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Solo Sex

I don't mean what you may think I mean.

Aleksandrs Muiznieks/Shutterstock
Source: Aleksandrs Muiznieks/Shutterstock

I often talk with my clients about “solo sex” and “partnered sex.” If you Google “solo sex," you will see that the majority of articles refer to masturbating, and that seems to be how most of my clients understand the term. But instead, I want you to expand your conceptualization of “solo sexuality” to include much more. Because I think that if you do, your sex life will improve.

So what do I mean when I say “solo sex” and “solo sexuality”? Yes, I can be referring to masturbating by yourself; to me, that’s just one aspect of it. I’m also talking about your internal experience of your sexuality and your chosen external expression of that internal experience. This can include your romantic, sensual, erotic, and sexual fantasies; your turn-ons, turn-offs, and how you relate to them (if you don’t understand what I mean by this just think of the ashamed fetishist); how you experience your sexuality in your body sensually, erotically, and sexually; your relationship to pleasure; how you utilize your mind and body to express this sexuality (here’s where masturbating comes in, and this can also mean things like how you dress or dance or when and where you choose to feel sexual feelings and with whom); and even things like that pleasurable and fun zing you get when you see an attractive person on the street, or the decision-making involved when you decide to flirt with that cute barista who makes your latte every Friday just the way you like it.

Do you see what I mean now? Solo sexuality needs to encompass all this and more, because your solo sexuality is your first and primary sexual relationship and it is a relationship you have for your entire life regardless of your external relationship status. It can and does change over the course of your life as you grow and have new experiences, both challenging and successful. Unfortunately for a lot of people, their solo sexuality can also cause immense confusion, fear, and shame.

Based on the clients I have seen over the years and speaking in generalizations, it seems that a lot of men, regardless of sexual orientation, seem to understand my definition of solo sexuality. They have already had hundreds if not thousands or more private experiences with themselves and their solo sexuality. Many women seem to need some help with this idea. Many of my female clients do not have a solid understanding and acceptance of—or experience pleasure with—their solo sexuality. There are a lot of possible causes for this: our culture’s fear of a truly sexually empowered and embodied woman; the taboo nature of female pleasure; and how female sexuality has historically been minimized, denied, or thought to be there for the purpose of men. Some women feel uneasy about masturbating and some feel that they should (there’s that word again) only experience their sexuality in a partnered setting. It’s not just some women who have this latter belief. Other subsets of people who seem to need help with embracing the idea of solo sexuality are members of a few religions and those in some 12-step programs that say partnered sex is the only acceptable sex one can have.

Another thing I tell clients who have little understanding or acceptance of, or pleasure with, their solo sexuality is that their pleasure during partnered sex is dependent upon their understanding of their solo sexuality. In my experience, there is a direct correlation: How can you tell your partner where or how you like to be touched if you have not explored your body on your own? In the absence of that knowledge, these clients stressfully default to focusing on their partner’s experience: “I’ll just make it about you tonight." So long as their partner isn’t pathological, at first this can be experienced as being given a gift and/or having a sexually generous partner. But it has been my experience that if this behavior happens repeatedly over time it is inevitable that their partner will want them to become invested in a mutually pleasurable sexual experience. Their partner is asking for a sexual equal. What’s more feminist than that? This means knowing what you like and want sexually in a partnered experience. So, again, we are back where we started: developing a relationship with and understanding your solo sexuality. It’s a worthy endeavor.

© 2019 Diane Gleim