I was brainstorming ideas for a series of articles for image.ie with a friend, over the phone, while my children watched their ‘bedtime’ cartoons and occasionally screamed for TV snacks.
“You have to write about female pleasure” she said.
And my first thought was
“that’s a little icky”.
My second thought was –
“That’s a bit of an Irish-shame-guilt-sex complex thought”. Especially for an enlightened and sexually woke woman like myself (ahem) So one thing led to another (as they sometimes do where sex is involved) and I wrote a piece, just in time for valentines day on pleasure, sex and being your own valentine .
You can read it here. It’s behind a paywall though, so let me quickly give you a rundown and some quotes from the piece.
Fear-based sex education
For the article I spoke to Lee Tracy, a yoga teacher, who teaches a course called the wild feminine. I'd seen her posting on Instagram about pleasure about things like anatomy of the clitoris, and breast massage a while back and I was intrigued as to her take on female pleasure.
We chatted about how much guilt and shame there is around sex in this country – due in no small part to the fear-based sex education we received in school. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our generation could be the last generation who really has that deep shame around sex?
“It really is that magical,” she tells me. “There’s this element of crazy sexual energy and what it creates. Literally, the human race is born from it and instead of it being something that we shy away from, instead of being embarrassed and shamed or guilty, about which obviously, historically, we have had a huge problem with, especially in this country, let’s just talk about it like as a normal part of life, because that’s what it is. It’s just a normal part of life.” “It’s just sex, it’s your sexual energy. It’s our bodies.”
Sex has the potential to be this beautiful creative act that human beings engage in.
Orgasm is this wonderful thing that releases juicy hormones into the body and makes you feel good whether that's from some sex with a partner or from masturbation.
(I actually found it hard to write the m-word there. But why should we be prudish about this stuff? Who benefits from shying away from talking about sex in an open way?).
To quote myself:
“The pleasure derived from sex can be the greatest feeling any human will experience. So why do we compartmentalise it, shame ourselves for it, deny it?”
I also wrote about how little there is by way of conversation and education about sex after having a baby, despite what a major upheaval it is for the sexual life of a woman and a partner.
" In hospital a day after having my first baby, the midwife visited the ward to give a talk on birth control, leaving us with pamphlets on types of contraception. Nothing on how sex might feel afterwards, beyond being ‘cleared to have sex’ after the six-week check. There was nothing in that check-up on how you might be feeling about sex after pushing a baby out your vagina, no advice on ways of connecting with a sexual partner or alternatives to penetrative sex. Some mention of vaginal dryness yes, but nothing on milk leaking during sex or that breastfeeding often has a major impact on sex drive."
It can be difficult for women, especially mothers to prioritise their own pleasure. Back to Lee again:
"For women to be able to give themselves that time on a consistent basis, it’s difficult. We constantly have other things that are calling for our attention, whether it’s our work, or husbands or boyfriends or girlfriends, our wives, our children… we want to take care of people, we want to make sure everyone’s okay, we want to nurture and love them. The very definition of self-worth for me is being able to offer that to yourself as well.”
So how to start tapping in to pleasure more?
In a way that feels safe and not icky or scary?
Good news, it doesn’t mean signing up for an orgasm online course (although plenty of women are signing up for these)
“ The journey towards greater pleasure in sex begins, Lee believes, with getting to know yourself and your body on an intimate level and making time to give yourself attention and space to explore that. “It doesn’t always necessarily have to come down to sex, we can experience pleasure in our bodies by massage, by self-touch by simply being in our bodies, by being present, by using our breath,” she says.
So, how might you start making time for yourself in this way?
Reading up on sex, relationships and pleasure. For example this list of books and other resources. I also like Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. Also check out Lee Tracey and Jenny Keane on Instagram.
Listen to a podcast on sex – Jenny Keane again has a couple of good ones – she is really down to earth and fun in how she talks about sex – definitely worth a listen. Also this podcast episode is essential listening for sex and relationships post-partum
Do some journaling to reflect on what pleasure means to you and what sex means to you. Notice any ‘shame’ or guilt voice arising and see if you can move beyond that to really answer those questions.
Notice the ways your body gives you pleasure? This might be touching, stroking or tapping your body to notice what feels pleasurable to you – your wrist, your earlobe, neck – whatever. It might be a movement you engage in.
Try some self-massage. Any kind. Breast massage is becoming more talked about and there’s research supporting its therapeutic effects, but even a simple hand or foot massage can be nurturing and pleasurable.
Enjoy how a lotion or oil feels as you smooth it over your body or notice which clothes feel delicious against your bare skin.
I would love to hear your reaction to these thoughts on pleasure. What's holding you back from allowing yourself to experience the full capacity for pleasure in your body?
Read the full article on pleasure here https://www.image.ie/self/power-of-self-pleasure-393220