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Working with Women’s Sexual Shame & Pleasure

When you hear “ The Pleasure is Ours,” what do you think of? Do words such as “empowerment” and “sex-positivity” pop into your head?

This is what the creators of the Goop Lab may have had in mind when they created a recent episode with this phrase as the title. Featuring the brilliant Dr. Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross as guests, it focuses on women’s sexual shame, pleasure, and ultimately, liberation. Sex educator Isabella Frappier is there, too, to say loudly and proudly, that we all deserve pleasure.

Ignorance of Women’s Anatomy is Tied to Sexual Shame

The episode starts with one of the most important lessons about female sexuality — the difference between the vagina and the vulva, which we also wrote about recently. Data from a study presented in this episode shows that 44% of women couldn’t correctly identify their vagina on a medical illustration. What is more, 60% of them were not able to label a vulva.

If you’re a sex coach or other sexual health professional, you already know the probable source of this ignorance — the general shame around female sexuality. Dr. Dodson shares that the same shame is “a killer of pleasure.” As she explains, women’s sexual shame is deeply rooted in many cultures. Carlin Ross pointed out “there’s no country in the world that encourages girls to explore themselves and their sexuality.”

Consider how so many of the nicknames for female genitals in different languages have negative connotations. In mainstream porn, which is so popular, the look of women’s genitals is often altered. It’s no wonder then that many women feel their vulva looks “weird” or “ugly” and many others don’t even know the difference between their vulva and their vagina. This episode shared another, very sad finding — “according to data gathered by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, labiaplasty surgeries increased by 45% worldwide between 2015 and 2016.”

Dr. Dodson shared that she once thought her own vulva was ugly. Fortunately, her partner showed her the diversity of female genitals, which helped her embrace the beauty of her own. She was inspired by this experience and decided to start organizing her first workshops to help other women accept their genitals and learn to orgasm.

Unfortunately, the negative perception of one’s genitals further negatively influences sexual satisfaction as shown in this study. The disconnection women feel from their bodies and the sexual shame within cultures are problems that we, as sexual health professionals, are addressing and working with.

Empowering Women to Own Their Pleasure

There are many ways to empower our clients, and “The Pleasure is Ours” episode allows us to take a peek into Dr. Betty Dodson’s methods, and Isabella Frappier’s sexual liberation workshops.

The BodySex Workshops led by Dr. Dodson and Ross focus on “overcoming negative body image and pleasure anxiety.” Done in the nude, a group of women gathers together in a space that allows them to become vulnerable and comfortable in their bodies. They have a “genital show & tell” in a safe, accepting environment.

The episode shows women at different ages and body shapes taking part in the workshop. According to Dr. Dodson, the shame “goes away immediately.” What’s more, Ross emphasizes it is crucial when running these workshops for the facilitator to show vulnerability themselves. Dodson and Ross do it by opening the door naked.

Isabella Frappier helps her clients to reconnect with their bodies by taking sensual portraits. She also emphasizes the importance of communication. Your partner(s) is not able to read your mind and therefore, being able to say what feels pleasurable is an important part of sexual liberation. Frappier also makes an important statement — we all have earned a right to experience pleasure.

This article has originally been published on February 24, 2020 for the Sex Matters Magazine by Sex Coach U. Read the rest here.


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