Sexual Confidence Doesn’t Mean You’re Willing to Try Anything in Bed

by | Nov 8, 2021 | Uncategorized | 28 comments

Feeling Sexually Confident and More Adventurous
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There’s a myth that sexual confidence and being adventurous in bed are synonyms.

I think they’re related, but only tangentially, and I think the fact that we equate them is part of the problem.

In October and November we’re talking about sexual confidence. We’ve looked at what it means to be a sexually confident woman and a sexually confident man. We’ve looked at sexual confidence at menopause; when you’re married to a porn user; or just when you’re embarrassed at being female. And more are listed in the box below this post!

But I want to go back to first principles today and talk about what sexual confidence and adventurousness have to do with each other. And to do that, we need to remember what sex is supposed to be about.

Biblically, sex is intimate, mutual, and pleasurable for both.

Or, to put it in the terms that we’re using in the upcoming Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, and that I’ve used in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, it should be emotionally, spiritually, AND physically intimate.

In other words, it’s not just a physical experience.

But what often happens with sex is that we develop a very depersonalized and dehumanizing view of it–almost a pornographic style of relating (as Andrew Bauman says). We see sex as pretty much entirely about experiencing something physically, rather than experiencing more of each other. And then, if we want it to be more intense, the only thing we can do is to push physical boundaries and try more and more things.

I’m not saying that being adventurous is bad; but sometimes the way we go about it ends up causing rifts between us rather than causing us to grow together. It’s like we’re using each other for a sexual high, rather than having the deep pull for connection fuel that sexual high and that desire to be adventurous.

When you’re merely using each other for pleasure, then sex becomes depersonalized. 

When you’re connecting in every way, then sex becomes an expression of who you are together. 

What I’ve been trying to explain for years is that it’s emotional vulnerability that actually fuels passion.

When you feel like you’re truly known, and like you truly know your spouse, then there’s this drive to consume each other, to devour each other, in the best sense of the word. It’s why the “hottest” sex often happens after a fight or after a huge loss. You’ve been so vulnerable with each other that you feel this drive to connect in every way that’s possible, and that becomes expressed sexually.

When we focus on becoming adventurous, we’re often putting the cart before the horse.

You can force adventurousness (I mean you can pressure yourself into it; if you ever feel pressured or coerced by your spouse, that is not okay. That is sexual abuse, and please seek help through a domestic violence hotline or a licensed counselor).

But you can tell yourselves, “we’re going to try X because X is supposed to be fun”, or “we should be trying new things and Y is something that people like so we should try Y.” And you may even find that you like X and Y. But often one person, or both, will end up feeling empty afterwards if that’s the way that it grows. If you’re looking at trying new things, and you do it because you’re supposed to or because you just want to try the act, then it can feel, well, off somehow.

But if instead you’re feeling really close to each other, you may often be so relaxed that you naturally try new things–not that you have to. But when you feel close, you’re both more likely to be satisfied with the sexual things you do enjoy, and more likely to have your guard down to try other things.

The key to healthy adventure is not confidence per se but safety and trust.

Trying new things requires vulnerability. You feel awkward. You’re not sure you’re going to do it right. What if he (or she) really likes it and you don’t? Are you able to speak up and say, “No, not for me?” What if you like it too much and they don’t? Or even, what if it hurts?

To try new things, you need to know that your spouse isn’t going to critique you and tell you you’re doing it wrong. They’re not going to insist on it again if you say, “Nope, I don’t like that.”

They’re going to honor you. And when you have a relationship like that, where a spouse can accept a no, but also not feel like when you’re trying something you’re being judged, then it’s much easier to try new things!

When you don’t have a relationship like that, then it can feel like you’re play-acting. And that’s not intimate at all. That’s depersonalizing. And that’s when sex can get ugly.

Sexual confidence is about being confident in who you are; sexual adventurousness is more feeling safe with who you are together.

Both things have to go in tandem. So it may be that a supremely confident woman, who feels safe in her marriage and loves her husband, may truly enjoy sex, and may be making her way to being regularly orgasmic, but she still may not like her nipples touched. It just does nothing for her. And because she’s confident, and because she feels safe, she feels able to tell him so that they concentrate on what does work for her.

And a confident woman who feels safe may also want to try a variety of positions to find out what feels good. She may be able to put caution to the wind, in a way, because she’s not worried if she’s doing this right or if she looks silly or if her fat is jiggling, and she’s able to just enjoy being with her husband and seeing what they can feel together.

She still has preferences, and even no-go things, and she’s able to express those, but she’s also able to try new things.

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What bothers me is that sexual confidence often seems equated with having no inhibitions.

I think this is one thing that bothered me reading Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Deb Fileta. They were praising women who threw off inhibitions–who would text nude photos; get Brazilian waxes; try multiple positions and give oral sex. They knew that their bodies enthralled their husbands so they held nothing back. They had sex outside in the garden at night; they slept naked. They had sex several times a day. So many, many anecdotes and examples praising women who were completely sexually available and ravenous.

But sexual confidence does not mean getting rid of proper modesty (there are very good, practical, safe reasons for not wanting to text nude photos, and no one should ever feel like the person texting the nude photos is more confident than the woman who says no). There are good reasons for not wanting to sleep naked. There are good reasons for not wanting to have sex with the windows open or out in the garden at night (much depends on where you live!).

I think we’ve developed a cheap shortcut to sexual confidence in an attempt to make it sound like Christians don’t have shame about sex anymore. But it’s not a question of whether or not we have shame about sex; it’s a question of how confident you feel in yourself (which means confidence in being able to express preferences), and the trust and safety you feel in your relationship. And it’s that realization that true passion doesn’t stem from the specific act, but instead from the amount of safety and trust you share.

I’m all for trying new things. But there’s a reason that in our book 31 Days to Great Sex the adventurous stuff comes AFTER you build emotional connection. There’s a reason that in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex we answer the questions of what we think is permissible in a Christian marriage NOT in the physical intimacy section of the books, but in the spiritual intimacy sections of the books. The issue is not a physical high; the issue is feeling safe and secure and building intimacy, rather than detracting from intimacy.

I’m all for adventurousness–as long as it is an expression of intimacy flowing from safety and security, and not a shortcut or pseudo-intimacy. And I hope the dichotomy makes sense!

What leads to more adventure? Not always sexual confidence

Do we emphasize adventurousness too much? Do you think I’ve found the right balance here with sexual confidence? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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28 Comments

  1. Anon

    This is something I realized recently. My wife is adventurous at times but it really depends. I have shared some things that I have wanted to try and while she hasn’t rejected me about it she has told me that she doesn’t feel like trying those things and I have left it at that.

    One was a pretty controversial sex act and she is the one who has brought it up because she has done it before. One time she asked me why I didn’t just do it to her. And I of course told her that I would never force her to do something she didn’t want to do or that could hurt her. She was moved by my answer which I thought was weird.

    Then I remembered that her ex probably just did do these sex acts on her without her wanting to but just thought she had to. She wasn’t a Christian then but grew up in a culture that teaches the same message as the purity culture does.

    Recently tough we had a stronger emotional connection. And the sex suddenly got “hotter” to the point where my wife really wanted to try those things I had spoken about. It was one of the most romantic moments. I felt very loved that she tried that and it was all very sweet. And it took years for her to want to try this but I have never pushed her and even if I don’t know when it will happen again I won’t push her to do that either. There is nothing more romantic than when your spouse tries something new because they feel safe with you and they love you. It’s pure In that way.

    Sadly my old sins caught up to me and during one of our times together recently I lost my erection. It’s the second time in almost a decade of marriage but it hurt her. Mostly because off my past porn use that I am recovering from. Even if I haven’t been watching it brought up old wounds. So we are at zero now. If she wants to continue to be married to me I will continue to work on myself to make her feel safe so that she one day can feel confident to enjoy sex in a way that feels good for her. Porn really kills love

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Anon, I am so impressed with your consistent insight into your relationship dynamics. I really appreciate your comments and your heart to make things better. I pray that you do experience true freedom, because I know that that is what God wants for you.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      I’m a betrayed spouse working on our fourth year post dday. I’ve never before been in a place in my healing journey where I could respond in kindness to a man who is also recovering from the things my husband also struggles with. But, I was so moved by how you described the “purity” of your spouses willingness to try something out of love and trust and safety. That is awesome and something my husband does well too. In fact, post discovery I am not able to handle it when he suggests things he wants to try. I just can’t. He has been so gentle and so kind and honestly does not ever ask for things out of love and respect for me, but is happy to engage in conversation when I ask if he would like to try x or y. It is this quality that saved our marriage (I mean, there’s more to it than that, but the gentleness and kindness and honoring my heart tips the scales).

      Anyway, I just want to encourage you today. I know exactly how it feels when ED happens. It is devastating for the betrayed spouse, and it doesn’t matter how far along we are in our healing, it triggers everything. But it can get better. For us, it almost never happens anymore, and when it does he goes the extra mile to care for my heart. He’ll even offer to, erm, help me out if I’m left hanging (but that feels awkward for me so I don’t accept, lol). 😳

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you for sharing that, Anonymous! I’m so glad that you’re on the other side, but I completely understand how much the betrayal still hurts. But I’m so glad you’re rebuilding (and even able to encourage others!)

        Reply
      • Anon

        I’m so sorry you are going through that. But it’s encouraging to hear that your husband is working on himself and that you are together working on your marriage.

        Yeah ED sucks specially when it has never been a problem before. I wish my wife would communicate with me but she doesn’t want to. She wants things to be normal without communicating how. I understand she is hurt but I wish she would talk to me. I have told her I want to listen but she doesn’t. I hope we will figure out some day

        Reply
  2. A2bbethany

    Comment on the sex in the garden: my husband was scarred for life as a teen. His mother and current partner chose the location of the car hood, outside the trailer home. As a result, we’re in easy agreement! We don’t get intimate unless we can garuntee no spectators!
    Also why neither of us are comfortable with ever taking photos. We know that things happen.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! I know some people have special apps that can make the photos private–and I’m not saying it’s WRONG. I’m just saying there are legitimate concerns! Presenting it as something that sexually confident women do does pressure and shame women which isn’t right.

      Reply
      • Lisa M

        Especially when it’s presented as something a good wife does– even if she’s uncomfortable with it! A sexually confident person doesn’t do things they feel uncomfortable doing.

        Reply
    • Anon

      Yes, the bit that worried me most about that little anecdote was him having to be careful no one was around when he opens a text from his wife because he never knows if it will be a nude photo. How can this guy guarantee his phone will never get stolen? Or that he won’t get hacked?

      Reply
  3. Phil

    I think my wife is more sexually confident than I actually want to admit. Here is why. My wife will stand firm on her preferences. I want more what we will call variety. Maybe that is considered adventurous. Occasionally that does happen…but not enough for me honestly. But that is on me not her. I don’t ask my wife to swing form the chandelier or anything like that lol- she just has certain preferences and a sex drive she is satisfied with. So really…it is up to me to ACCEPT and not try to change…and honestly I probably haven’t been too accepting….that being said my acceptance would most likely improve my sexual confidence. How ironic is that?

    Reply
  4. Char

    This is so spot on! When I was dating my husband I was emerging from purity culture – which left me with a hair trigger shame reflex. So we talked about everything we were interested in doing before we did any of it (we were abstinent until marriage – I mean any other forms of physical contact). One time I decided I was ready to try a particular thing he had mentioned. After we had done it, he turned to me and said, “That was amazing. I loved doing that with you. And if you wake up tomorrow and decide you never want to again, you just let me know.” And I was like – THIS for the rest of my life, please ❤️ There is a strong value between us that how we feel about what we’re doing matters *so* much more than what we’re doing.

    I have listened to Christian MFTs on radio shows suggest that husbands should break the gridlock over sexual desires by just trying the thing they want to do – even though the spouse has not agreed to it. And to be honest, I do NOT understand prioritizing a particular sex act over the well-being of your spouse. I wouldn’t ever *want* to do something that would make my husband uncomfortable – that’s not sexy. Creating an environment where both people are safe also creates space for adventure and creativity – but pushing for adventurous acts without safety will make the other person feel used.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Are you serious? They say to just try it? That’s sexual assault! Oh my goodness. That’s awful! (And yes, I love that your husband said “and if you change your mind, that’s okay!” That’s beautiful).

      Reply
    • Anon

      That is horrific!!! How on earth would anyone in their right mind think that forcing something on their spouse would ‘break the gridlock’. All that is going to break is the trust your partner has in you. If my husband did something like that, it would destroy our marriage because I’d never be able to trust him again.

      Reply
  5. Melissa W

    Until recently, I could never put my finger on what it was about Christian self help books that was so off putting to me. I’ve not read any and hearing about them now, I am so grateful. However, I think what you are talking about today highlights the problem. What ends up happening is we look at the results or symptoms of a healthy marriage and decide that they are the prescription for a healthy marriage. It just doesn’t work like that. An unhealthy marriage can do all the same things I do and it won’t make their marriage healthy. The things I do with my husband are specific to us and work for us because of the underlying health of our marriage. The trust, the safety, the security, the selflessness that we both display. That is the problem with Gary Thomas’s new book on sex. He is describing the results of a healthy marriage on the sexual relationship as the prescription for a healthy sexual relationship. Like you mentioned in this article, that is backwards. This is true for parenting and dating and every other type of relationship. Until Christians get away from saying do X, Y and Z to get a certain result and instead focus on the underlying health of individuals and their relationships first, we will endlessly be on this hamster wheel.

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. I hate the pornographication of modern Christian sex manuals. My definition of a sexually confident woman is one who knows where her clitoris is and isn’t afraid to use it (or teach her husband how to use it). And, within the patriarchy, and even more so under evangelical patriarchy, it takes a lot more sexual confidence to say “no” than to say “yes.”

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I appreciate all your work and these posts so incredibly much. 😭I cannot begin to tell you the amount of advice I received from “biblical” counselors and pastors/pastors wives that pushed me to be more adventurous, to try new things, to do more and be more and that would show my husband that I desired him. Because that’s all porn was about—respect. Those women were willing to try anything and acted like they liked it. And that’s all my husband needed from me. So when my husband strangled me during sex I thought that was just one of the things I had to do to show that I loved him. That I respected him.

    My counselor told me sex was like medicine…it’s good for you so you do it and eventually you may grow to like it. So I forced myself to do it again and again even though it was immensely painful.

    When my husband had his first big porn confession, they asked me how often we were having sex. We were newlyweds and I could barely stomach it. I felt so used (cause I was being used) and they responded that I should be doing it at least one to two times a day. I panicked.

    I just….how do these people give this advice and live with themselves?!?! Thank you SO much for bringing light and truth. I recommend all my friends read your book because I’m out now but I know they’re still hearing this horrible advice and they think that it’s just the way things should be.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, my goodness, Anonymous! That’s so terrible! He strangled you during sex? I know that’s common now, but that’s heartbreaking! And your biblical counselors told you to have sex once or twice a day without digging deeper into why you didn’t want it? They failed you. The absolutely and utterly failed you. I’m so sorry.

      Reply
    • Nessie

      Anonymous, I feel sick reading what was done to you and the perverted advice you were given under the claim of “biblical.” Disgusting and hateful, and I’m sorry you went through that. Praise you are now out! Good on you for using your discernment and knowledge to help others! <3

      The "biblical" council I also received to fix my marriage problems (it was entirely void of anything emotional, spiritual, or intellectual) was to "have more sex," like sex was the duct tape cure-all for whatever was broken in a marriage. What my husband had absorbed was, "If you're having sex, the marriage is fine."

      I tried having more sex to fix the problems he refused to talk with me about, and I tried to be more adventurous because clearly I wasn't doing something "right." He refused to listen to or discuss any problems in part because we were having sex so there couldn't be anything "wrong"… round and round we went, an endless loop that never fixed anything.

      Till I found this blog. Shortly before a (former) porn habit was finally confessed upon my moving out of our bedroom (quarantine hit about then, severely limiting my options to find an apartment for my kid and me) because I learned boundaries. I, too, am thankful for finding this blog and Sheila's books. We are slowly trying to heal and move forward together.

      Reply
  8. Lisa M

    Yes! The sexually confident person has no qualms about saying no or accepting no. You don’t start with the result, you start with the foundation and you build on that, together, with complete mutual consent. Consent is worthless without the free ability to say no.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! A sexually confident person feels as if they can say no. Yep.

      Reply
  9. Anonymous

    I come from the purity movement so the idea of sexual confidence was never taught to me. Then take into consideration that I have insecurities because I am a small chested woman and struggle with feeling like I can be desired sexually.

    Early in our relationship, I had the higher sex drive and was always the one to initiate sex. When I finally asked my husband why he never initiated sex he informed me that he’s a “boob guy” and my body type makes him feel like I’m the “girl next door” so it is difficult for him to get into the right headspace to initiate sex. He understands my long history of insecurities with being small chested and was protecting me by withholding that information up to that point in our relationship, but felt like he needed to give me the real reason behind his lack of initiation. He would often decline sex when I initiated and apologize that he couldn’t do anything about it because that’s just how he’s wired. Without the visual stimulation of breasts it’s difficult for him to respond.

    Now we’re 16 years into our relationship and have young children and I have stopped initiating sex (for many reasons that I am now seeking counseling for). But because I no longer initiate sex, he has become resentful of me. I can’t figure out how to work through the hurt at this point in our marriage.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s awful! I’m so sorry. Can I just say, though, that your husband has a major issue here, and not you? He’s developed a pornographic style of relating, where sex is about consuming, not about giving or knowing or intimacy. You don’t have to accept that. You can challenge him to grow. I’m glad you’re seeking counseling, but I hope your counselor validates that. The issue here isn’t that you won’t initiate sex; it’s that you’re not in a safe place to initiate sex. You can’t give yourself to someone who doesn’t see sex as an intimate act, and that’s the root of the problem. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but I highly recommend that you both read Andrew Bauman on the Pornographic Style of Relating.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        That article is so enlightening Sheila. Thanks for sharing. In my opinion, one of the disservices of purity culture is that I don’t remember anybody ever discussing how pornography affects emotional development and sexual intimacy. We were only taught that pornography is wrong and you should stay away from it and keep your heart pure.

        With the I KissedDating Goodby movement, I never realized how damaging it could be to avoid romantic relationships. People act and respond differently in romantic relationships than they due in friendships and if you never allow yourself to explore different kinds of relationships before marriage, you don’t get a true sense of what healthy interaction is.

        After reading your series on Doing Marriage On Hard Mode, it’s more clear to me how I’ve been affected by society’s message that marriage is tough (which seems to “normalize” harmful behaviors). That, along with a lack of experience of how to date properly before marriage and my ignorance of how early exposure to pornography affects brain development has led to enabling of really damaging behaviors.

        Thanks so much for helping us become more knowledgeable of what healthy intimacy is supposed to be!

        Reply
  10. James

    We had a very rough start after marriage because I had premature ejaculation but wanted sex almost daily. I never forced myself on her but she knew how important it was to me. I finally figured out that I could use the numbing cream along with a condum and thereby last long enough. By then she was only interested about 3-4 times per year, but would orgasm when she was interested, sometimes more than once.

    It was so frustrating that she had no desire when I knew she was capable of enjoying it. At some point I got on a medication that curbed my drive so we went years with only having sex 5-6 times per year & then only for me. She’s had 2 orgasms in the past 3 years and one of them happened unexpectedly even though I now have ED & have been unable to get an erection. I felt like she was disappointed that she had an orgasm because now we know she can still enjoy it if she can get past not being interested.

    I am now off of the medication and my drive is back, but she has no desire but reluctantly pacifies me with a hand job but wants to hurry up and get it over with and that makes me unable to enjoy it. I have ED now but still ejaculate & have a strong desire for the kind of “knowing” you’ve talked about, but she is unwilling to talk about it or go for counseling. Our marriage had lots of problems in the past but has been very good the past few years (43 total) but the sexual issues are starting to cause a lot of bitterness and strain. I am willing to stimulate her any way possible but she considers oral sex to be sodomy and will not allow me to try to stimulate her in any way.

    One of my greatest desires has been mutual oral sex and she allowed it only a very few times and even had an orgasm once from it. She admittedly enjoyed it premaritally with a former boyfriend but says that was because she was high on pot. We are Christian’s and she is a great person, but I’m feeling very rejected and don’t know why she believes it can’t be fixed and isn’t willing to find out why. I am 67 & she is 63. Please help!

    Reply

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