This weekend, a friend and I were making plaster casts of our breasts at an event at the Motley. She remarked that, of all her friends, I was the most comfortable and confident with my own sexuality. Her comment made me realize that sexual self-confidence is not universal. Many women learn that sex is a negative thing. Coming from a liberal and sex-positive family and subculture, I have easily been able to embrace my sexuality. This week’s column is targeted toward women, because in our society, women are more often the targets of anti-sexual messages. To some readers these things might seem really obvious. Regardless, even people who are having a lot of sex or orgasms might not be totally in tune with their own sexual needs and desires.One of the best ways to get “in touch” with your sexuality is to masturbate. It’s silly to assume that sexuality is synonymous with partnered sex. Contrary to the—at times—popular belief, it’s healthy and normal for both men and women to masturbate, and in all likelihood God won’t be killing any kittens because you chose to pleasure yourself. Masturbation can but does not necessarily culminate in orgasm, and for women it doesn’t necessarily include vaginal penetration. Learn what feels good to you and just experiment. I recommend trying it out for a couple reasons:Knowing your body and what feels good to you will help you know what you want from a partner.The clitoris has only one purpose—pleasure. Take advantage of it!If you have already tried masturbating, but haven’t had any luck, I have a few suggestions:Try using a vibrator and experiment with different types and shapes and with varying degrees of speed and power. Not all vibes are created equal, and if you’ve tried without success, don’t be too shy to try again.Many girls enjoy the water pressure from removable shower heads or hot tubs.Try rubbing the clit hood. If there’s not enough pressure or intensity, touch the clit directly. Adding a lubricant can help, too.It’s also important to feel good in your own skin. Don’t let the media determine what makes you feel sexy. If you want to conform to social norms that’s fine, but it’s also okay to embrace alternate images of what’s sexy. I love wearing matching lacy lingerie and expensive jeans. I love taking half an hour to curl or braid my hair before going out on the weekend. Normally I shave my legs fairly regularly, but in the past I’ve let it grow for months on end. I own a bunch of makeup, but I don’t feel the need to wear it on a daily basis. Do whatever you want to do that makes you feel like yourself, and you will radiate confidence—and confidence is undeniably hot. Learn to love your body. If you’re not ready to do that, learn to accept your body and acknowledge all of the miraculous things your body does for you.It’s okay to coach partners. We can’t all be sex gods, but most of us want to be and will want to do whatever we can to please our partners. It’s okay to casually tell a partner what does and doesn’t feel good and to ask for feedback from them. If you’re not comfortable enough to express your sexual needs with that person, you probably shouldn’t be having sex with them, either because you’re not ready or because you’re not with the right partner. Verbalizing your sexual desires is a really easy way to improve your sex life. It’s not glamorous, but it certainly doesn’t need to be awkward either.I’m of the mindset that sex and sexuality shouldn’t be taboo topics of conversation. Talking to people about sexual issues doesn’t necessarily mean telling them about your sex life. Opening up discussions of sexuality would do our society good; we all see depictions of sexuality—both positive and negative—in the media, so why not talk about it more?Try new things sexually. This doesn’t mean passing boundaries that you’re not comfortable with. It’s about opening your mind to trying something you might not have thought of or trying something you’re interested in, but perhaps embarrassed by. It is really important to know when you’ve left your comfort zone and to be able to say no. You should always set your own limits and never, ever do something you’re uncomfortable with in order to satisfy someone else.If you’re uncomfortable with your sexual decisions or lifestyle, it will give you a negative view of sex and can inhibit healthy sexuality. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault or rape, seek treatment. It is possible to have a healthy and happy sex life even after abuse.Finally, know the risks of what you’re doing. It’s important to have a sex-positive outlook, but stay informed about the risks. Practice safe sex and get tested regularly. Within the heterosexual American population there are lots of sexually transmitted diseases. Herpes is forever, but many of the most common diseases, such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea are easily cured and, if treated immediately, will cause no long-term harm. Even though diseases are a huge taboo, it is absolutely vital that, if you are infected, you tell any partners to whom you could have transmitted a disease, so that they can get treated too.Please send your sex questions and comments firstname.lastname@example.org.