The Horizontal

The Beginner's Guide to Exploring Your Sexuality

By Helania Hovitz

During a time when women are speaking up against harassment and assault and feeling empowered to share their stories, it’s important to recognize that another revolution, one that has been slowly moving forward year by year for decades, is coming to a head: women feeling safe and secure exploring their own sexuality and fantasies on their own, expressing them to their partners, and being unapologetic about it.

We’re learning, without judgement, shame, or fear, to  become comfortable with the idea of embracing what we like and exploring what we might, and trying to become less hesitant to take a hard pass on what we don’t.

Therefore, Erica Garza’s new memoir “Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex And Porn Addiction,” could not come with a more timely release. After indulging in an hour-long interview with the woman who will come out on top as one of the bravest writers of the year, certain things became clear about the ways in which we need to own our sexuality, and when we might want to take a closer look at our motivation for engaging with it, all in the interest in making sure you embrace and take care of yourself as a sexual, glorious, worthy woman.

 

Feel Comfortable Exploring Porn

Images, literature, videos, and anything else that turns you on without being ashamed. What you’re into or not into doesn’t reflect on who you are as a person, and you should never be shy to explore what you’re into. The fact that this content is available shows you that you’re not alone, and your desires and fantasies are something to embrace, not feel guilty or ashamed about.

Do not be afraid of your desire and to admit to what turns you on and to feel worthy of pleasure, and to get rid of that shame aspect of it. I don't have to be ashamed by liking what I like” Garza says. “While I've made messy choices and mistakes, the most harmful part of it was feeling bad about some of my choices instead of empowered by them.”

Keep an eye out for: Certain themes. Studies show that women are more likely than men to seek out and view “degradation” porn. It may just be something you’re into watching sexually, or, it may be a reflection of how you feel about your own self-worth. Be mindful of how this comes into play in real life.

You're not the only woman who's watching these things, there's comfort in knowing other women are turned on by a variety of things. Desire is complex and diverse, and we need to be more aware of that instead of fitting women into categories of what we think they desire. Porn for women may not be porn for you as a women. Be honest about what you like and desire,” Garza says.

 

Feel Comfortable Masturbating

It’s completely healthy, normal, and satisfying. Believe it or not, a lot of women still feel guilty or judge themselves for indulging in satisfying themselves. But whether you’re positioned under your bathtubs faucet, using your rabbit, or improvising with your hand or an electric toothbrush, self love, exploration and satisfaction are healthy. Some religions, and even some family units or educational systems, will try to deter you. In short: fuck em. Nobody has a say in what is right or wrong for your body except for you. And probably your OBGYN.


Keep an eye out for: When and why you’re masturbating, and how frequently. Are you turning to pornography and masturbation to help you escape difficult feelings or situations, and do you start to see a pattern about when and how often you engage in this activity? If you’re using it as an occasional outlet for escape, it’s all good, but if it’s becoming a numbing agent and frequent coping mechanisms, or you find yourself doing it during deliberately risky times in tricky locations, like at work in the bathroom, you may want to consider the source of your motivation.

I used sex and porn to deal with my problems or escape my problems, to numb myself, to not deal with in a healthy way,” Garza says. “It was a release and outlet for frustration, and I  never stopped using it that way as time went on. So, when new stresses came up, and I didn’t know how to cope in a healthy way.”

 

Feel Comfortable Trying New Things

With your partner or any number of partners. Our sexuality and our preferences and desires are constantly changing, since we’re always changing as human beings.  

“In the early stages of my recovery, I thought had to stop watching porn and become someone else and never experiment outside of my marriage sexually. I set strict guidelines for myself because I thought that's what a person in recovery does, and realized I was cutting off a big part of my sexuaity, and that didnt feel authentic to me,” Garza says. “I didn't want to totally kick porn or stop exploring with other people [after I got married].”

Keep an eye out for: Knowing your limits. Don’t be shy to remove yourself from a situation that feels overwhelming, close a porn clip that’s starting to make you uncomfortable, or changing your mind if at first your body said “go” and now your gut says “no!”

“Take care of yourself, and make seuxal choices for the right reasons,” Garza says. “You should be in tune with your choices and why you’re making them,” Garza says.

 

Feel Comfortable Being Honest With Your Partner

If you feel you can’t be honest with your partner, it might be worth thinking about why—are you afraid of being vulnerable, or is it that you don’t quite trust that person? If it’s the latter, you may want to rethink pursuing any more sexual activity with them until you can gain some clarity—or move on to the next.

Keep an eye out for: Being pressured into something you’re not comfortable with.

My husband and I aren't in an open marriage, but were open- minded in our marriage. It's just about being honest with each other and what we want and like and having a good honest open discussion about it,” Garza says.

Trying new things—toys, people, positions, and much more—should be a conversation with your partner, and if at any point you don’t feel comfortable, do not be ashamed to use a safe word or stop the action. What we think we’re comfortable with might change as any given situation progresses.

 

Feel Comfortable In Your Skin As A Sexual Being

Get out there and feeling liberated to have as much safe, casual sex as you want.

“If a sex party is your thing, if you like watching pon, go for it. We shouldn't be ashamed anymore. We’ve been shamed for so many years,” Garza says. “We’re in a powerful cultural shift where women are coming forward after being silenced about their sexuality for so long.”

Keep an eye out for: Your motivation. Are you hooking up with guys to prove that you’re beautiful, desirable, or because you’re afraid to be alone with your thoughts? That might be something to look at and discuss with a therapist or someone you trust.

“I didn’t know how to have loving sex or be in a healthy relationship. I  needed to have shame and I needed to feel bad and that's the only way I knew how to have pleasure,  and i was hooked on that combination,” Garza says. “You can't measure sex addiction for someone else. It’s for everyone to take a hard look at their actions and decide for themselves if they're using it in an unhealthy way.”

If you are just ready to get out there as a woman who enjoys sex and wants to explore, right on.


Garza’s parting words to live by

Get a vibrator, explore your body, see what you like, don't be afraid of fantasy, explore your mind, be honest in the bedroom, and don’t fall into the trap of “performative sex.” Women might think sex lokos a certain way, or a guy will like a certain things, but it’s important to  be real and honest and not be afraid of being vulnerable about your desires.”

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