A delightful woman, perhaps 36 years old, came to one of my bedroom classes about four years ago. At the beginning of the first class, when the participants went around the room to introduce themselves, she said she was in this class because she wanted to have sex somewhere in-between the sex she was having with her husband and the sex that happened in Fifty Shades of Grey. Peals of laughter filled the room. All the women related to that wish to have more erotic sex.
Erotic sex is desirable. In my office I most often hear a woman saying she wants to have that kind of sex with her current partner — the same one she lives with and may have kids with. I take her desire to have better sex personally. Even though I see women professionally, my desire to support women’s quests for great experiences is not only linked to my identity as a nurse practitioner; it is deep and elemental to me. There is a wild and instinctual side to women, sometimes mercurial and often wondrous. I am 100% for that aspect. And the bedroom is a place to express that.
So what needs to happen to increase wonder and sensuality? There are many avenues to explore, and in this newsletter I am starting with the very basics, the female physical body and the sexual anatomy involved in her arousal and orgasm.
The reason I am starting with the basics is that they are not taught to us, and we have gaps in our know-how.
Three months ago I taught an OLLI class at Southern Oregon University titled ‘Fanning the Female Flame After Menopause’. It was my first post Covid class. The students were women all over the age of 50 and the class was full. When I reviewed the actual anatomy of female genitalia with images via power point, more than a quarter of the women were surprised. They never knew the clitoris had legs and that the legs extended down behind the labia. It was brand new info to them. It was new to me 22 years ago as part of my training in Sexual Medicine. I had never had that anatomy in my nurse practitioner education, even in my practicums that included women’s health. Now, 22 years later, female genital anatomy is still not mainstream knowledge.
This lack of basic info makes a difference and is relevant to the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. There is a reason that the sex in that series was hot and yours may not be.
And it isn’t because their sex involved S and M. And it isn’t because their chemistry as a couple was hotter, or that they were younger, or their connection started off stronger. The great sex in Fifty Shades of Grey did not just happen. It was great because this fictitious Christian had hours and hours of one-on-one training on how to notice the subtle changes of increased arousal in a female and how to increase it further. He was educated. He knew what he was doing. He paid attention. He had been trained for years to pay attention. Not for months — for years. He was more thoroughly educated in arousal than probably 99% of people you know. He was trained in S and M — a practice that many would decline to partake in – and yet it was that attention to detail that worked. He noticed subtle changes in his partner’s breath, and in her heart rate, and he followed those changes to see if what he was doing excited her. If it didn’t work, he would try something else. He was willing to experiment and he did experiment. His education and experience were key to the erotic charge they had as a couple. The erotic charge that many women and men want to experience.
Sex is a profound activity. Usually there is some preparation for profound activities: Reading, studying, talking with wiser more experienced persons, or being mentored along the way. But the bedroom has not been included in this avenue of education. Not at home, not at school, not at church. Education in health class about sex has focused on preventing pregnancy and avoiding STDs. It rarely includes anything about sexual function or satisfaction let alone peak experiences.
Most often you have pieced together your education in sex with bits from your girlfriends, movies, tv, podcasts, porn, reddit, cosmopolitan magazine, and maybe a sister. Or maybe an experienced sexual partner? For some this has taken you to a very happy place and for others you are still waiting.
Hours of lesson are available in many communities and families on how to learn to ski, horseback ride, get a black belt, or watercolor. But hours are not spent learning how to touch or communicate with your partner, finding out which of their body parts are most sensitive, exploring what is meant by a peak of ecstasy, exploring how to move differently in bed, or even a small thing like how often you are going to talk during sex. Experienced people are not personally sharing with the inexperienced what they have found that works. Mothers are not sharing with daughters tips on what to do when your arousal is going down instead of up.
So don’t be down on yourself if you have been sleeping together a long time and can’t count on having high states of excitement and pleasure. You have never been taught how. Don’t be down on your partner either. Most likely he or she has learned about sex in bits as you have. The people I see, both men and women, genuinely desire to please their partner but they don’t know how to do it. This lack of education often leads to a woman being bored or frustrated and then not wanting to be available in the bedroom. Potentially great lovers don’t become the great lovers they could be as no one has showed them how.
You can change things. I have seen it with my own eyes. You start by knowing that there are things to learn and on that list is your own body and the places on it and in it that are designed to get you highly aroused. As you begin to initiate a change — reframe your stance from disappointed or frustrated to curious. Get highly curious! And then you can explore. Yes, you can start by talking to a person who enjoys sex. It can be a friend or family member. You start with general questions and then lead onto specifics. It is breaking a social standard to even ask — so approach respectfully.
You can also go online. Below there are three terrific online resources with candid views that can add to women’s sexual experiences. And before you jump down to those links I want to say this very important thing:
If sex is painful or if you have ongoing vaginal dryness (at any age) or if you are terribly uncomfortable with sex, do go see a professional with your concern. Dryness can be resolved in weeks. And pain is resolvable. It isn’t just menopausal women who have dryness and pain — 10%of young women on birth control pills will have dryness as a side effect, that dryness causes muscles to contract and intercourse to become unbearable and can result in years of heartbreaking problems in those beginning relationships. If you have pain don’t wait — this pain rarely goes away on its own. There is a reason for it and it can be solved.
A straightforward friendly seven-minute video from Laura Berman, Phd about the anatomy of the clitoris.
Laura Berman – Clitoral Anatomy
A six-minute aesthetically done video about the anatomy of female arousal and orgasm.
Arousal and Orgasm anatomy
A potentially multi-hour explicit educational experience that can be viewed in small bits. It is a nonprofit joint venture initially between Indiana University and the Kinsey Institute which breaks through many barriers of the silence around sexual information for women. Watch the many explicit videos, animations and how-to’s –alone and with your partner.
It will cost you around $100 total to get into both of the two main sections. It is a onetime fee for those two sections and it is well worth those dollars.
The magic and power of the bedroom is often right in front of us waiting to be awakened. Yet we can miss it, miss the fantastic rewards and the many wonderful states of being that sex offers. This can happen even when we are with a partner that we treasure. Start here with the above basics and you may learn a key piece you didn’t know you were missing.
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