Sex is Better With the Lights On! Here’s Why.

If you grew up in a household that viewed sex as shameful or “for adults only,” you might have internalized that message. Of all things, it can affect whether you keep the lights on during sex. After all, it might be 2020, but American society still holds vestiges of its Puritan culture.

Sex and sexuality embrace a dichotomy between empowerment and exploitation, an act of intimacy versus recreation. It can mean a lot of things to different people. But no matter why or how you’re doing it, we think it’s better if you keep the lights on.

For those who have a difficult relationship with their body, this can be a terrifying prospect. Not only do we internalize messages about sex being “good” or “bad,” we also grow up bombarded by images of “desirable” bodies—usually fitting into a narrow ideal of attractiveness. The truth is, sexuality and attraction aren’t limited to those ideals. If it were, we’d all be supermodels. Trying sex with the lights on can improve your relationship with your partner, as well as your relationship to your own self and body.

Not convinced yet? Keep reading to find out why we think you should try it at least once—and maybe a few more times after that, just in case.

The dark hides vulnerability; light illuminates it

The best reason to try sex with the lights on is that it builds intimacy. An already vulnerable act, having sex for recreational purposes can intensify long-ingrained feelings of guilt, shame and even embarrassment. After all, it might be fun for many, but it also involves baring it all. Some people even find that eye contact is too intimate for them.

A lot of the lights-on fear stems from body image issues, especially for women. Many of us still fight the idea that we need to look a certain way in order to be attractive, and keeping the lights on can feel like being examined under a microscope. Even knowing that our partners find us attractive doesn’t take the body insecurities away overnight. However, those who swear by lights-on sex are quick to point out that it allows for a lot more visual stimulation, including expressions that can indicate when something is particularly working for your partner.

Lights-off sex has its charms, too, of course: depriving yourself of one sense can heighten the rest of them. On the other hand, always choosing to turn the lights off can lead to a sense of disconnection from your partner.

With the right partner, sex therapists suggest that a “lights on” policy can build trust and closeness. There’s no need to turn on floodlamps and get out the magnifying glass every time you do the deed, either—even occasional lights-on sex can be illuminating in a multitude of ways.

Lights on is the new norm

Sex with the lights on isn’t necessarily a generational divide, but it does seem that younger people are less likely to have the same religious and cultural hang-ups that were more common decades ago. Brandon Ambrosino suggests that this is because we’re on the verge of another sexual revolution; old norms are slowly dying out as the younger generations introduce acceptance and tolerance of everything from a gender spectrum to homosexuality to, yes, lights-on, non-marital sex.

A recent study revealed that 60% of people prefer lights on to lights off—but that can embrace a spectrum of lighting options. Whether you’re more comfortable with a nightlight or something more appropriate for a sports stadium, it’s worth trying.

Getting comfortable with the lights on

If you’re interested in trying lights-on sex but are feeling awkward, there are a few things you can do to help ease that transition.

Everyone says it (because it’s true): the most important part is communicating with your partner. Telling them that you’re interested in keeping the lights on, but that you’re feeling embarrassed, will go a long way toward creating understanding. Take the time to think about why you’re apprehensive so that you can come up with solutions to work through it. For example, if you’re insecure about your body, ask for praise before, during and even after sex.

Next, consider the lighting itself. A few small candles can add enough (flattering!) light to add visual stimulation without feeling as though you’re at the doctor’s office.

Finally, remember that it’s supposed to be fun. If you truly don’t enjoy having sex with the lights on, but you’re otherwise enjoying a healthy sexual relationship, all that matters is that it works for the two of you.

Janna Breslin

Janna Breslin was born and raised in Southern California and is a former pharmaceutical representative for one of the leading Pharmaceutical companies in the world.

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