Top 11 Sexual Health Resources: Myth-Busting, Entertaining Information on Sexuality for Women

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Ladies! Raise your hand if you’re totally satisfied with your sex life.

I can’t see you, but I know that’s way too few hands going up.

Now, raise your hand if you see yourself as a beautiful sexual being who is fully deserving of an amazing sex life. If you’re not there yet, are you willing to take steps toward that becoming reality for you?

One thing I’ve learned since I started practicing as a midwife—far too many women are unhappy with their sex lives.

When midwives and physicians talk with women at annual gynecologic visits (yes, midwives do that, too!), we find that sadly, many women who are less than thrilled with their sex lives think there’s something wrong with them sexually when there isn’t. Women tend to have very narrow expectations of their sexual selves, and those expectations resemble what is more typical for men, because that’s what our culture holds up as the benchmark for “normal” (big surprise there, huh?). Most of the so-called sexual problems we see are at least partly related to women’s own and/or their partner’s lack of knowledge, misinformation and unrealistic expectations about female sexuality. So much can be remedied with education alone.

Many (most?) women’s health care providers don’t address sexual satisfaction at all during annual GYN visits. Maybe a few are actually uncomfortable bringing it up, surprising though that may be. Others would like to, but they are seeing upwards of 30 patients a day and their hands are tied to cover anything other than the bare essentials. And many women don’t feel comfortable bringing up sexual concerns with their providers themselves, especially if said provider has one hand on the doorknob when asking, “Any questions?”

That’s why I created this resource guide. Every woman deserves a satisfying sex life. It’s an important part of taking good care of ourselves. Great sex doesn’t just feel good and enhance relationships—it’s also associated with many health benefits.

I want to help women empower themselves to enhance their sex lives through information sources that are accurate, enlightening, and entertaining. “Knowledge is power” is a cliché for a reason.

So without further ado, here are my favorite resources so far:

1. The book Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, PhD. Every woman (and every man who has sex with women) should read this book. Chances are, you are going to find out you’re more “normal” than you think. There is so much great stuff in this book on multiple aspects of sexuality—from desire to pleasure to orgasm as well as relationship challenges and sexuality for survivors of sexual abuse. And it is inclusive of women of all sexual orientations.

The best thing about this book is the way Nagoski addresses the most common complaint women report about their sexuality: low libido. Nagoski busts cultural myths about female sex drive—there is a much wider range of “normal” than most people realize. For starters, seventy percent of women have responsive desire, meaning desire only in response to arousal once foreplay begins, not before. Only thirty percent of women have spontaneous desire (unlike men, for whom those numbers are flipped). And this can change in either direction—a woman can be in different camps at different times in her life. So if you’re waiting for the random urge to jump all over your partner, if you’re not currently in that 30%, you’re going to be waiting a long time.

Are you a woman who can and does have great sex once you get into it, but you don’t really feel desire until sometime after getting started? If so, guess what? You’re normal! THE END. (Ok, maybe not quite the end—that could be a teeny bit of an oversimplification. That’s why you should read this book.)

And if not, Nagoski offers concrete help for each woman to sort through her own personal challenges with desire and pleasure. You will learn about the “accelerator” (things that enhance desire and pleasure) and the “brakes,” (things that block them), how sensitive your own personal accelerator and brakes are, and what factors activate each for you. The idea is to minimize the brakes in your life and enable the accelerators.

2. Want a sneak preview of her writing plus a wealth of sexual health information?  Peruse Emily Nagoski’s website. It’s called The Dirty Normal. How awesome is that? In fact, you might want to start with her critical review of the new “pink Viagra.”

3. The documentary film, “Science, Sex and the Ladies.” This is a fantastic exploration of the myths and realities of female orgasm. All those vaginal orgasms you think are happening everywhere except in your bed? Guess what? They’re not. Most women who have difficulty reaching orgasm are perfectly healthy and functional, and the problem is underestimating the importance of clitoral stimulation.

It doesn’t help that just about every sex scene in every movie features a woman having a mind-blowing orgasm via straight intercourse only—yeah, right. And, of course, the clitoris has gotten a bad rap due to leftover Freudian beliefs that needing clitoral stimulation for orgasm signifies sexual or emotional immaturity, or some such nonsense. How can it get any negative press at all? It’s the only organ in the animal kingdom that exists ONLY for the sexual pleasure of its owner. That’s pretty kick-ass.

For the rare woman who does have orgasms with plain ole intercourse, it’s still happening due to indirect clitoral stimulation. But most women need direct stimulation of the clitoris (or the clitoral hood, due to the clitoris itself often being too sensitive for direct stimulation). This is not news, but the myths persist in our culture, making women–and often the men who love them–feel inadequate and needlessly sexually frustrated. This film busts cultural myths and explains the female sexual response and orgasm in an accurate and highly entertaining way. Click here to watch the trailer and download the film for rental or purchase.

4. OMGYES Website. This one is very interesting. This company is using touch-screen technology to help women experiment with different pleasuring techniques. This is new, and it will be interesting to see what kind of reviews it gets over time, and your mileage may vary. But it’s original and bold for sure, and I love their mission of removing the taboo from women’s sexual pleasure, helping women (and their partners) learn what sexual pleasuring techniques work for them, and naming those techniques to improve communication—all with a commitment to research into female sexuality. There is a fee to get all the features, but they do offer a free sample.

5. TED Talk: “The Secret to Desire in a Long Term Relationship” by Esther Perel. Does long-term monogamy have to mean monotony? Not necessarily. But it can be a challenge to keep the excitement in a long-term relationship. This short video is well worth 20 minutes of your time.

6. Want more on that subject? Ester Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence is a fascinating and provocative book about maintaining and nurturing desire in a long-term monogamous relationship.

 7. The book, Women Who Love Sex: Ordinary Women Describe Their Paths to Pleasure, Intimacy, and Ecstasy by Gina Ogden. From the foreword by Our Bodies, Ourselves: “As a teacher, a relationship therapist, an activist, and a longtime pioneer in broadening definitions of human sexuality, Gina Ogden brings her wealth of experience and a feminist lens to exploring the lives of women who love sex. Although these women live very much in a world of mixed messages, they are able to find ways to exercise healthy choices in their sexual lives. Young, old, heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, recovering addicts, abuse survivors, hotly desirous, and shyly hoping, each one of them claims her sexuality in her own unique and sometimes quirky way. They are women with whom most of us can identify. Their journeys made us laugh and cry. Sometimes they made us angry. But they also inspired our resolve to be true to ourselves.”

I love this book for the subject of sexuality for the same reason I love Ina May Gaskin’s books on birth. Many books give explanations and information about pregnancy and birth. Ina May’s books provide some of that, too, but above all, her books tell women’s birth stories. Our culture hands us very limited and mostly negative expectations about labor and birth. Knowing the stories of woman after woman who had imperfect and challenging but also positive and empowering birth experiences—and how it all went down—reassures, inspires, and expands the possibilities in our minds. The stories in this book can do the same for our sense of possibility around our sex lives. We can see that there are as many ways to honor and enjoy one’s sexuality as there are individual women.

8. Postpartum sexuality. I have yet to find a resource on this topic that I love, so I might have to make one. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I’ll say a few things about this.

  • A lot of women are hard on themselves in this area and could give themselves a break. And more time.
  • Desire is often lower due to interrupted sleep, the physical and emotional energy required to care for a newborn and make this huge life transition, and hormonal changes.
  • Decreased estrogen due to breastfeeding creates a temporary post-menopausal type situation in the vagina, meaning most women experience vaginal dryness. This does not necessarily mean lack of arousal. So, if all of a sudden you need lube when you never did before, just use it and don’t worry about it—you’ll go back to your normal when you’re done nursing.
  • Consider directly asking your partner for understanding that your body and mind are very busy all the time right now, so for a while (the definition of which varies greatly!), sex probably won’t be as frequent as it was and can be again. Also, let your partner know that feeling emotionally supported and less stressed will go a long way toward getting back in regular action sooner than later.

9. Pelvic floor physical therapy for pain during sex. Most women will never need pelvic floor PT. However, it can be so helpful for this problem, it’s so underutilized, and most people don’t even know it exists, so I had to include it here. If you are having pain during sex, you don’t have to resign yourself to living with it. Any woman who has this problem should always start by seeing her women’s health care provider to check for medical causes. If medical causes have either been ruled out or treated and the pain persists, pelvic floor PT may help. The above linked article is a two-part series about how this therapy can help and one woman’s experience with it. (Pelvic floor PT can also help with incontinence).

10. Savage Lovecast (podcasts). Dan Savage is a relationship and sex advice columnist. He is also founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign to benefit LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) teens facing harassment and he’s married to a man, so needless to say, this is an LGBT-inclusive resource. There is plenty here for the hetero crowd to relate to as well. In these podcasts, listeners call in with their relationship and sex questions and he answers them on air. This show is down and dirty, yet intelligent and respectful. He gives really good advice on relationships as well as sexuality.

This is a great resource for women’s health care providers as well, and for anyone else who likes learning about what makes people tick. Listening has been an eye-opener for me about the kinds of issues people face in their sex lives that they don’t tend to talk about in the exam room. I’m for anything that makes me a more open-minded, accepting person and health care provider.

This one is not for the easily offended. But if you don’t mind some leftist political commentary and raunchy language, you’ll find The Savage Lovecast both informative and highly entertaining.

11. And lastly, no sexual health resource list would be complete without a little erotica. Best Women’s Erotica, edited by Violet Blue, is a popular yearly collection by all women authors. This is the description from the 2014 edition: “Best Women’s Erotica 2014 delivers risky, romantic, and heart-pounding thrills. Joyful, daring, and authentic, these steamy stories revel in erotic adventure, from the sparks between strangers to the knowing caresses of long-time lovers. These stories are not merely erotic, but filled with strong characters and clever narratives showing how sexual experience is different for everyone. This anthology is a glorious celebration of the finest and friskiest female erotic fiction today.”

Please note: there are many volumes in this yearly series. I can’t vouch for every story being written from a purely feminist perspective. I include it here because it’s a popular and generally respected collection. Oh, and it’s explicit, obviously.

That’s all for now. This is an ongoing exploration, and I may add to this guide as I go. I thank my patients for inspiring me to learn more about this essential and too often neglected aspect of women’s health.

With love,

Camille Williams, CNM

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2016

4 thoughts on “Top 11 Sexual Health Resources: Myth-Busting, Entertaining Information on Sexuality for Women

  1. bodyworkspt says:

    Thank you so much for all these amazing resources!! I’m especially excited that you included physical therapy for the pelvic floor. You’re right, nobody knows it exists. I’m a physical therapist and have trained with John F. Barnes who teaches a “Women’s Health” seminar, all about how to diagnose and treat pelvic pain and issues with myofascial release. This work treats the whole woman, mind, body and soul. I received the work after giving birth and suffering from uterine, bladder and rectal prolapse, as well as an episiotomy. And I received it after I had an injury to my tail bone. I then took the Women’s Health seminar to be able to have more comprehensive work and to be able to educate other women about the work. It’s phenomenal, and unlike any other “treatment” you’ve heard of. I hope people will explore this – you can find a trained practitioner at http://www.myofascialrelease.com
    The more we talk about, treat and explore ourselves, in all the areas of sexuality, the more whole we become – the more empowered and essentially, the more we discover our true essence. Thanks for this article Camille.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Laura. We have an amazing pelvic floor PT here and she’s put a great team of several others together working with her. I have sent women to them for a variety of different problems and almost without exception they get amazing results, so I agree it is unlike any other treatment! They also work on men who have had prostate surgery for cancer and they get great results as well. Thanks for posting that link.

      Like

  2. Hello from OMGYES! Terrific set of resources. We’re actually doing large-scale research about the specific ways sexual pleasure changes post-partum and after menopause. These are all part of our next wave of content. Will be sure to send you a link when it’s out.

    Like

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