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10 Sensuous Ways To Boost Your Sexual Self-Esteem

"Sexual self-esteem affects every sexual choice you make..."—Gila Shapiro

Sex

Although self-esteem is the kind of topic that you've probably read quite a bit about over the years, be honest—when's the last time you checked out an article that was totally devoted to developing your sexual self-esteem? I was inspired to do this because, one day, while a client was sharing with me a series of poor sexual encounters she experienced, I asked her if she felt that she loved herself. She didn't even pause before she responded with an emphatic, "Yes! I love myself a lot." I paused before saying, "How can that be when you chose such unhealthy partners?" She was dead silent for about a minute.

I know a lot of us don't want to face the reality that who we chose to date, have sex with and/or love says a lot about how we feel about ourselves and what we think we deserve, but ignoring the facts doesn't make them any less relevant or true. I can speak from very up close and personal experience that the more you strengthen, not just your overall self-esteem but your confidence as it directly relates to you and your sexuality, the more you'll make wiser decisions and, the better your sexual experiences will actually become. Are you ready to learn some specific ways to take your sexual self-esteem to a higher level? I've got 10 for ya.

10 Ways To Boost Your Sexual Self-Confidence

1. Look At Yourself Naked. Every Day.

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I don't care what kind of impression the media tries to give you, as a marriage life coach, I can personally vouch for the fact that we as women tend to be way more critical of our bodies than men are; especially the men who are in committed relationships with us. Shoot, most of them are so excited, just to have the privilege and pleasure of being able to "partake" that they are not nearly as nit-picky about breast and booty size, "rolls" or stretch marks.

So, where do we get all of our judgment from? First of all, I don't know if anyone is more self-critical, by nature, than the female species. Then, if you add to that, comparing ourselves to other women, looking at social media pics that have filters on them and, forgetting the fact that a lot of celebrities have a cosmetic surgeon on speed dial—the fantasy of "perfection" can keep us from celebrating the reality of how we were designed, by our Creator, to be.

That's why I say the first thing that all women should do is make a point and purpose to look at themselves naked every day. I don't mean that fast glance you take when you're getting out of the shower. I mean, intentionally staring at yourself, in a full-length mirror, while verbally declaring how beautiful and fabulous you are. Take it up a notch by shouting out all of the things that make you distinctively you. If you're not used to doing this, it might feel weird or silly at first, but I promise you—the more you get used to affirming your body, the more confident you'll become and, the more comfortable you'll be whether you're having sex in the dark or—as a lot of men prefer it—in the light.

2. Conduct a Vaginal Self-Exam

I must admit that, it kind of floors me, just how many women have no idea what their vagina looks like. I mean, if you do any kind of DIY pubic hair maintenance, doesn't that automatically require that you get an up-close-and-very-personal view? Either way, for the sake of being proactive about your genital health and well-being, and so you can get more accustomed to your "lady parts", it's also a good idea to conduct a vaginal self-exam, at least once a month. On the health tip, it can get you used to what your vulva and vagina look like so that you can stay on top of any potential abnormalities. Sexually, well, if you are familiar with all that goes on down there, it can make it that much easier to give your partner a guided tour ("Why You Should Give Yourself A 'Vaginal Self-Exam'"). Feel me?

3. Take More Baths

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Over in xoNecole world, we like taking baths so much that we've got articles like "Did You Know There's A Right & A Wrong Way To Take A Bath?", "5 Detox Baths For Ultimate Relaxation & Tranquility" and "Make 'National Bathtub Party Day' Your Favorite Day Of The Year" posted up on our site. We publish these types of pieces because baths are dope on so many different levels. They help to calm and relax us. They can boost our immunity while improving our heart health. They are even able to balance our hormones while moisturizing our skin. As far as our sexual self-esteem is concerned, soaking in a tub that contains essential oils and rose petals in it as we listen to some soft music and sip on a glass of red wine—does anything feel more feminine than that?

I recently watched some members of the All Def Digital team talk about all of the reasons why they would prefer to shower over taking a bath (you can listen to it here; it starts at the 49:46 mark). Personally, whenever people talk about floating in their own dirt, I always wonder, "Unless you've been sweating out in the sun all day or working out, how dirty are you?" But anyway, whether you hop right into the tub or you take a shower and then a bath, do your body and your sexual self-image a favor and treat yourself to a tub soak, at least once a week. There is something that is inexplicably sexy about doing it. There really is.

4. Sex Journal (More Often)

A part of the purpose of journaling, in general, is to recall certain memories and to gain some clarity about what you remember. This is why I'm such a fan of sexual journaling. Whether you're trying to figure out why you choose the partners that you do, how to come up with some sexual deal-breakers (which everyone should have, by the way), how to break some unhealthy patterns, or even what you like and dislike about foreplay, sex and afterplay, setting aside 30-45 minutes, once a week, to do nothing but sex journal can be another way to elevate your sexual self-esteem. Because when you see things clearly, you move…differently. (You can check out "The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)" for more of a breakdown on all of this.)

5. “Dress Up” Underneath

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Lord. Before even getting into buying yourself some nice underwear, you might want to read "When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?", just to make sure you ain't been slippin' when it comes to getting some new stuff. One thing I am grateful that my mother ingrained in me is the importance of "dressing up" underneath. What I mean by that is, she was always saying, "A woman's underwear needs to be just as beautiful as the rest of her clothes, even if no one sees it but her." I've been abstinent for many years now, but I still make sure that my undergarment game is on point. And you know what? Doing so does have a way of making me feel pretty sexy. It also gives me the feeling that I've got a seductive secret going on, even if I'm rocking nothing more than a T-shirt and some jeans. (In fact, that's often when I'm wearing the sexiest kind of bra and panties!)

6. Recall Your Best Sexual Memories. “Burn” the Others.

Unfortunately, it's a proven fact that our minds automatically lean towards negativity. That's why, it doesn't surprise me in the least that, whenever I listen to people talk about their sexual past, oftentimes it's the not-so-good stuff that they typically focus on. While, on one hand, it can be helpful to think back to what you did (or who you picked) that you would and wouldn't do (or pick) again, if you only dwell on the "bad", not only could it cause you to overlook the good but it could taint or even jade your overall sexual perspective.

Keeping this in mind, that's why I think it's a good idea to take out a couple hours to actually recall your best sexual memories and jot them down. Reflect on what made them good, how those moments made you feel and why they rank so high to you. Next, ponder the compliments that you've been given, not just when it comes to your performance, but your overall appeal too. Recalling all of the good stuff has a way of making the not-that-great pale in comparison while it helps you to keep your memories in balance. Oh, and as far as the negative stuff, try to not give all of that a lot of energy. Whenever I'm ready to let something go, sometimes what I'll do is to write down what it is and why it's time to release it on a piece of paper; then I burn it. While that doesn't make the recollections go away forever, it is an exercise that lets me feel like I've gotten some of my power back. And that is a confidence booster, on a whole 'nother level, chile.

7. Share Your Sexual Needs with Your Partner (Beforehand)

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There are a lot of ways to settle in a relationship; let me share one that isn't discussed nearly as much as it should be—the women who go into sex being more concerned about whether they will please their partner than if their partner will be capable of pleasing them in return. And because this is the mindset that they are in, when they happen to be displeased—or, at the very least, not impressed—and then suppress or internalize their emotions (and desires), it can cause them to wonder if their own sexual needs and wants even matter. And that? That can put a real toll on one's sexual self-esteem.

That's why I'm such a huge advocate of couples sharing what their sexual expectations are before engaging in sex together for the first time. Hey, great sex is simply another form of good communication. How fair is it to expect someone to "get you there" if you're not even open to discussing what that requires beforehand? Sexually confident women already know that this is essential. Therefore, they do it without an apology or hesitation.

8. Cultivate Sexual Rituals

Some people are freaked out by the word "ritual", but they shouldn't be. If you go to church every weekend, that's a ritual. In context, a ritual is about a procedure that a religion practices or it's about creating your own type of ceremony. So, when I speak of creating sexual rituals, I simply mean doing things that help you to center in on your sexuality and its power. It could be engaging in some erotic self-focus. It could be meditating alone before participating in sex. It could be intentionally creating the right ambiance and mood for coitus to transpire. It could be adorning yourself with oils that will relax you and lingerie that will make you feel alluring and exquisite. It could be turning on some sexy music and sitting in silence as the grooves take you in. Whatever it is, just make sure it's something that makes you feel sexy, tranquil and wonderful. Pick a practice that reminds you of just how special and provocative you are. Because the more you believe it, the harder it will be to let anyone make you think otherwise.

9. Keep a Realistic Perspective

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If you're relying on movies, television, R&B songs (c'mon, who really has non-stop sex all night long?) or even your friends' sexual escapades to serve as a forecast for what your sex life will or even should be like and, at the same time, you're not super confident when it comes to sex and your sexuality, that makes total sense. After all, you are living in a fantasy world, a fairy tale, and both of those things are anything but realistic. I'm not saying that sex can't be good, totally amazin' even, but there are tons of people out here who are disillusioned and bitter about all things sex-related, simply because they didn't approach it from a mature and reasonable perspective.

The real is that sometimes sex is awkward. The real is sometimes people have "off nights". The real is that it might take a while for you and your partner to truly get in sync. The real is some of your past partners may be better than your current in certain areas and aspects. The real is that you are human, your partner is as well, and so coitus isn't always gonna be perfect all of the time. But you know what? If you're with a mentally healthy and emotionally sound person, "performance" isn't gonna be nearly as important as connection. And knowing that you are sharing your being with someone who wants to be with you, for you, is one of the best ways to boost your sexual morale.

10. Never Fake It

One of the reasons why I wrote the article, "Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP" is because, while I get why a lot of people do fake it, I don't really think that it's a wise or beneficial thing to do. The definitions of the word "fake" are enough to illustrate my point:

Fake: prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent); to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive

How can you have a high sense of sexual self-worth if you're out here deceiving your partner into thinking the sex is all good, just so they will find you (more) attractive, interesting and/or valuable? Uh-uh, sis. You and your body are way too precious for some foolishness like that.

Love yourself, your body and your time enough to commit to not faking sexual satisfaction. Be confident enough to express when you are pleased and when you are not (do it gently and kindly but do it). The right partner will want you to be pleased, so they will respect you for speaking up. And when you are encouraged to be as open and honest as possible, that is a sexual self-esteem booster like no other!

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

These 10 Hacks Will Help You Love Your Body More

What GROWN Women Consider Great Sex To Be

What Loving Yourself Actually Looks Like

What Your Vagina Wishes You Would Do More Often

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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