crave.

I know this makes me an outlier.

Most people cringe at the thought of being vulnerable, at opening themselves up to hurt, ridicule, failure, and pain.

It’s not that I’m emotionally masochistic (maybe I am a little bit), but that every single great thing that’s ever happened to me occurred after I allowed myself to be vulnerable and then found the courage to do the thing anyway.

Being vulnerable has allowed me to experience the most profound depths of intimacy, love, connection, gratitude, and transformation.

Studying Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and wholehearted living, along with other amazing thought leaders like Tara Brach and Seth Godin, has not only inspired and influenced the work I do with my clients, but it also afforded me a sense of security against experiencing my own shame.

After all, if I understood shame, if I knew how it looked and how it felt, if I studied the way it impacts us and how to overcome it, then shame would be easier to avoid, to identify, and to elude, right?

The truth is shame will find you, no matter how much you know.

Shame will grab you and do everything it can to crush you.

Shame will find a way to hold you under the water and no one will ever know you’re drowning because the amazing thing about shame is it tricks you into silencing yourself when you most need to scream for help.

In “Rising Strong“, Brené Brown’s newest book, she says, “…shame crashes over you with such force that you go into do-or-die survival mode.”

She goes on to say, “Ironically, I always warn people not to be seduced into believing that they can manage these moments simply because they’ve learned how they work. We call shame the master emotion for a reason.”

I was genuinely surprised when I recently realized that I’ve been drowning in shame for well over a year in my relationship with my partner.

What’s worse, is in the tiny moments when I spotted glimpses of my shame, I felt deeply ashamed of feeling that shame because as a professional, I should (there’s that word) know better.

And so I hid.

I silenced myself.

I shrank, wished for a different reality, and through all of that resistance, suffered tremendous pain which, of course, fed my shame even more.

Each of us have different shame triggers, and many of us have one or two primary triggers that we carry for most of our lives.

One of my shame triggers is a nasty little voice that likes to whisper how unloveable I am.

Most of the time, that voice is a distant, nagging irritant that I can acknowledge without feeding it. We have found a way to live fairly harmoniously.

It’s an on-going process for me to remind myself I am worthy, I am enough, I am lovable, and it has gotten easier with practice to hold this knowledge inside of me as a truth.

I started to see cracks in my lovability as I fell more deeply in love with my partner. I began to internalize a dialog that told me I wasn’t living up to his expectations.

We have an open relationship. My partner identifies as poly, and I identify as non-monogamous.

When we first started co-creating this relationship, I had a few other lovers and non-monogamy felt pretty easy. As my feelings for my partner, who is simply extraordinary, became more important to me, something started shifting.

What once was easy was becoming crushingly difficult.

I started talking to myself about snapping out of it. I began a daily routine of speaking to myself like a drill sergeant.

Figure this out. Find out what’s holding you back. Name all the ways you’re insecure and start fixing them. Do more self-care, dammit! That’s not good enough. You’re going to ruin this amazing relationship. Get with the program.

That’s still not good enough.

You’re not good enough.

If you know the difference between guilt and shame, you can see how that last one is when things took a turn for the worse.

What made it more complicated is that I also live with PTSD from sexual trauma as well as anxiety.

But as a sex positive professional who is surrounded by folks who easily and naturally practice polyamory and non-monogamy, I felt utterly and completely alone.

I started wincing every time the word “poly” got mentioned.

I pulled inside myself and scrolled as quickly as I could past articles extolling the virtues of non-monogamy.

When my partner went on dates, I felt like something inside of me was dying, but knowing just how important our relationship structure was to him, I would only disclose smaller versions of my truth.

I would buckle down. Work harder. Dig deeper. Find a way. I could do this on my own.

Because I was convinced I was a failure, and who wants to show the world what a total and complete failure they are?

That’s when shame won.

Shame wants nothing more than your total and complete isolation. Shame salivates over your panic. And the thing shame loves more than anything is when you feel shame about having shame.

Oh yes. In the world of shame, nothing is more elegant and perfect than a shame spiral.

This deepening sense of worthlessness and dread nurtured itself inside of me for nearly a full year.

I started feeling like I was reaching my breaking point – which honestly sounded like: I will just end things. I can’t make him happy. I feel miserable about what a fraud I am. I’ll just pull the plug and save us both.

All of this despite the fact that my partner and I have one of the most accepting, trusting, passionate, communicative relationships on the planet. Because it wasn’t about him, or about us.

It was about me, being trapped under the weight of my own shame, and trying to disown my story without facing it.

I was resisting my truth.

Shame can drive us to do horrible things. Shame can traumatize us, harm us, and lead to depression, anxiety, and even violence.

Then, I had the fortune of having a perfect storm of circumstances force my shame out into the light.

First, my partner and I had pretty significant miscommunication that threw us into the deep end.

Second, I attended a workshop on shame by the glorious Charlie Glickman at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. Being confronted by so much information about shame, and also hearing so many people in the room express feelings and thoughts that echoed my own, I began to realize what was happening to me.

Third, I did what I do best, and I leapt towards what felt most vulnerable. I moved into my discomfort and had a series of scary conversations, ending with a raw, brutal tell-all one night with my partner.

I was inconsolable in my grief and pain, but as I started to drag my shame out into the light of day, it began to shrink.

We worked through that conversation together. My partner holding space for my truth, inviting time for me to share my feelings – even the really ugly ones. He offered me such grace and patience, which in turn allowed me to start to treat myself with the same amount of kindness.

For weeks after, I felt lighter than I had in months. Certainly, I still felt tender and raw, unsure of what this new world meant for me, but I felt seen and heard. I felt proud that I’d faced my deepest fears.

I felt my self-worth returning, but this time it was stronger and more rooted in my sense of self than ever before.

Because we’d been to hell and back and learned something powerful in the process.

As fate will do, shortly after all of this unfolded, an article landed in my lap that beautifully captured so much of what I’d been struggling to find words for. Even better were some of the comments.

My favorite comment spoke directly to the fear I’d been carrying for so long. The story I’d been telling myself was that if I couldn’t make myself look like everyone else who does non-monogamy, then I was a failure.

The comment, in part, said, “Every poly relationship is entirely unique to the individuals involved. In every relationship, poly or mono, we make allowances for the strengths and weaknesses of our partners…If I choose to be in relationship with you, I accept you as you are, and then will negotiate a relationship that works for us rather than one that works for someone else.”

Message received, world. Message received.

Shame only thrives in darkness. So, by sharing our stories and discussing our pain, we can begin the process of healing. Together.

Shame can show up in many different ways for each of us, and when it does, you feel like you are entirely alone in your struggle.

My shame shows up around my body, my talent, and my lovability. You may not have any shame in these spaces at all.

We can feel shame around parenting, or success, or money, or our education.

But where so many of us experience a great deal of shame is around sex and intimacy – the way our body looks naked, especially if it’s changed over the years; the way we experience orgasm (or not); the fantasies in our head; the things that turn us on; the fact that our bodies or our desire may not align with what all of the mainstream magazines and movies tell us it should be.

Every mention of the thing that we feel ashamed of can trigger more hiding, more yucky feelings, and more fear.

What makes shame even worse is when a partner shames us for something we are already struggling with – like watching porn or masturbating.

Though shame in very tiny doses can help us make changes, the kind of shame most of us experience is far beyond what’s healthy.

When we feel ashamed, we pull within and try to bury our truth. The deeper we push it, the more controlling and powerful it becomes.

No relationship can thrive when shame is sitting at the head of the table. No person can achieve wholeness when they’re weighed down by shame.

So, I do not take it lightly when I suggest that you find a way to come to terms with any areas where you are experiencing shame and share your fears with someone, because I know how profoundly difficult it can be to admit these things to yourself, much less utter those words to someone else.

Start with a therapist or a coach. Call into a sex positive podcast. Write a letter to someone you trust. Write a letter to yourself, even.

The bottom line is that you are valuable, powerful, beautiful, and normal just as you are. Shame will hide that truth from you and tell you horrible stories about yourself and your worth.

So, I’m inviting you to share your shame with me. Just as I’ve shared mine with you.

Let’s start a movement of dragging our shame out into the light and aligning with our truths, even if they’re terrifying.

If the people in your life cannot accept you when you’re standing in your truth, then the sooner you figure that out, the sooner you can build a new life, find new loved ones who do. And then that’s when the really good stuff unfolds for you.

It gets easier.

Just do it.

Dare greatly.

Whatever motto or movement inspires you, I implore you to shine just the tiniest of light into the darkest corners of your shame to see what happens.

You may just find that eventually you can fill those once-haunted spaces with love, gratitude, joy, and acceptance.

And whatever happened with me?

Well, by speaking my shame and giving my fears a voice, I started experiencing immediate relief. I’ve connected with other non-monogamous folks, shared my story, listened to theirs, and I’m finding new growth and acceptance where there was pain and suffering. My partner and I are co-creating our relationship, each and every day, and we have a vision for something uniquely our own. And yes, that vision includes non-monogamy.

If you’d like to share your experience with shame, I invite you to comment below or shoot me a message. You can even do it anonymously if you aren’t quite ready to make yourself known.

You deserve to let go of the stories that are not lifting you up.

If you decide to voice your shame with a partner, make sure you set both of you up for success by choosing a time when you’re both present and relaxed, when you can ask your partner to hold safe space for you, because you’ll probably fumble it a bit.

And that is OK. It’s part of the process. You’ve got this.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/work-with-me/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]Your desire, your fantasies, your voice deserve to be explored and heard. I’m here to help. [/callout]

 

Are you still flirting with your sweetheart?

When was the last time you made an effort by flirting with your partner? From boosting confidence to igniting desire, find out how to up your flirting game. Sex coach Dawn Serra

One of my favorite rituals with my partner is the way we flirt with each other.

At least once per day, my phone buzzes with excitement, alerting me that a text has arrived. I'm smiling before I even see what it says, butterflies flitting through my tummy.

I'm thinking about this morning, and a smile grows on my lips.

A little shiver runs through me. We had incredible phone sex that morning before he'd gone off to work, while I was in the car in the parking lot of a popular cafe.

Another morning it might go something like:

*kisses your collarbone and straddles your waist, pinning you to the bed*

Depending on the day, we may feel dark and gritty or we may feel playful and silly. My favorite is when I send the beginning of a sexy scene and he finishes it.

Me: *quietly steps up behind you as you work, sliding a folded note in your pocket, and then sneaks off with a wink over my shoulder*

Him: *unfolds the note and blushes at what it says* You are VERY naughty, my dear.

The exchange may carry on for a few texts if it's a busy day, or off and on for hours. No matter what, it is always a wonderful way for us to stay connected.

Flirting is a simple, fun way to make each other feel special and desired, and it's not just for brand new relationships.

One of the leading reasons people stray, whether it's a monogamous or a non-monogamous relationship, is because they feel undesirable, unwanted, invisible, or like they are no longer their own person with their own identity.

It's normal for relationships to ebb and flow, and life has a way of falling into monotony. Comfort and routine can be very alluring when our lives are endlessly busy and stressful.

Too often, though, as your relationship falls into routine, you stop seeing each other as unique, complex, mysterious individuals and you start assuming you know everything there is to know about one another. That lack of autonomy and individuality is where a lot of relationships begin to experience trouble.

Because it's easy to take things for granted when you assume things will always be the same.

Erotic energy thrives on mystery and risk.

To stoke your passion, you need to fuel the flames by introducing elements of the unknown and the unpredictable.

Flirting is a deliciously easy way to keep that mystery alive. In fact, feeling seen and wanted is as easy as a snap of the camera, click of the 'send' button, or the scribble of an unexpected note.

Why? One of the most desirable experiences is being desired by someone. Flirting with your sweetheart is a powerful way to show your desire. Not to mention the confidence boost it gives them.

It's also a chance to get creative with what turns you on, to try out new fantasies, and to practice new skills.

As an added bonus, firting with your partner often ends up making you feel sexy because you're giving yourself permission to think about your erotic self.

It's a fun little feedback loop.

What are some fun ways to flirt?

I polled some friends to find out their favorite flirting techniques. Some of the responses include:

"Show particular body parts by surprise!"

"Sexy texts, occasionally with a picture of my anatomy."

"I leave cards & notes on his truck."

"We have a chalk board [for writing notes to each other]."

"I have a look and a smile that [he] calls 'that look!'"

"A Victoria's Secret changing room photo shoot."

"I pretend we're strangers and give him compliments. I ask him if his girlfriend appreciates his nice legs, face framing brows, etc."

"I unnecessarily brush against them when going past. Bonus points if I can get erogenous zones."

Ready to up your flirting game?

Try one, some, or all of these to see what feels best for you. Flirting is nothing more than the art of being playful and appreciative of someone else.

  1. Hold eye contact across a room or in a public space and let a little smile dance across your lips as you think of your beau doing something sexy. They'll know you're imagining something naughty, which will pique their curiosity. (Or, as one friend called it, "Eye fucking...across a crowded room."
  2. Let them know they're on your mind by sexting, emailing, or writing a note that you then hide in their wallet or lunch bag.
  3. Build anticipation by buying or wearing something erotic, and then taking a series of pictures that slowly reveals what it is. Bubbles in the tub, toes peeking out, the flesh of your thighs beneath the water...
  4. Use the power of touch to delight and entice. This is especially powerful when you're out in public, so that you both know you can't follow through on anything too scandalous until you're in private. A finger trailed softly along the back of the neck, a kiss dancing along the inside of a wrist or on the tips of each finger, the press of your body as you slide behind them at a party or in line at the store, a hand on the small of the back to let them know you're there. This is about the art of the tease, so aim for tiny little tidbits.
  5. Get explicit about what you want them to do to you later. Leave a voicemail or whisper it in their ear. Let them hear the need in your voice.
  6. Compliment them on something unexpected that shows them you're paying attention and appreciate them in a new way.
  7. Wink. Wrestle. Gently snap a towel at their bum. Give them little spots of playful teasing to let them know you think they're the bees knees.

Remember that it's not about being someone else or doing something out of character. Find ways to adapt these ideas to something that feels authentic and meaningful to you.

Flirting only works when it's genuine.

If you're faking it or forcing it, you're more likely to drive someone away than bring each other closer together.

What if you and your partner haven't flirted with each other in a while? No problem. It's perfectly OK to let them know it's something you want to start doing again. By making your needs known and using your voice, you're more likely to have the kind of exchange that makes you both feel good.

Don't worry about looking stupid. If you make a mistake or mess up, call yourself out, turn it into a funny new memory, and share a giggle.

Because I can't be the only one who has fallen off the bed, snorted while trying to be seductive, and seriously messed up a sexy text by not noticing the auto-correct. I want to do no such thing with a duck, thank you very much.

As much as flirting helps to strengthen the bond between the two of you by keeping things fresh and new, one of the best outcomes of flirting is that it awakens your inner siren.

So many of my clients struggle with a lack of desire. Some of that stems from not seeing themselves as sexual beings any longer - either because their body has changed or they're parenting or life is just too damn busy.

Flirting invites you to reconnect with that part of yourself that feels and expresses passion.

Suddenly, you're looking for excuses to try on new lingerie or to pull out that sexy outfit you haven't worn in ages. You start wanting to show off little flashes of skin or teasing your partner with playful little movements.

When flirting becomes something you do for yourself, because tapping into your sexual self arouses you, that's when the real magic happens.

Because yes, sometimes flirting can feel like a chore, something you should do, another thing on the To Do list.

But when you feel that adrenaline rush, when your skin tingles with anticipation, when you feel your body responding to the sexy thoughts racing through your mind, flirting becomes part of your sexual experience.

And how delicious is that?

I want to hear your favorite way to flirt. Share your thoughts below and let's let ourselves feel wanted.

Looking to up your flirting game? Download this fun little worksheet on sexting made easy. It includes 10 prompts you can use to start a sexy conversation, plus some additional flirty suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.

Are you ready to up your flirting game?

I'm here to help. It's what I do.

From one-on-one coaching to bi-weekly group calls, there are so many ways for you to start leveling up and reconnecting with your desire (and each other).

8 How gratitude can heal your relationship

When you're irritated, frustrated, and fighting all of the time, it can be tough to see the good in your partner. That's why a gratitude practice can help heal your relationship - by encouraging you to focus on the things your partner does to support you and love you. It's easy. There's even a free worksheet to help you get started.

You know that inner dialog you have with yourself that never shuts up? The one that tells you all of the things that are wrong with you, all of the ways you aren't good enough?

It's the same voice that also likes to harp on all of the ways your partner is driving you to maximum frustration.

"God, he makes me so mad. He never helps around the house. He spends hours watching sports when I'm trying to race around and manage the house and the kids and dinner. When was the last time he had 20 things on his To Do list? And then he paws at me when I'm exhausted like I owe him something. Sex is the last thing I want to do. He has no idea how much I have on my plate."

You know that dialog because it's something we all do - about ourselves, about our parents, about our siblings and co-workers, and especially about our partners.

It's the Never Do Anything Right voice.

I spent a significant amount of time listening to, and feeding, that voice in my last significant relationship.

We loved each other. We had a pretty good life.

But, I also spent so much of my time feeling unappreciated, over-worked, undesirable, and completely frustrated - largely because of the story I told myself about our day-to-day life.

It was a lonely place to live - inside of my head, telling myself how tired my partner made me all of the time.

John Gottman, one of the leading marriage researchers in the world, has said that healthy, happy relationships tend to have a 5-to-1 positive-to-negative ratio. You can fight, you can get angry, you can turn away from each other, as long as you move back towards positive interactions at some point and fill your tanks again with support.

This concept ties in with a phrase that I've been hearing a lot lately:

What you focus on tends to become the only thing you can see. That whole forest for the trees saying in action.

In other words, where you direct your thoughts and energy is what you end up creating for yourself.

The same is true of the relationship you have with yourself and with others.

When you think an endless stream of negative, harsh thoughts about yourself, you end up feeling worthless, powerless, and hopeless.

And so you drink or eat or numb out on television or go shopping for stuff you don't really need. You self-medicate in some way, often to the point of being compulsive about it.

Which then feeds your inner mean voice and the Never Do Anything Right squad comes out swinging even harder. Because you're proving the voices right, right?

That same cycle happens inside of relationships.

If you spend hours banging your head against the desk, going over and over all of the things your partner doesn't do right, creating a toxic spiral of irritation, then imagine how your body language, your tone of voice, the words you use, and the energy you're directing at your partner will be loaded with negativity the moment you interact with them.

And sex? Don't even think about it.

I was recently talking to a friend who was stuck in an irritation spiral over his partner. He was trotting out all of the things she'd been doing wrong and feeling like crap about their relationship. Should they even stay together? Was it worth it?

He could hear himself being mean to her and admitted as much to me, but couldn't let go of all the stuff that wasn't working.

So, I stopped him and asked, "When was the last time you expressed gratitude for all the things she does right, for all of the ways she supports you in the day-to-day, for all the ways you laugh together?"

He said other than a few thank you's here and there, he hadn't really done that recently. He was worried that if he focused on the good stuff that he was sweeping the bad stuff under the rug.

Gratitude isn't about ignoring or repressing the truth. It's simply about shifting your attention and focusing on what is working so that you can make more of that happen.

If there are major issues in your life, then addressing those openly and honestly is critical to long-term health and happiness. You deserve to be in a relationship where you both feel valued and seen.

It's also incredibly important to make a list of your needs and take a close look at which needs are consistently being met and which ones aren't, then decide if the ones that aren't can get met if you articulate them and ask for them.

But how often have you found yourself thinking little annoyed thoughts about someone one day, and then the next day, and then the next, and suddenly you've been stewing on this tiny little thing for weeks?

Suddenly it feels so enormous you're on the verge of throwing in the towel.

Having a gratitude practice is one of the fastest and easiest ways to break a cycle of negativity.

There are tons of ways to have a gratitude practice, so if you already have one you love, then find a way to work it into your calendar on a regular basis - and make sure it includes ways you're grateful for yourself and for your loved ones.

When you begin focusing on things your partner does well, ways they make you laugh, words they've said that make you feel seen, then your entire experience of your relationship begins to shift.

Suddenly, minor annoyances aren't as irritating. You find it easier to let go of that little squabble instead of stewing on it for days.

It's your responsibility in any relationship to decide whether something is truly a problem that needs to be addressed or not, but it's important to remember that you are imperfect. So is your partner.

By focusing on ways they add to your life, you'll begin to feel less stressed, more supported, and you may even feel a lot sexier in the process.

It's hard to feel sexy when you're treating your partner like a child that needs to be reprimanded. I speak from experience.

It's up to you to ask for what you need in your relationship and in the bedroom.

It's also up to you to treat your partner in a way that facilitates the kind of energy you'd like in that relationship.

You cannot expect your partner to be kind, open, vulnerable, and giving if you're closed down, mean, cruel, and nitpicking all the little ways they're failing you. The same is true if you never openly share about yourself or your feelings.

How can you foster space for both of you to be open and safe?

A therapist that I know has a practice that she does with her partner every single night.

Once they're in bed, ready to wind down for the night, they ask each other to share the best part of their day with the other. Sometimes, the best part of the day was each other. Other days it's far from that, but by asking about each other's experience and having that sharing moment, they find ways to be grateful.

One last thought on gratitude - it's important to be grateful when your partner is vulnerable and shares something with you, even if you don't like what's being shared.

Whether it's a no to having sex tonight or honest feedback about something you did that caused them pain, thanking your partner for taking that risk, and acknowledging that they've done something scary, is one of the fastest ways to build resilience and courage into your connection.

I made a little gratitude worksheet for you to help you get started. (<-- Click that link to get it.) If you like it, be sure to sign-up for my newsletter because I like sending special little tidbits to my subscribers.

What is something your partner is really good at that you want to thank them for this week? Comment below and let's start a gratitude chain.

Work with me

If you're ready to find ways to express yourself in your relationship...