Saturday, December 29, 2012

G-Spot, Anyone?

You have a G-spot. Every woman does. It is not a Holy Grail, a hidden treasure, or one of the lost tribes of Israel.”  - Rachel Venning

If I had a dollar for every time the discussion turns to questions about G-spots and female ejaculation, I might be well on my way to a pleasingly rotund retirement nest egg by now.

Still, it’s always nice to have the opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of getting to know one’s body on one’s own terms. And as everyone knows, that’s what God made hand mirrors for, right? Although the truth is, while every woman should treat herself to an occasional exploratory tour with a hand mirror, searching for one’s G-spot doesn’t require a mirror at all, just one or two dexterous fingers on one hand.

While the clitoris, with its more than eight thousand nerve endings, is a woman’s primary, most exquisite sex organ hands down (and no pun intended here) much has been said, sung and written of late concerning the mysterious G-spot, yours, mine and ours. So what is it? Where does it hang out? What does it do?

Credited with enabling some women to ejaculate, or achieve orgasm by vaginal penetration alone, the G-spot is a cluster of around 32 tiny prostate-like glands located inside a tube of spongy tissue surrounding the urethra. It’s located inside and to the front of the vagina, just above the vaginal ceiling. 

And indeed, you can find your own G-spot by simply inserting your middle finger up into your vagina and then curving your finger back towards your palm as if you were trying to touch the inside of your navel. Don’t reach too far up though, since the G-spot is usually fairly close to the vaginal entry. Once you’re in there and comfortable, feel around and explore. The G-spot feels a bit like a spongy bump, different from the surrounding tissue, and just like every other part of our anatomy, G-spots vary in size from one woman to the next.

The most common form of G-spot stimulation uses a partner’s fingers or a sex toy pressing firmly up into the vaginal ceiling with firm, quick movements. Some men can stimulate a partner’s G-spot with the head of the penis as well, but it often takes a bit of skill, guidance and practice for most men to arrive at an effective technique. And you guessed it: many women, though certainly not all, find stimulation of the G-spot extremely pleasurable.

For those history buffs among us, the term G-spot was first used around 1981, in honor of the male German gynecologist, Ernst Gräfenberg, who first theorized its existence around 1944. However, in 2001, the Federative International Committee on Anatomical Terminology decided on the designation female prostate or prostata feminina, for use in its new publications.

And about that ejaculate, or in other words, the liquid that’s ejected during what some folks call “squirting.” Here’s the thing. Stimulation of the G-spot can, and often does, produce varying amounts of a liquid female ejaculate that can feel like urine when it’s being released. Understandably, women are frequently confused about this and mistakenly believe they’ve peed the bed, or worse for some, on their partners. Oh, the embarrassment, the shame-faced humiliation, right?

But take heart and relax! It’s definitely not pee. Research has proven that its chemical make-up is completely distinct from that of urine. Whereas most recent studies have found a substance called PSA or prostate specific antigen in female ejaculate, PSA is not found in either male or female urine. Rather, scientists believe the liquid that makes up female ejaculate may be produced by the Skene’s Glands, although the exact origin of the often copious amounts of fluid is not yet known.

Not all women reach orgasm from G-spot, or prostata feminina stimulation, however, and not all women enjoy it. Equally important, not all women ejaculate from it, and unfortunately, with the recent - and misguided - public furor suggesting that the production of G-spot ejaculate is some sort of hallmark of 21st century female sexual fulfillment, many women have placed unnecessary importance on this aspect of sexual experience. So much so that some women are seeking to have their G-spots surgically enlarged in the old, erroneous belief that bigger is always better. 

Still, regardless of its size, all evidence points to the fact that your G-spot is definitely up there, tucked away from prying eyes, in all its spongy glory. Do with it what you will. Or not… it’s totally up to you!

How has learning about your body contoured your sexual activity? Has increasing what you know about your body changed your level of enjoyment?

photo credit: <a href="">Zeal Harris</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sexuality and Aging: Changes

Regardless of sexual orientation, and regardless of whether we're in partnered relationships or single, in this day and age, every woman should be taking responsibility for her own sexual health and pleasure. As 80-something year old sex-researcher, educator and artist Dr. Betty Dodson argues, "remaining connected to our active sexuality 'until death do us part' ought to be a part of every woman’s life plan, regardless of age." It's a quality of life question, a matter of one's wholeness and birthright, no less. But in a culture steeped in the sexual repression of women, wherein it's possible to make reference to "binders full of women" in public discourse, the numbers of women themselves who still doubt this are many. So I ask you to consider the following: 

According to the Harvard Health Report, Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond, half of all men aged 50 and older report erection problems. This figure rises to 60% at age 60 and 70% at age 70. And even when men’s plumbing is in good working order, women in the US tend to outlive their men by an average of 6 years, one of the major reasons that more women than men wind up living out their senior years alone. 

For our part, women also experience bodily changes that accompany the aging process. To be sure, some of these changes - like no longer needing to worry about getting pregnant - are liberating, exhilarating, in the extreme. Others can be a bit challenging to manage, like the fabled vaginal dryness issues that postmenopausal women often face.

And the sobering truth for older men and women combined is that more than 80% of them living alone, or in assisted living facilities, suffer from what's been called skin hunger, or touch deprivation, and never experience intimate human touch outside the context of medical or custodial care. Can you imagine?

So the question becomes: Beyond Viagra and Cialis for flagging erections and a nice, warm slathering of sweet almond oil as a natural fix-it for vaginal dryness, how do we accommodate the inevitable changes that take place in our lives, and our aging bodies, in ways that are respectful of ourselves and our partners – if we have them? Further, how do we remain open-minded about our options in the face of our changing physical landscapes?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that finding the answer to these and other equally important questions may require some rethinking of old patterns and paradigms.

One critical step in that direction is to come to terms with the reality that between consenting adults, the sexual rules, norms, and limitations we grew up with were put in place by systems of oppression that were dedicated to the widespread goal of controlling adult human bodies as a way of maintaining social, spiritual and economic power over the them - nothing more.

Does anyone ever wonder about the old TV series, The Golden Girls, about four single retired senior women sharing a house in South Florida? A cutting edge situation comedy of its time, you might remember that the show starred Beatrice Arthur, Rue McClanahan and the amazing Betty White in sophisticated story lines that touched on timely social issues in a way that highlighted the agency of these golden-aged women housemates who were vocally, actively STRAIGHT in their sexual orientation. Was theirs really just an extended, best-friends type of platonic living relationship? Or was it really something else, something a bit more creative and really cutting edge?

As it turns out, lots of real-life older single STRAIGHT women have been, and are, taking strategic control of their later years by entering into living arrangements with other older women - living arrangements that mimic that of television's The Golden Girls, but with the added benefit of caring consensual sexual activity between the women involved. 

Often enough, these women are not gay or bi, but rather self-identify as having been married to or partnered with men all of their lives. So why partner now with other women for living and sex?

The answer is elegantly simple, I think. In addition to sharing the day-to-day exigencies of living, it's one way of ensuring that there's companionship for the long haul, and that when the body hungers for another's intimate touch, that fundamentally human, life-affirming need is shared. Reciprocated in kind. Beautifully, caringly, safely fulfilled. Skin hunger be damned, they say. End of story.

What strategies do you have for staying in touch with your sexual energy as you age? Does the possibility of being without a partner worry you?

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Desire and Consent

If you’re like me, every once in a while a desire comes over the heart that, while harmless and intriguing, doesn’t quite fit in with the dictates of society’s norms and standards. Maybe it’s something as little as wanting to wear white after Labor Day, which was a huge and largely inexcusable fashion blunder during my girlhood days in New York.

But then again, maybe it’s something more intimate and personal that pushes against the boundaries a little more strenuously, for example, the way cross-racial marriages used to do. I mean, back in the 70s in my neck of the Bronx, it was sort of okay to have sex across racial lines, but to marry the so-called “one of them?” I think not!

Similarly today, if the activities women desire to engage in happen to reside within the realm of nonconformist sexual expression, the fall-out can be fierce and overwhelming as religious and secular forces alike try their absolute best to reign us back obediently into line.

But the truth is, most of us know intuitively that sexual energies often find their outlet in ways that the society as a whole may find disconcerting. And rather than risk the condemnation of those around us, when playful or edgy or questionable desires steal into our thoughts, we clam up, freeze up, or run the other way, and leave the creative, playful boundary-pushing to others, while we try our hardest to ignore that soft, seductive inner voice that whispers, “I’d like to try that. Wouldn’t you?”

With the recent publishing of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, legions of women got a cursory look at the complex world of BDSM, or bondage and submission. Of course, bondage and submission as a mode of sexual expression is nothing new. A globally occurring aspect of human sexual behavior, there are BDSM groups and clubs, and monogamous partners, in every city and countless small towns all over the US.

As one might have expected, James’s work proved the catalyst for many very normal, ordinary, everyday women to publicly admit their interest in learning more about the BDSM lifestyle, including its rules and protocols, and ways to keep themselves safe should they choose to experiment in the flesh, so to speak. And interestingly enough, social backlash was pretty much silenced by the sheer numbers and the description of many of the women involved - white, middle and upper class, largely well educated women.

While BDSM is only one aspect of what social forces often consider  “taboo” sexual behavior, those of us with more progressive and creative minds often wonder how we decide what sexual desires we really want to act upon. Often it’s the ones that play havoc with our dreams, or that haunt the backs of our minds when we’re at work, or stopped at a red light. 

And who knows why such desires come upon us in the first place? Maybe it’s the playfulness alive in us all, or the smouldering urge to be creative and expressive with the most intimate parts of ourselves and others. Maybe it’s the harmless drive to exchange and manipulate roles. To experiment with trust and control. Or maybe just to satisfy our healthy, innate, Universe-driven curiosity about aspects of ourselves that are hidden or hard to reach.

But regardless of how we get to the brink of something new, how do we decide whether or not to act on our desire?

The answer is different for each of us, I think. But at the end of the day, it’s really about control and consent, now isn’t it? It’s about the control we have as free adults over what we do with our bodies. And it’s about retaining that control by learning what we need to know about keeping ourselves safe in whatever ways we choose to enjoy our sexuality; it’s about constructing our boundaries ahead of time with partners whom we’re sure will respect them, even in the heat of heavy-breathing and the blinding steamy blur of passion so intense that you can’t quite remember your own name. And ultimately it’s about consent between willing, thoughtful adult human beings, the consent that we must freely give to - and receive from - other willing, creative adult human beings with whom we want to play.

Beyond that, it’s nobody’s business. Enjoy.

How have you responded to your edgiest desires? Is there anything that you'd like to try that you haven't as yet? If so, do you think you will?

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Cunnilingus: Lighting It Up Downtown

While many women find that vaginal penetration is a wonderful, - and for some women -, a must-have touchstone in their sex lives, if we were to put it to a vote and women had to choose, I’m willing to bet that many would opt for being on the receiving end of some good oral sex as their hands-down, world-class, all-time-favorite sexual activity. But different strokes for different folks, right?

Still, regardless of sexual orientation, oral sex, or cunnilingus as it’s called when the “lickee” is a woman, continues to be the activity that legions of women swear has them coming the fastest and with greatest, mind-exploding, toe-curling intensity. Most of this is due to the natural, normal structure of our anatomy, the location of the clitoris and its absolute richness of nerve endings (over 8,000 of them) in comparison to a relative sparsity of nerve endings in the vagina.

But bring this up to some folks, for example, some old-school men of African-American and Afro-Caribbean cultures in particular, and you still might hear some outright blatant resistance: “If a man’s doing his job right, a woman shouldn’t want anything else.” Or, “I don’t care what anybody says; I just don’t put my mouth down there.”  In fact, up until fairly recently, there was a pretty weird stereotype making its way around some circles suggesting that only Caucasian women “enjoyed” or “expected” oral sex from their partners… Indeed? On what planet?

Like sexual behavior in general, many of us came of age in a time when oral sex, both giving and receiving, simply was not openly discussed. This is not to say, however, that oral sex was not commonly being practiced in both lesbian as well as straight relationships since antiquity. 

According to many historians and anthropologists, graphic representations of women receiving oral sex appear in artifacts from the Oceanic peoples as early as 300 B.C. Robert Birch, Ph.D. in his book, Oral Caress, reports on graphic depictions of cunnilingus on Chinese and Japanese scrolls dating from 200 B.C. In fact, the Kama Sutra, a widely referenced Indian lovemaking manual written by the poet/philosopher Vatsayana around 400 A.D. makes ample reference to the act of “oral congress” with women – although to a lesser degree than with men. 

With “yoni” being the Sanskrit term for the vagina, ancient erotic art in Hindu temples shows explicit depictions of women receiving “yoni kisses”, their legs open wide to the enraptured faces of their lovers.” (See Violet Blue’s exceptional book, The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus for more of this). 

A word of wisdom for women in the here and now, though: It’s always smart to protect yourself when giving or receiving oral sex regardless of one’s age, and if we do indeed grow wiser as we grow older, there’s simply no excuse for seniors in particular not to be exercising caution. After all, there’s stuff out there that’s quite capable of really complicating your life, such as herpes, HIV, and human papillomavirus, the virus that causes genital warts, cervical cancer, and has recently been linked to throat cancer as a result of unprotected oral sex.

The sexually well-informed know that non-latex dental dams, the small squares of barrier material used by dentists to isolate a tooth work well as protection during oral sex. But the even better informed among us know that since dental dams can be a bit thick and thus might interfere with some sensation, more user-friendly alternatives produced by the sex industry are currently available. Lots of them are thinner and somewhat larger than dental dams and come in flavored or unflavored varieties, textured or not, in a rainbow of colors.

But here’s the coolest thing. In a pinch, you can simply cut open a non-latex condom or glove, apply a little lube to your partner’s vulva and hold your invention in place. As a matter of fact, ditto for a square of saran wrap! Yup, saran wrap or any generic non-porous equivalent. It’s super slippery and allows for the delicious transmission of heat and sensation while being creative, effective and WAY economical! Who could ask for more? 

How would you describe your experiences with oral sex? If you haven't tried it, would you like to? Would your partner?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rape: Surviving It and the Myth of Body Betrayal

We’ve got to talk a bit about rape. Not a comfortable or easy subject to wrap one’s brain around; much less so to be a survivor.

But more than the usual discourse about the nature of rape, - “it’s a crime of violence in the assertion of power,” “it’s not about sexual desire at all,” - we need to also talk more about what happens in the extended aftermath, two years or ten years or how ever many years later. We need to talk about how we relate to our own female bodies, long after the fact.

We should start, I guess, with an obvious premise, that one is never the same after a rape, and that, while most of us heal and go on with our days, no one ever forgets. I’m proud beyond measure of women doing the endless, soul-affirming work that’s often required in order to rebuild their lives. I’m especially proud of those who seek whatever help they might need in re-establishing their trust in a benevolent Universe that nurtures and watches over us all.

More frequently than I can say, it’s my sober privilege to stand before a room full of women, (and sometimes a couple of men), and listen as women tell how they managed to survive being raped. Believe me when I say that the courage with which they speak, and the multidimensional grotesquery they describe, makes me want to wrap my arms around them, every single time. 

But I’ll tell you right now what really breaks my heart. It’s when I hear these courageous women - whether they fought their attackers or couldn’t  -  express guilt, shame and confusion about how their bodies betrayed them.


The first time I heard this I was stunned, I’ll admit it.

“How did your body betray you?” I asked the speaker.

Her response was brief but excruciating to hear.

“I got wet,” she replied, lowering her embarrassed gaze. “As awful as it was, through the terror and the anger. And as much as his penis inside me made me want to vomit, I got wet.”

So let’s get one thing straight, okay? And let's do so before I lose it, and begin ranting about a system that allows women to reach the age of maturity without access to vital information about our bodies, information that might impart just a tiny smidgen of peace as we try to cobble our lives together after being raped. 

Vaginal tissues lubricating during a rape is a normal, involuntary adaptive response. In other words, “getting wet” is an automatic reaction. And the truth is  that we can’t control it, regardless of how painful or vicious or terrifying the experience. In no way does it mean we’re enjoying the rape. In no way does it mean that we secretly wanted it. But vaginal lubrication that happens during the violence does so for a very good reason, nonetheless.

Far from the delusional babblings of knuckle-dragging old men who think that there’s a distinction to be made between “forcible” rape and any other kind of unwanted vaginal penetration, all rape, by definition, involves force. Fortunately, then, evolutionary adaptations have provided “getting wet” as the body’s natural protective response, since lubricated vaginal tissues are less prone to being severely injured than dry ones are, particularly by the extreme force and violence that are characteristic of rape.

This is certainly not to say that the female body has any way at all of “shutting that whole thing down” as the knuckle-draggers have recently, and falsely, attested about the possibility of getting pregnant due to rape. But it is to say that lubricating during rape is the body’s valiant attempt to protect us, not betray us, and for that we ought to honor it, really.

A normal, natural attempt by the body at self-protection. Exquisitely automatic. Completely beyond our control…

So for those of us who’ve been there, let the shame go, let the confusion go, let the guilt - all of it - go. 

And thank you for surviving. I wish you peace.

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photo credit: <a href="">Erminig Gwenn</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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