Having better sex is as easy as opening your mouth – to tell your partner what you’re looking for. So why do some of us find that so tricky? FS magazine from GMFA, the gay men’s health charity, looks at why in the latest issue…

“I’ve had sex with a few guys, but I never really know how to say what I want,” says Patrick, 19, from London. “I’ll be thinking, ‘I’m supposed to be enjoying myself’ but I lie there thinking; ‘Hurry up and get it over with.’ The last guy I was with was out of my flat like a shot as soon as morning came and I lay in bed feeling used and stupid. I can’t work out what’s wrong with me.”

Dr Tara Few, a sex and relationships expert, says Patrick’s experience is perfectly normal. “Many people lack sexual confidence because we receive very little advice on how to talk about sex. The model of sex that is taught is largely heterosexual, and questions about sexual pleasure are not seen as important in an educational context.” All those sex ed lessons at school clearly have a lot to answer for.

The result is that we often end up feeling sex should happen naturally, without needing to say what we want. Sona Barbosa, a counselling psychologist of the GMI Partnership, the HIV prevention service, says many of her clients have another burning issue. “It’s about not feeling confident enough, how they feel about how they look, how other people are going to perceive them – especially partners – and the old myth about the gay scene and needing to look good,” she explains.

A lack of self-confidence in life translates to a lack of sexual confidence in the bedroom, again meaning guys stay silent about what gives them their kicks, or unable to say when there are things they don’t want to do that may even put them at risk of HIV or other STIs.

Matthew Hodson, Head or Programmes at GMFA, comments: “Confidence and self-esteem can have such a huge effect on our lives, including on the sex we have. Research shows that men with higher self-confidence are more likely to stick to safer sex. Also, we know that lower self-esteem can lead to men putting themselves at risk. The good news is that confidence can be learnt – it’s not something you’re born with.”

For advice on improving your self-confidence and keeping sex safe, see the full article “Can we talk about sex?” in FS magazine, issue 120. It’s available for free in gay venues and GUM clinics across the UK or can be viewed at www.gmfa.org.uk/fsnation.

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