Image by Dainis Graveris
When you hear the words sexual empowerment, what comes to mind?
Is it about being sexually overt? Is it about taking control in the bedroom? Or does it depend on how much sex you are having?
In short, no it doesn’t. But what does it mean, and why is it important?
We asked Melbourne sexologist Aleeya Hachem to educate us a little.
This is what she had to say:
The term sexual empowerment is quite subjective with a definition that varies from person to person. Ultimately, it is a compilation of attitudes and behaviours that enable one’s self to gain control and ownership over their sexuality.
Healthy examples of sexual empowerment can include (but are certainly not limited to) having a positive body image, accepting and validating your sexual desires, setting expectations around respect and sexual pleasure, and freely expressing one’s sexuality.
Sexual empowerment centres around the themes of agency and optimisation of control over one’s sexual and reproductive health. Just like pleasure, feeling sexually empowered varies alongside different life stages and within different relationships.
However, what is important to note is that feeling sexually empowered is not something you are necessarily born with; rather, it is a cumulation of learned experience that requires commitment and practise.
Essentially, you are an advocate for your safety, sexual interests, and pleasure.
So, what and how are some of the ways you can feel sexually empowered?
Knowledge is power: How would you describe your sex ed at school? Chances are, it probably didn’t cover sexual pleasure, consent, and sexual communication skills. Take the time to educate yourself on sexuality - listen to podcasts, read books, and follow social media accounts that are sex positive and provide evidence-based information. Education and sexual literacy play a pivotal role in feeling sexually empowered and confident in sexual situations. ‘Come As You Are’ by Emily Nagoski is like the sex education you wish you had, ultimately leading to a better understanding of desire and pleasure. Although aimed at vulva owners, I recommend this book to all my patients.
Get comfortable in your own body: Practice self-love and prioritise conscious time to learn what feels good in your body – if you don’t know what gives you pleasure, how are you expected to communicate this to your sexual partner? Experiment with mindful masturbation and what turns you on. Try incorporating toys and lubricant to increase sensation and pleasure. Make your pleasure a priority, the only person responsible for it is you.
Safe sex is the best sex: Practising safe sex (the use of contraception to protect against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy,) is the shared responsibility of both partners during sex. Traditionally, it has been left up to the partner with a penis to be responsible for providing condoms. However, there is nothing wrong with taking charge of your sexual experiences by carrying condoms that you specifically prefer – it shows that you prioritise your sexual health. Additionally, safe sex not only relates to contraception, but also concerns respect, consent, and joint experience of pleasure with your partner. Establishing sexual boundaries and being able to effectively communicate these facilitates a sense of safety, trust and emotional connection.
Groom and dress, the way you choose: Choosing intimates and clothing that make you feel comfortable and confident is the ultimate embodiment of self-expression and sexual empowerment. The way that we choose to dress and groom ourselves has a significant impact on mood and self-esteem. Consider colours and styles that work to enhance your body and make you feel confident and sexy - for no one else other than you.
Your own sexual empowerment starts with, and ends with, you.
Take the time to explore your sexuality and educate yourself with a sense of openness and curiosity.
There is no right or wrong way to feel sexually empowered, although making decisions that align with your values and beliefs allows you to feel a sense of autonomy and confidence in your sexual self.
What does sexual empowerment mean to you? For more information, follow Aleeya @great.sexpectations