Just be yourself, our mothers told us when we worried about what to wear and say and do on our first date with that special someone. Such hard advice to follow when we wanted to be cool and sexy and in control—everything, in other words, that our real selves were not.
It turns out Mom was onto something. Participants in a study of “optimal sex” published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality listed “being completely and genuinely oneself” as an essential component of great sex.
People who were interviewed for the study (20 professional sex therapists and 44 men and women representing a variety of ages and sexual orientations who identified themselves as having experienced great sex) described feeling completely uninhibited and unselfconscious with their sexual partners, able to reveal themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually without fear or shame. One woman spoke about the exquisite joy she experienced when she exposed her “real self” to her husband in bed. “It was just so shocking to me that I could actually express these things and, he was right there loving it and doing it with me.”
This is really the definition of intimacy, isn’t it—sharing your real, genuine, authentic self with another person? Unfortunately, experts tell us, the ability to just be yourself doesn’t get easier as we get older. Over time we become even more practiced at hiding our uncool, unsexy, and out-of-control selves behind social and cultural masks.
According to the study, people who have experienced the emotional power of authentic intimacy—of being genuinely seen and known by another person—often say that getting there required them to first understand and reject the “rules” about what is or isn’t sexy, desirable, and possible between two people who love each other. Moving beyond existing scripts to try out new sexual roles and techniques actually helped liberate them to be true to their “real” selves.
What keeps you from just being yourself with your partner? What helps you get to the uninhibited, naked in every way -- metaphorically even more than literally? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.