(ADULT) I often work with men who seek me out because they aren’t satisfied with their sexual and intimate lives. After some discussion and conversation, there is often a key revelation: They don’t know what they want, they don’t know what’s available to them, and they don’t know what they don’t know.

A great way, I’ve found, to gain a better understanding of what you like and don’t like, is to have new experiences, and process them as personal growth experiences.

But when it comes to sex and intimacy, that can be difficult to do. How do you have new experiences, when you may be coming from a place where you have been taught to be fearful of vulnerability, sex and intimacy? How can you learn when you’ve been taught to avoid communicating about sex and intimacy? How do you have these learning experiences when you fall into behaviors of numbing yourself with drugs, alcohol, or other substances?

Enter the scientific method: Sex exploration edition

It surprises some of my clients to learn that a great way to explore some of their sexual curiosities, needs, and desires, is to turn to something they learned in junior high science.

The scientific method, many of us have been taught, is one way to develop knowledge about ourselves, and about the world around us. And guess what – it works for sex and intimacy, too! Creating “experiments” can move us into greater awareness of ourselves. Just like the classical approach we learned in childhood, learning about our sexual interests can begin with identifying a question, creating a hypothesis, setting up an experience with limited variables and a controlled environment, conducting the experiment, gathering the data, and evaluating the results. It’s a great way to learn more about ourselves.

This process can be very liberating. It gives you more to build upon as you seek to find more of what you truly need in your life.

Ready to try it? Here we go!

How to begin: the ingredients and the players

The first step is to figure out what you are curious about when it comes to sex and intimacy. Be specific-very specific. We all have an idea of what we know we definitely like, and what we know we definitely don’t like. But what about those things we’re not sure about? Those things I’m not sure about, I find, are the the best for creating experiments. So, take a moment to make a list of your likes, dislikes, and unknowns. Then, consider choosing an unknown experience for your experiment.

The second step is to find someone to help with your experiment. I find that you can definitely create experiments you conduct for yourself, but when you first begin, see if you have someone to help. It should be someone you are comfortable with sexually and intimately, someone who is supportive and caring, and someone who is willing to help you to learn. It could be a former lover, a fuck buddy, or a partner. Choose someone you trust, someone who understands boundaries and consent, and someone who is willing to keep your exploration to themselves.

The next step is to decide some parameters for the experiment. There are a few ingredients here. Decide what the experiment will look like, meaning what needs to happen. Then, choose a time period. This time period should be long enough for you to explore in the experience, but with a definite beginning, middle, and end.

Create an agreement with the person who will be helping you. Negotiate the experiment. Both of you must consent to what will happen, and agree that each of you will share what each of you observed. It’s always ok to say NO. If either of you say “No,” just find an alternative act or experience that will create the same, or similar, experience. And, perhaps most importantly, agree that when the experiment is over, it’s over.

Finally, both of you should be committed to being unaltered. That means no drugs or alcohol – nothing that will change how you experience the experiment. This is important for many reasons. Most importantly, entering an experiment with a clear mind and awake consciousness helps both of you to stay focused, gather the data, and stay inside the constraints of the experiment. Save the altering substances for another time.

Making it happen: Dive in, gather the data, see what you learn

When you have your experiment, stay inside the agreements and parameters, but pay attention to what you are learning. Sometimes, asking yourself questions helps you to learn:

  • What am I thinking?
  • What am I feeling?
  • Do I like or dislike what is happening? Am I unsure?
  • How could I change it? Would I?
  • What would make it better? Worse?
  • How is this different from I thought it would be?

Remember, you can alway stop sooner than you agreed to, or you can aways ask for something different, but stay inside the time period you agreed to. It’s easy to get lost in the experience, and eventually you may forget you are learning.

When it’s over, take a moment or two to gather your observations and thoughts. Document them however you can. Share some of your observations with the person who helped you if you like, and invite that person to share their thoughts with you. Ask that person what they saw, what they felt, and what it was like for them – it helps you to understand yourself better, and gives you more information to work with.

Moving forward: Figuring out what’s next

At the end of the experience, agree with each other that it is done and over, and not to be shared with anyone. This is important to keeping the experience safe for everyone. It helps to know this so that you can be vulnerable and authentic in the experience.

Whatever you learn about yourself, use it to figure out what you are comfortable with, what you no longer want to experience, and what may open up further for you.

Happy experimenting!

This article was originally written for publishing on Himeros.TV, a project of Davey Wavey, Digital Storyteller.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.