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Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of women report having “sexual dysfunction.”
This was, for me, on first encounter, an astounding statistic. That’s practically half of us women!
Upon further reflection, however, the statistic makes perfect sense to me. To be honest, I’m surprised the number isn’t higher. With such high rates of negative body image, obesity, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and stress in female lives in America, not to mention all the sexual objectification and denigration that happens in culture at large… it seems as though almost none of us should be getting by unscathed.
There are plenty of physiological reasons libido can be off, and plenty of ways to troubleshoot that with diet and lifestyle changes . You can also read my book “Sexy by Nature”which addresses all of this and my thoughts on it here.
Perhaps even more important than that, however, are psychological problems. Psychological problems, ranging from doubts about your body’s appearance to lack of trust in your partner, cause undue worry in the female brain during sex. If your brain is anything other than 100 percent relaxed and “in the moment,” it’s going to be much harder to enjoy yourself and orgasm is going to be approximately 1500000% harder to achieve than otherwise. This is a simple fact of female physiology.
These are these psychological roadblocks to satisfying sexual activity I see most often in my friends and clients (and please note, before reading ahead, that I use explicit language and talk about explicit sexual things, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to stop now, no hard feelings. 🙂 ):
1) Thinking your lady parts are “gross”
I remember being twelve years old on the way to dance practice in the back of my mother’s SUV being told by my “cool” friend that I needed to shave my pubic hair if I wanted to be sexy.
I also remember experiencing feelings of disdain for this friend, since I obviously already knew that.
I also remember making jokes about vaginas smelling badly, and tasting badly, and being all around just horribly unpleasant.
This made me never want to inflict my body on anyone. If my vulva were so gross, how could I possibly expect any man or woman to enjoy it? If they insisted on pleasuring me anyway, how could I be sure it was because they really wanted to? What if they were grossed out the whole time?
Okay, ladies. This is the most important lesson about our sexual selves I think we could ever learn:
There is no valuative difference between a penis and a vulva. No smell, taste, sight, or feel of one is better than the other. Neither are “gross.” Any person or any media like a movie (or porn) that leads you to believe so is not just wrong but possibly evil.
If you want to read what our partners (and men in particular) REALLY think about the vulva, its taste, its smell, and what they are really thinking, you’ve got to read “She Comes First” by Ian Kerner. It will open your eyes!
And if your partner is one of those evil doers, it’s time to have a conversation about what’s going on, or to show them the door. This is not a joke. Your body is straight up awesome. It has the ability to give both you and your partners pleasure (here for male pleasure, here for female!). It is a wonderland. No one has the right to take that away from you.
You are not gross. Society’s double standards about the impurity of female bodies has only made you feel that way.
2) Feeling self-conscious about the way your body looks
If you’re laying in bed and trying to think of sex positions that can hide your rolls rather than enjoying the ride, that’s a giant road block to both connection with your partner and also physical pleasure.
Nothing kills a libido like self-doubt.
Fortunately, there’s a fantastic remedy to this problem. It’s remembering three simple facts:
1) The sexiest woman alive to any person having sex is the one right there in the bedroom with them. Sure, Jennifer Lawrence may be a physical specimen, and Giselle Bundchen may have “perfect” proportions, but neither of them are a real person with your real partner in a real room.
2) Nobody will get into bed with you if they find you unattractive. Period. Initiating or consenting to the sexual act means that this person wants to be there. So get out of your own head. Stop worrying about the way that you look. This person finds you sexually appealing for one reason or another – there’s absolutely no way to ignore this fact.
3) The last thing any person you’re sleeping with wants you to be doing is worrying. That’s ridiculous. What they want is for you to be thinking about them and having a good time. So do those things. Don’t disrespect yourself or your partner by being self-conscious. Trust your partner’s desire, own every inch if who you are, and let yourself move comfortably in your own skin.
I know letting go of self-consciousness in the bedroom is easier said than done, but it’s incredibly empowering. Plus, once you begin doing it, you can’t stop. Self-love is powerful, and infectious.
3) Feeling ashamed of sexual desire and activity
As women in American society, we are taught (if subconsciously) that we are dirty and immoral if we have sexual desires. We are told that our bodies are primarily objects of sexual desire. Men want us, but we don’t want them. Men lust for us, but we don’t lust for them. Men always have orgasms, women sometimes do. Men’s sexual desires are supposed to be robust and lusty – marking them as strong “men.” Women’s sexual desires are supposed to be shrouded in burkas and locked away beneath chastity belts.
Mark my words, however:
this is bullshit.
Women have every right to be sexual, just as much as a man. Women are free to have desires – even non-monogamous ones! – and to have them be pleased. (My FAVORITE book on that topic is this one, you’ve got to read it!)
I cannot tell you how many women I’ve spoken to who have never had an orgasm in bed because it just “wasn’t her place.” So many women are focused on pleasing their partners, and keep quiet about their own needs.
In American culture as a whole, we tend to radically favor the male orgasm in bed, and to deny the importance of female pleasure.
But this is wrong. Your needs are normal. They should be met as equally – whatever they are! – as your partners are. You should be in the bedroom to take care of and entertain each other, not for you to be a subservient, unfulfilled sex toy.
So – if your sex life is unbalanced, consider if that’s because of your partner’s attitude, or your own. Consider why you neglect your own pleasure. Challenge yourself to accept this part of yourself. Challenge yourself to be in conversation with your partners about this. You will never get to experience pleasure if you do not welcome it into your heart.
4) Not having a safe space in which and partner with which to be sexual
This almost goes without saying. If you don’t trust your partner, like your partner, or have pleasant sexual experiences with your partner, you will never feel comfortable in bed with your partner.
If you do not feel comfortable, you will not have an easy time experiencing physical or psychological pleasure.
The solution to this problem is entirely contingent on your own particular situation. Perhaps you need couple’s therapy. Perhaps you need to have a conversation about each other’s doubts and desires. Perhaps you’re in an irredeemable relationship that you need to get out of. Perhaps you pick up random strangers who don’t always treat you very well. Perhaps you and your partner simply need to remember how to laugh with and love each other.
5) Worry about your sexual skills
Lots of people spend all of their time in bed worried that they’re not doing it “right.”
The only way to know if you are or not, however, is to ask. Every person is different, and every person has different tastes and desires. You’ll never know if what you’re up to is good for your partner if you do not communicate about it.
Moreover – the most important aspect of “skill” in the bedroom is the willingness to experiment, to listen, and to give and receive feedback. It’s not about how many partners you’ve had or how many sutras you’ve practiced. It’s about your desire to give pleasure and experience connection, and to communicate. Don’t worry about your performance. Simply be, and talk, and ask questions if you want answers.
6) Being too stressed to think about sex
Any thought that takes you away from your partner is going to diminish the quality of your sexual experience. This is true for all people, but it is especially true for women. Your body craves sexual activity only if it perceives a great enough state of safety in your life to enjoy it.
Stress makes you dwell on problems and prevents you from delighting in the blessings in your life.
The best way to mitigate this problem is to reduce the amount of stress in your life. This liberates your day dreams to wander into the realm of the explicit and the naughty, and it makes your heart free to reflect on love. If you absolutely cannot eliminate certain stressors, do your best to set aside time for sexual activity. When you do so, check your worries at the door.
Give yourself the time and space you need to be fully present – not locked in the past nor anxious about the future – and the depth of connection and pleasure you and your partner both experience will skyrocket.
But what does any of this have to do with paleo?
As I’ve argued many times before, there is the paleo diet, on one hand, and then the paleo perspective on the other.
Paleo provides us with a lens with which we can examine our lives. At least this is how I like to look at it. Paleo asks us to question social norms, and to think deeply about where our beliefs and habits come from. Just about everything we think, say, and do is cultured by the world in which we grow up. It is helpful for us to analyze those things (I do a lot of that in my book!), so that we can do away with the unhealthy ones.
Thinking a woman’s body “gross,” for example, is one of those things.
Paleo also asks us to think about what is “natural.” Is it natural to have sexual desire? Natural to have an imperfect body? Natural to receive pleasure without feeling guilty? The answer is yes to all of these things. Thinking about humanity in evolutionary terms helps us see that. Many groups – such as the evangelical Christian sects that promote purity vows in young girls – don’t think much of evolution, and this ends up being a significant hindrance to healthy and happy sexual activity.
(My favorite book on the naturalness of sexuality and questioning social norms [not my own!] is this one.)
Sexuality is an important part of relationships and life. There are physical aspects of that – which the paleo diet certainly helps, as I’ve discussed at length here – and there are psychological aspects of that which are also fun and important to look at with an evolutionary lens.