Written by: Dr. Lyndsey Harper, MD
In my practice as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Sexual Health expert, I get asked this question all the time, “When exactly is a woman’s sexual peak?” It’s hard to know for sure, but I have a suspicion that this is usually coming from a place of hope— “Surely, I haven’t reached mine yet…when will it get there?”
Well, I’m here to tell you, there is no such thing as a sexual peak simply based on age. Yes, you read that right. Women do not magically turn into sexual goddesses on our 25th or 45th birthday in the same way that we don’t miraculously reach a fitness peak simply because of a certain day of the year.
This might seem like bad news for women, but, in many ways, it’s also good news! We don’t have to wait for a mythical time “10-15 years from now” to take control and ownership of our sexuality. There are many things that women who “have reached their sexual peak” (or as I would prefer to call it, “sexual wellness”) have in common. We can all start investigating and working on these things TODAY! No need to wait for it get better, sexual wellness is in your control now.
First, let’s define what it means to be sexually well. In my definition, it means knowing your body, understanding how you get pleasure, cultivating the ability to communicate about sexual issues and health, and the knowledge that our sexual interests and issues will change over time…all WITHOUT SHAME! These abilities will open the magic door to sexual wellness! When equipped with these tools, you will get back in touch with the sexual side of yourself and be able to change and grow as your sexuality does the same.
This all sounds great, I know. But how exactly can you do this? It is a process for sure, but one that can be accomplished and that is life-changing. Let’s break it down:
Knowing Your Body
“How can I poop if the baby is coming out?” This is an all-too-common question in an OB/GYN’s office. (Answer: women have three separate genital outlets: a urethra for urine, a vagina where the baby comes out, and an anus for poop!) Most women simply aren’t taught their anatomy and have no idea what is going on down there. Men could pick their penis out in a line-up, but could we pick out our vulvas?
Do we even call the external part a vulva or are we still calling it a vagina (the vagina is the internal part that can’t be seen). If you don’t know your parts, you are not alone. Female genital anatomy is important. The first step to sexual wellness is getting a mirror and a diagram and looking at yours. There is nothing shameful about knowing this part of yourself. If you don’t, how can you be expected to know about it or communicate about it effectively? Start here!
Understanding How to Get Pleasure
News flash: The vast majority of women have orgasms through CLITORAL stimulation. I’m hoping this isn’t new news to you, but it is for most women. We are taught (in movies, from partners, by lack of sex ed) that “normal” women have orgasms through penis-in-vagina intercourse. While this is true for some women, it is not true for most. What this means is that you need to figure out how YOU derive pleasure.
Pleasure might be different for you than your bestie, it might even be different for you this week than it was last week…and that’s OKAY! When you have a sexual encounter, there should be as much emphasis placed on your sexual desires and pleasure as there is on your partner’s. Often times, this involves sexual activities in addition to (or in place of) intercourse, like oral sex or adding in a vibrator. Knowing this can be the key to unlocking your sexual wellness. It’s about giving and receiving.
Communicating About Health and Sexual Issues
Of all of the things we work on when it comes to sexual health, talking about sex is often the most difficult step! Why is this? Why can we know exactly what we want/need/feel but be so scared to say the words out loud to another person? It all goes back to a deeply held belief in our culture that sex is bad, dirty and shameful. Especially if a woman is talking about it— let’s agree to let this one go, can we? At this point in our society, can’t we all agree that most people are having sex and it is a huge part of being a human? If we can agree on that, then can’t we see what a huge problem it is not to be able to talk about it? What if we never discussed what we wanted to have for dinner? It makes absolutely no sense.
If you are ready to reach your “sexual peak,” embarrassment about sexual communication needs to end! Once you know your body and what brings you pleasure, you now have something to communicate with your partner.
Start small by telling your partner what feels good and what doesn’t feel good during your next sexual experience. Then maybe consider a conversation about incorporating a vibrator or extra lubrication (whatever makes sense to you!). If you grow your sex communication abilities, then you will be able to communicate larger topics like a sexual health problem or a fantasy that you have. While it may be uncomfortable, sexual communication is one of the most important keys to sexual wellness, and it will get easier the more you practice. For more tips about how to talk more openly about sex, download the Rosy app.
Sex Can Change Over Time
Once you have mastered the first three keys to sexual wellness, it is important to know that things change over time. As you go through different phases of life, like new relationships, stress, your natural cycle, new medications, or illnesses, infertility, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, and menopause THINGS WILL CHANGE.
These changes are the reason that open communication about sex is so important. What is right and pleasurable for you at 28 and in a new relationship is not going to be the same as when you are 68. As we encounter these changes, we need to feel comfortable asking questions to find the answers that bring us back to the connection we desire with the sensual parts of ourselves.
If we can analyze what is going on and communicate not only to our partners but also our healthcare providers, then we will stay sexually well. If during a change when we need help, we allow shame and embarrassment to take over, then it is much more difficult to figure things out on our own. As a physician, let me tell you, we want to help you! We have many tools in the toolbox to address sexual concerns.
I am so excited for you to start on your journey towards sexual wellness. Start with the simple (but big!) steps outlined here, and you will be on your way to your very own sexual peak!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Lyndsey Harper, MD is an Ob/Gyn in Dallas, Texas. She is also the founder and CEO of Rosy, an app for women with decreased sexual desire.