Saturday, May 10, 2014

How A Sex Nerd Talks To Her Kiddos About Sex

Though using the words "penis" and "vagina" instead of "winkie" and "privates" is a good start, I can't help but think that we can do better. On a daily basis, I get to be newly reminded by how little understanding people have about their own bodies. It's hard to bring up the next generation knowledgeable about sex, pleasure, and their own anatomy when the ones teaching it really don't understand. Check out these attempts of adults to label reproductive anatomy if you need any proof!

I have tried to make the "sex talk" a conversation that started when my boys started noticing that they have penises (I have only boys). My oldest, at six years old, could probably tell you more about how babies are made than a lot of teenagers. I talked to teenage girl once who honestly asked me after looking at the plastic pelvis model, "So, exactly how many holes do I have down there?". Seriously. That's not happening on my watch.

In this ongoing, and often comical, conversation with my boys, I've learned some basic rules for talking to little kids about pleasure, function and reproduction.

Here's what I've learned about how to have these talks:

1. When they have a question about sex/reproduction, I try to start the discussion by asking what made them ask the question. Then I can better figure out what type of answer is needed.

2. Keep things as honest but simple as possible (mostly… see below).

3. No shaming or suggesting guilt associated with sexuality.

4. Suggest "private time" instead of "don't do that".

5. When they're little and you see them playing with themselves, mention it, and acknowledge that they do it because it feels good. Give them words for understanding that function of their body.

6. I teach about the similar little girl parts as I teach them about their very own parts.

7. I make sure I introduce the variabilities so that they already start to have an understanding that being gay and being transgender is normal for some kids and adults. I'm hoping that lays a pretty natural foundation for compassion without having that barrier of misunderstanding that comes from ignorance.

8. I have persistent and curious kids who don't often let a vague answer slide by. If questions go past what I want to share with them at this point in their lives, I go for the super nerdy, anatomical, scientific version of the explanation until their eyes cross and they stop asking questions.

9. I always talk about consent with them and how they have the right to their own bodies. Even little things like when they're upset and I want to hug them, I try to ask them first to make sure my hug is welcome (sometimes it's not). My hope is that they'll understand that just because I want to hug them doesn't mean that it's necessarily what they want, and that it's okay and their feelings are to be respected.

Here's the basic content that I cover with them: 

While it may seem to some a little crazy to teach a 3 year old about a clitoris (especially when there are still women out there who don't know where to find their own), I think it's kind of critical for understanding about sex and relationships as adults. It's just setting good foundational understanding for their own bodies and understanding that there's a parallel process going on for little girls. Girls don't lack the ability to have the pleasure of playing with themselves because they don't have a penis, they just have different bits that feel equally good.

For example, being progressive and teaching "Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina" with the proper anatomical terms is great. However, those parts are not really functionally analogous for little kids. What is a penis to a boy? It pees. It feels good to play with. It has a curious way of getting bigger and smaller. None of those things are what a vagina does. Girls don't pee out of their vagina and the little feel-good-wiggles and rubbing that little girls do are not vaginal, they're clitoral.

My approach is to teach functional similarities. Boys and girls both store urine in bladders and pee out of urethras. A boy's urethra happens to be in his penis and that's why he can pee standing. A girl's urethra is in her vulva but it is in front of her vagina and that's why little girls squat or sit to pee.

Testicles and ovaries make a nice teaching pair, of course. Ovaries are the factories where mommy's egg are made. Testicles are the factories where daddy's sperm are made. Use a really cool video to show fertilization. You can even keep it on mute and explain it yourself with video game sounds and name the sperm pirate names. The kiddos get the idea.

The penis has the big function of "feeling good when it's played with" and that's actually like what a little girl's clitoris and vulva do. Similar functions in similar locations. No big deal. They even all get bigger when they are played with!

Babies grow in the mommy's uterus to make her tummy big and then come out of her vagina. They easily understand that babies grow in mommy's tummy because they've seen pregnant women or pictures of mommy when she was pregnant with them. Actually using the words "uterus" and "placenta" can be a way to make "mommy's tummy" a thing that they can actually see on an anatomy chart and start to understand how it works. When looking at a diagram like the one below, it's fairly self-explanatory that the vagina is the exit for the baby.

Both boys and girls have anuses, that's an easy similarity. And poop is always funny with little boys. So are farts. This is an easy one and often gets them off topic if you're looking for an exit from the conversation.

The trickier part, perhaps, is the part you have to figure out for yourself. Understanding your own personal philosophies about sexuality and what you wish to teach about the relationship part of it is a more personal choice for parents. It's kind of important that we all do our work to know what is true for us (not just passing forward the hang-ups we were given) and start thinking about how we can convey our own message. 

The anatomy and function is the easy part. That part doesn't really change no matter how we feel about it!

When kids start asking more questions about the specifics than what you're prepared to answer (like my oldest trying really hard to get me to explain the entire method in which the sperm gets from daddy to mommy within a few months after baby brother was born), I go for a few different options.

1. If possible, I go for more information than necessary and make it super scientific and boring. For example: "Mommy, can I see what a vagina looks like?". I say, SURE!! And I show them an anatomy image.

It's accurate, honest, and entirely boring and usually ends questioning in our household.

2. Go with an answer that just flat out admits, "Yes. You are right. There's more to the story, but you have to be at least ____ years old to learn that part. Stay tuned!" We did that at age 4. then he asked again at 6 and could tell me the whole process with only that one tiny detail left out and really wanted to know how it happened. We pulled up the anatomical pictures (like the one above) of the female pelvis and one of the male pelvis and I let him figure out from what he knows of his own body and what he's learned of the fertilization process and he figured it out without much prompting. Then he realized that it meant that two grown ups had to have their pants off in close proximity to each other and started cracking up. "That's so weird!!!". Yup. It is. Only adults do such weird things, son. You don't have to worry about it for a very long time.

3. I find a way to segway into talking about the amazingness of another body system, like digestion… which creates poop… and poop is always a crowd pleaser in our house.

In summary...
Educate yourself so you'll be prepared for the questions kids ask. Remember, this isn't dirty stuff. If you can talk about how blood flows through the body or how air goes in and out of our lungs, you can talk about how mammals' reproductive systems work. If they ask questions that are pretty detailed, ask them how they came up with that question to see where they are coming from to better steer what type of an answer is needed in the situation. It's so good for them to get the right info from you before they get the wrong info somewhere else.

More resources for talking to your kids about sex:  For every question you could image your kid asking about sex/gender/relationships/periods/anything. It's a great resource to give your teen kiddo. This has some good suggestions and little videos with some stats on why it's important to be able to talk to your kids about sex. For more information on talking to primary school kids about sex and what to address and when. I have not read any of these books, but if this is something you are looking for, there are some nice suggestions of some books to check out for little kids. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Noisy Vaginas

Recently, my very favorite pelvic blogger, Pelvic Guru, posted an article about how to avoid queefing during a Pilates class. The gist of it is that if you breathe in a way to decrease the suction force when your pelvis is elevated, then you can avoid getting the air in that will eventually lead to the queef. Then, my dear Pelvic Guru even followed it up with the awesomeness of this article which has possibly my favorite conclusion ever. Check this out:
"Conclusion. Low age, low body mass index, and vaginal delivery can affect the incidence of a noisy vagina."
 I. Love. Research. Noisy Vagina Research especially

But this reminded me of something!

A woman asked me the other day about "that weird fart thing that happens during sex sometimes". So when I read this article, it made me wonder if those same concepts could apply to sex. Could we possibly use a breathing strategy that avoids allowing air into our vaginas during sex? I'm guessing that more than likely it's not going to work for a couple reasons:

  • Too much thinking required and sex is more about shutting off that thinking part of the brain.
  • Even if you did use the breathing technique to assume the position, I'm guessing that any penetrative thrusting is going to still allow air to be sucked into the vagina. 

The useful part of this article when applying it to sex is the explanation of the suction mechanism for how air gets in there to begin with. If the pelvis is higher than the ribcage, suction can be created to pull air into the vagina. If vaginal flatulence during sex is very embarrassing to you and you'd like to avoid it here's my breakdown of this for you:

1. Start noticing which positions seem to cause it. If you want to get ultra nerdy, journal it if you want (PLEASE share the results with me, if you do!) If you want to get ultra nerdy with this, check out the spreadsheets app. You can track your sex stats including volume which could maybe give you some sort of queef reading!

2. Find your pattern of queefiness.

3. Analyze the positions that were used before the queef occurred. Does the theory that "pelvis above ribcage" seem to hold true for sex as it allegedly does for Pilates?

4. Work on your pelvic floor strength! Not sure how to do this? Find a pelvic PT. Those pelvic floor muscles can help you keep some air out during high-queef-risk activities. Practice with yoga poses like bridges and inversions to test the theory on yourself.

5. If not, skip the rest of this list and see below.

6. If so, try to change the position a little the next time and see if a difference is made. For example, if you were having sex "doggie style" and you bent down to put your elbows on the mattress, maybe try keeping your upper body higher and bringing your knees apart a little more to lower your pelvis if that dynamic works for your partner okay.

But really...

If this seems like too much work, then I suggest the "compliments to the chef" methodology and just laugh it off. Because honestly, queefs are kind of awesomely hilarious. Possibly even high-five worthy if you were really putting in some good work with the pelvis up high.

Conclusion: If you can't outsmart the queef, 
own the hell out of it. 

*And seriously, if you get any data on this, send it my way! :)

For more fun on a more regular basis, join me on FB where we can discuss and share things that other people write as well!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When Things Just Aren't Working Like You Planned

Erectile Dysfunction... End of the world, or at least your sex life, right?

Think again!!

Here are some clips of conversations that we don't always hear from women in movies or TV. But these are all comments on themes I hear with some regularity.

"The best sex I have ever had was with a man who couldn't get an erection."

"I like sex with men, but sex with women is just so incredible because it's not all about the goal of getting PENIS IN VAGINA... there's more freedom, more flow, and not so much pressure to have an orgasm so that he can have his orgasm."

"My husband and I have great sex now, but he hasn't been able to have an erection since his prostate cancer. He's a much better lover now."

"Sex was great... until he started taking Viagra. And now it's just all about his erection without any care about if I'm actually feeling it or not"

"The number one way for me to not have an orgasm, is to try to get me to have an orgasm. I don't do well with goals. As soon as I have pressure to 'perform', I can't get there anymore"

"I really like having sex but lately it really hurts... I don't want to tell him because I don't want him to feel like he's hurting me, and then not want to have sex anymore. And if I tell him now, he's going to feel bad that I've been keeping it from him for so long."

"I just try to make it sound like I'm really into it and do anything I can to make him finish faster because it hurts but I want him to enjoy himself."

What men may not realize is that there's this mentality with women... though we know intellectually that it's right, we don't actually always believe that:


We've become a little conditioned to feel like sex is something that we "give" to our partners and so we tend to grin and bear it at times to make it a pleasurable experience for our partner. The crazy thing is that we often know that our partner would not want us to be having the experience we are having... that's why we cover it up and don't tell. Even if it doesn't happen every time, sometimes things are just not working for us either.

Though there are many reasons for women to have sexual pain (I'm not trying to say they are all simple, but some of them are really quite fixable with some simple changes) one is lack of lubrication. Here's a quick physiology lesson... Women's lubrication comes increased blood flow to the genitals which make the tissues around the vagina swell, and we sweat moisture through our vaginal walls creating wetness and lubrication. Our vulvas actually swell and get puffy because we have an internal erection of the clitoris. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes we having arousal issues too but it's not as visible as yours. But it's important to for us all to understand that.

We don't have to work perfectly all the time. A woman's lubrication and level of excitation of her vulva might be better and worse at various parts of sexual fun, so why on earth should she expect a man to have a perfect performance without waiver every time? She doesn't (or shouldn't). And men shouldn't either. I know personally that the worst thing that can happen for a woman's arousal to function optimally is to put pressure on her to do so. The same can be true for men. If you are having a hard time with an erection... don't sweat it. Just find something else to do. There's a good chance it will be just as enjoyable.

Here's another consideration about not being able to get an erection at times when you wish you could. Check out this great little clip from this article:
"Why is impotence an achievement?
There are few greater sources of shame for a man, or feelings of rejection for his partner. The real problem with impotence is the blow to the self-esteem of both parties.
We are grievously mistaken in our interpretation. Impotence is the strangely troublesome fruit of reason and kindness intruding on the free flow of animal impulses, of our new inclination to wonder what another might be feeling and then to identify with his or her potential objections to our invasive or unsatisfactory demands.
All but the least self-aware among us will sometimes be struck by how distasteful our desire for sex can seem to someone else, how peculiar and physically off-putting our flesh may be, and how unwanted our caresses. An advanced capacity for love and tenderness can ironically render us too sensitive to try to pester anyone else into having sex with us, although now and then we may cross paths with individuals who are not appalled by our longing for urgent and forceful sexual congress, and who see nothing disgusting in even the farthest erotic extremes. 
Impotence is at base, then, a symptom of respect, a fear of causing displeasure through the imposition of our own desires or the inability to satisfy our partner's needs—a civilized worry that we will disappoint or upset others. It is an asset that should be valued as evidence of an achievement of the ethical imagination." 
A few tips for dealing with this gracefully (for either of you):

  • Sex does not have to be a linear progression (like rounding the bases for a home run). Let it ebb and flow and climax when things are grooving just right. Enjoy the ride.  
  • Don't comment on each other's lack of response. "Wow, you really can't get it up." is not helpful. Neither is "Geez, you're really dry down there". 
  • Don't take it personally. It just doesn't help matters. 
  • Remember, men, it's not all about your rock hard penis
  • Have lubricant available and don't hesitate to reapply it as needed - for either of you.
  • COMMUNICATE. If something doesn't feel good, suggest a change of position or activity. If some really does feel good, make sure you communicate that. Words, sounds, body language, it's all communication. Just keep it authentic and not a performance of how you think you should be acting during sex.
  • Stay connected to your body to be honest with yourself about what's working for you and what's not.
  • Stay connected to your partner to be able to play of each other's reactions and pleasure, but also to catch early signs of discomfort.
  • Have a big repertoire of fun things to do, with many that don't involve penetration.
  • Always make PLEASURE the goal in the moment. Avoid goal-oriented sex to take the pressure off of performance. You just might find that you end up performing better. 
  • Breathe. Relax. Have fun. Laugh even. Sex is awesome. Don't let it be less awesome just because there's a temporary difficulty. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

10 Ways to Be Intimate With A Woman Who Loves Sex

Assuming that a woman wants to have sex with anyone who may offer just because she's sexual or it is known that she enjoys sex, is a pretty lousy assumption. Here's why just throwing out a "Hey, want to screw? You like to have sex, right?" (or some equally smooth derivation of that sentiment) is a bad idea:

If a person REALLY likes wine, are you going to offer them a $5 bottle of white zinfandel? NO! Because if someone really likes something, they are probably aware of the "good stuff" and don't really have much of a taste for the low quality stuff anymore.

Same with chocolate... once you get to a point of love and appreciation for something that is pleasurable to the senses... you're in it for the experience, not just a fix.

That considered, here's how to get into the glorious space of intimacy with a very sexual woman.

1. Become masterful in your creation of anticipation. Do not ever forget that a woman's largest sexual organ is her brain. If you want to turn on a sexual woman, don't miss the opportunity to grant her what she wants most... to feel the slow burning of desire carefully crafted by a skillful conversation, looks, touches... all of it. It's not luck, it's art. It's play. It's amazing. But most importantly, it shows how responsive you are to her thoughts. It shows how you can read what stimulates her. It allows her to figure out if you're worth it.

2. Consent, consent, consent.  Body language must be read and followed. Having a conversation about sex, boundaries, likes, dislikes is really a stellar idea if you want to really maximize your potential for sexual awesomeness. It doesn't need to be done directly before sex, but having that conversation at some point can only be helpful and create a more fulfilling opportunity should it happen to arise. Her trusting you to give her what she wants and her desire to give you want you want largely derives from the consensual understanding of how you treat each other. That begins with your verbal and nonverbal conversation.

3. You are not likely needed for her to have an incredibly sensational orgasm. She can probably do that beautifully on her own. You need to offer something novel into her experience. Make her want to know what sort of magic can be created when the two of you connect. Be someone with whom she desires to have in her world.

4. Acknowledge and protect her boundaries. If she doesn't trust you with her boundaries, there's an undertone of self-protection that isn't helpful for trying to let go and fully indulging in the sexual experience with you. And more than likely, you won't want to miss out on everything she's got to offer... so create the safe space for her to be all she can be.

5. Do not judge her for her lack of inhibition. She will respect your boundaries if you disclose them. If her mind freely wanders and she asks for something crazy and off the wall in the heat of things, don't judge it. Roll with it. If it doesn't cross your boundaries and you're feeling adventurous, try it. If not, just move on to something else that sounds delicious for both of you.

6. Be sensual. See her. Look at her with eyes that appreciate her uniqueness and at the same time want to devour her. Feel her. Don't rush past the way her skin feels to your fingertips and lips. Smell and taste her. Enjoy that amazing chemistry that is created by a sexually aroused woman. Hear her. Listen to her breath. Live for the sounds she makes when she's coming.

7. Be patient. Be sincere. Be inventive. No routines, please. When she gets started, she doesn't want this to progress in a predictive, linear path. Be bold, change paces, change activities, surprise her. Let your experience end somewhere completely unexpected. And let the next experience start somewhere equally unexpected! Staying in the moment is part of that incredible connection you can feel. Changing up "the moments" keeps the mind more active and attentive to what is happening instead of "oh, and this is what's next in his routine... i could use a glass of wine right now".

8. It's not the end of the world if you don't have a rock hard cock. In fact, some amazing sex can be had with women and men who can't get erections at all. So, let go of your hard-on-ego and show her you're more than that. Think of it as a chance for uncharted territory in the bedroom. Hell, take it on as a challenge regardless of if you have an erection or not... see what interesting new things you may discover.

9. She knows that sex is supposed to feel good. She's not likely to "grin and bear it" if something is really not working for her and she doesn't expect you to either. Make a promise that the shared energy of bliss is much more important than any act that might be done. There are 8,000 fun things to try, don't take it as an ego-blow if one of them isn't working for one of you at some point.

10. Don't expect her to take care of your ego. Understand that every initiation attempt you make does not necessarily need to lead to sex.  Allow her the freedom to prefer to talk (or have that fabulous glass of wine) without feeling rejected. Giving her the space to say "no" without feeling like she's hurting your feelings also gives her the space to really say YES! YES! YES! when she wants to.

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook for more juicy bits. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

How Much Do You Tell Your Doctor About Your Sex Life?

We've all been there... in the doctor's office... and they ask:

"Are you sexually active?"

You think about that phrase for a minute and contemplate its meaning.

Maybe it means:

  • Do you have penis-vagina sex on some sort of regular basis?
  • Do you have a steady sexual partner with whom you are likely monogamous?
  • Are you an animal in the sack or do you just lie there motionlessly as your partner does their thing?

And you figure it DOES NOT mean (i.e. what we can leave out of our medical history because it's uncomfortable to discuss):

  • Is your body working sexually as it normally should?
  • Do you masturbate regularly?
  • Do you have a feeling of pressure or like "something is in the way" when you have sex?
  • Do you have sex with multiple partners?
  • Do you use sex toys, dildos, or vibrators regularly?
  • If you use sex toys, what are they made of and how do you clean them?
  • Do you have types of sex that are not penis-vagina sex?
  • Have your orgasms changed in frequency or intensity without explanation?
  • Do you have pain or discomfort with intercourse?
  • Are you having any pelvic issues that are making you hesitant to engage in sexual activity?
  • Do you forcefully bear down to ejaculate during orgasm?
  • Do you leak urine when you have an orgasm?
  • Have you had any changes in sensation in your genitals?
  • Do you insert objects into your rectum, and could one of them be lodged in there?
  • Have you have sex in hot-tubs or on the beach recently?
  • If you do any anal play, do surfaces (bodily or toy) go from the anal area to the urethral area?

A friend of mine had this happen. She told me, laughingly, about it because she answered "No". She said, "Well, I technically haven't had a sexual partner for about a year, so I'm not sexually active. Sure I  can have gushing orgasms by just focusing on a fantasy, but they didn't ask about that part." And the thing was, that her sexual history actually ended up being very relevant to why she was going to the doctor. They just didn't screen well enough to catch it initially and she didn't think to volunteer the information.

See the problem? What is it that needs to be conveyed to our health care providers when we go in for a pelvic health problem? Do they really want to know our romantic status or are they more interested in how our body is functioning sexually? I'm pretty sure they want to know about sexual FUNCTION, not sexual activity. Sex matters to your health. The way your genitals are functioning matters. Your ability to have sexual pleasure matters. The way you treat your genitals matters. The risk factors you are exposed to matter.

So, take a look at that bottom list. Know that these things might actually have an effect on your health, especially if you have any sort of pelvic issue going on (bladder, bowel, sexual, or pain). Talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have. If you're going to a pelvic physical therapist for a pelvic issue, DEFINITELY mention it. These women are pelvic detectives! Give them the info so they can get a thorough picture of what's going on with your pelvis!

Will your doctor know how to handle such information? Some will. Those that don't know need to start getting better at fielding these concerns. If we all start talking with our doctors about this more readily, they'll hopefully get better at not letting sexual issues fall through the cracks of your medical care.

SPEAK UP, Ladies!! Your vagina needs you!

As always, join me for more fun and conversation on Facebook

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bored with Kegels? Well, I've got a workout for you!

Does this sound like you?

"Yes, I tried kegels after I had a baby... they didn't seem to help much. I still do them at stoplights occasionally."

We can do better than this, ladies! And this blog is about why we need to.

The wonderful pelvic floor.

This set of muscles, collectively referred to as the levator ani, can do some amazing things. (For an anatomical reference that will blow your mind, check out Pelvic Guru's Ultimate Pelvic Anatomy Resource.) They sometimes get pigeonholed as the "muscles that stop the flow of urine". What a shame! Check out this list of what these muscles can actually do.
  • Avoid leaking with coughing, sneezing, jumping, and lifting.
  • Hold back gas when you're in an elevator.
  • Suppress your urge so you don't have to do the "pee-pee dance" on the way to the bathroom.
  • Stop the flow of urine when needed.
  • Support the bladder, uterus, and colon so that they don't fall down into the vaginal area and possibly even cause the wall of the vagina to protrude from the vaginal opening.
  • Ease your ability to have a bowel movement. 
  • Improve your posture and trunk strength.
Now that list should make you want to start that kegel program again, right??

But wait!

When working on your pelvic strength, it's really important to remember that we're not only trying to get these muscles to be strong, but we want them to function efficiently, quickly, with endurance, with coordination, and with the ability to completely relax. And yes, that can take a little more effort than 5 quick flicks at a stop light... especially if you're already having issues with any of this stuff already.

Here are some of the finer points of what we need to ask of our pelvic floor:

We need quick, efficient squeezing with quick, thorough relaxing. Why? Because sneezes happen in a hurry. We need these muscles to be able to jump in and work in a pinch! Sometimes we tend to think of the things that happen inside the pelvis as magical and mystical and have a "I think I'm doing it??" attitude as we inch our pelvic floor up to a contraction that we hope is correct. Imagine if your biceps worked like that! Imagine having to concentrate and focus attention in order to get a not-so-confident, SLOW contraction. It would take forever to get enough food to your mouth to eat a meal! Well, guess what - our pelvic floor is the same type of muscle as our biceps and we should be able to control it just as well and with the same level of confidence. If we can do that, then we can run a load of laundry up the stairs and sneeze... or jump rope... or jump on a trampoline with your kids... without any problems.

We need these exercises to work for longer than just a little flicker. Some activities take a little longer than that. To use your pelvic floor for extra support while you're picking up something heavy would certainly require more than just a quick contraction. Being able to pull that support up and in and then maintain it while you do the strenuous task can certainly be a good skill to have!

The pelvic floor kind of has psychology of its own. You know how the muscles in your neck and shoulders get tight when you're stressed or anxious? Well, the pelvic floor does the same thing... and studies have shown that the pelvic floor actually responds faster than the upper trapezius (shoulders/neck area) to perceived threats! These muscles can hold tension and make things not work as well as they're supposed to. Part of this group, a muscle called the puborectalis, is actually a muscle that acts as hook, to keep the rectum closed by pulling it forward. That muscle is actually one that has to RELAX in order to allow your bowels to empty properly. So, if your pelvic floor is staying tense and guarded, constipation might be an issue you experience that can be treated by learning how to relax your pelvic floor! It's the same thing with having difficulty starting a stream of urine... the pelvic floor has to be able to turn off so that things can flow through it. When doing your pelvic floor exercises, make sure you pay just as much attention to the relaxation of the muscles as you do the squeezing.

This is possibly the most awesome of all the pelvic floor functions. Your bladder (the muscle surrounding your bladder, actually) and the pelvic floor muscles have a great way of communicating. Whenever your bladder muscle squeezes, it creates the sensation of an urge and the way that your pelvic floor responds to it by relaxing. Why? So that urine can pass through. Makes sense, right? You have an urge and your pelvic floor says "Go ahead! Empty! I won't stand in your way!". The problem, of course, is when this happens at an inopportune time. So here's the really cool feature we have built in. If you do your pelvic floor squeeze as soon as you feel the urge, it can communicate back to your bladder "back off! not yet!". Seriously, how cool is that? Not only does our pelvic floor provide support, sphincteric (tube squeezing) control, and sexual pleasure, but it's also like a walkie talkie to our overzealous bladder.

One of the things we need from our pelvic floor is good resting tone. This basically means that we need to have good bulk of our pelvic floor even when it's relaxed. Think of working out for muscle definition in your legs. You don't only want that muscle bulk or definition while you're lifting weights. You also want it while you're just walking around. The same is true for the pelvic floor. We need it to be a really strong hammock to support the uterus, the bladder, and the rectum ALL THE TIME. We certainly don't want to try to walk around with our pelvic floor constantly contracted in order to provide support because that can cause another set of problems (pain, constipation, difficulty starting a flow of urine, and sexual dysfunction).

Before we get to the fun part, first I want to say that if sexual pain is something you deal with, the relaxation part of the pelvic floor function might be what you need. Not only can a tight/short pelvic floor cause pain on it's own but that pain can be made worse when you are trying to have sex. Bummer. Also, the thing with "the pelvic floor has a psychology of it's own"... well, anticipating pain with sex from a previous experience where sex was painful can cause the pelvic floor to guard and try to protect itself, which, as you might have figured out, can also cause more pain with sex. So, relaxing the pelvic floor can fix these issues as well. Granted, if you have a short, tight pelvic floor, "just relaxing" is harder that it sounds. You might need some help from a pelvic PT (see below for how to find one).

Now for the more fun stuff. The pelvic floor muscles are the ones that pulls of the walls of your vagina in closer during penetration. The excellent part of this is that it brings the front part of your vagina (the g-spot, or the back part of the clitoris... however you want to assign it) into a spot where it gets better stimulation. Woo hoo!! Regardless of if you have vaginal orgasms or not, this can be a lovely addition for sexual pleasure.

For a functional exercise program that is decidedly more fun than sitting at a stoplight doing a few quick flick squeezes, do these during sex! If you have a male partner, his "pressure gauge" can usually detect the changes in your ability to squeeze over time and you can feel like you're making progress based on his feedback. If you don't have a partner, or your partner is a woman, you can still get a good idea of what your muscles can do either by her feedback, what you can feel on your own, or on how tightly you can grip a dildo (especially one that has a slightly larger head).

For overachievers, here's a fun game to further challenge your coordination and your ability to control your lift and your drop:
  • When you're having sex, slow things down.
  • Whenever you are being thrusted into, relax completely.
  • When the pulling out occurs, pull up and in as tightly as you can.
  • Repeat.
This creates a milking type phenomenon that can be a lot of fun to practice. It gives a lovely on and off compression stimulation for you while being pretty cool for the one doing the thrusting. Plus, you can really challenge your control and coordination by trying to keep up at faster speeds! Oh, the fun we can have when we're creative with our workouts!

While we're on the sex topic, let me address "vaginal rejuvenation" for a moment. There are some surgical procedures that women elect to have done to change the shape or size of their labia. There is also a procedure that involves removing part of the back wall of the vagina and then stitching it back up so that the opening is "tighter". The "tightness" we're after in sex does not come from having our soft tissue shortened... it's the muscular gripping that we can get with the pelvic floor muscles that's the good stuff. The opening needs to stay relaxed and able to allow entry (which can become problematic after some of these surgeries) and then our internal muscle tone is what's going to do the trick! And the best part, is that when you have control over how tight your vagina can be, it can be blissful for both you and your partner. Surgical intervention can create scar tissue and nerve damage that can make sex less pleasurable for women. Ugh!

I've heard many different ways of teaching this contraction. The key for any of the methods is understanding that you actually want a LIFT not really a SQUEEZE. Here's the way I like the best.

Imagine you have a marble at the opening of your vagina (or anus). Without moving your pelvis, back, or tummy, vacuum that marble up into your vagina (or anus). Hold it as long as you can (up to about 10 sec) and then relax. If when you relaxed, you noticed that nothing happened, then you probably let your contraction fade without realizing it. Try a shorter period of time and try to re-engage (think "lift, lift, lift" instead of "hold, hold, hold").  Figure out how long you can hold a true lift while getting a full relaxation at the end and let that be your starting point and build up to 10 sec. Remember to lift straight up, hold at the top and then drop it back down quickly (or aim for that ability if it's difficult at first).

It is also great to practice quick flicks, but the key to those is not just to squeeze fast and furious at the top of your range, but to lift as strong as you can and then drop (relax) thoroughly as quickly as you can. The quick flicks only count if you go through the entire range of what your muscle can do.

Your goal is to be so stealthy that you can can carry on a conversation without anyone knowing you're doing a contraction. Be a pelvic floor ninja! Don't let any tummy squeeze, leg shake, butt squeeze, breath holding, toe curling or eyebrow raising show what you're actually doing inside your pelvis.

Go Pelvic Ninjas!!
If you try to do these squeezes and you find you are unable or are really unsure if you're doing the right thing, or you're having some of the dysfunctions mentioned in this blog, I'd highly recommend going to see a pelvic physical therapist. They can help you with all of the above. If you need to know where to find one in the USA, try checking out the American Physical Therapy Association's Section on Women's Health. At the left side of the page, there's a "FIND A WOMEN'S HEALTH PT" button. I would like to point out that pelvic PT's see men for incontinence, pain, and weakness issues as well (hopefully one day they'll actually stop just calling it "women's health"). 

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chickens, Whales, and Parenting Sons.

Disclaimer: I am not a man. It's possible that this fact may skew my view on this topic.

I have sons. Though in kindergarten, my oldest son is only 3 years younger than I was when I saw a porno at a friend's house after school one day. It was, of course, something I KNEW my parents would not approve of, however it seemed that even in third grade, one was not cool until they had seen at least 2 seconds of an adult movie. I still remember that confused feeling as well as the exact scene quite vividly. It was this world of adulthood that I did not know existed. I had certainly never envisioned THAT as what sex was. Even now, I still don't think real sex looks much like what I saw that day. As a little girl, it was kind of a novelty and certainly not something that I was interested in seeing again. Through my early sexual development, visual images just weren't high on my list of things to get me going. And though it's not true of all women, I think that it is a place where we definitely differ from men. Women are likely to be pushed over the edge into orgasm by imagining that special person nuzzling into our hair and whispering their undying affection and need for us. We imagine the passionate touch and the desire. Men, on the other hand, seem to have a mental "spank bank" of graphic images or memories.

After my blog, "Touch Yourself More Often", I got into a discussion with a reader about masturbation and if it is helpful or harmful for relationships and intimacy. Being a woman who is very open about my personal sexuality, I see it as very helpful in my ability to relate to my husband and to understand how my body works. But this reader had a different take. He's of the generation about 10 years younger than me who grew up with internet access readily available. Any images fantasized or dreamed of can be instantly pulled up with a simple search. So, the idea of masturbation to him, conjures images of his friends who have a hard time with porn addictions. Just last week I saw this article, "Did porn warp me forever" (shared by Dr. Jenn), and it made me recall that conversation. I don't really have strong feelings about porn and I certainly am not trying to take a position on if it's GOOD or BAD in this blog. If you're interested in a smart opinion on that, check this out: TED talk discussing porn. It's out there and easily accessible by our kids so what's the point in having that debate? Instead, I think it's something that needs to be discussed with our children so that they don't think they've just found Pandora's Box (which I'm sure is a porno) with internet porn.

But how am I going to approach this with MY sons? I am very sure that they will always seem like precious babies to me. I feel comfortable discussing normal, healthy sex, sexual response, body image, communication, gender, sexuality, even different types of sex, and how to be respectful of their partners. However, addressing a subject which carries acknowledgement that mommy knows about the deep depths of messed up crap that can be found on the internet... that's harder. But I understand that the brain is still forming and neural pathways are being created with new input. To me, that makes it imperative to inform them that what they feed their brains in their formative years will have effects on their relationships, marriages, and families in the future. That's heavy. But isn't that what we have to do as parents? We help our children form their lenses through which they see the world. We can discuss with them the many alternatives but we are always trying to show them the healthiest ways through this world.

Maybe we need a good catchphrase that can just be thrown around nonchalantly, but the meaning is understood... something like "You can't ride two horses with one ass". Any ideas?

In addition to helping our children figure out how to keep their minds healthy, we also need to help them learn how to keep their bodies healthy. Part of that is sexual education as well. Maybe your son will be part of the 1-5% of boys who don't masturbate... but chances are, he's going to figure it out. There's a concept known as the "death grip" that Dan Savage discusses and he makes a really good point. Discussing the implications of how one masturbates is something else that will make a difference in their sexual relationships later in life. The basic concept is that when boys grow up masturbating with a really tight grip and don't change up their style, they become really trained to orgasm with that single type of stimulation. The problem with that is that the grip is far tighter and more specific than any vagina (or anus) is going to be. Therefore, when having sexual relationships, it can be alarming for these guys to realize that they can't come during intercourse and of course, that doesn't really help their partners' esteem either.

Surely there's somehow this can be phrased to a 12 year old boy to make him get it while not being overtly "in his business".

Possibly (these will be horrible. I recommend you stop reading now)...

For more on talking to teens and young adults about sex, masturbation, body image, etc., check out Scarleteen. It is a GREAT resource.

Also, here's a presentation done for high school students about porn and sexting. Gareth's blog is also a good resource for adolescent sex education.