An open-minded attitude about sex — also called sexual openness — is linked to greater sexual fulfillment and happiness in general. What is sexual openness, exactly, and how does it impact our relationships? Can we become more sexually open with a little practice? Let's explore what it means to be open-minded about sex and how you can become more open in your own life.
What Does Sexual Openness Mean?
To be sexually open means a willingness to view sex without preconceived notions or judgments. You can discuss different kinds of sex and sexual orientations, and approach the idea of sex with curiosity.
While someone who is sexually repressed may be reluctant to discuss sex or validate the sexual choices of others, a sexually open person typically has a more positive attitude toward sex in general. They see sex, in all its variety and complexity, as a natural part of being human.
Examples of Sexual Openness
Sexual openness is a vague term, leaving it open to interpretation. It refers to an openness of heart and mind, but is not more specific than that. You can be sexually open without being as sexually open as other people you know.
Sexual openness may (but doesn't have to) include a willingness to:
- Try new sexual positions
- Have friends of different sexual orientations or genders
- Examine your attitudes and feelings about sex
- Talk about sex with your friends or partner(s)
- Experiment with sex toys
- Learn and grow as you learn more about your sexuality
- Approach the thought of sex without negativity or guilt
- Clearly communicate your sexual boundaries to your partner(s)
What Sexual Openness Is Not
The term "sexually open" can have different meanings to different people. This term, along with "sexually repressed" and "sex positive," can be used to push others into sex, or into types of sex they don't want. Sexual boundaries are healthy, and do not mean you aren't sexually open or sex positive.
You can still be sexually open if you decide to:
- Be monogamous
- Not have sex
- Not engage in BDSM or kinky sex
- Avoid anal or oral sex
- Not watch porn
- Not have a relationship with someone who watches porn
- Not have sex with people of a particular gender
- Keep your sexual history private
- Not take nude pictures or videos
Sexual openness exists on a continuum, and is something you decide for yourself. You might be open to discussing sex as a concept, but not your personal experiences. You may be open to certain types of sex, but not others.
You decide how sexually open you want to be based on what feels right for you. No one should use the idea of sexually openness to push you into having sex or disclosing sexual details about yourself.
Sexual Openness Vs. Open Marriage
The word "open" make it easy to confuse the concept of sexual openness with an open marriage or an open relationship. What's the difference?
Sexual openness refers to a positive curiosity about sex. It doesn't imply the willingness to have any particular type of sex, just a nonjudgmental attitude and willingness to consider sexual ideas. An open marriage or open relationship refers to having sex or a romantic relationship with more than one person at a time.
A sexually open person is not necessarily open to a non-monogamous relationship, and will have boundaries and limits that are unique to them.
How To Be More Sexually Open With Your Partner
Being more sexually open with a partner can lead to more emotional intimacy and more fulfilling sex. But how can you start being more sexually open? In a word, gradually. The concept of openness may seem easy, but bringing more more sexual expression into your relationship can be intimidating.
Here are some ideas that can help you be more open and expressive when it comes to sex:
- Talk to your partner. Perhaps the most important part of sexual openness is honesty. Try mentioning to your partner that you'd like to be more open, whether that means talking about sex more often, trying different things together, or exploring using sex toys. Saying, "what would you think about this?" or "would you be willing to try?" are nonthreatening ways to start the discussion, and can feel less threatening to a partner who is accustomed to a less sexually open relationship.
- Be more open overall. It's easier to make a relationship more sexually open if you can be open with each other in other ways. Try cultivating emotional openness by expressing how you feel, particularly positive, loving emotions. Cultivate verbal openness by talking about your experiences, hopes, and dreams, and giving your partner a better sense of who you are at your core. You can cultivate physical openness by being more affectionate, giving massages and foot rubs, taking a shower together, and making physical closeness a priority.
- Make it fun. Being sexually open can be fun. Go at it with a lighthearted outlook and willingness to laugh at yourself. Try flirting with your partner more often, planning dates together, and expressing your desires to try new sexual positions or toys. Sexual openness means enjoying closeness with your partner, even if the sex is imperfect.
- Make it safe. Sex should be time for exploring and being vulnerable. Leave criticism and judgment at the door when you're together. Make sure your partner knows that whether you're talking about sex, having sex, or just being close to each other, time with you is a judgment free zone. A safe word can help you or your partner feel safer exploring your sexuality together, particularly if one of you is more less experienced and comfortable with sex than the other.
- Be encouraging. If you're more sexually open but your partner is reluctant, let them open up at their own pace. Let them know they can trust you and feel comfortable being vulnerable with you. Express yourself and your desires honestly, but don't push them to do anything they aren't comfortable with. Many people can become more sexually open given enough time. Reassure your partner that you respect their needs and are there to help them explore when they're ready.
- See a professional. Becoming more sexually open can be difficult, particularly if you grew up in a sexually repressive culture or family. You may have tried to be more open, only to run into emotional barriers like guilt, judgment, or anxiety. Sexual abuse may have caused you to shut down your sexual feelings, or link sex to past trauma. A trained therapist may be able to help you overcome the lingering effects of trauma, and/or counteract early messaging that limits your sexual expression. Therapy can also help couples who struggle with being sexually open, and give them tools for understanding each other and making sex a more fulfilling part of their relationship.