I have exciting news– I just enrolled in a 2 year program to become a certified clinical sexologist!!
One of the reasons I love being a body image coach is that many different topics are relevant to body image, so I get to study and learn a ton of cool stuff on my own.
As an autodidact with an insatiable curiosity, that suits me perfectly; I get to constantly be learning about stuff that is both equal parts fascinating to me, and helpful for my clients.
Trauma is one of those areas I’m obsessed with learning about, and an area I would like to pursue more formally at some point, along with the many therapeutic modalities available to help with trauma resolution.
A few others personal side-passions are race & gender social justice issues, dance, emotions, and of course… sex. 😉
Up until now my education on sex and sexuality has been mostly based on personal experience, books and articles, talking with friends and peers, and a few coaching programs with various sexual educators and healers that I admire.
I’m embarrassed to admit that despite a lifetime of being sex-positive and well-educated, I didn’t know a whole lot about the female anatomy until very recently.
In fact it wasn’t that long ago that I was reading a fabulous book on female pleasure called Becoming Clitorate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It, and it suddenly occurred to me as she explained the anatomy of a vulva, that I didn’t understand how my own anatomy applied to her chart!
Now, I’ve never been someone who shied away from exploring or examining herself– I had taken a hand mirror to my lady parts long before I saw the Vagina Monologues– so I knew what everything looked like down there.
But what I didn’t know was how “what I look like down there” had to do with all these seemingly separate bits of anatomy Laurie Mintz was describing.
The whole thing reminded me of that scene in Orange is the New Black, where all the women are talking about their urethra, and only one of them actually knows where the pee actually comes out.
Like… I get it, in theory. But I couldn’t actually tell you how that applied to my own body.
(Incidentally, the urethra was one of those sneaky bits of anatomy that I had never seen and was totally confused about.)
There were other parts of my vulval anatomy that didn’t quite line up with the map, either. I mean, I totally understand that vulvas are all created completely unique, and the anatomy chart is just a guideline… but still! Shouldn’t I be able to figure this out??
I was embarrassed enough (and committed enough) to text my boyfriend and request that he look at my vulva with me, and explain which parts were which.
I’m sharing this story with you only because I found it really disconcerting that despite being smart, educated, having always explored my own body openly, and having actively pursued the topics of female sexuality and pleasure for years, I still didn’t know WTF was going on down there.
This is problematic, and indicative of the culture we live in.
Everyone knows what a man’s genitals look like, and how to pleasure a man.
But women’s pleasure is cloaked in a haze of purity, mystery, confusion, discomfort, and false beliefs.
It’s not like it’s even so complicated down there, honestly, either. It’s just that there is so little cultural context for female pleasure.
Most health classes in public schools are still teaching abstinence and morality, rather than any kind of accurate information– despite the fact that this has been proven (over and over and over) to fail as a strategy for keeping kids from avoiding the unwanted side effects of sex.
And in the few schools who do cover “safe sex” information, the entire focus is on the internal sexual organs for a woman, and how to avoid disease and pregnancy. Nowhere is there ever a discussion about the external sexual organs like the vulva or the clitoris, or even a hint about the fact that sex is supposed to feel good.
Is it really any wonder that the vast majority of my clients and I end up talking about sex at some point?
Why they don’t enjoy it, how they have shame about it, what makes them feel abnormal, and how difficult it is for them to get in touch with their own pleasure and desire?
Sex and body image are inextricably linked.
What you do sexually, and how you feel about it, affects how you feel about your body.
What you look like down there, and how you (and your partners) feel about it, affects how you feel about your body.
Beliefs like “I take too long to cum,” or “my vulva is weird/ugly,” or “I’m supposed to have orgasms from deep hard thrusting” are all going to affect how you feel about your body.
Feeling numb, and cut off from your own body and pleasure, is directly related to body image.
Feeling shame or embarrassment, about your genitals, desires, or sexual performance, is directly related to body image.
Not feeling pleasure during sex is often both the result of body anxiety, and the creator of body anxiety.
I decided I wanted to learn a whole lot more about female sex, sexuality, and pleasure, to better support my clients on their healing journey with their bodies. Hence my decision to enroll in this program, to become a certified clinical sexologist.
Because our genitals are part of our bodies, and our sexuality is (often) a core part of our identities. And if we’re going to heal our relationship with our bodies and our Selves, we’re probably gonna need to talk more about this stuff directly.
As always, I promise to share stuff with you along the way. I have no doubt my courses will be interesting and enlightening, and hopefully a lot of fun.
Now I’m curious– what does this topic bring up for you?
What role does sex play in your personal relationship with your body?
Do you know where you pee out of?
Do you know what gives you sexual pleasure?
Sending you a super sexy Tuesday,
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