Now I’ve got your attention with the most Cosmo-esque title I can think of, this column is about love. When (if!) you decide to open up your own sexy bubble and include someone else in it (maybe you’re tindering/grindering/texting someone, pashing a stranger on a Saturday night, or bringing up a new sex idea in a long term relationship) start from a place of love.
What do I mean by this? Simply, if you don’t love and respect yourself, it’s going to be hard for you to show love and respect to others (if the word ‘love’ doesn’t gel with you, then replace it with kindness, friendliness, or compassion). Here’s my theory: people do shitty things to other people to feel good about themselves, to get their needs met in dysfunctional ways, to feel powerful and strong. If you’re starting from a place of self-compassion and kindness – self love – then you’re 100% less likely to be a dick.
Tip 1: Loving yourself is learning what you want.
Know your sex, relationship and intimacy boundaries: what feels good, and what doesn’t? What do you want to do right now, and what don’t you? If this is hard for you to figure out, a good place is to stop, breathe and check in with yourself. For example: let’s say you’re on a date, and your date goes to the bathroom. Rather than immediately reaching for your phone and distraction, take these few minutes to breathe deeply and think to yourself, what’s going on for me right now? What do I want to do with this person?
It might feel messy and confusing and contradictory: sometimes we can confuse what we want with what we think the other person might want. Can you listen to your intuition? What is it saying?
Tip 2: Voice your wants and boundaries.
This is beyond the ‘hashtag-lite’ version of #love #gratitude #soblessed. This kind of self love is mad and bold and unapologetic. In terms of sex and hooking up, it’s being able to say no and a big fuck yes. It’s being able to say, “I don’t know how I feel about this, so I don’t want to continue until I can figure it out.” It’s being able to say no without saying sorry. This is HARD.
In many cultures, being good, compliant and saying yes is prized. Loving yourself is subverting this, and I hear you, this is tough work. Once, I wrote down all the different ways I could say no, and then practiced saying them with boldness.
If someone asks you to do something sexy with them and YOU’RE SO KEEN, then say yes with all your enthusiasm. Don’t be coy, “oh, I shouldn’t be too greedy, I shouldn’t look too excited, I should be chill”, etc etc. No More Chill! More Enthusiasm! More Love! If you can’t say no with conviction, you can’t say yes with conviction. Be bold in what you want and need!
On the flip side, loving yourself is digging deep into your courage, making yourself vulnerable and asking for what you want. Let’s say you’re on this date I mentioned earlier, and it’s getting to the end of the date, and you’re really into them. You’ve checked in with yourself and yup, your body wants them too.
So, like a bomb-ass self-loving adult, you’re not going to wait until you’re both too plastered to have a coherent conversation (because folks, in New Zealand law, an adult cannot give consent if they’re drunk. FACT. Don’t play around with this, because that’s not fun, that’s assault). You’re going to voice all the wonderfully sexy things you are contemplating in a way that respects and give space for them to decline. A kind thing to do is to follow your ask with something that gives them an out, like “no pressure”, or “you don’t have to answer me right away”, “you’re totally entitled to say no.”
Tip 3: Take care of yourself in rejection.
Now, your needs are out there…and here’s where your self love kicks in big time. Because you’re feeling vulnerable, and it’s scary saying what you’d like. Because they might say no. In fact, there’s a 50% chance they’re going to. And, yes, this can feel crushing and rejectful and shameful. Hopefully, the person you’ve opened yourself to will also respond to you from a place of love, and if they do say no it will be clear, direct and not followed by an insult.
However, bottom-line: if your needs aren’t met, take care of yourself. This doesn’t mean pushing, coercing, hounding, stalking, or assaulting. This doesn’t mean lashing out in anger, calling them names, gossiping about them, insulting them behind their back. Go lick your wounds, and take loving care of yourself. You’ve taken a risk! How can you celebrate your bravery, rather than mulling over your rejection?
Oh, and the plus side to asking for what you want? There’s also a 50% chance you might get it. What awesomeness is this?!
Tip 4: Know how great you are.
If you’re sitting there reading this, scared of being single forever, being laughed at, teased, told you’re frigid or slutty or a man-whore, you’re too weird or too kinky, too inexperienced or not experienced enough, too queer or not queer enough….holy shit, all of the horrible things we call each other…I see you. And you are so fucking talented. Your capacity to love yourself and love others is infinite.
Your screw-ups, your regrets and rejected attempts at getting what you want, your successes and triumphs, beauty and all the messy, dark bits of you – this is your humanity and it is real and imperfect and all the things that you make wonderful to be with.
Self love is compassion for all the things you get wrong, and cringe about. Self love is cutting yourself some slack, and giving yourself affirming pep talks. Self love is seeking what you want, without entitlement but with love, honesty and kindness. Go for it.
This article was originally published in AUT University Students’ Association Debate Magazine, Issue 13, September 23 2017.