How is one’s sexual identity formed? Is it formed from our parents? Our biology and hormonal makeup? Our friends, or the media, or how we look? How much do our early sexual experiences with a partner, or partners form us?
One’s sexual identity is a complex and dynamic entity. Some of us grow up feeling proud and self confident. Others feel shame and self loathing. Most of us feel a combination of all these emotions. In my job as a sexuality counselor at the Medical Center for Female Sexuality, we consider all these aspects of a person. We also take a sexual history, I have been particularly interested in exploring the impact of our earliest experiences with a partner on our sexual identity today. Were we in love? Did we feel safe? Did we feel scared or ashamed?
In a conversation with a colleague recently, she felt that if she had had a different first experience, her whole sexual history would have been different. She expressed that that first experience was not particularly safe or good. She mused that had it been a better experience, she might have felt more confident and she may have chosen more partners and different kinds of partners. She felt that this early experience made her more timid and had ultimately limited her sexually. Do you think that one’s first sexual experience sets each person off on a certain trajectory? I would like to hear what you think. How did your first sexual experience or experiences inform you as a sexual person?
The great news is that there are opportunities to build on that first experience. Some people have very traumatic early experiences of themselves and their sexuality. Yet, from that early trauma they still heal and grow and change. The beauty is in the power to embrace where you began and then build on it or even transform it. There will always be tools that enable us to move towards more acceptance and a fuller sense of your sexual self. This is an aspect of my job I love the most. We are in the business of more… more pleasure, more connection, more varied experiences, more joy and hopefully more self acceptance. It is a fantastic thing to have concrete tools to allow and nurture more of all that is good about inhabiting a body and exploring a more fulfilled sexual self.