To some, self-care means quiet time in nature. To others, walking barefoot in the grass, guided meditation or a good book does the trick. But too often what’s left out of these self-care conversations is sexual pleasure. But that’s changing. We are experiencing a cultural shift in how we view, talk about and prioritize pleasure as we come to understand sexual health as a significant and important part of wellness.
“A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that the feelings of guilt women have felt over masturbation are being replaced by a ‘positive relationship and feelings towards their bodies.’”
Let’s break it down. Pleasure isn’t a luxury. It’s necessary for overall wellness. Science has waxed poetic on this topic. Yet, even sex education doesn’t talk in terms of pleasure-positive sex. We must teach human sexuality with mutual pleasure as the end goal and not just reproduction or sexual risk. A recent poll found 46% of females are not sexually satisfied, and they’re not talking about it with their partners either. The same survey found a drop in general happiness for young adults, too. Some cite screen time as a culprit. Hijacking our emotional ability to make real connections with others and preventing us from being truly present — maybe in the bedroom as well?
A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that the feelings of guilt women have felt over masturbation are being replaced by a “positive relationship and feelings towards their bodies.”
Here’s what we know: Orgasms are good and healthy. From heart health to anti-aging, orgasms appear to play a part. A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that of 3,005 participants, those having sex regularly reported better general health than those not having regular sex. Aside from all of those feel-good hormones we get from sex, sexual stimulation also sends our neurons into a sort of trance state. So, we can solely focus on the pleasure we’re experiencing — in the moment — while blocking out the noise around us. Neuroscientist Adam Safron found sex to be an altered state of consciousness, with parallels between music and dance. This is consistent, he said, with “universal parts of mating, going back hundreds of millions of years to our common ancestors.”
Owning your pleasure is a delightful journey in self-discovery. Too often, women don’t know what they want in bed because they’ve never been encouraged or given permission to entertain the question. Once women understand their pleasure centers, it’s easier to ask for what they want. The best way to find what feels good is by solo sex, or self-pleasure (are we the only ones ready to retire the word masturbation?). And not just what it takes to climax, but what feels good as you’re getting there — what fuels desire and arousal. When women engage in solo sex the focus is entirely on them, not pleasing someone else. It helps us put pleasure first and be entirely mindful of our bodies as that source of pleasure. When we feel entitled to sexual pleasure, we speak up for it, which leads to better sex and better health (also better communication for if and when you engage in sexual activity with a partner). When we’re empowered with the knowledge of knowing what we like and the safety to express our sexual wants and needs, the possibilities for pleasure multiply.
Owning your pleasure can lead to greater confidence in other areas of life too, and particularly with relationships. So, when you’re thinking about self-care, put pleasure top of mind. The health and wellness benefits are so worth your time. And it’s empowering to know and ask for what you want. That’s why regular “sexual self-care” should be a routine part of your wellness regime just like meditating, eating healthy — even exercise. Own your pleasure and make it a priority. If you don’t, who will?