Written by Sexual Wellness Institute Owner and Therapist, Amanda Holmberg, MS LMFT
Have you seen the new Netflix mini series The Principles of Pleasure? This 4 episode series celebrates female pleasure by sharing lots of history, facts, and science about the female anatomy, pleasure, and sexuality. It also tells you all the ways we are getting screwed (and not in a good way) if we’ve been socialized as women in this patriarchal culture.
From the title of this article you may assume I mean we deserve better in regards to pleasure from our partners. I do believe we deserve better from them, but mostly I mean, we deserve better from ourselves. We deserve to feel and know that pleasure is not just “okay” but something we should welcome experiencing from ourselves and our partners. We deserve to be educated about our body and what gives us pleasure. And we deserve to know this is H E A L T H Y. Seriously! The World Health Organization includes sexual health as a part of a healthy lifestyle. This includes pleasure!
Here are some of my (a MN sex therapist) key takeaways from the show "The Principles of Pleasure"!
Vulva Vs Vagina:
We live in a world that teaches people to say vagina when the whole thing is really the vulva. To call is just the vagina is to reduce it to just the reproductive function. You’re leaving out some really important parts. The vagina is what’s on the inside. The vulva includes the clitoris, labia, and other important parts of our pleasure center.
Emily Nagoski on the Hymen:
"If it breaks, like all of our other skin it HEALS - it doesn't break and stay broken. it's not a freshness seal. Yet, the myth is so powerful, not because of what is biologically true about a hymen, but what a culture has made true about the hymen."
Our culture would like you to believe your hymen defines you, that some singular event including a penis penetrating your vagina defines you. Isn’t that so silly when we put it like that? That’s because it is. We should no longer be teaching girls and women and anyone with a hymen that a man or his penis defines them. This is also extremely heteronormative. What about those who never have this experience? If you are looking for some kind of replacement word just for reference when discussing it with your teens or friends, I suggest instead of virginity you call it “sexual debut”.
On the Orgasm Gap
“Imagine if every time you went out for dinner your date was served this amazing 7 course meal. You were served a pack of saltines from 2012. You would be OUTRAGED. You’d never eat there again. You’d write a scathing yelp review and tell all your friends not to eat there. So why does it feel like we just accept that men are the only ones reliably orgasming?”
This is what we call the Orgasm Gap. Two thirds of women are rarely orgasmic from penetration alone. Women are made to think something is wrong with them if they cannot orgasm from penetration alone, yet it is the more common experience! Knowledge is power. Know that you are normal, and know that adding additional clitoral stimulation during penetration is necessary for most women to have increased pleasure and orgasm. For more information about this, read my previous blog about how women can reach orgasm more reliably.
The show also discusses experiences of women and with folks with differing gender, sexual, and racial identities well.
The folks on the show explain an important concept: women are taught they must conform with the socially constructed beauty ideal. The further you get from that standard the less permission you have to access pleasure. This gets more and more complicated with marginalized identities.
For those struggling to “feel okay” accessing pleasure, Emily Nagoski has a great exercise to try.
She says – Take off your clothes and get as naked as you can tolerate. Stand in front of mirror and say out loud the things about your body that you appreciate. This can be as simple as – I like my nailbeds! Or I think I kind of have cute toes. Or I appreciate what my strong arms allow me to do like carry around my baby. She says to do this everyday.
10/10: Your trusted sex therapist highly recommends this one!
I highly recommend you watch this show. This can be done individually- or for extra points watch it with someone else and discuss it. This could be your partner, your friend, your parent, etc. Discuss what came up for you. Practice saying words like vulva or penis or orgasm. This will help desensitize the words and make them easier to use! I would also love for anyone to comment on this blog what part of the show they enjoyed!
Interested in Sex Therapy in Plymouth, MN?
I'd love to keep talking with you about this, and other topics regarding sex and desire. Our couples and marriage therapists want to help you with sex therapy here in Plymouth, or anywhere in the state with online therapy in Minnesota. Get started by following these simple steps:
Other Mental Health Services in Minnesota
In addition to sex therapy, our LGBT & polyamory friendly sex therapists provide a wide range of mental health services at our Plymouth, MN counseling office. Other services include EFT, evidence-based couples therapy, couples therapy & marriage counseling, EMDR & sexual trauma therapy, as well as, teen therapy. In order to help serve the mental health needs of all those living in Minnesota, we also offer online counseling & sex therapy. We also provide a variety of helpful tips on our mental health blog. Please feel free to reach out with questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to begin working with a skilled therapist! Your love life can be amazing.
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