I’m really inexperienced in the bedroom - I’ve had sex, but I can count the times with one hand. Because of this, I get so nervous whenever I’m hooking up with someone that I call it off. What can/should I do to help me calm my nerves when the next time rolls around? —Female, 2019, heterosexual but “bi-curious” 


No one is born brimming with sexual confidence. Even though it may seem like there are people among us who just ooze sex—the Rihannas of the world—we all had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was not so sexy. 

As with most things, sexual confidence is a painstaking skill built with time and experience. It’s a beaming ray of clarity discovered only after many extremely awkward encounters, lots of “does this feel okay?” and maybe even a few blocked numbers. 

The way to conquer your fear is to move at your own speed. You don’t have to rush yourself into a latex bodysuit and leather harness to gain confidence (unless you want to, that could also be a good time). Find someone you’re comfortable with, go at your pace, ensure that you’re enjoying what’s happening, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone has made them—in fact, I have a suspicion that the most sexually confident people have probably had the most sexually awkward or nervous experiences in the past.

I wish I could teach you an ancient calming breathing technique or tell you to count down from some magic number in your head, but that’s not how it works. While these meditative practices might be helpful for generally calming yourself down in different situations, sexual confidence is a journey that all of us are on—whether we can count all of our partners on one hand or can’t even count them all. 

Personally, I didn’t gain full confidence in my sexual skin until I was nineteen. Before that, I would fall into a repetitive cycle: guy likes me, I lead guy on, guy wants sex, I stall and flake, no more guy! I’d had sex a few times, but they were Crisco–covered nightmares that made me question if I could even handle sex as a gay man. However, once I realized I was a horrified hamster trapped in my own self-imposed wheel of erotic fear, I decided to change. I wanted to have substantial sex—fun, memorable, “feels so good being bad” sex. 

But before that, I needed to find a partner. So much of good, confident sex is dependent not just on what, but on whom. Though it seems like we forget this all too often, the people with whom we choose to have sex are—most of the time—the most important factor in determining how the sex goes. The right partner will be patient and smoothly guide you through it. And let me be clear—drunkenly hurling yourself into sloppy, rushed sex with a random person might not calm your nerves in the way you expect. While some people may discover they enjoy such casual circumstances, others could find that they’re even more insecure after something so spontaneous.

In my case, an attractive man we’ll call David had been patiently languishing in the no-man's-land of my Instagram DMs for some time. I decided to respond (a month late) and we set a date and place to casually meet. In order to be as comfortable as possible with him in bed, I figured a platonic hangout would let me gauge our chemistry first. And it worked! We took a long walk filled with meaningful conversation about our pastimes, friends and ambitions. When I returned home that night, I felt ready. David was about to catch it—full-on Bella Hadid “homeboy is gonna like...get it.” 

Prefacing our later sexual encounter with this initial platonic one not only made me more comfortable, but it also made me more interested and allowed a build-up of tension—very sexy. Whether or not this platonic hangout takes place on a separate day (as in my case) or just in the hours leading up to sex, this separate activity is essential as it allows each of you a level of basic familiarity with one another. 

For the next meeting, David and I planned to watch a movie at his apartment. I remember not being able to stop my hands from trembling while I waited at his door. I knew he was the right person, but all of my old experiences flashed through my head on a sick reel. I plugged my earbuds in and played The Weeknd on full-blast, drowning out the nagging voices of insecurity.

When we reached his bedroom, I refused to sit on the bed with him until at least two hours had passed. Yes, this was weird on my part, but I wanted to take baby steps. I knew if I rushed myself into it, I would back out and consequently ghost him, which he didn’t deserve. Despite my weirdness, he was calm, patient and willing to move at my pace. After some time passed, I joined him in bed, letting the sexual tension build until it was explosive.

Once we started, I was still nervous, and he could tell. I was so nervous that I overcompensated by moving too quickly and aggressively. David gripped my waist, looked me in the eye, and told me to calm down. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I was being so rough because I was afraid to be intimate—I wasn’t feeling totally confident.  However, he took the time to subtly guide my body and before I knew it, I was doing it! I was actually having really fun sex that didn’t make me want to lock myself in a room alone for three days! My body felt synced with his, so much so that I wasn’t even thinking at all anymore.

The point is, it just started to click. Sex is supposed to feel good, that’s why we do it, right? Eventually, once you get over that initial bout of flailing nervousness, you will settle into that good feeling of pleasure, and the fears will melt away. Confidence is what happens when you set yourself up for success before you even get to the bedroom, and then conquer those first few moments of nerve–wracking hurdles.

It’s all about unlocking new, exciting realms of your identity at an optimal pace—and hopefully having some fun while doing it! 




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