Article published for Bless
At the inaugural Bless Winter Supper last December, I was invited to speak to 20 fabulous women about feminine sensuality.
Gathered together in Ashlyn’s stunning home - a wonderland of creativity and style, surrounded by heavenly food, a roaring fire and sumptuous interiors - it was the perfect setting to talk about my favourite topic: pleasure.
As a clinical sexologist and sex coach for women, my job is to extol the virtues of pleasure. Consider me a disciple of pleasure, if you will, a champion of the pleasure revolution. Because, well, pleasure is what sex is all about.
So, without further a do, here are my top tips to the Bless Community for having the most pleasurable of Valentines Days…
Pleasure Tip One: Break Away from “Red Hot Sex”
I’m sure you are all well acquainted with “red hot sex” - it’s the stuff of TV, movies and porn - sex that is all about passion, intensity, penetration and explosive, simultaneous orgasms that underscore the momentum of the experience and mark a job well done.
It’s a hugely unrealistic blueprint for sex - lacking nuance, overlooking intimacy, connection and sensuality, and failing to take into account the reality that 3 out of 4 women cannot orgasm from penetration alone!
When I work with clients, I see that the pressure to emulate this type of sex leads to at least one of the following:
Avoiding sex entirely
Believing that their sex life is broken because it doesn’t resemble this “red hot” model
Faking orgasms and performing in the bedroom
A lack of knowledge and/or numbness to real and authentic sexual pleasure and sensation
Here’s the secret: red hot sex does not equal good sex. In fact, sex doesn’t have to be intense, goal-driven and penetrative at all. In reality, many of us feel more with less stimulation (and more anticipation!) A meaningful exchange of sexual energy whilst being in the moment is what makes for great intimacy and connection - whether that be a long and tender embrace whilst eye-gazing and breathing in unison, kinky power play, or teasing caresses.
Breaking away from the hegemony of “red hot sex” is one of the most transformative things we can do for our sex lives. We all have the power to re-write the sexual narrative for ourselves and explore what truly brings us sexual satisfaction and pleasure. I’m an advocate for purple sex, for blue sex, for orange-mixed-with-yellow sex, for beige sex all the way to psychedelic sex. Each colour is valid and appropriate for different times, places and people.
So, I invite you to explore the sexual rainbow this Valentine’s Day!
Pleasure Tip Two: Focus on your pleasure OUTSIDE of the bedroom
When I speak about pleasure, I like to explore it inside and outside of the context of sex. And - like so many things connected with our sexuality - what happens outside the bedroom is a litmus test for what is happening inside of it.
But what do I mean by “pleasure” exactly? It’s a word that has a bad rep - often associated with indulgence, hedonism or frivolity. In fact, the root of the word pleasure is “to please” - it’s about happiness, joy and satisfaction.
When I work with women about pleasure, I hear the same things over and over again: their pleasure is put to the bottom of the to-do list. Whereas, pleasing others, over-extending themselves to make others feel comfortable, taking care of others before themselves, saying “yes” when they really mean “no” - these are all familiar habits.
I believe this is a by-product of our society that celebrates “doing” - we applaud hard work, ambition, responsibility and achievement. This is all well and good, but not when we forget to place value on “being” as well. We must not overlook the importance of being in flow, being spontaneous, being creative, mindful and - yes - pursuing our pleasure. Eastern philosophy teaches that we need both these “doing” and “being” energies in our life to reach balance, but in today’s busy world we can too easily get immersed in the hustle and grind of our to-do list.
The outcome? High stress, and not enough pleasure. Both are enemies of our sex life.
So, my next tip this Valentine Day is to allow more pleasure into your day to day life. Pay attention to what will make you feel incredibly happy in the moment, and say yes to it.
Say YES to lighting your favourite candle for yourself this evening, rather than waiting for that dinner party you might host.
Say YES to wearing a stunning outfit at home, even if you aren’t going out, just because it makes you feel good.
Say YES to pudding.
The aim is not to be indulgent nor to abandon life’s responsibilities. The aim is to subvert our conditioning, to notice when we are holding ourselves back from things that will up-level your quota of joy, and to break the habit.
And this will pay dividends for your sex life. Because how on earth will you advocate for your pleasure in the bedroom if you are not prioritising it and practicing it in all other areas of your life?
Pleasure Tip Three: Self-Pleasure
It’s a sad fact that, in 2022, masturbation is still considered taboo when in fact it’s foundational to having great sex.
I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes about self-pleasure by Betty Dodson, a sexologist dubbed The Mother of Masturbation:
“Masturbation is a meditation on self-love. So many of us are afflicted with self-loathing, bad body images, shame about our body function and confusion about sex + pleasure. I recommend an intense love affair with YOURSELF.”
Betty teaches that becoming the queen of your own sexuality is directly linked to connecting with yourself through self-pleasure. This involves becoming attuned with your body, your sexual response, your turn ons and your turn offs.
It’s this sexual self-knowledge - coupled with the confidence to show and tell our partners our preferences - that lies at the heart of satisfying sex.
At the Bless Winter Supper, I shared a ‘Self Pleasure Menu’ to the women in attendance - a step by step guide to a self-pleasure ritual…
This Valentines Day, I’d like to share a morsel of this, a ‘Self Pleasure Appetiser’ for you to try at home…
1. START WITH THE BREASTS:
In Tantra, the heart + the breasts are the “positive pole” in a female body, whereas the genitals are the “negative pole”. The two spaces are connected. Massaging the breasts and giving the top part of your body attention will often create arousal, whereas you may feel resistance touching the genitals straight away with no “warm up”. Touching the breasts and heart area first - 10 minutes minimum - will awaken your vulva and open her up to receiving pleasure.
2. EXPLORE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TOUCH:
What types of touch does your body enjoy? Do you like soft, gentle, air-like touch using just the tips of the fingers? Do you like long strokes using the palm of your hand? Do you like fiery touch - like slaps, pinches, pulls, grabs? What does it feel like to hover your hands a few centimetres about the body - in your energetic field? This is called an ether touch - some people are very sensitive to this type of touch, get a lot of pleasure from it. Explore yourself and get to know these details about your body’s response to touch.
3. REMOVE THE GOAL OF ORGASM:
Self-pleasure is about connecting to yourself, and learning to awaken sensation in your whole body. Try to resist the urge to chase an orgasm. We get so caught up with an end goal, we forget to enjoy the journey of pleasure and sensation in its own right.
Wishing you all a very pleasurable Valentines Day this year!
Thank you to author and friend Isabel Losada for introducing me to the term “red hot sex”, and to sensuality coach Regena Thomashauer for all her teachings on pleasure.