SEXUAL WELLBEING

Sexual wellbeing can come in many different forms. Sometimes pleasure and sometimes sexual pain. Here are some tips and tricks to help with your sexual wellbeing.

PLEASURE

Western culture has a lot to answer for in regard to expectations on how women experience pleasure. Penis in and out of vagina = orgasm…..hmmm maybe for some people but probably not for a lot of other people. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that pleasure in the form of an orgasm or anything else may not be so easily achieved. We can always learn to be more active in our pleasure.  

Here are a few ideas which might help you along the way.

Try Online Guides

OMY YES is an online resource which is all about learning about female pleasure. It was developed in partnership with Indiana University and The Kinsey Institute who conducted 1,000 in-depth interviews with women about their sexual experiences.

The site shows actual techniques on experiencing female pleasure with descriptions and videos of women demonstrating these techniques on themselves. OMG YES is a paid website, but at the cost of $49AU for the first season it is really worth the money.

Sexual Story Telling

Exposing yourself to stories, either on film or in literature, which have a sexual component can be an effective way of exploring pleasure. With regards to film, there is female positive porn out there but that may not be for everyone.

 

Literature on the other hand may be more accessible and enjoyable for some. Look beyond 50 Shades of Grey for some good romance or erotica to find something you might like. A good place to start is with online review sites and ebooks. You will probably be able to find something for free or only a few dollars to try out.

These sites are always dominated by romance and erotic novels (even though everyone denies reading them!).

Self-Care

Pleasure does not need to be sexual. Very simply you can find pleasure from looking after yourself, in fact, sexual pleasure is probably difficult to experience if you aren't! Here are a few tips for self-care which everyone needs to be reminded of from time to time:

  • Exercise and maintain a general level of fitness

  • Eat well and don't drink to excess

  • Maintain good mental health

  • Get good quality sleep

  • Develop strategies to manage stress and anxiety

  • Do things you enjoy that are just for you like taking a long bath

WHEN SEX HURTS

Women can experience varying degrees of pain during penetrative or non-penetrative sex at any stage of their lives. This type of pain can be experienced by up to 3-18% of women and is often diagnosed as Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder (also vaginismus (involuntary spasms of the muscles), vulvodynia or dyspareunia (recurrent genital pain)).

A recent study in Britain of 6,669 sexually active women, found that 7.5% experienced painful sex 1. It is important to acknowledge that the experience of sexual pain is more common than people think.

 

Understanding the pain

First and foremost, if you experience any type of pelvic pain and pain during sex the first step is always to consult a medical professional to determine the underlying cause of this.

There can be many reasons for this pain to occur:

  • Physical: There can be many reasons for the experience of pain to occur including, physical illness such as endometriosis, surgery, gynaecological cancers, pelvic floor issues, post child birth, pudendal nerve issues, and the physical size of the vagina.

  • Hormonal: Changes in hormone levels such as menopause and post-menopause can impact on the elasticity of the vaginal and cause vaginal dryness.

  • Non-physical: Past or present trauma such as sexual assault and abuse, medical trauma, feeling stressed or self-conscious, anxiety.

or ALL OF THE ABOVE

 

No matter what the underlying case of this pain is, the pain is very much real.

 

While a diagnosis may be helpful to one person because it gives them something tangible to investigate, for others, a medical diagnosis may further medicalise the individual as being dysfunctional when experiences of pain may be a part of normal life cycles such as stress, relationship ebbs and flows, and hormone cycles. Whether or not this is the case, it is important to understand why pain may be experienced.

 

Ongoing Cycle of Pain

There are many different theories which attempt to explain the experience of sexual pain. This section will focus on the Fear Avoidance Model as this theory is simple yet powerful in its explanation.

This model essentially explains that pain may be experienced simply by the anticipation or fear of pain. This could be for a variety of reasons. Once pain is anticipated, the body will have an involuntary reaction of tightening pelvic floor muscles, diminished arousal and natural lubrication.

 

These physical reactions then lead to more pain. When this cycle occurs, avoidance of any type of situations which may lead to this pain (eg. kissing, touching or hugging) are avoided or a woman may accept this situation and continue to experience sexual pain and anxiety. This diagram outlines this response cycle.

 

This is just one example of how pain can impact a person.

 

What can be done?

 

Lots of things! It is important to remember that you are not alone. Many women will experience this type of pain throughout the course of their lives.

There are many reasons for experiencing pain so it is essential to consult a medical professional to explore any underlying explanations for the experience of pain.

Some helpful things to do to overcome pain may include:

  • Seek further information from a trusted medical professions. It is important to find someone who understands this type of experience. A professional who specialised in women's health is a good place to start.

  • Seeing a women's health physiotherapist who focuses on pelvic floor therapy.

  • Seek a counsellor who is experienced in sexual health and wellbeing.

  • Greater sex education including learning about your body and creating opportunities for pleasurable sexual experiences which don't always need to involve penetration.