Last week I interviewed Ev’Yan Whitney
, a sexuality doula whose work I’ve admired for years, as a bonus feature for my upcoming Authentic Body Confidence coaching program.
We talked about how many women (ourselves included, in the past!) have had unfulfilling, unsatisfying, shame-filled sex lives, and also how nobody talks about it.
Naturally, I decided I should be talking more about it. I mean, that’s why I enrolled in sexology school– because so many of the individuals I work with needed to talk about sex.
Many women we work with feel like they aren’t experiencing the kind of sex or pleasure they want, worry they don’t really care for sex, or think there was something wrong with their arousal pattern or orgasm method. Many more women are convinced there is something wrong, weird, bad, or broken about them because of what they want, like, or do sexually.
Now, I could write a book on all the things I wish everyone knew about female sexuality, but if this topic interests you I recommend reading Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. (I firmly believe this book should be required reading for all people with vaginas, as well as all people who have sex with people with vaginas.)
For the rest of you, I made a list of the facts about sex I find myself repeating to my clients most often.
I’m sharing them with you in the hopes that by reading them, you will unravel some of your own shame, and move closer to sexual freedom and pleasurable bliss.
Stuff About Sex I Wish Everyone Knew
1. Most women don’t orgasm from penetration alone.
The clitoris, which is located at top of the vulva relatively far from the internal vaginal canal, has about 8,000 wonderfully sensitive nerve endings. (For reference, that’s about double the nerve endings as the head of a penis.) The inside of the vagina doesn’t have many at all. This is why so many women can have orgasms when they’re alone– because most of us masturbate by touching our clits– but then “struggle” to orgasm with a partner. It’s simple mechanics! The thrusting of penetration has nearly nothing in common with the type of touch gives most of us pleasure, or brings us to orgasm.
Note: Due to all those nerve endings, many women find that touching their clitoris directly is too intense and uncomfortable! Those women might prefer touching around it (like in a big circle), or through a layer of clothing, and that’s all *perfectly* normal and ok.
2. There are no “good” or “bad” kinds of orgasm.
Freud (that creepy fucker) labeled two separate types of female orgasms: the “immature” clitoral orgasm, and the “mature” vaginal orgasm. He incorrectly believed that when a woman comes of age, all her sensation and pleasure should move from the clitoris to inside the vagina. Now, I don’t know what that dude was smoking, but ummm NO. Our nerve endings do not migrate at puberty, ladies. There is no orgasm hierarchy; a clitoral orgasm is just as good as a vaginal orgasm, and an orgasm is just as wonderful and valid whether you get it from a hand, mouth, penis, dildo, vibrator, nipple stimulation (yes that’s a thing for some women) or literally anything else!
3. There’s nothing wrong with the way your genitals look, taste, or smell.
Women’s vulvas (the parts you can see on the outside, not to be confused with the vagina, which is the canal part inside) vary dramatically in size, shape, and color. If you’ve never seen your own, I highly recommend getting a hand mirror down there, and if you’ve never seen anyone else’s (or if you’ve only seen the heavily manicured vulvas in porn) I highly suggest taking a peek at some of these beautiful NSFW Labia Library photos, to experience first hand how there is absolutely no one “right” way to look.
And as for the “gross” taste or smell we’re so afraid of, a vagina is not supposed to taste or smell like wildflowers. It’s supposed to taste and smell like a vagina. Which, for the record, also varies quite a bit from woman to woman, but as long as you’re healthy and clean it’s more often a source of arousal to our partners than disgust!
4. Women’s genitals look and feel completely different (both inside and outside) when they’re fully aroused, versus not.
Arousal isn’t just a mental state of being interested in having sex. It’s an actual physical process with lots of fascinating changes that happen, if and only if you give your body the time to experience them. Your vulva will swell with blood (like an erection!) sometimes becoming several times bigger, and multiple shades darker in color, along with other changes, like natural lubrication and both the elongation of (and swelling of) the vaginal canal. The inside of your vagina will feel more pleasurable and “awake” for you when you’re fully aroused, and it will feel wetter, spongier, and more swollen to your partner.
The whole process varies, but you can expect it to take 10-20 minutes to get fully aroused. Oh, and if you experience pain during sex the culprit may be that you’re not getting properly aroused before penetration– that’s one of the most common causes. This makes sense, given that most of us feel like we should be “ready to go” at the drop of a hat, and never actually experience the full process of getting aroused before we (or our impatient partners) move things along.
5. Until we’re fully aroused, many of us don’t feel very much down there.
The quality and volume of our genital sensations totally changes as we get aroused. So if you’re someone who feels like you can’t feel much sensation or pleasure during foreplay or sex, a lot of times that just means you aren’t getting fully aroused. Think of it this way: your body has a naturally built-in volume button for all your sexual sensations. Most of the time the volume is kept low, so as not to distract you, but when you go through the process of arousal, the volume on all those sensations gets dialed way, way UP.
6. Being wet doesn’t mean you’re “ready to go.”
Women get wet in response to “sexually relevant” situations, which means we might start getting lubricated far before we’re actually fully aroused, or even if we’re not at all mentally “turned on” or interested in having sex. Has someone ever reached down and taken your lubrication to mean you were “ready to go”? Yeah, me too. In fact, there were some times I would think “I am? Huh. I guess I want to have then,” despite being totally not into it. This is a simple misunderstanding of the arousal process.
7. You are a sexual being.
Many women think they don’t like sex very much, when in reality they just don’t like the kind of sex that’s available to them. Many men– even good men!– don’t know how to pleasure a clitoris, or slowly invite your body into peak arousal, and many more men (especially in hookup culture!) simply don’t care. But just because you don’t like the kind of sex that’s on the menu doesn’t mean you don’t like sex. It just means you need to give yourself permission to throw this stupid menu away and order (read: discover) what kind of sex you want and like.
Ok I seriously could have written like 1000 more, but I know you have to get to work or whatever.
Feel free to hit reply and let me know if any of these resonated with you, send this email to a friend, or share it on social media! Or ya know, just bust out a hand mirror, explore what feels good, and get to know your perfectly normal, perfectly beautiful genitals today.
Either way. 😉
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