Your guide to owning your sexual health and pleasure.
Why You’re Here: You have decided there is more to sex than what we learn in the movies, and you feel like you have a right to know about it (you do).
What’s Inside: A bit more info than most of us got in our sex talks (if we got one at all) - how to learn what you like, how to communicate it to a partner, and how to take care of your body so you can enjoy every move without getting nervous.
How To Use It: We hope this toolkit is the gift that keeps on giving. Parts of it may apply now in your life, and parts of it you may want to come back to depending on your age and where you are at with your body.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Your sexual health is important, whether or not you’re currently sexually active. The time you spend investing in your own sexual health will only add benefit to your sexual experiences, whether they are now or years from now. Accept that what you previously thought about sex and sexual health might evolve a bit here: that is completely normal.
You are the most important part of all of your sexual experiences. What feels good for you is right for you. And in sexual experiences with a partner, always be sure to communicate. You can learn more about how to talk about sex by visiting the American Sexual Health Association’s website
WHAT TO DO
The best next step is the one you take, whether that’s a little something you do today, a habit you start tomorrow or the plan you make for long-term health. Here are some ideas for each.
Schedule an STD/STI screening. There’s no harm in finding out your status, especially since some STIs can hang out in your system without producing symptoms. Not to worry - getting yourself checked and getting the proper medical treatment is fairly simple. The Centers For Disease Control offers a free search to find a testing location near you on its website, just enter your zip code and find out what your options are in your area.
Focus on your pleasure - know your body and what feels good! Don’t forget that you are a big part of the dance, and your pleasure is equally as important as your partners. Use positive thinking to affirm your sexuality, tell yourself this: “I approve of my sexuality.” It’s important to really understand pleasure because some experts believe it could help improve overall consent among women. Work on treating yourself well. It’s OK to be sex positive. That’s a good thing. Check out these resources for more information about sex positivity and talking about sex, masturbation and pleasure.
Learn the language. Determine what you feel comfortable calling your body parts. Or, if you find you’re not comfortable talking about your body parts as a whole, practice until you feel more at ease. Communicating about what you like starts with you being able to communicate about your body.
Next, practice saying what you like and how you like it - but say it outside the bedroom. Start by telling yourself. If you know it's hard for you to speak up in the moment of passion- have a conversation over dinner about what you really liked in your last sexual experience or what you'd like your partner to do to you. It's helpful practice at communicating and can also get you both in the mood.
What materials should I be aware of in sex products?
Keep in mind that items such as sex toys are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mashable reports. And interesting fact: following the release of the film “Fifty Shades of Grey” there was a reported surge in sex toy-related injuries, according to The Washington Post.
Silicone sex toys are non-toxic and hypoallergenic, VICE reports. It’s important to understand Phthalates, however, because they can make up 70 percent of the content of many sex toy products. In 2005, the Danish EPA reportedly did a random sampling of 16 toys and found that tested toys were shown to contain trimethyltin chloride, phenol, carbon disulphide, toluene and cadmium. And depending on the compound of materials used, that could present physical reactions from rash to brain damage.
You also try to avoid using sex products—like vibrators and lube—that contain parabens, glycerin and other toxins that might be endocrine-disrupting. Glycerin can change the way your vagina absorbs water and can dry the vagina out.
Online retailers are selling non-toxic sex products and toys, including Smitten Kitten and Sustain, which sells condoms free of nitrosamines. Silicone lubricants should not be used with sex toys but are known as good lubricants on their own.
Where did my libido go?!
There could be a few reasons why your sex drive or libido is down (not permanent!). Changes in libido are normal. You could be facing a lot of stress, depressed or on medications to treat antidepressants. Often, if you take hormonal birth control that can also lower libido. You could also have a vaginal condition you are suffering with that makes you feel pain during sex. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you feel any pain during sex or if you have any pain in your vagina. There could be trauma associated with it. Other reasons for low lobido could be you might have just ovulated, or you could be in menopause.
It might also be time to look at your relationship and how it’s working for you. Do you feel wanted by your partner? Are you having varied sexual experiences? No, not necessarily sleeping with other people, but trying new things? It happens to men as much as it does to women—sometimes sex drive changes. Define what healthy, enjoyable, safe sex looks like for you with your partner. Talk about it, too.
How can I prevent Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) happens when there is too much of a certain bacteria in the vagina and is easily treatable. It is very common and any woman can get it. With this condition, the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina changes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It might be hard or difficult to notice symptoms of BV. Often, women with BV don’t have symptoms. However, if you have BV you might notice discharge is a thin white or gray color, and you might feel pain, itching or burning in the vagina. Also, you could notice an odor that is fish-like, and often comes after sex. Burning while urinating could also be a sign.
To lower your risk of BV, it’s important to keep your vaginal bacteria balance and use only warm water when you are showering or bathing, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Services, Office on Women’s Health. Also, no douching. Douching upsets your balance of good and the harmful bacteria in your vagina and it could make it easier to get BV again after you have treatment. Researchers are still studying how women get BV. It’s more common for women who are having sex, but you can also get it without having sex. You can also get it by limiting the number of sexual partners you have, or abstaining. The Mayo Clinic also recommends not using scented pads, tampons and nondeodorant soaps.
BV can cause some serious health risks. Those risks include increasing your chances of getting HIV if you have sex with someone who is infected with HIV, and if you are HIV positive you could also increase you also increase your chances of passing HIV to your partner. BV can also increase risks of delivering a baby too early if you have BV while pregnant. It can also increase your chances of chlamydia and gonorrhea, and could also cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. If you have questions about your risk, talk to your doctor
I've heard the terms clitoral orgasm vs vaginal orgasm, and am thoroughly confused - help?
Not every woman needs clitoral stimulation to orgasm, or even vaginal stimulation to orgasm. So, let’s begin there. Every woman is very different and experiences orgasm differently.
Some women are stimulated in the g-spot, the cervix and the nipples, Psychology Today reports.
Let’s do a quick biology review, too. The clitoris is above the vagina, several inches above the vagina entrance. There is an internal area of the clitoris, which can be stimulated by the G-spot—about 2-3 inches from the vaginal wall. Sometimes it takes women multiple orgasms to reach vaginal orgasm compared to clitoral stimulation and orgasm.