Sexual Self-Esteem: What Is It?

Sexual self-esteem is the security and subjective assessment that people have about their sexual relationships. Discover everything about it.
Sexual Self-Esteem: What Is It?
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Reviewed and approved by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 26 March, 2023

When one thinks about the concept of self-esteem, it’s often done in very restrictive terms. The way in which it can address different aspects of life, such as the sexual realm, isn’t often taken into account. Sexual self-esteem is a term that has gained great popularity in recent years, and the contributions of experts realize that its significance has been omitted for a long time.

In very simple terms, this refers to trust, security, and perception regarding sexual intimacy. It not only alludes to comfort when having sex, but also to the perception of one’s own body, to the idea of being naked in front of someone else, to the pressure for performance, and other variables. We’ll teach you what the specialists say and how you can strengthen it.

The characteristics of sexual self-esteem

Self-esteem is a subjective construction that a person makes of themself. The thoughts, evaluations, and feelings that someone has about themself vary throughout life, as they’re related to the way in which they interact with reality. In this case, sexual self-esteem refers to the thoughts and evaluations we make in relation to our sexual intimacy.

As expected, this type of self-esteem begins to form in conjunction with the steps that an adolescent takes toward their first sexual encounters. The first encounter isn’t necessarily the first catalyst for its construction, rather the process begins much earlier. For example, in concerns, prejudices, and ideas that are held in this regard.

In general, we can say that it begins to take shape during puberty and goes through different modifications according to intimate experiences. It varies according to these experiences so that at one moment, you can have a high self-esteem and at another, a very low one. As with general self-esteem, women tend to have more negative scores for it in contrast to men.

Contrary to what’s often believed, self-esteem isn’t created only from subjective criteria. Although it’s true that these have a leading role, so do objective criteria. As we’ll see shortly, insecurity regarding body image and certain sexual conditions mediate its construction. Be that as it may, it’s a very complex phenomenon that can condition sexual experiences.

How is sexual self-esteem built?

Sexual self-esteem is built in various ways.
Both positive and negative experiences or thoughts directly influence the “level” of sexual self-esteem.

As experts point out, sexual self-esteem and global self-esteem are interrelated. That is, your levels of sexual self-esteem are conditioned by the level of self-esteem that you manifest in general. If the latter is low, then the former will also be low. This shows that self-esteem is a global concept and much more complex than is often thought.

A study published in the Journal of Sex Research in 2013 found a relationship between anxious attachment and avoidant attachment and low self-esteem of this type. Attachment is a mediator in the quality and closeness of interpersonal relationships, and it’s also a mediator during sexual intimacy. Other researchers suggest the following variables that affect its construction:

  • Sexual insults
  • Sexual victimization
  • Failed intimate encounters
  • Episodes of self-destruction in a sexual encounter
  • Insults in general (as these affect global self-esteem)

It’s pertinent to mention the relationship between sexual self-esteem and body satisfaction. A study published in 2018 in Sexologies found a positive connection between physical satisfaction and body image and low sexual self-esteem. Keep in mind that both constructions are subjective (satisfaction and body image), so they can be presented independently of body weight and other variables.

A relationship has also been found between sexual functioning and this type of self-esteem. For this reason, people who suffer from some type of sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction, orgasmic dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and others) are prone to developing negative values of sexual self-esteem.

Finally, some experts point to sexual assertiveness as another of the mediators in its construction. Sexual assertiveness is understood as the ability to accurately express ideas and thoughts during intimacy. For example, objectively expressing the level of pleasure, rejecting or accepting encounters, and stopping a practice when it doesn’t fit what’s desired at the moment.

All of the above is useful to understand that this type of self-esteem is shaped from different fronts. It feeds mainly off of global self-esteem, but other factors also mediate in the process. Objective and subjective variables play an important role, which is why it’s a multifactorial construct. As with general self-esteem, there are many ways in which it can be strengthened.

How to improve sexual self-esteem?

There are many ways to strengthen your sexual self-esteem. As we’ve already seen, this is proportional to general self-esteem, so the strategies also involve addressing it in the process. We’ll leave you with some ideas that can be of great help to you.

1. Identify your skills

Self-esteem is created through personal judgments and evaluations. We suggest you do this, but this time to identify your skills, abilities, and skills. It’s likely that there are more than you think, you just have chosen to turn your back on them so far. This will be your starting point to strengthen the idea you have of yourself.

2. Eliminate prejudices

Prejudices exist in different facets of life, but our readers will realize that they’re particularly common in regard to sex. Adult movies, advertising, peer pressure, and comparison condition misconceptions about sexual intimacy. Recognizing the prejudices that people have about it and putting them aside is a great step to strengthen sexual self-esteem.

3. Learn to accept compliments

Sexual self-esteem and accepting compliments.
Because sexual and global self-esteem are related, accepting and internalizing all kinds of compliments is essential in order to improve.

Those with particularly low self-esteem are reluctant to accept compliments from others. Don’t close yourself off from them, especially when they come from people you know appreciate you. Compliments highlight the positive aspects that others see in you and are a window to discover that these are the focus of others’ attention (and the negative ideas that you think stand out in you aren’t).

4. Don’t be so self-critical

Self-criticism is always welcome, the problem lies in being exposed to it all the time. Self-criticism is often understood as the assessment of the negative aspects, and the fact that it also refers to positive aspects is completely omitted. An excess of self-criticism only highlights your negative values, and permanently buries the good things you can give in terms of sexual intimacy.

5. Reach for positive affirmations

In response to the above, you can focus on the positive things, and use those that you find as a means of reaffirmation. An evaluation will allow you to find positive aspects in terms of sexual intimacy, as in practice, not everything’s negative. It’s very important that you have positive things as a reference, so you increase your self-confidence.

Of course, you can also consider visiting a professional. Certain physiological conditions can get in the way of your sexual satisfaction, and so can some psychological states. Turning to medical and psychological professionals is a strategy to strengthen your sexual self-esteem. Don’t hesitate, especially if you take into account that sexual health is one of the main mediators of well-being.

  • Brassard, A., Dupuy, E., Bergeron, S., & Shaver, P. R. Attachment insecurities and women’s sexual function and satisfaction: The mediating roles of sexual self-esteem, sexual anxiety, and sexual assertiveness. The Journal of Sex Research. 2015; 52(1): 110-119.
  • Hannier, S., Baltus, A., & De Sutter, P. The role of physical satisfaction in women’s sexual self-esteem. Sexologies. 2018; 27(4): e85-e95.
  • Mayers, K. S., Heller, D. K., & Heller, J. A. Damaged sexual self-esteem: A kind of disability. Sexuality and Disability. 2003; 21(4): 269-282.
  • Ménard, A. D., & Offman, A. The interrelationships between sexual self-esteem, sexual assertiveness and sexual satisfaction. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 2009: 18.
  • Oattes, M. K., & Offman, A. Global self-esteem and sexual self-esteem as predictors of sexual communication in intimate relationships. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 2007; 16.
  • Peixoto, M. M., Amarelo-Pires, I., Pimentel Biscaia, M. S., & Machado, P. P. Sexual self-esteem, sexual functioning and sexual satisfaction in Portuguese heterosexual university students. Psychology & Sexuality. 2018; 9(4): 305-316.

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