Women’s Sexual Health

Some women feel a lot of anxiety about being intimate and having sexual intercourse. This may result in decreased desire, sexual arousal disorder, or erectile dysfunction. It is often helpful to take a step-by-step approach to overcome anxiety. One of the best and mutually satisfying ways to improve your sex life is to focus on the pleasures of touching.

Sensual Massage

One option is to learn how to give and receive a sensual massage. Sensual massage can help you and your partner:

  • express needs and desires
  • find out how each likes to touch and be touched
  • explore new ways to give pleasure
  • improve your relationship.
  • An illustrated manual or book can be helpful. Here are some general tips:

  • Determine who will be the first giver.
  • Establish whether you and your partner will be clothed or unclothed.
  • Choose a location where you both will be comfortable.
  • Dim the lights and play soft music you both enjoy.
  • Use plenty of pillows or a comforter.
  • If you wish, use baby oils, scented oils, lotions, or powder.
  • Tell the giver what feels good and what does not.
  • Begin with the face. Normally the giver sits and the receiver lies flat on his or her back with the head resting on the giver’s thighs. With the hands well lubricated, the giver begins with the chin, then strokes the cheeks, forehead, and temples.

    Explore the face as if you were a blind person meeting your partner for the first time. Then explore the ear lobes, lips, and the nose before returning to massage the temples for complete relaxation. Rest, talk about the experience, and reverse roles.
    Massage the rest of the body tenderly and pay attention to your partner’s feelings. Then reverse roles.

    Sensate Focus Exercises

    Sensate focus exercises were introduced by researchers Masters and Johnson to treat couples with sexual problems. The exercises are divided into 3 steps. Both partners should be comfortable with each step before moving to the next.

    Schedule time when you can both be relaxed and comfortable. Partners take turns being the giver and the receiver.

  • First step: Explore various parts of your partner’s body including the head and neck, chest, belly, back, buttocks, arms, underarms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes. Use different kinds of touch, such as stroking, rubbing, and squeezing. You can also use different kinds of touch with your mouth, such as kissing, nipping with your teeth, or sucking. Limit this stage to parts of the body other than the genitals and breasts.
  • Second step: Touch, stroke, and explore the sensual responses of the whole body, including the breasts and genitals. The goal is not an erection or orgasm. The goal is to learn what feels good to your partner. At this stage some talk may be helpful.
  • Third step: Caress and stimulate breasts and genitals. For those couples who wish to proceed to sexual intercourse, you can receive and give orgasm if you choose. It often helps to use a lubricant such as Astroglide or K-Y jelly, especially for the woman’s clitoris and the vaginal opening. Vaseline should not be used as a vaginal lubricant.
  • Pay attention to just relaxing and enjoying it when you touch each other. Remember that it is possible to have a loving, intimate relationship without sexual intercourse. If you feel that your relationship needs more help, psychotherapy, treatment with medicine, and sexual counseling may be helpful.

    Dealing With Sex and Power in Feminist Counselling

    Like all counsellors, feminist counsellors address the problems and confusions that are at the heart of the client’s current difficulties. However, feminist counsellors seek to help clients grow in awareness as to how their lives have been affected and curtailed by living in a male-dominated society. Hence, many issues that are raised by a client are explored, not only in terms of the woman’s personal experiences and relationships, but also in terms of gender stereotypes and power-relations.

    From how women feel about their bodies, to how women’s sexuality is exploited, abused and trivialised, feminist counsellors explore these issues with clients to give them a greater picture of how their own problems, fears, and sense of inferiority are closely entwined with patriarchal values and social constructions.

    Sex and Power

    Unlike mainstream counsellors, feminist counsellors explore the ways in which sex and relationships are connected to politics. In terms of sex-roles and stereotypes, both socialised sex and politics are both inextricably bound up with power. For millennia, women have been exploited in patriarchal cultures (Vesel-Mander and Kent-Rush: 1974, 22). Worell and Remer (1992, 92) view feminist therapy as focusing on helping clients identify the influence of social rules, sex-role socialisation, institutionalised sexism and other kinds of oppression on personal experience. Feminists of all backgrounds converge on the fact that every area of a woman’s life is affected by gender inequalities. Women’s bodies and their sexuality is the arena where patriarchal control and violence is most commonly displayed.

    Women are faced with many opposing images and views of female sexuality. For centuries women were categorised as virgin, mother or whore. Within all major religions female sexuality is viewed as a temptation, leading innocent males towards sin. Patriarchal laws devised ways of controlling female sexuality, making it permissible only within the sanctity of marriage. In Victorian England a woman who enjoyed or pursued sexual pleasure was labelled mentally sick, was often committed to an asylum or was deemed to be in need of a gruesome operation to make her sexually passive, so that she could no longer enjoy sex. Since the 1960s a woman is often deemed to be liberated only if she is having sex with many partners (Worell and Remer (1992).

    Feminist counsellors explore these deeply powerful and contradictory stereotypes with clients, teasing out how they have affected women’s choices, and the expression of their needs and feelings. According to Vesel-Mander and Kent-Rush (1974, 51), feminism seeks to bring out the validity of the woman’s own experience, and to challenge society’s artificial norms about what women should and should not want sexually.

    Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence

    Many feminist counsellors specialise in working with women who have suffered sexual abuse or violence. Sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence and pornography are crimes that are viewed by feminists as ways in which the patriarchy keeps women frightened and controlled. Feminist counsellors will not only explore the woman’s personal experience of abuse but will also look at society’s values and stereotypes that create male abusers and female victims.
    Women who have been raped may agonise over what it was in their dress or behaviour that precipitated the attack, a question that would be considered ludicrous in any other violent crime. Feminist counsellors work with their clients to help them realise that the crime was in no way instigated by them. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence and sexual abuse against women. This violence is not about isolated incidents, but occurs in many contexts, from private and familial, to public (Walsh and Liddy: 1989).

    MacLeod (1990, 1) is highly critical of the counselling which women who have suffered domestic violence receive from mainstream counsellors. She states that “mainstream treatment approaches used in social service or health agencies and by private medical, psychological and social work practitioners have been attacked for blaming the woman.” She goes on to add that mainstream counsellors often look for weaknesses or pathologies within the woman to explain the violence, minimising or ignoring the responsibility of the violent partner for his actions, and overlooking the social values and institutions that condone violence against women and children. Criticism of mainstream counselling is also made by MacLeod (1990) for its failure to understand the seriousness of the violence and the continued danger many abused women experience, even after separating or divorcing from a violent partner. Also, mainstream counselling often emphasises treatment based on keeping the family together, while failing to recognise the power imbalance that exists between men and women which reinforces abuse (MacLeod, 1990, 2).

    Body Image

    The way in which women are portrayed in advertising and pornography is also addressed by feminist counsellors. Women are groomed by culture to view themselves as objects, which must match a particular shape and style to fit in with perceived notions of beauty and desire. Despite all the political advances which feminists have achieved over many decades, women still learn to judge their worth by their physical appearance, bodies, faces, hair and clothes (Wolfe: 1991).

    Feminist counsellors view such issues as low self-esteem due to poor body image, the use of cosmetic surgery for non-medical treatment, and such problems as bulimia and anorexia nervosa as being largely the result of patriarchal conditioning and exploitation. Psychotherapist, Susie Orbach (1993) explores the reasons why many women become anorexic. In the United States alone, one hundred and fifty thousand women die from the effects of anorexia. For Orbach (1993) the psychological roots of this form of self-inflicted violence are embedded when the woman initially tries to transform her body into that which will be acceptable to society. She surpasses society’s demands that a woman be thin and desirable and instead goes on a form of hunger strike, trying to control even her most basic need for food as she has been brought-up to deny her emotional needs.

    Feminist counsellors seek to help a woman begin to nurture herself, to learn to love and respect her own body. This helps the woman to grow in self-esteem, and to regain her sense of internal power. Vesel-Mander and Kent-Rush (1974, 56) recommend that feminist counsellors use body therapies because a great deal of women’s oppression is biological. As a result of centuries of negative programming, women need to do a great deal of healing on their bodies and body images.

    Woman To Woman Health Tips: Spice Up Your Relationship With a Great Toy!

    We women are usually the planners, the hostesses, the chefs, personal shoppers… I could go on and on but you know this already! A state of well being for women can be hard to achieve so it’s time for a huge woman to woman health tip!

    With all the pressures, sometimes we start to feel less than sexy, especially for women mid life who may be experiencing hormonal fluctuations as well. There is a huge downside of losing your desire to have sex in that orgasms are great for your health: they help reduce stress AND they make you feel amazing. They release endorphins (aka the happy hormones) into your system, lowering blood pressure and even helping you sleep (something that is often in short supply for women mid life!).

    But what’s a woman to do if you’re between partners, your dance card is empty, or your partner is even busier than you are? Sounds like its time to go shopping… for a vibrator! Trust us, it’s the gift that just keeps on giving. It can help spice up your relationship and it can be put in a drawer and ignored without questions whenever you want.

    Need some convincing? Here is some straight talk about vibrators and sex:

    If you are like 70% of women (that is 7 out of 10 of us!), you may have a difficult time having an orgasm from penetration alone. A vibrator is not only great for solo play but a lot of fun for couples play. No man wants to see his partner unhappy or unfulfilled in the bedroom and you can bet he will be willing and maybe even thrilled to try out a toy that will get you where you need to go!

    Vibrators have come a long way! Many are designed by woman-owned companies who actually put some thought into creating products that work for women’s bodies. Some are so ‘cute’ and discreet no one would ever know what it was.

    Some women can be shy or inexperienced with self-stimulation. Why not see what a vibrator can do for you. It was a lifesaver for me after my divorce and even now with a full dating card, it is a constant companion for me.

    If you don’t know where to start, I have you covered. (I love to share no matter what the season is!).

    I did some research with some friends at the Red Tent Sisters who shared with me their own personal favourite vibe and bestseller: the Lelo Gigi. What’s so great about the Lelo Gigi? It is a super versatile product that can be used for both internal and external stimulation. It has five speeds and five modes, giving you 25 combinations (ah, the versatility), to spice up your relationship, and leaves lots of room for experimentation. Plus, it’s rechargeable (meaning you don’t have to fiddle with batteries or cords that may break or run out just when you want it the most) and it’s made from body-safe, easy to clean silicone.

    The key to well being for women isn’t just about diet and exercise. On of our best woman to woman health tips is to spice up your relationship or fly solo and get shopping for the perfect vibe!

    As Mae West would say, “An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away.”