How did you learn about sex? Through "the talk" with your parents? Abstinence-only sex ed? Some combination of those? In many places, sex education is still focused primarily on reproduction and STI prevention, to the point of excluding ideas of potential intimate contact other than that between heterosexual, cisgendered men and women.

What this has left us with is a rather stunted idea of sex and sexuality, one that often leaves us confused and hesitant to go beyond "vanilla" sex. And this can mean essentially missing out on the vast possibilities for rich sensory experience we are capable of having - experience that involves our bodies, minds and all of our senses. Here are some tips to work past this common issue, become more sex-positive and, ultimately, have better sex.

Learn About Anatomy

One of the big holes in sex education is an ignorance of anatomy. Many people have little understanding of pleasure zones (all of them!), how they work, or various kinds of play. Get a book or start looking up how your own and your partners’ bodies work. I’d highly recommend Dr. Jack Morin’s "Anal Pleasure and Health,"Charlie Glickman and Aislinn Emirzian’s "Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure," and Tristan Taormino's "The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation."

(When you know where your pleasure zones are, you can learn how to hit them! Check out The 5 Best Sex Positions for G-Spot Orgasms.)

Watch a Movie

Porn gets a lot of bad press, but some porn is incredibly useful for expanding your own repertoire of information and tips. Some is even structured to educate about particular pleasure zones, certain sex acts, and more. I’d highly recommend any of Tristan Taormino’s films, which cover a wide range of topics from female anal play to kinky sex.

Get a Blindfold

Sensory play is an amazing experience. Maybe you’re just starting out, using the warm oil from massage candles, grazing an ice cube along your partner’s inner thigh, or dusting flavored powder over them with a feather. Or, maybe you’re more experienced, using wax, bondage, and the sharp edge of a knife. Using a blindfold and taking away one sense can heighten all of the other ones and make the receiver more aware of every light touch. This helps build anticipation.

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It may seem straightforward, but for those of us (myself included) who experienced an incomplete or reproduction-focused sex education, communication isn’t easy. When pleasure isn’t talked about as part of sex ed, it can make it hard to talk to partners - and even yourself - about it. You often just don’t know the right words, or feel shame or embarrassment about communicating your desires. This can be fixed with some practice when you remember that trust, honesty, and consent are some of the most important aspects of a healthy sex life, and a healthy relationship. First, try literally voicing your erotic thoughts and desires to yourself for practice… then bring it into play with others.

Support Inclusive Sex Education

Whether you teach your kids from a sex positive standpoint, sign a petition, donate to Planned Parenthood, or organize in your area, advocating for inclusive sex education is a good way to push things forward. Teach yourself, but don’t stop there. Share the love, and teach others what you learn.

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