Episode 37: Ask A Sexuality Doula
[ HEAL YOUR SEXUALITY PROMO ]
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[ INTRO FROM EV’YAN ]
Hey, everyone! I’m Ev’Yan Whitney and this is The Sexually Liberated Woman.
Today, you’re gonna get some stellar sex advice from a very, very special guest. She is a noted sex educator and sex activist who’s been featured in places like Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Bitch Magazine, Refinery29, Girl Boss, and BuzzFeed.
She’s a speaker and teacher who’s taught workshops from the West Coast to the East Coast. She’s a sexuality doula who’s helped thousands of women and femmes release sexual shame and trauma and come into a sexual expression that is liberating, empowering, and healing.
Please, everyone, put your hands together for the one, the only. . . ME!
Yes, it’s true—today, I’m answering your burning sex questions and helping you solve your sexuality conundrums. And I am so excited!
But before we get into that, I have someone I want to shout out.
Every episode, I like to take a quick moment to give love to everyone who’s giving this podcast literal life with their precious coins via Patreon. And there’s actually just one very special person I get to shout out this week, and it goes to Alistair B! Thank you, Alistair, for becoming a brand new patron of this The Sexually Liberated Woman. I appreciate you!
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If you want to help sustain this podcast, go to patreon.com/slwpodcast and become a patron. I mean, you already know you love this podcast. And it’s cuffing season. So, let’s make it official, show your devotion to me.
[ ADVICE WITH EV’YAN ]
OK, so a few weeks back, I went on Instagram and invited my followers to ask me their burning questions about sex and sexuality so that I could answer them on the show. I got a ton of great questions, ranging from virginity to threesomes to orgasm troubles, and I seriously can’t wait to dive in and give some guidance.
But before I do, and because this episode is titled “Ask A Sexuality Doula”, I thought it would be kind of helpful if I actually explained what the hell a sexuality doula is. Because some people get it immediately when they first hear it and others are like, “Wait, what? You help give birth to people’s sexuality?”
And honestly, that’s not that far off. Essentially, I guide people into birthing their sexual awakenings, except that the word birth is not being used literally here, it’s more of a metaphor.
I think we’re all familiar with a birth doula—someone who assists and supports someone through their pregnancy and birthing process. There’s also post-partem doulas, full-spectrum doulas, abortion doulas, even death doulas. And the one thing I know about doulas, through having them both as personal friends and colleagues, is that beyond birth or death, what doulas actually do is help support people through transitions—through the transition into parenthood, through the transition from life to death.
And so what I essentially do as a sexuality doula is help women and femmes transition from sexual shame, sexual trauma, fear, anxiety, dysfunction, all of that yucky stuff and into sexual liberation through one-on-one counseling-like sessions, education and resources, and deep emotional support.
Now, I cannot take credit for coining the term sexuality doula. It was actually bestowed upon me by a full-spectrum and abortion doula named Samantha Zipporah who was based in Portland, Oregon where I live. We met around the time I started doing one-on-one work with people and she offered the title to me after I expressed disinterest in calling myself a “sex coach”. That was, I don’t know, five years ago? And it’s stuck around ever since. And as far as I know, I’m one of the only people who uses that title for their profession.
So yea, as a sexuality doula I help women and femmes release sexual trauma, I help them reclaim their orgasm and prioritize their pleasure, I help them honor their sexual identities—from kink to orientation. Basically, I help them find their power as sexual beings and we work together to create a sexual expression that is underneath the taboos, fear, and shame. And I do all of that while drawing from my own experience as someone who has studied sex and sexuality for the last decade and has gone through hell and back trying to heal her own self sexually.
So, that’s what a sexuality doula is and you’re about to get a taste of what it’s like to work with me in this episode.
However, the one caveat I feel it’s important to give is that I’m not an advice columnist. Like, my work doesn’t look like my clients coming to me with very specific sex conundrums and me giving them some quickie advice and then sending them on their way. I mean, some of my work involves advising my clients, but mostly I work somatically and holistically with them, leading them through intensive and strategic healing processes that get to the core of why they’re not sexually free. I’m never just telling my clients what to do. Most of the time, I’m listening and witnessing where they’re at and asking them a ton of follow-up questions to prompt them to heal more deeply.
I don’t know, I just felt like it was important for me to say that because what you’re about to hear isn’t entirely what I do. Like, I definitely give my clients advice on the very topics you’re about to hear, but it’s not just advice-giving. It’s much, much deeper than that.
OK, so let’s get into these questions!
Oh, I should mention that each person who submitted a question will be given a fake name to protect their privacy and that some of these questions have been lightly edited for consistency and brevity.
OK, first question, this one’s from Nikki—
“HI! Thank you for your most recent podcast with your sister. Like you, I was amazed at how much I had in common with her story. You used the phrase “lose your virginity” a few times in this episode. Can you speak more to that? I understand that within Christian culture that phrase is used and I’ve followed you enough to know that you aren’t using it in an oppressive manner, but it may seem that way to others.”
OK, so this question isn’t really about sex and I don’t even know if this person was asking me to answer it on this episode, but I really wanted to address this especially since it’s referencing the last episode I did with my sister, episode 36.
Nikki, you are so right. I was using the term “lose your virginity” all over that episode, which was completely disappointing and also unintentional; I didn’t even realize I was doing it until you brought it up, which goes to show to how deeply sex-negative language is embedded in our vernacular—even my own as someone who does this shit for a living and doesn’t subscribe to that notion of lost virginity at all.
The reason the phrase “losing your virginity” is ridiculous because virginity itself doesn’t exist. Virginity is a social construct that was created to control and shame the sexualities of women predominantly, although men have been shamed for this too. And in me and my sister’s case, which is what we were talking about in the episode, virginity was used as a tool to measure our worth and desirability as young Christian women.
Basically, virginity and the concept of sexual purity is a total scam and to place emphasis and emotion on this made-up thing is deeply harmful and unhealthy. And for anyone who’s interested in this topic, I highly recommend watching the TED Talk called “The Virginity Fraud”.
So yes, I definitely know all of this, I’m constantly preaching against the virginity myth, and even I still have trouble ridding myself of this stupid phrase. In my defense, the concept of virginity and purity has been with me and in my vernacular for over 20 years of my life and it was only recently that I began unlearning a lot of the sex-negative nonsense that was passed down to me by religion.
But still, that doesn’t excuse it and I apologize to anyone who was harmed or weirded out by me saying that. I’ll definitely do better.
And thanks, Nikki. I appreciate you bringing that to my attention.
. . .
And speaking of virginity, here’s a question from Marsha.
“How does one as a virgin navigate the space of being sexually liberated? Mostly along the lines of having sex (intercourse) and detaching/decolonizing oneself from viewing sex as a sin or something that shouldn’t be done? I’m at a stage where I’m working towards sexual liberation and love the fact that I’m a sexual being, but when it comes to going the full way and having penetration, my body just doesn’t allow me to get there.”
Since I was literally just talking about this, I kind of want to use Marsha’s question as an example of how the virginity myth is harmful; I hope that’s OK Marsha.
So in Marsha’s letter, she’s saying things like, “I am a sexual being but my body doesn’t allow me to go all the way”—all the way meaning penis-in-vagina intercourse. What the virginity myth essentially does is invalidates someone’s (usually a woman’s) natural sexual expression by saying that you’re only a full sexual being if you’ve gone all the way. It basically places sexual experiences on a hierarchy with penis-in-vagina sex being the be all, end all act that signifies some arbitrary notion of having achieved sexual maturity.
And also, to measure someone’s lack of virginity by whether or not they had penis-in-vagina sex is especially silly because it’s ridiculously heteronormative. By the myth’s standards, people who have never had penis-in-vagina sex—either because that’s not their ministry or the sex they have doesn’t include those parts—are virgins. It just doesn’t make sense!
Anyway, I’m getting on a major tangent here, and I’m sorry, Marsha.
So there are a couple questions in there that I think you’re asking. One is how to navigate sexual liberation as a virgin, and the other, I think, is how to explore penetration in sex.
First thing’s first, I would encourage you not to base your sexual liberation or sexual beingness on whether or not you have had penetrative sex. Not just because of everything I’ve already mentioned regarding the virginity scam, but also because it sounds like it’s doing a huge disservice to who you are as a sexual being by placing those “shoulds” onto your sexuality. I mean, you said so in your own words that you consider yourself a sexual being outside of penetrative sex and I think that that can be enough; I think that should be enough.
So first and foremost, validate your experience as a sexual being and give yourself permission to be a fully expressed sexual being outside of penetrative sex. To me, sexual liberation means someone who is sexually sovereign, someone who belongs to themselves sexually. So “virgins” can be sexually liberated, celibates can be sexually liberated. And you can be too. I also think that giving yourself this kind of permission would be one way of decolonizing sexuality for you.
The other part of your question is about wanting to explore penetration as part of your sexual experience and your body not allowing you to. You don’t actually say whether or not you have a penis-having partner, but regardless if you do or don’t, my suggestion would be to start playing with penetration on your own.
When you masturbate, use your fingers, use a dildo. Start creating a relationship with penetration outside of the pressurized experience of trying it with another human. Not only does that enable you to explore penetration on your own time, it also helps your body relax, because essentially through that solo exploration you’re helping to create new neural pathways in your brain that say that penetration can be easeful, it can be enjoyable, that you can derive pleasure from it.
Also: Penetration is best done when you’re fully aroused and that might one of the reasons why your body doesn’t seem to be letting you explore it. So, make sure you’re fully aroused. How do you know when you’re fully aroused? That’s up for you to be curious about and explore with your own body. Oh, and don’t forget to use lube—even if you think you don’t need it. Lube just makes everything about sex better.
I hope this helps, Marsha. Thanks for your question!
. . .
OK, on the total opposite side of the virginity spectrum, we have this question from Josephine about sex clubs.
“Hi Ev’Yan, I’ve been wanting to ask you a question about exploring sexually. Previously, I explored different things sexually from swinging to sex clubs but I did it all with a former sex partner of mine. Now that we are no longer sexually engaged, I want to explore sexual activities by myself but I’m afraid to give myself permission to do so out of shame, fear of safety, and lack of knowledge of where to start. What tips/exercises do you do to give yourself permission to explore sexually on your own and do you know of any groups, places, or parties that are beginner/solo friendly?”
So to your question about how you can give yourself permission to explore yourself sexually—start first by giving yourself permission to explore yourself sexually. Literally. Like, say to yourself, “I’m going to give myself permission to explore myself sexually”.
Now, explore doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll now be going to all the sex clubs by yourself tomorrow. Explore can mean that you’d like to be curious about your sexuality. Actually, I wanna reframe the permission-giving I just told you to give yourself and say instead, “I’m going to give myself permission to be curious about myself sexually.”
What I like about being curious, as opposed to exploring, is that exploring feels like you have to do something, you have to take action, whereas being curious means that you can take your time, feel things out, and give yourself space to unpack what has been holding you back from exploring in the first place. So, start by giving yourself permission to be curious about your sexuality. And be curious about everything—not just about what you want to do sexually in the realm of play parties and all of that, but about where that shame is coming from.
Some questions I would invite you to ask yourself are:
When it comes to what I want to explore in my sexuality, what am I afraid of? What am I ashamed of? Where do I think this shame is coming from? What’s its origin story? If I were to release this shame, what kind of sexual expression would I have? What kind of sexual experiences would I give myself permission to explore? And what new ways would I like to view my sexuality and my sexual curiosities outside of shame and fear?
I think sometimes shame and fear can feel so big and obnoxious that our inclination is to steer clear from it, to run from it. But there are important pieces of information within the shame and fear that we can then use to eradicate the shame and fear. Like, if you dig deeper and find out that some of the shame is coming from old shit your mama used to say about sex, you can then ask yourself, “Do I want to continue to believe and subscribe to these ideas about sex that don’t belong to me?” No, OK—now I’m going to choose how I’d like to view and accept my sexuality instead.
All of that said, unpacking and unlearning shame is a process. It’s going to take years for you to completely rid yourself from it. So be patient with yourself and know that these small steps you’re taking to interrogate the shame are helping you shift those narratives to make it easier for you to eventually explore and take action. And it’s only when you’ve done some work and reflection around the shame that you might begin to feel a little more ready to explore.
Now, when it comes to exploring—like, actually going out there and finding groups and parties to play in—and addressing the fear you feel about going to these parties solo, which is so real: One of the first things that came up for me when I read your question was why not ask your former sex partner to come with you to these parties? Not to go with you as a couple and not to go with you so that you two play with each other, but to accompany you to maybe assuage the fear of safety that is coming up for you.
Now, of course, I don’t know anything about your relationship with this person, and this suggestion I’m giving you all depends on whether you two are in a place of friendship with each other without any awkwardness. But if things are cool between you two and you think you could both manage to be OK being in a sexual context with each other without engaging with each other, I think going together could be a good option. Just make sure that before you go you have a conversation with them beforehand to lay out the boundaries and expectations—like, yes, we’ll be going to this sex club together, but I’m gonna be doing my own thing and I expect for you to do your own thing.
If going with your previous sex partner doesn’t resonate with you, see if there are any sex-positive friends that you could go with. Again, not to participate with each other, but to have a kind of buddy system to make you feel more comfortable while you’re there.
Now, if you’d much rather go by yourself, that’s definitely an option too. I would actually say that a sex club could be a pretty good place for you to go solo, especially because most sex clubs have good security and clear consent guidelines that each club-goer has to follow. The whole point of sex clubs is for you to have a designated space to explore your sexuality where folks are hired by the club to make sure your experience is as safe, comfortable, and pleasurable as possible.
This isn’t across the board, obviously, and I would urge you to do some research on the sex club you want to go to and make sure the club is committed to the safety and consent of the club-goers. You can even communicate with the sex club before it opens and express your concerns to them.
We have a sex club here in Portland and they offer free tours before the club opens for folks to get a sense of what the club is like and to ask any questions to the staff about their rules and regulations. So you might check to see if the sex club you want to go to offers that and see about scheduling a tour. And if they don’t offer tours, definitely give them a call or email them with the questions and concerns you have.
And if you do end up going by yourself, make an agreement with yourself beforehand that if you start to get weird vibes or you’re just not having a good time, you do not have to stay. There’s no pressure for you to go to a sex club and do stuff if you don’t want to.
It might also be helpful to make an agreement with yourself the first time you go solo that you’re not going to be a participant, that you’ll be more of an observer just to get a feel of the space and the vibe of the people in it.
Basically, take any pressure off of yourself about having to DO anything while you’re there. Again, kind of going back to what I said earlier about exploring vs. being curious—make being curious the intention when you go to the club by yourself for the first time. And if you love it and you dig the vibe as you’re observing, go back again, take your clothes off, and be the life of the party.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that if you’re looking for sex-positive groups and play parties in your area, go to your local sex shop and ask about their upcoming events. If they have some, I guarantee you’ll find people there that you can connect with and ask them about the communities they’re a part of.
Another thing you can do that I’ve done in the past is look for meetups in your area that focus on sex-positivity and kink-related events. Meetup.com is a great place for this and some keywords you can search for in your area to find those communities are kink and BDSM, swinging, polyamory, and non-monogamy. Even if kink and BDSM or polyamory isn’t quite what you’re interested in, the people in these groups are tapped into the sex scene in your city, so you’re bound to find something. So check them out, go to one of their platonic meetups (also called Munches), and meet some new people.
OK, I hope this helps, Josephine! Have so much fun being curious about and exploring your sexuality.
. . .
Alright, next question is from Zora. And she writes—
“Hi Ev’Yan, I love your podcast and your insta account. I’ve been with my husband for 17 years and this year we decided to open our relationship. I’ve been seeing a younger guy that I like a *lot* (like a lot!) who I’ve been having incredible sex with. I now really want to explore the queer side of my sexuality but have never been with a woman before and I am nervous (but very excited!) about making it happen. I’m not nervous about eating pussy, more just that all of my flirting, sex, emotional and relationship “tools” are based on hetero dynamics. Did you have anxieties about how to let your queer side free? How did you overcome them? What advice do you have if any? Thanks so much.”
Oh girl, did I have anxieties about letting my queer side free. My god, I had so many anxieties, so many nerves, and they all came from me being inexperienced and only ever having related to cis-men in that romantic, sexual context.
When I started putting myself out there and going on dates, one of the biggest things I was insecure about was how much of a novice I was when it came to dating and having sex with women. Like, I was so self-conscious about it, on the first few dates I went on, there was one thought that kept looping through my mind the entire time: “Can she tell that I’ve never done this before? Can she tell that I’ve never done this before? OMG, did I just say something that pointed to the fact that I’ve never done this before?”
It was incredibly nerve-racking and with me being so hung up on it, I wasn’t actually able to relax in the date and enjoy the other person’s company because I was so stuck in my head about it. So, I feel you.
I honestly can’t say that I’ve overcome these things. I’m still a bit self-conscious about whether or not I’m “queer enough” which I’ve discussed at length in a previous episode. I guess those voices and anxieties have just gotten quieter, especially now that I’ve gotten dozens of dates and a couple relationships under my belt that I’ve finally found a rhythm in my queerness.
And I guess that’s the thing that I would say to you—it’s going to take time for you figure all of this out. It’s gonna take time for you to feel comfortable flirting with a woman and being in a romantic-sexual context in queer relationships. It’s going to take time for you to figure out how to be a queer person in general! And I think that’s what’s really underneath all of this—there’s a lot of things you don’t know and the not-knowing is what gives us anxiety. But that anxiety begins to dissipate the more experience you have, so embrace the wild unknown and get yourself out there so that you can discover and uncover those things about yourself.
And have fun with it! I think that’s the one thing I wish I had done a better job of when I was first starting to date and relate in a queer way was that I put so much pressure on myself that I forgot to have fun in the process. As nerve-racking at this is, there’s a lot of joy and excitement in getting to discover something and someone for the first time.
Also—seek out help and dating advice from your fellow queer community. One of the best things that helped me feel a little bit better about being a novice was hearing from all of my queer friends that they had been there too. Having their guidance and affirmation helped lessen the anxiety.
And lastly, if you haven’t already, go to my favorite queer lifestyle website autostraddle.com—that’s auto, as in automobile, and straddle like you’re straddling a horse—and check out their archives. They’ve got amazing articles with dating advice that I have definitely used right before I went on a date.
Good luck to you, Zora!
. . .
OK, I need a tea refill, so let’s take a quick break and I’ll be back with more of your questions.
[ BREAK WITH EV’YAN ]
The Sexually Liberated Woman celebrates sexual liberation. And since you’re listening to this podcast I think it’s pretty safe for me to assume that you’re already about that life. Maybe you’re already on your sexual liberation journey and you’re in this process of fully exploring your erotic self. Or maybe you’re one of the many many people out there who isn’t at all comfortable with their sexuality. If so, I have some things that might help. When I’m not doing this podcast, I teach classes and facilitate healing that helps women and femmes liberate and connect to their sexuality. And I’ve created some awesome resources to help them on their journey.
There’s a sensuality course that guides you into reconnecting with your sensual body one day at a time. There’s a digital workshop I lead that teaches you how to use sensual selfies as a way to heal and celebrate your sexuality. There’s also my sexual liberation and healing practice, where I help you step out of shame and into erotic empowerment via one on one mentoring, counseling, space holding and fierce accountability.
So if you want to be sexually free, go to evyanwhitney.com/shop and start your sexual liberation journey.
I absolutely cannot wait to witness your blossoming and I’ll see you there.
[ ADVICE WITH EV’YAN ]
OK, so I’m back. I’ve refilled my tea, put on a new stick of incense, and am ready to dive into some more of your questions.
And these next couple of questions are going to feature a topic that literally almost all of you want my advice on—orgasms: why you’re not having them and how to have more of them.
Orgasm challenges come up A LOT in my work so I’m not surprised that so many of you are struggling in this area. But full disclosure: Usually when I’m in session with a client and we’re talking about their difficulty achieving orgasm, there’s usually a lot of things that could be the cause of that. So in session, I ask a lot of follow-up questions to help me get a clearer understanding of what exactly the trouble is, what’s happening in the body, what’s happening in the mind, what kind of relationship they have with their partner, etc.
Unfortunately, because this is in an advice format, I’m not able to get that additional information. But, I’m going to do my very best to tackle these just the same.
OK, first one is from Rosa. Rosa says:
“I am one of those people who can’t get out of my head when I’m having sex with a partner. It’s like every time it starts feeling really good, I become hyper self-aware and I feel anxious about what I look and sound like. And even when I let go of that, there’s still this block any time I realize I am experiencing real pleasure. This also happens when I’m solo. I can’t seem to, at any point in time, “drop” into pleasure—even when I want to. Please help!”
Well, the first thing I wanna say is that what you’re experiencing is incredibly common. So common, in fact, that when I was choosing the questions to answer for this episode, several people submitted questions that were close to identical to yours. And I’ll go even further and say that I even struggle with getting out of my head and not overthinking during sex. Actually, my sister and I were venting about this very thing in the last episode. So yea, I don’t know if it’s any consolation to you, but you’re definitely not alone in this.
I have my own theories about why this is so common, particularly amongst women and femmes. Like, maybe it could stem from the fact that we’ve been so conditioned to perform sex for the pleasure of other people that when it comes time to have sex, we have a hard time being in it because we’re totally preoccupied with our performance—how we look, how we sound, what our bodies are doing, etc.
It could stem from not having had our pleasure and orgasm be prioritized in sexual experiences so that when we are having sex, we have a hard time focusing on ourselves and our pleasure because we think it’s our job to be centering others’ pleasure—like, are they enjoying themselves, could I be doing more to get them off? I see this come up a lot with people who have a hard time receiving oral sex because having the focus be on them feels too much, like, receiving pleasure is not something they consciously feel like they deserve.
It could also stem from not feeling totally safe to fully let go during sex. I believe that one of the common reasons we leave our bodies and go into our minds during sex is because we’re trying to protect ourselves from something. There might not even be anything happening that would suggest that you’re not safe, but the impulse to protect yourself from pleasure, from intimacy, from vulnerability, from letting people in is a habitual defense mechanism that we put into place to keep us guarded. And a lot of us have learned this guarding technique because of the sexual trauma we’ve experienced in the past.
A lot of the times, though, the reason we’re unable to get out of our heads and into our bodies during sex is that there’s this annoying tape looping in the background of our minds, saying things that are taking us out of our bodies. And that tape could be influenced by a lot of different things—sexual shame, trauma, stress, straight up boredom.
So I guess my question for you, Rosa, after going on that little tangent, is this: If there is a tape looping in your mind during sex, what is it saying? What’s your self-talk like during sex? And where does your mind go?
You mentioned anxiety as being one reason why you’re not fully present in sex, that you’re preoccupied with how you look and sound. And I would prompt you to go even deeper in that. What expectations or shoulds are you placing on yourself to experience sex in a particular way that could be blocking your pleasure? Where do you think those expectations are coming from? Where are you putting pressure on yourself to be someone (or experience things) that you’re not? Where might you be performing an idea of what is sexy and of what pleasure should look and sound like when you’re having sex? And if those “shoulds” were to disappear, how would sex change for you?
Other things I’d have you be curious about and I’m going to give you even more questions: What do you need during sex that might help you relax more? Is there anything your partner could do to help you make more comfortable and safe? What can you do during sex to remind you to come back into your body?
This is why getting help from someone who specializes in sexual healing is so powerful, because with the information that is gathered through answering those questions, I, the professional, can get more of an idea of what’s underneath the overactive mind, what’s underneath the impulse to block your own pleasure, and we can come up with a treatment plan of sorts to address what’s at the root of those things. Because I could give you practical techniques on how to be more present in your body during sex until I’m blue in the face, but if we’re not addressing the self-talk, the pressure you’re putting on yourself, or anything else that’s blocking your pleasure, there’s not enough breathing exercises in the world that are going to help. We have to get to the root cause of what’s taking you out of your body.
Obviously, you don’t need to seek professional help for this conundrum (though, I don’t think it would hurt). You can absolutely ask yourself these questions, and honestly I think that would be a really great place for you or anyone else who has an issue like this to start. And if that’s something you’re into, pause and rewind this podcast, jot down the questions I just shared with you, and process them in your journal. See what comes up and be curious about it.
All of that said, I will impart a practical tip for you to try that’s really simple and accessible: The next time you’re having sex, either with yourself or with someone else, and you feel yourself starting to get in your head, try focusing on your breath. Our breath can be an amazing equalizer in situations like that because the minute we focus on it, we are bringing awareness to our body. And when we bring awareness to our body, we are able to better access sensation—the pleasure we’re feeling and experiencing with our sensual bodies, specifically. Sex is not done with our minds, it’s done with our bodies, so it would make sense that we need to start with connecting there first.
I could literally go on about this forever, so I’m not going to keep rambling on. But I hope that this was helpful to you and please keep in touch with me about how it goes, OK?
. . .
OK, staying on the topic of orgasm, we have a question from Maya.
“I love masturbating! But when it comes to sex with my boyfriend, I don’t cum most of the time. We’ve discussed this before and he tries, but it doesn’t feel good for me and I don’t know how to tell him what I like with words. Any suggestions on this?”
I love that you say that you love masturbating because you can use the way you masturbate to help guide you into expressing your likes to your boyfriend. Digging into how you masturbate can also help inform and enhance the way you have sex with someone else.
So, how do you masturbate, Maya? Do you get off with a vibrator? Do you like penetration and vibration? How do you touch yourself while you masturbate—and not just on your genitals, but on your whole body? Like, are you caressing yourself softly and gently, or are your touches more firm and quick? What parts of your body, when touched, turn you on, and how do you like to be touched there? Do you like to use lube? Do you watch porn? What do you do to get yourself in the mood?
The next time you masturbate, this is what I want you to do. I want you to take a lot of mental notes. Notice how you’re showing up, notice what’s helping fuel your erotic imagination, notice what you’re doing to get yourself off.
Next, after that self-pleasuring session, write those notes down. Paint a graphic picture of how you make yourself come and be very specific about.
After you’ve got that all down, next I want you to think back to a recent time when you had sex with your boyfriend where you didn’t have an orgasm or sex didn’t feel good to you. What was happening then? What was your boyfriend doing to try to get you off? How was he touching you? What position or positions were you both in? Where you fully aroused or not even close? Also think about the things you wish you could’ve done instead that might’ve helped you get there. Did you need more time? Did you need more foreplay? Was the position you were in not doing anything for you? Again, take notes on all of that.
Actually, I’d like to take a quick but relevant detour to mention that more than 70% of women do not reach orgasm from penis-in-vagina sex alone. And that has nothing to do with them but more to do with technique. The vagina—and I’m talking about the actual vaginal canal—is not, by design, constructed for orgasm. The clitoris, however, with its 8,000 nerve-endings on the external glans and an even bigger internal pleasure network that wraps itself around the vagina, is.
I say all of that to address the many questions I got from folks who are beating themselves up about not being able to orgasm through penetration alone, thinking there’s something wrong with them. And I beg of you, please don’t. You are not broken, the patriarchal system that has put male sexuality as the default and placed “vaginal orgasm” on a pedestal is what’s broken. Especially because the vaginal orgasm is widely considered to be a myth, but I’m not even going to get into all of that right now because I’m already way off track.
Anyway! Back to you and your question, Maya!
So after you’ve done a kind of inventory of the sex you have with yourself and an inventory of the most recent sex you had with your boyfriend that didn’t result in an orgasm, the next thing I’d like for you to do, if you feel comfortable to do so, is share some of those notes with your boyfriend. Maybe in letter form, since you say it’s hard for you to tell him what you like in words. I’m a huge proponent of writing letters or notes when we’re having awkward conversations about sex. It’s just a great way to take the pressure off of you to say the right thing in the moment because you can really take your time and give yourself as much space as you need to be deliberate and intentional with your words.
And you can share this letter with your boyfriend in a cheeky way, too. It doesn’t have to be a serious sit-down conversation where you read the letter to your boyfriend like you’re reading a resume—although, reading the letter to your boyfriend could be a good idea if you bring some playfulness to it.
I’d also encourage you to invite him to share with you what he likes and how he’d like to be touched by you during sex to give him the opportunity to express his needs. What you’ll be initiating here is more than just you reading off how to get you off, but a much larger conversation about sex and consent that the two of you will be having together, so I like the idea of inviting him to share with you what his own desires and needs are.
But the biggest piece of advice I would give you when you’re starting this dialogue is to make sure you have this conversation outside of the context of sex. So many of us only have these important sex talks while we’re in the act of sex, which can still be effective but I think taking these conversations out of the bedroom help ensure that the conversation is being fully heard and honored by both parties. I also just think that having sex talks outside of the context of sex helps normalize having conversations about sex with everyone—not just our partners. I think we should all be talking about sex more to each other and having this kind of discussion with your boyfriend would be a great gesture toward demystifying and taking the taboo out of sex talk.
So, that’s my advice to you, Maya. Good luck to you!
. . .
Alright, let’s change gears a bit with this question from Joycelyn about body hair.
“My boyfriend and I have had so much difficulty with his aversion to my body hair from early points of our relationship that continued to bring up major insecurities for me as he was very critical of me for it. With my girlfriend, it’s the polar opposite, she doesn’t mind it, thinks it’s beautiful and embraces it fully. Her and I don’t have issues with intimacy because of it while my boyfriend and I do. Lately he has been better about it, but I could tell sex would be better for him sans my pubic hair especially. I personally like keeping my body and pubic hair especially because it’s coarse and difficult to groom, but it serves as a barrier and keeps my vagina feeling healthier (personally.) I want to do what’s best for myself and hair removal I do sometimes, but I hate having it tied to these feelings of self-loathing. Any advice?”
Break up with him, girl. [laughs] No, I’m kidding. Kind of.
I mean, I have to say that whenever I hear of women in relationships with men where the man is disapproving of what the woman is doing (or not doing) to her body, a body that she has complete ownership of, a body that she has full autonomy over to choose what she wants to do with it or not. . . I don’t know, I have a visceral, instinctual reaction that makes me go, “Ehhh, I don’t know, sis.” Especially because you say that your boyfriend’s feelings about your body hair are bringing up self-loathing in you. Self-loathing! I mean, that’s a pretty strong emotion that you’re taking on in response to his own hangups and phobias about your body hair. AND you’ve got a girlfriend who loves you as you are, who doesn’t have any issues with your body hair and embraces it fully? I mean, honestly—do you even need your boyfriend?
What’s wild about this too is that the men who have such strong feelings and opinions about women’s pubic hair are the same men who don’t ever groom or moisturize their own damn bodies, who haven’t adequately washed their balls or booty holes in three years, and they have their nerve to take issue with our body hair!
Ugh, sorry! OK, let me get out of my feelings and give you some actual advice.
So, I will say the one small positive here is that you say that, despite his aversion, lately he’s been better about your body hair. Now, I’m not entirely sure what that means, if he’s just grinning and bearing it or if he’s actually coming to accept your pubic hair slowly but surely. But, the fact that there is a slight chance that he is becoming more OK with it in time says something. There’s potential in there for him to maybe unlearn the conditioning our culture has given us all—not just men—about women’s body hair. And if you feel like being patient and doing some labor to help guide him in that unlearning process, you can do that by inviting him to have a dialogue with you about it.
Like, “Hey, honey, I’m curious—why do you have such an aversion to my body hair? Where do you think that comes from? And is there room for you to grow to accept, without passive aggression, that this what I choose to do to my own body?” I would also encourage you to let him know how his aversion to your pubic hair is affecting you mentally and emotionally. He should absolutely know that his issue has made you loathe and feel insecure about yourself. He should know how this affecting you, that this has a lot of meaning for you and that his aversion deeply hurts you.
You could also try to educate him on why it is women started shaving in the first place because for hundreds of years, women completely owned their body hair; it was socially acceptable and not an issue. And it only became an issue when a popular razor company in the early 1900s created a marketing campaign to help sell more of their products to an untapped demographic. It’s not that shaving was suddenly found to be more sanitary or better for our health. Shaving literally became a thing because a razor company used marketing to exploit made-up vulnerabilities and make more money, because capitalism.
So—you can tell him all of that to give him context about why it is this whole trend started in the first place. You can use your own body hair as an example to help destroy any myths or fears he has about pubic hair—which again, requires your labor that you are not at all obligated to give him.
That said, all the dialogues and education in the world isn’t going to change this guy’s mind if a hairless pussy is his personal sexual preference. And if that’s his preference and that preference is non-negotiable, it’s honestly his prerogative to expect that his sexual partners live up to that preference. And if that’s the case, staying with him despite his aversion might be prolonging the inevitable.
Now. . . I’ll tell you what I would do if I were in your shoes. And this is me not telling you what you should do at all, just telling you what I would do if I were in your situation. I would sit my boyfriend down, look him deep in the eyes and say, “Listen, I know that my body hair has been a point of contention for you, which is really unfortunate because I actually love my body hair and so does my girlfriend. I literally have no desire to change my position on my body hair anytime soon. So if this is going to continue to be an issue for you, we might need to look at what transitioning out of this relationship might look like, because I personally refuse to dishonor my own preferences and change my body to coddle your aversion to my pubic hair.”
But. . . that’s just me, Joycelyn, and I ultimately support whatever decision you choose to make.
But whatever you decide to do, do not, for the love of god, shave your pubic hair or body hair for this guy. Don’t do it. Only shave if YOU genuinely want to shave because it would make you happy and feel good, not to suffice your boyfriend’s preferences.
I wish you the best of luck. Let me know how it goes!
. . .
Alright, last question. This one is from Audre. Audre says:
“I’m only 26, but I feel like I have almost zero sex drive anymore. In my early 20s I was the total opposite. I’m in an amazing relationship and we do have sex, but I never really feel that excited about it. I really don’t think it’s about my partner, I just don’t feel into sex lately. How do I figure out what this block is and resolve it?”
OK, Audre, you’re in luck because I actually did an entire essay series on low libido. I highly recommend that you check out the series because I go super deep into what could be the cause of your missing sex drive, how you can begin to coax it out again in a way that doesn’t dishonor you, and what kinds of conversations you could have with your partner during this time of low desire. So please, please check that out. I put a ton of work and resources in the series that I think will help you tremendously.
Apart from checking out that series, I want to recommend a book to you. It’s one of my favorite books about sex and sexuality of all time. I recommend this book constantly to my clients, I sometimes even gift it to them at the start of our work together. And actually, I think every single person listening to my voice right now needs to pick up this book and read it immediately. And not just read it, like, dog-ear that shit, highlight it, make notes in the margins—seriously, it’s amazing and should honestly be required reading for every human on the planet.
The book is called Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski and this book will change your entire perspective on your desire, your arousal, and everything you thought you knew about those things.
When I first read this book, I approached it really skeptically because at the time I was reading a shit ton of books about sex and sexuality and I was like, “Here we go, another book that makes the claim that it will transform your sex life.” But holy shit, it transformed my sex life!
So yea, I’m not even going to try to give a summary of this book because it’ll be a huge disservice to the profound work and research that Emily Nagoski did to compose this important book. I’m just going to urge all of you to go to your local indie bookstore or your library and pick up and begin reading it immediately. Even if you think you’re totally good with your sexuality, that you don’t have any issues or questions or concerns—read it.
And I know it sounds like this is an ad, I promise you it’s not. I have no affiliation with Emily Nagoski or her work. I just deeply believe in what she’s doing and have experienced the power of the mad knowledge she dropped on me in the form of this book.
So, Audre—check out my series on low-desire and also check out the book Come As You Are. I think it’s going to be incredibly enlightening for you and will help explain so much.
And let me know how it goes!
. . .
OK, babes. That’s it for the questions. Thank you for submitting your quandaries to me and for entrusting me with answering them. I wish I was able to answer them all, but trust that I will be doing this again for a future episode because this was a lot of fun!
And if you would like to go even deeper into healing your sexuality, if you would like one-on-one guidance and support as you begin your sexual liberation journey, I would love to help you. You can go to evyanwhitney.com/healing for information on how to work with me. I am just now beginning to open my books for the new year and would seriously love to work with you. Like, this is my favorite thing to do, it’s something I’m super passionate about, and it’s also my life’s work.
So, again, that’s evyanwhitney.com/healing to hire me as your sexuality doula.
I will see you there!
[ CREDITS ]
The Sexually Liberated Woman is produced, edited and designed by me, Ev’Yan Whitney. With editing help by Justine McClellan and community support from each one of my very special patrons on Patreon.
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