Some things in life happen naturally, like that deep exhale at the end of a rad spin class or your unwavering adoration for everything Kylie Jenner puts on Snapchat. Other things can feel, well, a bit less smooth. Olivia making it as far as she did in this season of The Bachelor, for starters. Your legs two days after shaving. Scarily enough, your sex life can fall into that bumpy category. While there are women who pride themselves on being sexually active without reservation (think: Sex and the City's Samantha), others don't share that same sentiment. (Beware of these 8 Things That Hurt Your Relationship.)
And that's okay: "I often hear from women who feel confused about what they should do sexually," says Dr. Sari Locker, sex educator at Columbia University and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex. "They've heard they should be liberated, sex positive, and have sex with anyone, anytime, in any way they choose." What many people don't necessarily understand, says Locker, is that it's also considered "sex positive" to wait to have sex or even to not have sex at all. You can have (safe!) sex with strangers. You can wait until marriage. The key is figuring out what works for you—not for your friends, not for people on TV.
Thing is, most of us probably fall somewhere in between alllll-the-sex and waiting till marriage. And figuring out where you stand can be easier said than done. "Sex can be emotionally challenging," says Lisa Brateman, a New York City-based psychotherapist and relationship expert. "Understanding your emotions will shed a light on where you fit in the spectrum of sex-positivity."
Feeling a little unsure? We don't blame you. We talked to two sexperts for their common signs you're having sex for the wrong reasons:
1. You're looking for revenge. While channeling your inner Emily Thorne may feel pretty bad-ass, revenge in the real world can be a tad overrated. "Getting back at your ex never feels good," says Brateman. "When you do something intentionally to hurt someone else it usually backfires because the act of revenge can make you feel bad about yourself." The best revenge? Moving on. (Should you be friends with your ex?)
2. You're caving to someone else's sexual desires and forgetting your own. Yes, trying new things can lead to excitement in the bedroom, but it's important that your partner and you share similar tastes overall. "Your sex life should be about what both you and your partner enjoy, rather than you just conforming to what your partner wants," says Locker. "Some compromises are great, but giving up everything you enjoy will hurt your relationship and your life—not just your sex life." (Check out these 5 Sexual Fantasies—Explained.)
3. You're doing it for your partner's emotional benefit, and not your own. "If your emotional needs aren't being met, you just can't feel intimate or close," says Brateman. If you're busy pretending that the relationship is all flowers and candy when it isn't, you'll feel drained. Having sex when you're not truly happy? That session in the sack will start to feel more like a household chore.
4. You're using it as an ego boost. We all have bad days. When you look to others to boost your self-confidence after a wonky day at the office or a crush fizzling out, you're only asking for trouble, especially if you look for that ego boost in between the sheets. Using sex as to put a pep in your step can actually leave you used, anxious, and upset, says Locker. After your romp, the same less-than-desirable feelings will be awaiting your return (clothing, optional).
5. You're using sex as a bargaining tool. Communication in a relationship is absolutely critical. When you put aside important conversations and use your sexuality to get what you want, that won't solve issues you're having in the long run. "Intimacy cannot be bought," says Brateman. "Leveraging or trading for sex can become destructive to a relationship when sex is viewed as currency."