Why Self Love Can Help Overcome Trauma
Six years ago, I was raped on a work trip.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been raped – my first sexual experience was forced. But as I lay there frozen in my nervous system’s desperate attempt at safety, I resolved it would be the last.
Finding your way to a healthy self-image after 16 years of poor sexual choices and low self-esteem isn’t easy.When your early messages around sexuality imply that you’re both worthless and only good for sex, it’s hard to know where to start, let alone how to make it right.
You only know you feel empty.
You only want to feel loved.
But you can’t get the love and respect your deserve from others without learning to love yourself. It’s the only way to heal.
It’s also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned on my journey to loving me that may help you:
1. Forgive yourself.
It’s normal to be angry when you’ve been on the receiving end of sexual violence. You may be angry at men, adults, kids, our shared culture – or all of it. But you need to forgive yourself first and foremost to break the cycle of trauma and hurt.
That means facing your shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. It means finding compassion for the choices you’ve made that you think tie you to blame and guilt.
It means facing yourself head-on and being willing to accept that you’re not perfect, and then saying
“That’s okay. I forgive you anyway. Just because you’re you.”
Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead helped me understand how shame played a role in my life, which then helped me take better control of my choices.
2. Be gentle.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably heard for years that you’re too hard on yourself, have too high expectations of others, push too hard, or are a perfectionist. The desire to control and contain is a natural reaction when you’ve experienced trauma outside of your control.
But you can’t forgive yourself and heal if you’re still being hard on yourself.
To learn to be gentle, you need to learn an alternative way of thinking. Since the only voice in your head is most likely yours, you may be hearing distorted messages caused by the chronic stress of post-traumatic recovery. That may make it hard for you to imagine what being gentle looks, feels, and sounds like.
This powerful practice helped me start to retrain my inner voice:
When you feel like you need to change yourself or be “better” in some way to receive money, love, or affection, ask yourself – “Can I accept this?” about the feeling, situation, or belief.
If the answer is yes, great. If it’s no, then ask yourself if you can accept that the answer is no.
What this practice does is slowly build trust with yourself. It gives you a way to tune into your inner dialogue, allow space for your feelings and thoughts, and show that you both hear and care about what you’re really feeling.
The more attention and consideration you give yourself, the more you’ll be able to feel safe and supported by your self. Then you’ll be able to create that same safety and support in relationships with others because you’ll know how to show up for yourself.
3. Reclaim what “woman” means
If you’ve lived with the consequences of sexual abuse or trauma for years, you may be cynical about what it means to be a woman. You may have tried to shut down and “turn off” your own feminine sexuality by cutting off your hair, gaining weight, or wearing baggy clothes.
On the flip side, you may have also tried the opposite extreme – being seductive, overtly sexual, or revealing.
Both approaches may have left you feeling disillusioned and dissatisfied with femininity and sex. But you need to own your sexual power in a healthy, whole way to heal from sexual trauma.
For me, the sacred sexual practices of Tantric yoga were transformational. Within the ancient breathing techniques, I discovered a philosophy that celebrates the creative, transformational power of women.
Yoga also honors sexuality as a spiritual experience – one which can help you discover and explore your true nature, not just your physical body. By embodying the divine feminine, I learned to embody myself. In the process, I healed my heart and learned to believe in the beauty of intimacy again.
No matter where you are in your healing journey, there is always more room for self-love, care, and attention.
I leave you with a quote shared with me by a very wise woman:
“To love yourself is to forgive yourself. To forgive yourself is to heal yourself. To heal yourself is to love yourself.”
The Importance of Negotiation in BDSM Play
Negotiation isn’t really a word that a lot of people associate with sexuality. It’s something you do in business or when buying a new car, not when you’re trying to get hot and heavy with someone sexy.
In BDSM, negotiation is very important and one of the first steps in arranging an encounter.
While kinky negotiations will look different for everyone, there are some basics that you should cover. We discussed in our conversation about consent that only a yes means yes, and negotiation is how we get to that yes. We will begin by discussing things that are important in negotiating a play scene.
I always encourage people to be very thorough in negotiating with new BDSM partners – even if you’ve been married for years. If this is a new area of exploration, it’s best to be rather explicit in what you want to get into. As you gain experience with your partner, you may find that you don’t need the same level of negotiation, knowing each others likes and limits means you don’t have to discuss them every time, unless something changes.
No matter how experienced in BDSM you or your partner are, if you are new to each other, detailed negotiation can save a lot of trouble down the road.
The first thing we will talk about are limits. This is a word you will hear often in kinky circles, as people talk about what they are and aren’t into. There are two kinds of limits, hard and soft, and it’s important to communicate these to your partner before any kink activities get started.
Hard limits are things you will not do.
You may not have any interest in the activity, you may find it repugnant or too dangerous. There are a million reasons for an activity to become a hard limit – your reasons are your own and you don’t have to explain them to anyone, unless you want to. If something is listed as a hard limit, by either the Top or bottom, Dominant or submissive, it needs to be respected.
Partners should not beg or harass, pushing to do things on your hard limit list – it is incredibly disrespectful to hound someone about limits, often grounds for the ending of kinky relationships.
Soft limits are things that you may not enjoy, but would be willing to do for the right person.
They could also be an activity that you do enjoy, but that you will only do with people you trust or know well. They could be activities that take a high level of skill or energy, so you won’t engage in them with just anyone. Again, activities on your soft limit list can be anything you want them to be, but let your partner know if they are things you’re interested in exploring with them at this time or not.
Everyone is allowed to have limits – they aren’t just for bottoms! Dominants/Tops can have limits for the same reasons that submissives/bottoms do – they aren’t into an activity, it makes their skin crawl, they don’t have the skill set, etc. No one should ever be shamed for having limits, there are no activities that make one a ‘true’ Top/Dominant or bottom/submissive that everyone must engage in.
Keep in mind that your tastes can change over time and so can your limits.
There may be things you see at the beginning of your kinky journey that freak you out, that after a few years you come to regard as hot. You may fantasise about an activity for years, but after actually trying it, find it’s not what you thought or that you hate it. Think of it like food – many things we hated when we were young are now things we love – our tastes change over time. If or when your limits change, be sure to let your partner(s) know, so that they can adjust their expectations of play accordingly.
A discussion about safe words should also happen – decide if you want to use safe words or plain language to communicate during the scene. If you do want to use safe words, you should agree on which word or words to use and what they will mean for you. Everyone has a different interpretation of safe words, so again, it’s much better to talk about it so you’re on the same page. It can save unwanted pain, both physical and psychological, for everyone involved.
Deciding on which activities you do want to engage in looks different for everyone. Some people choose to fill out BDSM activity checklists (google that phrase to find many examples to use or make your own). Where ‘likes’ overlap you have an idea of what you may want to do together.
Some people will negotiate every activity they want to engage in for a particular scene – covering each implement or action to ensure their partner is consenting. I suggest this type of negotiating with new play partners. Again, once you get to know someone’s play style, you can shift to less detailed negotiation.
One way to do this type of negotiating is to agree on a type of scene – let’s say an impact play scene – then allow the bottom to choose which implements they would like used. The top doesn’t need to use all of those implements, but at least has a general idea of what the bottom is hoping for. This also helps with misunderstandings that can happen.
For instance, if someone agreed to playing with floggers, they may have meant only fur and suede floggers (anticipating a more sensation focused type of play), where I may take it to mean they are ok with all the floggers in my collection – including the metal weighted falls that make even the most eager masochist think twice.
With more established play partners (someone you’ve played with many times and have a good idea of their likes and limits), you can simply negotiate a theme for the scene – impact, sensation, etc. Just be sure to negotiate anything new; toys, limits or anything else that may have changed since your last play time.
Communication is essential to a good relationship and this is especially true when it comes to BDSM relationships. Without consent, our play becomes assault or abuse. While talking about what we want to do or have done to us may be uncomfortable in the beginning, it is an essential skill that those who want to engage in kink should develop. It gets much easier the more you do it and those improved communication skills (and the confidence in them) can have a positive impact on more than just your sex life!
Botoxing your vagina could help cure painful penetration
When most people think of Botox, they think of face wrinkles and crow’s feet and not being able to move your eyebrows…
But Botox is now being investigated as a potential aid (or possible cure!) for women with a condition called vaginismus.
What is vaginismus?
Vaginismus is involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles when an attempt is made to insert something (penis, tampon, sex toy, speculum, etc.) into the vagina, and effects approximately 1-7% of women worldwide. This muscle contraction can cause severe pain, aching, and even burning or a feeling of being torn. It is essentially a reflexive muscle spasm; Some evidence suggests that the vaginal “flinch” is caused by the anticipation of pain, kind of like when you involuntarily close your eye when the mascara wand gets too close. This anticipation could be the result of prior sexual abuse or other painful experience (such as a yeast infection or pelvic exam), although many women with vaginismus have not experienced any of these things.
According to the The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, vaginismus can be categorized in the following ways:
- Primary (lifelong) or Secondary (begins after having sex normally for a while)
- Global (occurs no matter what) or Situational (only occurs in certain situations or with certain objects)
How is vaginismus currently treated?
Since the spasms are involuntary, the main component to treating vaginismus is learning to control the reflex. Depending on the potential root cause, this may include several components: sex therapy, vaginal dilators used to allow the woman to gain control of her pelvic floor muscles, Kegel exercises (also used to gain control of the pelvic floor muscles), and mindfulness and relaxation techniques are all currently employed as treatment.
So where does Botox come in?
According to Medicine Net:
Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. The injected muscle can no longer contract…
It makes sense that Botox could be used to treat vaginismus, which is, after all, involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles.
In 2004, one study looked at twenty-four women with moderate to severe vaginismus who had unsuccessfully tried other treatments. Botox was injected in 3 sites of the puborectalis muscles. The results are quite astounding:
- 23/25 patients had vaginal exams 1 week later and showed little or no vaginismus
- 18/25 patients had satisfactory intercourse after the first treatment, and 4/23 had only mild pain.
- 1 patient was cured after two injections.
- While the patients were followed up for a mean of 12.3 months, there were no cases of recurrence.
Generally, this treatment has become a “comprehensive program of injecting Botox under anesthesia, progressively dilating the vagina during the same anesthetic, and leaving a dilator in place that the patient wakes up with in the recovery room”. The Botox serves to prevent the contraction, and the woman “learns” not to associate penetration with the pain of muscle contraction – simply using Botox alone would mean the patient would have to consistently return for injections. Thus the progressive dilation is continued at home, essentially “training” the muscles.
One study has noted that 90.3% of patients who underwent this treatment achieved pain free intercourse after a median of 3.5 weeks.
What are the side effects?
As with any treatment, there are potential side effects to consider.
- Vaginal bleeding (usually for 24 hours or less following the procedure)
- Mild flu-like symptoms
- Increased urinary incontinence or flatal incontinence
Botox looks to be a very promising new treatment option for women who suffer from vaginismus.
The good news is that vaginismus can be highly treatable. If you experience pain during penetration of any kind (sex related or not), talk to your health care provider.
Is sex better than Midol?
Many women have cramps during their period that make them feel anything but sexy. We investigate the question: does orgasm relieve menstrual cramps?
But in order to answer that questions, we have the understand what causes cramps in the first place.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
Most of us know that our periods are the result of the uterine lining being shed. The lining is created in preparation for a fertalized egg to attach- if none appears, then the lining must be shed.
As the cells in the uterine lining start to break down, compounds called prostaglandins are released. These molecular compounds stimulate the uterine muscles to contract. As the muscles contract, they restrict the flow of blood to the lining – without the blood flow and the precious oxygen it carries, the cells starve and begin to die.
However, particularly vigorous contractions can lead to the uterus pressing against the nearby blood vessels that deliver blood to the uterus itself – the pain is caused when those muscles briefly lose their supply of oxygen. (It’s similar to when you get cramps in your side during a run – your muscles aren’t getting the oxygen they need.) Severe menstrual cramps are actually called primary dysmonorrhea.
Additional compounds promote inflammation of the uterus, which can also lead to constriction of blood flow to the uterus, and more pain.
As the uterus contracts, the lining is pushed through the cervix and out through the vagina. If a woman’s cervix is particularly small, the passing of larger clots may also cause pain.
So How Could Orgasm Relieve Menstrual Cramps?
As you might already know from our “30 Day Orgasm” challenge, orgasms have a lot of benefits:
Orgasms are natural pain-relievers: oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin levels surge during climax. This both significantly increases your pain tolerance, and acts as a pain-killer.
Those pain-killing endorphins don’t just disappear after orgasm – they stay in your system, dulling your pain response long after the fact.
Some sources also claim that the smooth muscle contraction of the uterus that occurs during orgasm expedites the shedding process – which means more prostaglandins are shed as well. Less prostaglandins means less contracting, which means less pain.
In fact one study found
that [women] with less dysmenorrhea had higher coital frequency and nearly twice the frequency of orgasm as that of [women] suffering severe pain
So there is clearly evidence to suggest that orgasm (not necessarily penetration) could potentially relieve the symptoms of menstrual cramps – unless the cramps are caused by something like endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. If you have persistent and debilitating cramps, see your healthcare provider.
Can women orgasm in their sleep?
Most people are aware that men have nocturnal emissions (aka wet dreams) – the evidence in the morning is pretty clear. But do women have wet dreams?
Although we may not be left with sticky sheets, we can most definitely experience orgasm during sleep – so yes, women have wet dreams!
In a landmark study in 1953, Alfred Kinsey found that by age 45, 37% of women in the sample had experienced a dream resulting in orgasm. (We like those odds…) And it wasn’t just a one-off (ha!) experience: women who experienced these “sleep-gasms” did so three or four times per year. Interestingly, a more recent 1985 study found the same percentage of the women involved – 37% – had experienced nocturnal emissions.
What is a Sleep-gasm?
It is an orgasm.
Orgasms that occur during sleep are essentially the same as orgasms that occur during wakefulness.
Typically, orgasms occur during “deep” sleep stages and REM sleep. That makes sense: during deep sleep, blood flow is directed towards the muscles – increased blood flow to the genital region mimics what occurs when you get turned on.
And in fact, the increase in vaginal blood flow that occurs during some REM events is identical to the increase in vaginal blood flow that occurs during erotic stimulation when awake.
That also means that nocturnal emissions may not be the direct result of a sexual dream – it could just be the body reaching a physically aroused state during REM sleep, and using orgasm as a natural release of that arousal. That being said, typically sleep orgasms occur during sexual dreams.
The vagina may lubricate, which may be the only evidence that an orgasm occurred during sleep. Some women report that the orgasm wakes them from sleep.
Why Am I Having Orgasms in My Sleep?
Some evidence suggests that
“Positive attitudes toward and knowledge of nocturnal orgasms, sexual liberalism, and waking sexually excited from sleep (without experiencing orgasm) were the most important predictors of nocturnal orgasm experience”
So having sexy dreams that result in orgasm doesn’t mean you’re unhappy with your sex life, or that you’re not getting enough sex.
It could just be the result of your sexually liberal brain in REM sleep!
Either way, it’s a very common phenomenon. (And not to worry if you DON’T have sleep-gasms – they aren’t the rainbow unicorn of sex.)
I get regular PAP tests. They’ve never been a big deal for me – my doctor even put warm socks on the metal contraptions that hold you feet, so I was never uncomfortable. The speculum they use to keep your vagina open never caused me any discomfort, and I never felt the little brush they use to collect the cells. So when I had a routine PAP test at my doctor’s office about a year ago, I thought nothing of it.
A few weeks later, my doctor called and explained that I had abnormal PAP test results .
Abnormal? What does that mean?
For some people, it is simply a false result, and nothing to worry about.
For me, it turns out I have a strain of HPV (Human papillomavirus), one of the most common STI’s in the world.
It is estimated that 75% of people will have at least 1 HPV infection in their lifetime – many will never know they have it, and it will clear up on its own.
What is HPV?
HPV, as it’s name suggests, is a virus. There are over 100 strains of HPV, most of which are totally harmless and your body gets rid of by itself: 70% of infections go away within 1-2 years. There are some strains, however, that can lead to “low risk” health problems (like genital warts), or “high risk” health problems (like cervical cancer). It can be transmitted by intercourse, “skin to skin” genital contact, and oral sex.
Unless the strain of HPV causes warts, there are no real detectable symptoms. The only way to detect HPV is through a PAP smear.
The strain (or strains – it is common to have multiple strains of the virus at once) that I had were causing changes in my cervical cells that were detected on my PAP smear. My smear showed that I had some atypical cells, but more info was needed to determine what exactly was going on with these cells.
So, what next?
I was scheduled to go to the “Dysplasia” clinic at my local hospital. Dysplasia just means abnormal growth in the cells on the surface layer of the cervix. At the clinic, I would undergo another PAP smear, a biopsy, and a Colposcopy.
Colposcopy and Biopsy
At the clinic, I stripped from the waist down and donned one of those classy backless gowns. The set-up was the same as it would be for a routine PAP – I lay on the examination table with my feet in metal stirrups and my pelvis tilted upwards – with one noticeable exception: there was a giant monitor beside the bed.
Turns out, a colposcope is a binocular microscope that magnifies the cervix under a beam of light. A 3% vinegar solution is applied to the cervix to dehydrate the cells: this makes the abnormal cells appear white under the colposcope. I didn’t feel anything other than slight pressure during this part of the procedure. Seeing my magnified cervix on the monitor was definitely cool, if a bit surreal.
The doctor then applied an iodine solution – abnormal cervical cells stain brown from the iodine, and normal cells do not. Under the colposcope, the change is much easier to see.
With the vinegar and the iodine, the doctor identified the areas where there were abnormal cells: this is where he would take a sample of cells for the biopsy. At this point, I won’t lie… I stopped looking at the monitor. He inserted a special type of forecep that I learned afterwards is called a teneculum. He then instructed me to cough on the count of three.
One, two, three… OWE.
I coughed, which bears down on the cervix, allowing the foreceps to take a “pinch” of cells. This is called a “punch” biopsy. This happened twice. The sensation was more startling than actually painful, although it did cause me to cramp. I would say it is similar to someone punching the underside of your arm – it hurt for a split second, but the pain dissipates quickly. (Another type of biopsy, called a “cone” biopsy, takes a much bigger chunk of cells, and requires local or general anesthesia.)
The doctor then applied a blackish paste to my cervix, which stopped most of the bleeding. About five minutes after the speculum was taken out, I was on my feet and out the door. They booked my next appointment for about 8 months later.
After the Procedure
I had serious cramping for the rest of the day. My body was not pleased with being violated, and was trying to expel the blackish paste that is applied to stop the bleeding. The doctor told me to wear a pad, and I’m REALLY glad I did. (You shouldn’t wear a tampon, since your bits have been agitated and you don’t want to agitate anything further).
At first I noticed a faint brownish yellow stain on the pad – that was the iodine. After a few hours I noticed grainy black discharge that looked like coffee grounds – that was the paste. I also had mild spotting. Basically, I had a blackish-brownish-yellowish, grainy, goopy, slightly bloody discharge for about a day and a half. Delicious…
My next appointment was moved up 2 months because my biopsy results were not totally clear. There were definitely abnormal cells, but it wasn’t clear exactly what kind of abnormal cells they were. So, back I went to the Dysplasia clinic.
This time, the doctor wanted to sample cells higher up my cervix. Cervical cells change from tall, column-like cells to flat cells as you move down the cervix towards the vagina. The doctor wanted to sample cells higher up in the “transformation zone”, to see if there were anything abnormal going on.
This procedure is called an endocervical cutterage. The John Hopkins Center describes it as:
A surgical procedure in which a narrow instrument called a curette is used to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal, an area that cannot be seen from the outside of the cervix.
It basically felt like a normal PAP, except it caused me to cramp a lot more. Some black paste was applied, so I got to deal with the grainy black goopy discharge for another day and a half.
Now I wait. I have another appointment in 6 months, so I’ll keep everyone posted!
We at FYV are not doctors. If you want more information about HPV, or the procedures described above, please contact your health care provider.
This post originally appeared here.
*This post is targeted to heterosexual females and will use heterosexual references and pronouns.
Let’s start off nice and slow with this sensitive subject: Women need to masturbate in order to know their own bodies.
You have one lifetime in this beautiful body, don’t wait – masturbate!
If you feel like it’s dirty or sneaky to do this without your husband/lover, then ask him if he’d mind if you worked on achieving stronger orgasms when he wasn’t home so that you could be a better lover. Who would say no to that? Loving partners want a sexual encounter to be magical and that takes two explosive reactions; not one. Sex needs balance and one orgasm is just off balance- you need to do your part to even things out! You have the power, but if you rarely (or never) have an orgasm during intercourse, then you’re not going to one day figure it out in the midst of the action. You need to do your homework and prepare in advance.
Special message to those who say “sometimes I climax-if the planets align and he does X, Y, and Z for 25 minutes” then you need to masturbate, too! You need to figure out exactly what your body requires so it’s not left to luck.
The point of this whole post is to remind you: You are the boss of your own body.
No one “gives” you an orgasm. You join an intimate contract with your man when you both agree to engage in a physical expression of your love. At no point should your physical pleasure just randomly pop up like a surprise bouquet of flowers. Instead, it should be as thought out as the emerald cut diamond engagement ring that you picked out and had sized to fit you perfectly. He can still buy it and place it on your finger, but there was some work involved by both parties.
Your climax or Moment of Euphoric Transcendence (MET) must be initiated and orchestrated by YOU. Your partner is there to facilitate your climactic moment, not to discover it in the back closet of your libido in a dusty box under a bag of clothes ready for Goodwill.
You are the boss of your body!
Said a different way: Your man knows how to have an orgasm. Every time. He is not dependent on you to figure out what position or scenario will make him achieve his MET. He will move and grab and guide your body until it is in harmony with his. He is the boss of his own body and he knows exactly how to use all the tools in his toolbox; especially his sexual tools. He won’t look at you with a dependent, figure-out-how-to-make-me-climax gaze. And aren’t you glad? Do you want a lover who knows what he wants and joyfully includes you in the process? Yes! Do you know why he is so attuned to his body?
Because he has spent hours and hours masturbating!
This started long before you entered his life; the teen years are a busy time of experimentation and ejaculation for males. He learned all the ways he can reach MET and has become confident in his ability to achieve MET every time he tries. That confidence is important, too. Just knowing that you can, makes it easier for you to replicate that result.
In The Case of the Female Orgasm (Harvard University Press), researcher Elisabeth Lloyd found that only 25% of women report they consistently have an orgasm during sex.
Ladies, we have no excuse other than our own laziness. With 24 hours in a day, you can spend a mere 20-30 minutes on your orgasm until you can get to MET in less than 5 minutes. Experiment with things that may turn you on: sexy music, water (shower, hot tub jets), standing naked in front of a mirror, porn (print or internet), erotic lit, etc.
I have to laugh when I think about a post like this for men.
It would be absurd to talk to men about how they need to learn how to achieve an orgasm. They would love a homework assignment that asked them to take time out of each day to masturbate; whereas, many women probably cringed when I suggested it for them. People would assume a male-orgasm post was a joke or a clever satire piece.
So why is this message necessary for women?
Because of fricking fairy tales, that’s why! We all would love to surrender the responsibility of our rescue to a handsome knight in shining armor or his buddy, Prince Charming. Sure we can be sassy and gutsy during the day, but it does feel nice to let someone else take over and drive the car during sex. They swoop in and resolve the situation; at least that’s our hope.
The fact that men like this role to a point is also important to consider. They love the idea of being there for us, giving us what we need that no one else can provide. That’s a big burden when it comes to the sometimes complex and/or elusive female orgasm. Men want to feel successful and you can help them achieve that goal by doing your part. Men shouldn’t try their hardest and then see your polite “it’s fine, honey” smile at the finish line.
The American Psychological Association found that 90% of men want their partner to have an orgasm.
They want to go on the adventure with you that ends with your eyes wide open (or shut), screaming or crying, sweating, panting, clawing, slapping, etc and then finally knock-out asleep. If you have MET goals, you should add “passing out in blissful slumber” to the list. You’re allowed to fly so high that you crash from exhaustion. No worries about cuddling afterwards- you both know how you feel about each other. Love has been expressed physically, you don’t have to belabor the point.
It’s time to move beyond the cerebral components of this argument for masturbation and get carnal. Let that sacral chakra know who’s boss. You need to figure out what makes you tick so that you can show your man how to wind you up. Learn what pleasure feels like in your own body so you’ll be able to recognize and nurture it when your body has become interdependent with another body.
Orgasms can heal the world, but I’ll save that rant for next time.
Aka Spring Cleaning Your Sex Toys
Sex toys are wonderful things. (In fact, here are 6 toys that we think are particularly wonderful.)
But they can also be very, very bad.
Toys that aren’t kept nice and clean can harbour all kinds of bacteria. That makes sense – they go into some pretty juicy, flora-filled places. By not paying attention to the hygiene of your toys, you or your partner could end up with a yeast infection, UTI, and STI… not so sexy. So, clean your sex toys!
But before you bust out the bleach, you should make sure you’re using the best cleaning method for your particular toy. (Which, by the way, is NOT bleach.)
If you use lube with your toys, be aware of what type of lube you use.
- Water-based lube (like this one): Can be used on any toy! Easy on, easy off. It doesn’t degrade toys, is totally body safe, and still keeps things slick.
- Silicone-based lube: this can be used on toys made of hard substances (like glass, marble, and hard plastic). DO NOT use on silicone or jelly based toys – the silicone molecules will want to join together, resulting in the lube and toy melting together like goo.
- Oil-based lubes: Do not use on toys. Getting oil off of the toy will require using harsh, alcohol-based substances that not only degrade the toy itself, they aren’t good for the body!
The material of your toy will determine the best way to clean it.
- Jelly: Since jelly is extremely porous, jelly toys can’t be totally disinfected. Wash with lukewarm water (not boiling water, which can sort of melt the jelly), and mild soap with no fragrance. We definitely recommend using a body-safe sex toy cleaner.
- Rubber/Latex: Lukewarm water and mild soap. Ensure you get the soap off, because soap will degrade the toy if left on for long periods.
- Cyberskin: Same as jelly toys.
- Silicone: Wash with mild soap and pat dry – these toys are easy keepers.
- Stainless Steel or Pyrex: if the toy doesn’t have batteries, you can throw it in the dishwasher (just make sure you don’t use dishwasher soap, since that’s usually pretty harsh. The hot water is good enough!) Honestly, any cleaning method works for these babies.
Maintain your toys in good condition.
Cracks, chips, and scratches in your toys can turn into prime habitat for harmful bacteria. Inspect them regularly to make sure sure there isn’t any damage.
AKA ‘Vagina Farts’ & Why They Happen
You’re in the heat of the moment, legs in the air, writhing around in pleasure when the unthinkable happens: you fart. Except… it doesn’t come from your butt. It comes from your VAGINA.
What the hell was that?!
That, my friend, was a queef.
According to Dr. Jen Gunter, OB/GYN, there are only 2 reasons air would be expelled from the vagina:
1. The air that is normally in the vagina is pushed out (because of a cough, or because another object is inserted into the space and the air has to “make room”).
2. There is a “fistula”, or a connection between the bowels and the vagina that allows actual gas from the bowels to move into the vagina.
Reason #1 is absolutely nothing to worry about. In many women, air is normally in the vagina. The vaginal canal isn’t a smooth tube, it has wrinkles and folds, so there are lots of pockets for air to become trapped. And what goes in, must comes out!
Reason #2 is a serious condition. So if you notice you emit air from your vagina with an audible noise on a very frequent basis, you may want to go to your doctor to rule out a fistula. A fistula can be caused from sexual violence, inflammatory bowel disease, previous surgery, some types of bowel infection, or even childbirth.
Unless there is a fiscula, the air that is expelled is just that: air. It is not “gas” in the technical sense, since it hasn’t been expelled from bacteria, and it isn’t the result of a chemical reaction to break down waste (like the “gas” from fecal matter). It is just plain, non-smelly air.
In other words, there is NO reason to be embarrassed about queefing.
Nor are there any solid, scientifically-backed studies that suggest ways of preventing queefing. Doing Kegel exercises to improve your pelvic floor muscles likely won’t hurt you, but it also won’t stop you from queefing (despite what some people may claim).
So, queef away. Pay no attention to the harmless air being forced out of you, and continue to get your sexy on!
Most people have heard of cosmetic surgery for your nose, your tummy, your boobs… but what about your genitals?
There are actually several types of cosmetic surgery available for women wanting to modify their genitals in some way.
Purpose: To tighten the vagina.
What Does the Surgery Entail?: Incisions are made to the vulvovaginal muscle structure (either with a laser or, more traditionally, a scalpel) in order to knit the muscles and soft tissue together, and shorten them. The vaginal opening can be made smaller by removing excess “vaginal lining” (the mucosa layer). The surgery is typically done in an outpatient facility as a “day surgery” – patients are usually sent home the same day.
Average Cost: $3500 – $5000+
*To see a labeled photo of female genital anatomy, click here!
Purpose: To reduce the size of the labia,, or to “correct” asymmetry in the lips
What Does the Surgery Entail?: Through various techniques, a section of tissue is cut out from the labia – generally the labia minora, although the tissues is occasionally taken from the labia majora. The tissue can be taken from the edge, or the thickest part of the lips.The loose edges are stitched up. Some clinics offer the“Barbie” treatment, where most – or all – of the inner lips are removed, in order to create a single, tight line. Labiaplasty can be performed under general or local anesthesia, depending on the complexity of the procedure.
Average Cost: $4000+
Vagionoplasty and Labiaplasty are the two most common procedures. But there are more procedures out there:
- Hymenoplasty: “restoring” the hymen – with a membrane created from a flap of existing tissue with its own blood supply, or an artificial membrane without its own blood supply
- Clitoral hood reduction: reducing the amount of tissue covering the head of the clitoris
- Labia puffing: injection of artificial filler into the labia tissue, or grafting of fat from other parts of the body to inject into the labia lips
Risks of Genital Cosmetic Surgery
The The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada produced a policy statement on female genital cosmetic surgery in 2013. Below are five of the more troubling revelations in this comprehensive document:
Evidence is currently lacking for the safety and efficacy of FGCS procedures, most of which have no clearly accepted or consistent definitions.
The labia continue to remodel with childbirth and can again undergo significant change with menopause… No data exists that tracks outcomes through these life transitions
During the normal female sexual response the vagina must be able to dilate and “balloon.” This capacity can be adversely impacted by both physiological processes such as menopause and iatrogenic causes such as cancer treatments, radiation, and surgery.
Urethra, bladder, and bowel are intimate with the vagina, and surgery to the vagina carries inherent risks of compromise of these important structures
Women considering these surgeries should be informed of the risks of the procedure, including bleeding, infection, scarring, dyspareunia, alteration in sensation, pain, wound dehiscence, decrease in sexual pleasure, and possible dissatisfaction with cosmetic or other results. There are no available long-term data on the safety or efficacy of these procedures.
“The SOGC’s position does not support non-medically indicated female genital cosmetic surgery procedures considering the available evidence of efficacy and safety.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a document with similar warnings.
The risks are serious, and the cosmetic benefits are not well-documented, nor well-studied. The field is not as highly regulated as other cosmetic procedures, and the results are not often clear – especially in the case of “vaginal tightening”.
Obviously, women’s motivations for desiring such cosmetic surgery are varied, and we would never judge a woman’s choices. We respected and appreciated the choice of our previous guest poster to get a breast augmentation. And we recognize that a woman may make a fully informed, conscious decision to undergo elective surgery.
There are risks involved in any elective surgery. But genital cosmetic surgery is a relatively new field, and complications abound.
We aren’t doctors, so if you have questions about surgeries like this, talk to your health care provider.
aka Now You’re Actually Going to Have Anal
You thought about it, you prepared for it (but you didn’t douche, right?!), and now it’s actually time. It’s actually time to put something (a penis, a toy, whatever) into your butt. Obviously you want to make sure this goes well, that it is actually pleasurable for both parties, and that no one is hurt.
The outer anal sphincter (the one you can control) is in a constant state of contraction, designed to keep the anal canal closed. That means that you need to be extremely relaxed and comfortable for those muscles to release. How do you relax? FOREPLAY. Kissing, stroking, petting, whatever gets you to your happy place. This is not a quick operation. Unless you’re relaxed, those muscles are going to want to stay nice and tight.
Your anus isn’t like your vagina: it isn’t designed to stretch and lubricate when you’re aroused. The specialized tissue that lines the anus and anal canal has no hairs, sweat glands, or oil glands, and it contains a larger number of sensory nerves than skin. So without lots of lube to make the area very wet, that tissue is very easily torn (and that will hurt much more than cutting your skin).
If you need more lube, more foreplay, or need to slow things down, SAY SO. This obviously applies to any kind of sexual interaction, but because this may be unfamiliar territory for one or both partners, and because the risk of injury is greater, communication is even more key here. Definitely discuss boundaries before hand. Maybe you even want a safe word!
Don’t Do it Doggy
When most people think of anal sex, they think of getting down on their hands and knees and thrusting their ass to the sky. Sure, that can work. But for the first time, that’s very overwhelming. You’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position, which may make you nervous. And remember, nervous = tight anus = pain. Try a position where you have equal control of the depth and speed of penetration: spooning, or good ole missionary with your hips lifted (by a pillow, for example.)
Vaginal flora is very particular (which is why we don’t douche, remember?). Introducing things from the anal canal to the vagina is likely to lead to infections. Bacteria that is perfectly healthy in the anal canal is not meant to be in the vagina. So once you’ve put something in your butt (toy, penis, fingers, whatever), avoid putting it in your vagina.
Have fun. If you’re not having fun, or it hurts, or you decide you are uncomfortable halfway through, stop. This should be a pleasurable and exciting experience for both parties. If it isn’t, don’t do it.
For those who don’t know, the practice of vaginal douching involves squirting a substance into the vaginal canal, usually with the use of an applicator. The substance can be anything from water, to an acetic (think: vinegar-like) substance, to a scented “medicinal” product. The idea is that the substance flushes into your vagina, and comes back out again. (It’s definitely not the same thing as washing your labia!)
Why do some women douche?
Most women report that they douche for “hygiene” reasons: to cleanse the vagina after their period, after sex, to get rid of symptoms like odour, itching, or discharge, or to prevent sexually transmitted disease.
It’s actually quite common.
The thing is, there is very little conclusive evidence to support these reasons – in fact, douching can cause some pretty serious side effects.
What douching does to your vagina
Of course the exact effects of douching depend on the type of substance used. However, generally speaking, douching can result in the following effects:
- Reduction in the density of normal vaginal bacteria
Douching with any antiseptic substance kills off the normal vaginal bacteria. Even douching with water reduces the native bacteria – it physically sweeps the bacteria away, and damages the pH balance required by the good bacteria to live (the pH of water is close to 7, the pH of your vagina should be less than 4.5!)
The bacteria that is normally present in your vagina helps maintain the pH of your reproductive tract nice and low: this low pH prevents certain other bacteria from colonizing because they can’t live in such a low pH environment.
The “native” bacteria also physically prevents pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria from entering, and stimulates mucous production – another important line of defense against pathogenic bacteria.
Without the native bacteria, there is plenty of room for other bacteria to colonize and grow: bacteria such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis – yeah, the stuff that causes gonorrhoeae and chlamydia – or bacterial vaginosis.
One study found that
…women who reported douching 12 months prior to their clinic visit were twice as likely to have cervical chlamydial infection and that, as the frequency of douching increased, the likelihood of chlamydial infection also increased.
Using douching products with “antiseptic” qualities causes even larger changes in the normal vaginal bacteria.
So clearly, the removal of the good bacteria leaves plenty of room for infection and disease causing bacteria to get in on the action.
- Forcing bacteria from the lower genital tract above the cervix into the uterus/fallopian tubes
Bacteria that is normally found in the lower bit of your vaginal canal can be physically forced up by the stream of liquid into places it isn’t supposed to be. This can lead to inflammatory scaring… and that inflammatory scaring can lead to ectopic pregnancy, early miscarriage, and even infertility.
Another effect of bacteria getting up where it isn’t supposed to be is pelvic inflammatory disease.
That shit is serious.
It was estimated that 20-30% of women with pelvic inflammatory disease would be hospitalized. It is also a very common cause of reduced fertility and even sterility.
One study reported that vaginal douching increases the overall risk of pelvic inflammatory disease by 73% and the risk of ectopic pregnancy by 76%. Those percentages are HUGE!
- Irritation of the mucous lining
Physically irritating the protective mucous lining can reduce how effective it is at keeping unwanted bacteria out.
Douching has been scientifically linked to:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Chlamydia, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginitis, cervical cancer
- Reduced fertility
- Ectopic pregnancy
Douching has NOT been scientifically linked to:
- Promoting a healthy vagina
We cannot in good conscience recommend that women douche. If you are worried about a funky smell, or about your vaginal canal being clean of blood or semen or whatever … go to your doctor. The vagina is SELF CLEANING! Don’t douche.
First of all, we will preface this with the reminder that we despise the use of the word “normal” at Free Your V.
That being said, many woman want to know what the “normal” frequency of masturbation is. We’ve been conditioned to accept that frequent male masturbation is “normal” (and even that men want sex more than women do), but we rarely discuss female masturbation frequencies: how often do most women masturbate? Once in a blue moon? Multiple times per day?
A 2009 study by the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour studied the sexual behaviour (including masturbation) of 5,865 Americans between the ages of 18 and 94. We made our own graph of some of the results of this massive survey.
It is clear from the graph that the frequency of masturbation varies by age.
Regardless of age, the most common frequency appears to be “not in the past year”.
So if you’re in the “>4 times per week” category, you’re probably picking your jaw up off the floor at the moment.
Does this study tell us what is “normal”? Sure. If by “normal” we mean the result with the highest frequency for this particular group of subjects…
But one of the major problems with a lot of studies about sex is that they rely on self-reporting. And a lot of people aren’t totally honest when they report things, or may not have an accurate memory of the events they are reporting.
Be honest: do you remember how many times you masturbated last week? Last year? And if you did remember the exact number, would you share it with a stranger?
We need to be very, very careful when we talk about what is “normal.” If you happen to have a very high sex drive, then perhaps masturbating more than 4 times per week is your normal. If you have a lower sex drive, are really tired, just changed birth control pills, etc. then maybe masturbating once a month is your normal. Frequent (or in-frequent) masturbation is not something to be ashamed of. Do it whenever the urge hits you, and don’t worry about it!
So long as excessive masturbation isn’t negatively effecting the rest of your life, have at it.
AKA why being too tired for sex is a legitimate thing.
It’s isn’t just a lame excuse to avoid sex because you are wearing a t-shirt that looks like it hasn’t been washed in 3 years, or because you had cheese for lunch and are now farting toxic gas, or because your partner is actually having sex with their boss…
Don’t read too far into it. 1 in 4 Americans say they are too sleep deprived for sex.
Think about it: do you want to go to that restaurant you’ve been trying to get a reservation at for about a year when you’ve just had the longest day of your life? No, of course not. You’d be too tired to enjoy it properly: the food just won’t taste as good when you can hardly keep your eyes open. Same principle applies to sex.
Being tired is a distraction.
There are many, many reasons someone might be too tired for sex.
Some of the obvious reasons:
- Mental exhaustion: prolonged stress can zap your physical energy like a leech. Dealing with anxiety at work, for example, means that by the time you get home, you find you hardly have enough energy to put your pajamas on. It also means your mental capacity for sex is much diminished – and yes, sex is mental, too.
- Too much exercise: If you outdid yourself at the gym the other day, you may literally just not have the strength for sex! That applies to highly physical jobs like construction too. Aching muscles and burning limbs are not conducive to sex.
Some of the not so obvious reasons:
So give yourself or your partner a break if one of you is “too tired” – no eye rolling, no big sighs, no dramatic rolling over and brooding. There are legitimate and understandable reasons for being too tired for sex!
aka So, you want to try anal sex.
That’s great. Toys, fingers, penises… all can result in wonderful feelings and much satisfaction when placed correctly (or not, that’s fine too. No one says you have to like it, or even want to try it. But, you’re here, so you probably do.)
We’ll just state the obvious, here. Everybody shits. Despite the many products out there to mask the evidence of said bodily functions – the most hilarious of which being Poo-Pourri – it doesn’t change the truth. You obviously already know this.
But there is no shame in wanting to stay as far away from the accidental shit-under-someone’s-fingernails dream that leaves you in a cold sweat. Every advice column ever will tell you that you need to relax to enjoy anal of any kind, so clenching your ass in fear of fecal matter ending up on your butt plug will ensure the experience is less than enjoyable.
So, what’s the solution? How do you prepare for anal sex so you aren’t busy worrying about poop?
DO. NOT. DOUCHE.
“But it’s only water!”
Don’t do it. Even using “only” water carries too many risks to make it worth it. Your rectum has a mucous lining that is CRUCIAL in maintaining bowel health, and douching, can wreck that lining and open the door for infection. Not to mention the potential for tearing – yeah, just think about that for a while.
We know that lots of people swear by douching, but we honestly can’t, in good faith, tell you to do it. (And likely, neither will your health professional)
So how do you “prepare” for anal sex? You wash your butthole with a warm washcloth.
That’s it, that’s all. Use a mild, unscented soap in the shower if you want, but you really don’t need to do much more than that.
If you have a healthy bowel, your rectum empties totally every time you poo. Feces doesn’t enter your rectum until it is about to be expelled, so unless you hold it in for too long, or aren’t getting enough fiber, there shouldn’t be much left in there after you poop.
Ok, so you bused out the washcloth and feel fresh as a cucumber.
Now on on to part 2 – having anal sex!
“Oh baby, you make me so wet”.
If we relied on mainstream porn to educate ourselves, we would wrongly assume that all women’s vaginas get immediately and conveniently drenched upon any kind of arousal. In fact, according to many porn videos, even LOOKING at a shirtless picture of *insert attractive male celebrity here, according to your tastes* causes the dams to burst. So, if a woman is feeling wet, she is aroused. Ergo, if she isn’t feeling wet, you might as well just roll over. WRONG. Natural lubrication is a complicated and not fully understood process that doesn’t always correspond with degree of arousal.
So what makes a woman wet?
The short answer is: a lot of things.
But you’re not here for the short answer – so here it goes:
When a woman gets all hot and bothered, various factors (such as hormones like estrogen, and certain polypeptides) contribute to an increase in blood flow to the vulva, resulting in engorgement- yeah, your vulva gets bloated. The plasma that holds all these blood cells in suspension starts to seep through the cells of the vaginal wall, creating moisture. Small glands located slightly below the vaginal opening are also stimulated to produce mucous.
The combination of plasma seepage and mucous from the Bartholin’s glands results in the slick “wetness” associated with female arousal. Isn’t that DELICIOUS.
What affects the level of “wetness”?
Sometimes you feel as horny as a rabbit, but when you or your partner go to relieve your need, it feels like the Sahara down there. Other times, it feels like someone dumped a bottle of KY on you without your knowledge.
Your body is a lube machine
Don’t forget that you produce lubrication all the time, and the levels of that regular lubrication depend on where you are in your cycle. So if you’re ovulating, you might produce more mucous –when you get aroused during ovulation, you might think Niagara Falls has taken up residence in your panties. That could just be the combination of normal lubrication and “arousal” lubrication.
The pill can be a pill
Although evidence isn’t clear, there has been research regarding the effect of hormonal birth control on vaginal lubrication. Generally speaking, more estrogen means less lubrication. So if your pill has a higher estrogen dose, you may tend to be dry even when you’re aroused.
Go home vagina, you’re drunk…
Alcohol dehydrates you. Yes, that includes your vagina.
A woman can be so turned on that she orgasms without actually feeling wet, and I think we can all assume that if a woman has an orgasm, she was aroused.
So let’s get this straight once and for all: wetness ≠ arousal.
So, you prefer to remove all (or some) of your pubic hair – your body, your choice. AWESOME. And we hear you: you love feeling smooth. Makes sense. So you shave or wax or sugar your pubic hair away for a soft-as-a-baby’s-butt vulva. Then… disaster strikes.
A painful red bump, marring the smooth expanse of your freshly hair-free genitals.
The audacity, honestly…
What exactly causes an ingrown hair? It’s literally the hair growing back or sideways into the skin into the skin. Sometimes the hair follicle gets infected and you get those angry red “razor burn” type bumps.
Here’s a really gross picture of some ingrown hairs. BOOM.
How do you prevent ingrown hair?
There really is no way to totally prevent them unless you just don’t remove any hair. But since we’ve already established that you prefer to remove hair, that point is moot.
So what we try to accomplish instead, is to do everything possible to ensure the hair doesn’t start going back into the skin:
- Exfoliate (gently!) after hair removal: this ensures that there are no dead skin cells blocking the hair follicle. If it’s blocked, it grows in the only available direction: down, or sideways. But don’t use a loofah (too much bacteria): use a gel based cleanser with some abrasion.
- Salicylic acid: Usually used in acne products, there are some toners that contain this – use a few days after hair removal (not right after, or you’ll feel the burn). This is basically chemical exfoliation.
- Keep it clean: if you wipe down the bikini area with a clean washcloth after using sunscreen, or sweating a lot, it’ll help prevent stuff from blocking the follicle. (Normally we fully advocate for being dirty but… just don’t, in this case.)
- Shave properly: use shaving cream and go IN THE DIRECTION OF HAIR GROWTH. Avoid applying too much pressure to your razor – applying too much pressure may cut the hair shorter than the outer dermis layer, making it easier for it to grow sideways
So you didn’t listen to our fantastic advice and you now have an ingrown hair… what now?
Get it out.
Not the entire hair, just the end that’s stuck.
- Apply a warm washcloth to the area for a few minutes -DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. (Caps locks means we’re serious.)
- Bust out the tweezers and try and dislodge the stuck end – don’t use your grubby fingers or you’ll make it worse.
So, now you know.