I was recently conducting an intimacy workshop for 200+ women participants who are struggling with no sexual desire and painful penetration. Lack of intimacy has affected their marriage and relationship and created quite a distress in their lives. I started my workshop by asking them what beliefs they have imbibed towards sex from their childhood. Since we all know a child is born with a blank slate. If you see toddlers, they don’t care if they are wearing pants or not, until the parents start reminding them that ‘you need to cover up’ or ‘this is chee’. While I am not denying this education is not important, however we also need to see what outdated beliefs have we imbibed about sex and pleasure from our families, parents, society, and how has it impacted us.
Here are some statements women shared about what beliefs they have learnt about sex growing up:
Sex is only for making babies.
Sex is fearful and painful.
A woman should be restricted and have to be virgin.
Always thought that sex is something bad, and to be tried only after marriage.
Led to a lack of understanding of my own body and how sex works.
Sex feels like it is disgusting and strange.
There was none to talk to. Even my friends were not able to tell me what it is. someone saying that it will be painful, has put me through trauma because of that.
When they are not talking about. Then we are not aware. Awareness is missing.
It has affected me a lot. I was virgin throughout because of my family conditions. I was always told that sex can be done in first night in one go. But I felt unworthy, was in self-doubt that I couldn’t do it.
I had no idea how to have sex before my marriage.
Whispers of childhood: revisiting the past
Examine following questions and answer them:
- What were the messages you received about sex from your childhood?
- Did you get physical affection growing up at your home – hugs, cuddles?
- Did you see your parents as a romantic couple or as a functional couple?
- When you were growing up, did you receive positive or negative messages about your body?
In order to build your sexual self, a self that sees sex as a pleasurable, positive part of life, a self that enjoys sex, a self that is highly desirous of wanting sex, it is important to listen to the whispers of childhood and perceptions formed in early years. Learning about sexual self begins at the time a child is born. Family, relatives, society, school, and culture, all play an important role in the development of sexuality. Silence and negative beliefs from all these forces around sex create a strained and distanced relationship with sex.
Masturbation: Your first step towards building a healthy adult sexual self
You might grimace at the idea of stroking and rubbing your genitals. But hear me out, masturbation – what it is and how it should be done is often shaped by early childhood beliefs that we acquire around sex. When I ask women if you have masturbated, they would gasp like it’s the nastiest thing ever. A lot of women think that masturbation is not a sensible thing for women to do. These women will have sex as long as a penis is attached. But use their own fingers or a vibrator are off the equation. This has happened because of porn, where the only kind of sex that we see is a guy pulling his penis in and out of a vagina. In none of the porn scenes it is shown a woman sitting by her own, enjoying and exploring her own body.
No one, neither our families, nor the porn is giving a woman permission to learn about her own sexuality without a partner present.
Its time to take the matter literally in our own hands
If you’re interested in learning more about masturbation, there is no better a time to start—especially now with customizable vibrators that are aesthetically pleasing, and can provide an orgasm much more easily and quickly than manual stimulation. Science has also now cleared up some misconceptions about the female orgasm. For example, we now know that all orgasms come from the clitoris stimulation, not the vaginal penetration. So-called penetrative vaginal orgasms also involve indirect stimulation of the inner clitoris through the walls of the vagina. Now each woman has her own signature technique for reaching clitoral orgasm and it takes practice to develop your own signature moves.
And masturbation is by far the best way to practice.
Masturbation is not some vigorous stroking of genitals in a time bound period to reach a giant release (arghh), the kind of images they display in porn make me puke. Only if we had more luxuriant, aesthetic images of a woman pleasuring her whole body by herself and riding waves of pleasure after pleasure. But patriarchy ensured such images never reach our imagination. However better late than never. Masturbation to me is a whole body-soul-heart-mind experience where you touch your body in whatever manner you find pleasing and derive pleasure and feel-good sensations from that touch, whether it leads to orgasm or not.
Having a sex toy in your private space just makes it so much easier. A lot of women can get intimidated by sex toys if they have never used them before or they might be curious but don’t know where to start. In this blog, I will simplify your journey of how to pleasure yourself with a sex toy.
Focus on the word ”toy” in sex toy.
Pause for a moment and think what comes up for you as you think about that word ‘toy’. If you’re like most people, you probably reminisce about your childhood — a time of curiosity, wonder and unrestrained joy. A time when you played in the garden engaging in different games with your friends. How quickly we lose touch with our sense of play as adults. Sex toys are the playtime for adults.
Choosing the right sex toy
The first question you need to ask before deciding a sex toy for yourself: Are you going to use the toy externally (on your clitoris), internally (for penetrating your vagina), or both simultaneously? Accordingly, you might start with a vibrator designed for external stimulation or a dildo designed for internal penetration or a rabbit vibrator that has got both functionalities.
Vibrators are one of the most versatile sex toys. Using a vibrator improves your overall sexual functioning, increases your sexual desire, physical arousal, creates more juicy lubrication, and delivers more orgasms. They come in just about every color and in a wide range of sizes, functions, speeds, and settings. You can adjust the settings to get your favourite kind of stimulation depending on your mood and needs. Why would someone use a vibrator? Well, most women don’t reach orgasm as quickly or consistently as men. Women take longer time and dedicated stimulation to reach an orgasm. Vibrators provide a skilled focus and sensation that is impossible for any human to replicate.
Dildos resemble phallus (penis) and are different than vibrators. Dildos don’t vibrate. Their job is to penetrate. Some couples find strap-on dildos to useful when the male partner is unable to attain or maintain an erection, and many lesbian couples also use dildos to enjoy penetrative sex.
Explore and experiment with different parts of your body.
The key to good sex, even with yourself, is enjoying sensations rather than chasing the finish line of an orgasm. Start slow and steady. Make sure you are at a place where you are not distracted and have privacy. Set the scene, play some music, have some cushions. Use the vibrator to stimulate various parts of your body from head to toe and tune into the sensations. You may simply use vibration, or mix the vibrator with sensual touch of your hands as you explore your body through self-touch.
Start with your face, neck and work your way down, exploring your underarms, your upper and inner thighs, your lower belly, all the way down to the soles of your feet. Our “primary erogenous” zones—the vulva, lips, nipples—have tons of rich nerve endings which make them super sensitive, and delicious to touch. But we forget that our beautiful feminine bodies have many other parts capable of giving us erotic delights. Through this pleasure explorations, when you find out what works for you, you can create your own personal “pleasure map,” which you can share with your partner to help them understand what brings you sexual satisfaction.
If you are convinced and are ready to take your pleasure in your hands, you can check out some popular sex toy websites where they list sex toys for all genders, available in all price points, sizes, shapes, kinds, and stimulations. My personal favorite is IMbesharam.com, India’s largest most loved sex+ brand and an adult products megastore, with over 120 international brands and 2000+ pleasure products, with features such as discreet shipping, thousands of positive user reviews, and international quality standards has been making a difference for over 10 years of its existence- building the blocks of an ecosystem that promotes sexual pleasure and health to be very normal and essential components of the system.
This article has been authored by Pallavi Barnwal
Pallavi Barnwal is a globally renowned sexuality educator, TEDx speaker, sexuality researcher, and intimacy coach. She is the founder of the sex-positive platform getintimacy.com that works on destigmatizing conversations and spreading awareness around sexuality. She has been featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines – notably being BBC, Huffington Post, Vogue, Vice, TimesofIndia, The Hindu, GQ, to name a few. Her mission is to help people have more intimate satisfaction in their lives