Taking care of the whole self
It’s common these days to hear about self care and how one should value it. But what is self care? One definition is that it’s taking care of the whole self. It can include several different aspects, such as the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental parts of ourselves. However, one area that is often left out is sexual self care. Sexual self care is the path we take to embody our fullest sexual potential. By focusing on sexual self-care, we recognise that sex is a basic human function and that having a healthy relationship with our sexual selves and our bodies is part of what makes us whole.
Sexual Self Care
The benefits of sexual self care are numerous. Sexual self care allows you to learn about your body and understand its potential for pleasure. This appreciation can help you to move beyond the body and genital shame. It also allows you to reconnect with your body and a sense of pleasure after events such as pregnancy and birth, trauma, or your sexuality as your body changes through ageing. Reconnecting with your sexual self, whether alone or with a partner, can also release endorphins and feel-good hormones like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin.
So what are some ways people can engage in sexual self care?
Prioritise your pleasure
This is true especially for heterosexual women, as there is an orgasm gap. Recent studies have found that heterosexual women are the demographic having the least amount of orgasms during sex. An American study showed that 95 per cent of heterosexual men reported they usually or always orgasmed during sex, compared to 65 per cent of heterosexual women, who were the least likely. The lack of female orgasm could be due to a lack of understanding of female anatomy and the vulva and the importance of the clitoris in orgasm.
It’s essential to know your own body and what arouses you and share that with your partner. Make friends with your genitals; engage in self-stimulation to learn what sensations and behaviours arouse your body. Women often lack a clear idea of how their genitals look, so take a mirror and see what your labia look like and where your clitoris is. Play a game of show with your partner so that they can learn what turns you on and can help you feel the pleasure you deserve.
Don’t be afraid to communicate your sexual needs
The more you communicate, the more pleasurable and the more fulfilling your sexual interactions will be. This communication comes in many forms, of being able to articulate what you prefer in the bedroom honestly. This is also about what you don’t like, either before or when it happens- don’t be afraid to speak up and take care of your sexual self. Having boundaries and being able to say no or that you want something different in your sexual interaction is just as important as knowing what you do want.
Commit to learning about your sexual self
Most of us did not get a thorough education about our sexuality growing up. You may find that people are also curious about this topic but too shy to discuss it. To help fill in the blanks and feel sexually empowered, spend time reading sexual wellness articles or blogs, or listen to sexual podcasts. Hearing others discuss these topics openly can help decrease a sense of shame when thinking about your own sexuality. Identify a person who can celebrate you as you make new discoveries, and also think about who may be interested in dialoguing and learning about your newfound information.
Choosing to grow and engage in sexual self care can lead to a vast awareness of power, depth of relationship and a richer life experience. And ultimately, the greatest act of sexual self care is to show up and just be yourself. The more you show up unapologetically and authentically you, the more fulfilled you will be.
Dr. Kristin Zeising, Licensed Clinical Psychologist (USA) and Specialising in Couples and Sex Therapy. Dr. Zeising specialises in working with adult individuals and couples and is a Certified Sex Therapist through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists (AASECT). Dr. Zeising’s philosophy is to help people reach their full potential in their emotional, relational, and sexual lives. Book your appointment with Dr. Zeising here.