Why knowing your vulva (not just your vagina) will lead to truly pleasurable, pain-free and orgasmic sex

Author: Kaira van Wijk for Self Studies

Female orgasms sometimes seem like Pandora’s box. Unsurprisingly, it’s because not much about the clitoris was discovered in medical science until the 1990s. Due to this lack of knowledge, many women (and men) are left in the dark when it comes to their sex life, finds sexologist Minke de Boer. She likes to dispel everything about women’s orgasms (yes, you too can have one, but maybe in a slightly different way than you’d imagine), unnecessary pain during sex, why it’s important to know that the labia come in all shapes and sizes and other misconceptions about what healthy sex entails. ‘Truth be told, there really isn’t such a thing as a common denominator.’

 

 

 

 

 

Why do most women still know so little about their sexual parts? 
‘Men have always been one step ahead in knowing and therefore understanding their genitals, because they are on the outside where they are visible and tangible. Whereas women would need a mirror with the right angle and light to sort of see what’s going on down there. In western culture we don’t shy away from talking about boys jerking off, masturbating. But girls masturbating, that’s a whole different story. There’s also a double standard when it comes to what society deems to be an “acceptable number” of sexual partners for men and women. Though I have to say that the trouble with constantly emphasizing that will only maintain those stereotypes. This is mostly a cultural phenomenon that evokes shame and stigma amongst women when it comes to their sexuality. I’m still surprised by the amount of highly educated, developed women who find it difficult to talk about what they like or don’t in between the sheets. That’s really unfortunate; it definitely limits a person’s sexual pleasure.’ 

 

Will you please demystify the vulva for us?   
‘In contrast to popular belief, the vagina isn’t a female’s whole sexual organ. The vagina really is only this internal element, the vaginal tube, and it isn’t linked to sexual feelings or much sensorial stimulation anyway. Actually, the deepest part of the vaginal tube almost has no sensory at all. Otherwise things like wearing a tampon or let alone childbirth would be quite the ordeal. This also explains why many women during intercourse don’t experience an orgasm. The sexual pleasure is actually located on the outside; the external part of the clitoris in the upper part of the vulva where the inner labia meet. It’s covered by a little hood and anatomically speaking you could compare it to the glans of a penis in men. It’s a super sensitive feel-good body part with the inward clitoral body that projects upwards into the female pelvis and attaches via ligaments to the pubic bone. Internally the clitoris consists of paired crura (also called ‘legs’) and vestibular bulbs that tend to swell with blood during sexual arousal. You can find them a little deeper inside a woman’s body, around the vagina opening. That G-spot, a location behind the clitoris, can be stimulated through the vagina. Yet the clitoris itself plays the starring role when it comes to female orgasms.’

 

What should we all know about female orgasms? 
‘That most women can’t orgasm having intercourse alone and this is completely normal. Let me be clear, for many women intercourse can be very pleasurable. But in my practice, I notice a lot of women think they should be able to orgasm this way. In reality that’s only possible for about 30% of women – and even when that happens it’s quite likely that this is only due to inwards or outwards clitoral stimulation. So, I guess a vaginal orgasm isn’t a very attainable goal for most women to begin with. I think it is more important to focus on what works for you personally, and how you do experience pleasure. Maybe that calls for stimulation with the mouth or fingers that will make you climax. I would like to encourage everyone to go on that self-exploration journey. There’s really nothing to be ashamed of and this will only benefit you.’ 

 

Why do so many women experience pain during sex? 
‘Because most women don’t know where they are at in their stage of physical arousal when getting intimate. For men that’s clearly visible on the outside, but women rely on their gut feeling since their body doesn’t give them that obvious feedback. They usually describe it as a desire to take it a step further or tingling sensations in their body. Yet those types of descriptions aren’t a dead giveaway for her physical arousal; it could very well be that her mind is there but her body isn’t yet ready for penetration. And when penetration starts too early that’s where women experience pain. This is only logical, because the vagina must prepare; it gets wet, but also bigger, wider, deeper, while the labia swell up as if they’re little bumpers. If you haven’t yet arrived at that stage physically, it hurts and the body can close off. Moreover, when it’s been hurting for several times the pelvic floor muscles might reflexively tighten whenever penetration is on the horizon again, which makes it even more difficult to enter and consequently more painful. Since this is the moment when your pelvic floor actually needs to relax.’ 

 

So, do women need more foreplay? 
‘I’d say so. Most women need about ten to more than twenty minutes before they are aroused enough to get physical. Of course, sometimes it goes faster, but the trick is to find your very own sweet spot. I often find women can get impatient; like this is taking too long let’s just get it over with already. Yet if they experience a lot of pain during intercourse, they might just need to give themselves more time before penetration occurs. The problem is that when they have experienced pain several times before, quite often this creates a vicious circle of fear and pain which leads to more fear of pain. In that case longer foreplay might not be enough to overcome this issue and there might be therapy needed.’   

 

How important is an orgasm during sex? 
‘I definitely don’t think you need to orgasm to have good sex. You can have the most amazing sex without climaxing, but an orgasm is the icing on the cake. It makes having sex more rewarding. If you constantly feel an orgasm is not going to be in the cards for you then having sex can get less interesting in the long run. Something you don’t necessarily want to put too much effort in. So, I don’t think an orgasm is a necessity all the time, but it surely should be a fun part of being intimate from time to time.’  

 

How important is climaxing for mental and physical health? 
‘Well, you won’t die without. (Laughs) But the body does produce all these hormones and neurotransmitters that will just make you feel really good in your own skin. It stimulates the blood flow and that gives your whole body a boost! We know that people who stay sexually active into their elderly years have healthier sexual organs, better skin with more of a glow and higher levels of estrogen and testosterone.’  

 

What else do you feel every woman should know about their vulva? 
‘The inside labia is longer than the outside labia in about 70% of women. I hear a lot of insecurities about this when it’s in fact perfectly normal. This means that when a woman stands up straight the inner labia sticks out. Women also tend to be insecure about their vaginal discharge or the smell of their vagina. Let’s set this straight: you need to have vaginal discharge, it’s a sign of the vagina cleaning and ridding itself of bacteria and dirt. If you have a stain on your under panties at the end of the day it means you have a clean vagina. Around ovulation women also tend to have thicker, clear discharge that you can pull threads from. That sounds pretty graphic (laughs) but it’s a sign that you’re now in your most fertile days of your cycle. Pregnant and postmenopausal women have way less vaginal discharge.’ 

 

What are some common misconceptions about sex that you often hear from your clients of all genders? 
‘Most people wonder if they live up to the norm when it comes to how long and how often sex should be. But I don’t think that’s relevant at all, it’s mostly about what makes you happy in your sex life. Also, statistically there’s isn’t really an average number. The common idea is that twice a week is the norm. This is an indicator from the Global Sex Survey, but this survey was conducted by Durex, a condom brand. Their participants were volunteers (which is not a representative sample) and condom users are quite often people who hadn’t been in a relationship for that long. Data from a recent Dutch survey that’s much more representative basically showed that there’s no such thing as “normal” when it comes to a healthy sex life. Roughly, the results demonstrated that a quarter of people have sex more than once a week, a quarter once a week, a quarter once a month and a quarter less than once a month. Apart from this, men often wonder if they last long enough. The average is five minutes, but most men think they should last longer in order to be a good sex partner. Those types of misconceptions have a huge impact on people thinking they aren’t good enough when in fact there is nothing wrong with them.’   

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