You are not broken.
I hate to tell you this, but the chances are you’re pretty normal. It’s not sexy, it’s not going to make you feel special or significant, but it’s the news I break to my clients time and time again.
I need badges or maybe a free tattoo for my brave tribe of women who are not happy to accept that their sex life, and ability to connect with another human being at the deepest level, just dwindles away over time.
They don't start off thinking this way. My wonderful women come to me having grown conclusions like:
‘I just don’t work like everybody else, I can’t orgasm without playing with my clit.'
This is natural and normal. 85% of all female orgasms involve clitoral stimulation, it was Freud who somehow decided that only vaginal orgasms counted. You should never feel wrong about using the one organ the sole purpose of which is pleasure.
'Unless I am relaxed I just can’t get in the mood'
Well, yes. Your sympathetic nervous system, the fight, flight or freeze reaction, switches off your ability to get turned on. This is the case for 90-95% of us, fairly normal I’d say.
'I don’t get wet like everyone else'
Consider who the ‘everyone else’ is. Often our reference point comes from watching porn movies, where, the pre-stretching and bucket loads of lube just don’t make for a sexy intro. Actually, it really is common for your genitals not to respond the way they ‘should’, it’s called non-concordance and happens all the time.
'I have a low libido'
In comparison to who? A teenage boy, your partner, your friends who don’t necessarily talk openly and honestly about sex? People with vulvas are often told they have a lower libido than people with penises, when in fact we just get turned on, and off, in different ways and at different speeds. What turns the average cis-male on may not have the same effect on most cis-females (cis meaning identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth).
For 99% of all conversations I have, the simple answer is that we just haven’t been taught how arousal actually works, or, if we have, it's based on society’s version of an assumed male arousal pattern. Given that our hormones, menstrual cycles, neurological patterns and experiences within society are different, it would be a logical assumption that our bodies behave differently when it comes to arousal. Not the same as men or lesser, just gloriously different.
We just aren’t taught how our bodies actually work.
Sex education in the western world, particularly in Britain and North America, is the equivalent of learning to drive by watching a 30-minute video on horrific car crashes, showing graphic detail of injuries, limb losses, blood, guts, death and utter grief. Then being shown the open road and handed some keys and a helmet. Can you imagine the carnage?
My sex-education consisted of the business end of a mature lady giving birth. I can still remember the noises and the gore. I know it can be a beautiful experience, but at the age of 11, I hadn’t even seen my own vulva in any detail, never mind someone else's stretched to the size of a grapefruit. I felt like I was watching Alien.
Without the right information, we rely on cultural messages:
Society – “Sex is between a man and a woman, but if women enjoy it outside of marriage, they are a slut“.
Media – “To be sexy you must slim, pretty, have massive tits and a Barbie-doll shaped vulva. If you don't have the abilities of a gymnastic porn star and/or ready and willing with the libido of a teenage boy, you are a prude”.
Medicine – “If you have sex you will get diseases or pregnant”.
Little or no information on how our bodies actually work, combined with a human being’s natural negativity bias, which is how our own inbuilt survival mechanism always looks for the negative over positive, and pretty mixed messages from our culture - we easily assume there is something wrong with us, like we’re somehow broken.
My job is to scream and shout that we are not.
So what can you do now right now?
1. Learn how your body works
Honestly, I don’t care how you go about it. Books like Emily Nagowski’s Come as You Are, and Sheri Winston’s Women's Anatomy of Arousal are a great starting point, or if you have less time jump on an online course.
2. Name your genitalia
The level of disconnect and shame that we associate with sex decreases when we give our parts a name that fills us with love and joy. It could be vulva, yoni or even a good old fashioned c-bomb. It really doesn't matter as long as it makes you smile.
3. Grab a mirror
Mapping is a sexological bodyworker’s main method of teaching clients to fall in love with their bodies, which starts with awareness and curiosity. It’s really easy – name and list out all the different parts of your genitals and go find out what each part looks and feels like.
4. If you are in pain go to the doctor
It’s important to understand there is a huge difference between medically functional and feeling pleasure. Once you are medically sound, reach out to a sexological bodyworker or coach that can help you understand your body and build a connection.
So yes, I hate to break it to you. You’re gloriously normal, you probably just have a little homework to do. Or ‘home play’ as my clients call it.
Find out more about Caroline and her work, at inti-mate.co or join her tribe of inquisitive vulva owners in her Facebook group IM WOMAN.