Whether you’re naturally shy, lacking in sex ed, or feel like you’ve lost your true self somewhere along the way, it is possible to take back control of your personal pleasure, sexuality, and wellness. By doing so, you’ll not only open yourself up to an increase in self-assuredness, sexual liberation, and self-identity, but you’ll also make room for more happiness in your life.
Fortunately, our crazy-talented expert and female sexual health advocate, Meika Hollender, is here to help women of all ages, races, and classes work on having their own epiphany when it comes to their personal sexuality and gratification. She’s the author of “Get on Top: Of Your Pleasure, Sexuality & Wellness: A Vagina Revolution,” the modern woman’s go-to guide for all the questions you could possibly have about sex, and co-founder of the first brand of natural sexual wellness products, Sustain Natural.
Through her work with Sustain Natural, Hollender said that she has had the privilege of speaking with thousands of women in person and online. “I started to notice a common thread of women coming to me to ask really basic health issues around sexual and reproductive health. Then, about two years ago, I launched a national campaign called ‘Get On Top’, which was aimed at getting young women to pledge to practice safe sex,” said Hollender. “As part of this campaign, we partnered with Tumblr to do a version of their ‘Ask Me Anything’ where people could submit questions about sexual health. Within hours, we had thousands of questions.”
The results of this campaign inspired Hollender to create a platform–her book–“to provide accurate, sex-positive information about sexual and reproductive health, and ultimately start more open conversations around these topics.”
Take the story of Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump, for example, and we can begin to understand how it can be difficult for some women–even experienced women–to say “no” when they know sexual intercourse is not what they want.
When Hollender was questioned about this topic, she had this to say, “This is a really interesting and complicated topic. I think even with the Aziz Ansari stuff earlier this year, we saw two sides of the issue of consent–one being, men aren’t mindreaders, so you can’t always just use body language to indicate lack of consent or interest, and two, we on the flip side can’t put all the onus on women to have to change the way men interpret consent.”
She points out that “‘no’ means ‘no,’” but that both men and women should understand that “‘yes’ can become ‘no,’” and “‘no’ can change to ‘yes.’” Trying to be as clear as possible is paramount, not only with our partners through verbal queues, but with ourselves, as well. Though Hollender does understand the struggle both men and women face when saying “no” due to peer pressure, societal pressure, partner pressure, and more, she ultimately believes that expanding this sort of dialogue and understanding that consent is a “two-way street” is a great place to start.
2. Reproduction/Birth Control
Women don’t always get taken seriously when it comes to medical issues–from the dismissal of symptoms to their desire not to have children–women are often coaxed, convinced, or denied their wishes, requiring them to take back control of their reproductive health and needs. Hollender suggested, “If you have the time, and luxury, of not just going with the first doctor you see, if you don’t feel heard, then I always say take your time to find the right doctor.”
She also recognizes that not all women have this privilege and suggested that we “get in tune with our bodies, do our homework, and when you are at the doctor, continue to ask questions.” This is where great resources, like natural fertility tracking, if you prefer a drug-free route, and non-profits, like Planned Parenthood, can help women have access to birth control, gynecological visits, assistance with STI detection and treatment, and other family planning and reproductive needs.
Masturbation is a great way to get to know your body and take back control of your sexuality and pleasure. Some women have never explored their bodies in this manner and might even find locating toys intimidating. However, Hollender pointed out, “Now you don’t even have to go into a sex shop if you feel like that’s not your thing! You can just order a vibrator online. I highly recommend Dame Products.”
And if you need a little more reassurance to get things going, try to carve out a moment of time when you’re home alone. Watch some sex-positive porn, read an erotic novel, or simply put on something that makes you feel great before hopping in bed with your new toys. And don’t get discouraged if clitoral, vaginal, or anal penetration alone doesn’t get you there. Sometimes you need to simultaneously stimulate erogenous zones, which can be easily accomplished with the proper toys. The more adept you become at pleasuring yourself solo, and hopefully achieving climax, the easier it will become to know what you want and how you want it during partnered sex, too.
4. Partnered Sex
Crazy but true, lots of women in partnerships end up feeling unsatisfied and unheard when it comes to their needs. Sometimes it’s on the partner’s lack of care, ignorance, or ability, and other times, it’s on the lack of developed sexual communication skills, something that’s crucial to any romantic relationship.
Hollender suggests “spending the time with yourself, and with your body, to figure out what you like, what feels good, and what doesn’t” in order to make conversations with your partner easier and more comfortable. In addition to the simple things like, “That feels good,” or “I’d rather not do that again,” it’s also vital to work on opening up about your fantasies. Start with something small, and when you feel reciprocated and validated by your partner, the process will start to become easier. You might even find you enjoy the same things!
Oh, and don’t rule out the utilization of toys during partnered sex. It’s a great way for women to achieve climax before and during intercourse.
5. Buying Contraceptives
Access to emergency contraceptives, condoms, and other birth control and family planning methods are more readily available than ever. However, Hollender mentions in her book that a large percentage of women are actually intimidated by the act of purchasing condoms, despite being the gender shown to purchase the majority.
“Unfortunately about 70 percent of women who buy condoms report that they feel ashamed or uncomfortable making this purchase,” Hollender noted. “I think Sustain [Natural] has really made a dent in changing this over the last few years. In addition to there being a stigma associated with a woman who buys and carries condoms, the brands that have been controlling the market for the past decade have completely left women out the conversation and have not catered to their needs.” Enlightening indeed, Hollender has made it her mission to “create a new ‘condom culture’ where women feel empowered and buying condoms comes with positive association,” a simple and effective notion we can all appreciate.
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