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Exploring Your Sexual Self

Uncover intimate knowledge about yourself by journaling your sensual side.

Admit it. You know you want to. Haven't you always wished you could talk about sex openly, ask questions and discover your sexual self? Wouldn't it be liberating to let yourself loose without fear? Now you can—without being embarrassed, ashamed or anxious. Safe sex is here: between the sheets of your personal journal with your writing instrument poised for the plunge. Now you can write your way to the discovery of your authentic sexual self.

Many people who write a daily journal haven't written about their sexual history, preferences, delights and struggles. By writing and putting these subjects into words, you will understand your sexual self better and clarify fuzzy ideas and feelings.

When keeping a sex journal, it is important to write with the most detail and emotional honesty that you can. By getting to a deep and emotionally truthful place in this personal journal, you will not only arrive at greater clarity about your sexual self, but you will also heal some of your wounds.

We are all wounded; it comes with growing up human surrounded by other imperfect humans. Let this journal be part of becoming more whole and complete in spite of your disappointments, hurts and confusion. Have some fun with asking and answering questions, but also know when to back off and take care of yourself if you feel too emotionally stirred up.

Writing Your Sexual Self
All journals are private, personal documents and should be respected as such. A sex journal is not something you would publish. For you to be totally honest with yourself and put into words your most elusive and secret feelings, you can't be concerned about how you might sound to others, whether they might be appalled, excited or angry by your words. Therefore, your journal must be kept private, and you must feel confident that it will not be read by others. Writing a journal is a lot like having a conversation with yourself in your mind. Worrying about eavesdroppers will keep you from speaking your truth.

For this reason, I strongly recommend that you plan not to share your sex journal. You will handicap your process by spectatoring. That is, you will be watching yourself in a detached and emotionally removed way—even before you begin. That censorship, whether conscious or not, will inhibit the many benefits you can achieve from keeping this journal.

However, as your journal progesses, you may want to share your discoveries about your sexual self with your lover, spouse, psychotherapist or closest confidant. Talking about sex with a partner is part of being sexual. Admitting your most private desires and fears can improve your sense of yourself as a separate, authentic person as well as improve emotional intimacy. By talking about what you learn, your sexual relationship with your partner will improve. But rather than share your writing in its entirety, you may want to talk about what you've discovered, keeping this very personal journal personal: for your eyes only.

To begin your journey to the discovery of your sexual self, write on the following prompts:

  • What would you like to learn about your sexual self?
  • What part of your sexuality seems the most mysterious to you?
  • When you hesitate to write something, what reminder can you give yourself to be as completely honest as you can, both factually and emotionally?
  • What, if anything, about sex distresses you?
  • What change would you like to make in your sexual behavior?
  • What change would you like to make in your sexual attitudes or thoughts?
  • What change would you like to make in your sexual emotions or feelings?
  • What memories came to mind from the previous questions?
  • What do you like most about your current partner? Least?
  • Make three (or more) sexual wishes. Don't hold back!

Writing Your Sexual Partnerships
Sexual partnerships are as varied as the people in them. In one partnership, you might be the sexual initiator, the seducer, the kinky one. In another, you might find yourself more shy, reluctant or cautious while letting the other person take the lead. The kind of partnership you establish with another person will depend on many of the other aspects of your life, including your age, confidence, comfort with your body and sexual desires, and the context in which you live. Like you, your partner brings to the encounter his or her history, experience, beliefs, ignorance and fears. Each of us contain multitudes, and we may only get to see these other selves with certain people.

Your choice of a partner, like your choice of certain sexual behaviors, also depends on who you are at the time of choosing. What choices do you have? What do you want—a lifemate and soulmate or a playmate? Your criteria for what makes a suitable partner will be influenced by other commitments in your life, your health and level of desire, and your most prominent values at the time of choosing.

If you look back over your sexual experiences, including your earliest memories of sexual partners and playmates, you may see the wide variety of people you are attracted to.

Your long-term partnerships can tell you a lot about who you are sexually. Looking at the people with whom you have been with for the longest periods, whether in marriage or other long-term commitments, you can see what draws and holds you. You can examine whether, in your judgment, these partnerships have been good for you and have nurtured your growth, or whether you have stayed out of fear. If you have settled for sexual experiences that have been less than satisfying, what made you do that?

Explore the topic of partners with these prompts:

  • Make a list of your sexual partners and write a few phrases to describe the relationship. What patterns do you see?
  • If you have a sexual partner now, write about this relationship. What works for you in this sexual relationship? What would you like to change?
  • Describe what your ideal sexual relationship would look like today.
  • If you have been sexually dissatisfied, what has kept you in the relationship?
  • Are you able to ask your partner for what you want sexually? How do you do that?
  • If you have difficulty asking for what you want, what are you telling yourself that makes asking difficult?
  • What are your sexual limits with your partner?
  • What sexual behavior won't you do or would do only under certain conditions? Write about those to clarify your boundaries.
  • In what way might your relationship with your partner deepen or improve by talking openly about sex?

Writing Your Sexual Fantasies
Sexual fantasies can be a source of pleasure and sexual excitement, or they can cause distress and worry. Your sexual fantasies, whatever their content, have a function in your psychological health, or you wouldn't have them. Whether you want them to come true or wish they would stop, your fantasies are yours, and you might as well make friends with them. Understanding them is a way to understand yourself.

One way to look at sexual fantasies is to see them as spice. If you know what fantasies arouse you and intensify your sexual pleasure, then you can call them up at will, enjoying the thoughts and feelings for what they are—only fantasies.

Another way to see sexual fantasies is as permission—they allow you to be sexually experimental within the safety of your own mind. You can "try on" sexual behaviors in your imagination and decide if you want to do them. Maybe the thought of doing them is scary, and you'd rather keep them as fantasies. In the fantasy, you have total control over all the variables—what happens, where, who does what and even the emotional reactions of others. In life, other people have their own agendas. They aren't likely to play out your fantasy according to your mental script—especially if you didn't give them a copy of it. You may also be fantasizing about someone other than your partner, which may be difficult for your partner to appreciate.

Of course, your mental experiments with new sexual behavior can be a kind of mental practice for the actual behavior in waking life. The choice is always yours. Don't assume that your fantasy (or anyone else's) really means you want to do it. You may or may not want to take the fantasy into action. Some fantasies—maybe most—are better in imagination than they are in real life, where reality has a tendency to intrude. But if you want to do something you have never done before—sexual or otherwise—mental practice in your imagination can be helpful. If you are considering taking the fantasy into reality, you would do well to include in your fantasy what might be the possible consequences.

Sexual fantasies can be divided into five types or categories:

  • Replaying what you've done and enjoyed (and might do again).
  • Replaying what you've done and enjoyed, but won't do again (because your commitments have changed).
  • Rehearsing what you might like to do in the future (if you have the right opportunity).
  • Running a mental movie of something that excites you but you would never do in reality (because it's dangerous or otherwise unwise).
  • Things you would never do and don't want to even think about.

The first four categories allow you to enjoy the fantasy and separate it from any possibility of taking the fantasy action. The fifth category includes the troublesome, intrusive fantasies that you haven't given yourself permission to have. Only you know why.

Use these prompts to explore your fantasies:

  • Can you recall your first discovery of sexual fantasy? What was it about?
  • Write out three of your favorite sexual fantasies. If this is new to you, make one up now.
  • How have you used your sexual fantasies up until now?
  • What began as a fantasy that you later took into action?
  • What sexual fantasies work the best to arouse you?
  • Have you shared your sexual fantasies with a friend? What was the reaction?
  • Have you shared your sexual fantasies with a lover? What was the reaction?
  • How important is it for you to share your sexual fantasies? What are your reasons for sharing or not? Does sharing fantasies break their "spell"?
  • What, if anything, do you find distressing about your sexual thoughts or fantasies? Write about that to clarify it for yourself.
  • If you could say three things to the world about the nature of your personal sexuality and really be heard, understood, and accepted, what would you say?

Writing Your Sexual Journey
By exploring your earliest knowledge and sexual experiences in a journal, you will discover preferences, longings, quirks and perhaps even their origins. By daring to write about sex, you can safely stretch yourself to new possibilities or define your limits. You decide what you want to write. Then you can choose—with greater self-awareness and self-understanding—what you want to do with what you've learned about yourself.

This article is excerpted from Exploring Your Sexual Self copyright © 2001 by Joan Mazza. Used with the kind permission of Walking Stick Press, an imprint of F&W Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Joan Mazza is also the author of From Dreams to Discovery and Things That Tick Me Off from Walking Stick Press. Visit

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