Growing Pains: A Story of Sex, Vaginsmus, & Clinically Approved Dildos

Women and Chronic Pain

Not Just Another Blog Post, Folks… Back in September 2014, the North American chapter of World Sexual Health Day announced that my personal essay “Growing Pains: A Story of Sex, Vaginsmus, and Clinically Approved Dildos” had won their first ever writing … Continue reading

Dear Readers: Happy September!

The sun sets on another fantastic summer...

The sun sets on another fantastic summer…

Happy September everyone! Summer is finally coming to a close, which means that my (unannounced and partially unintentional) summer hiatus is officially over. I hope you’ve all had an equally wonderful summer! It’s been a much-needed resting period, but I’m excited to shift my focus back on the blog. I’ve gotten rave reviews from readers and personal emails that have truly astonished me with their sincerity. It’s great to have a dialogue with you guys, especially about something that is so often pushed under the rug by both society and the medical community.

I look forward to hearing from you all and getting back to work. Tomorrow I get to attend America’s World Sexual Health Day in New York City, which is beyond exciting! If you happen to live in the area, you should buy a last minute ticket and make your way over to The Cutting Room (a good source tells me it’s a beautiful venue). Anyway, expect my next post by the end of the week!

See you all soon,

Dressing Your Downstairs: A Vaginal Health Guide to Underwear & Going Commando

Photo courtesy of Gabby Carroll

Photo courtesy of Gabby Carroll

As usual when you have any kind of pelvic pain or sexual disorder, absolutely nothing that has to do with your lady parts or derrière is simple. You even have to be concerned with the way you dress it. As annoying as this fact may be, selecting the right kind of underwear for your pain is essential for your day-to-day comfort.

Before I was afflicted with my pelvic pain, jaunting on over to Victoria’s Secret and picking out sexy underwear was a favorite activity of mine. I was relatively young, just beginning to explore my sexuality, and was thrilled that someone actually found me attractive, that I could dress up this new, womanly body (I loved me some cheeky cut undies). Of course, that all changed when I began feeling the pain and especially after I was diagnosed.

When you have pelvic pain, suddenly choosing what kind of underwear you want to buy is not about how cute it makes your booty look or finding an attractive pattern. It suddenly becomes a giant speculation session. “Will it piss off my damaged nerve?” or “Will it protect me against my incontinence?” or “Is this going to make my V flare up?” or “Is this going bring on another UTI?” Take your pick. The exact thing you’re thinking about depends on the condition, but it no matter what, underwear shopping turns into an ordeal when you have pelvic pain.

Eventually I just stopped wearing underwear altogether. Not only did I find that underwear aggravated my pain, I also had read several articles that indicated it was actually healthier to forego wearing underwear every now and again.

So what’s the story behind underwear and going commando? Well, here’s my version of it.

Going Commando Is The Way to Go
I didn’t go cold turkey when it came to dropping underwear. It was a gradual process. I actually started going commando frequently because I was a busy college student that often found doing laundry on the bottom of my “To-Do List” (right under “Cooking Real Food” and “Being Sober”). Not only did going commando satiate my irrational dislike of household chores, but it was also immensely more comfortable for me to walk, sit, and perform basically every other life activity.

The red line indicates where medium-coverage underwear would hit. Notice that it hits right along the Pudendal Nerve. Ouch...

The red line indicates where the leg seams medium-coverage underwear would hit. Notice that it hits right along the Pudendal Nerve. Ouch…

This isn’t just me either. Many other pelvic pain patients – particularly those with pudendal neuralgia or pudendal entrapment – find that underwear can cause anything from discomfort to agonizing pain. Why? Because underwear tends to cuts right into all the wrong areas, no matter how comfy the panty style is meant to be. There is nothing quite like sitting in class or at a work meeting – trying to pay attention to what is being said – and feeling so much discomfort that you just want to stand up and public pick your underwear out of your crotch because it hurts so much. If you’re going commando, this nagging sensation magically disappears.

In addition, going commando can help reduce the risk of contracting bacterial infections. This seems illogical, considering underwear provides an extra layer of protection between your lady parts and the outside world. But underwear – particularly those made out of stuffy materials like silk or polyester – actually traps moisture and creates the perfect environment for a yeast party. Are you guaranteed to host the biggest yeast bash of the year between your legs if you slip into some silk panties tonight? Probaby not. If you start going commando, will you never get a yeast infection? Unfortunately, no. There is never a golden ticket to vaginal health. However, considering that there have been recent studies that show yeast infections have actually been getting worse over the years, you might want try going commando for a few months if you’re unusually susceptible. Maybe it will help you out a little.

Remember when Brit was in the tabloids for this? This was when they were calling her "a mess" and smearing her new sexy image. Culture often wrongly shame women who go commando.

Remember when Brit was in the tabloids for this? They were calling her “a mess” and giving her a lot of crap her new “sex pot” image. Culture often wrongly shames women who go commando.

I’m Not That Kind of Girl
It’s no secret that going commando is considered risqué, the kind of thing that only “slutty girls” do. Not wearing underwear is certainly not an indicator of how many people you’ve rolled in the hay with (though the number of notches any person has on their bedpost is none of my business anyway). It also doesn’t mean you’re trying to project some “free spirit” image or sexy persona. I go commando pretty much all the time, and no, it does not mean that I’m trying to be sexually promiscuous (admittedly though, I have yet to hear a partner complain about it). Going commando is considered a taboo in many communities and households.

According to many, the kind of underwear you wear (or lack thereof) serves as a symbol of your sex drive and/or level of sexual promiscuity. Is that true? Absolutely not. Can it say something about how comfortable you are with your body? Sure. But again, that still just comes down to stereotyping. At this point in my life, I’d consider myself pretty comfortable with my body and my sexuality, but you won’t see me slipping into a thong any time soon. I’m not a glutton for punishment.

Women Who Don't Wear Underwear

And the truth was spoken…

What’s my ultimate point with all this?

If you are worried about going commando because of the stigma that can be involved, then rethink your position. Sitting through a lot of pain for some outdated taboo is not only a bit silly, but also completely unnecessary.

Admittedly, I’m not going to claim that going without panties doesn’t sometimes seem like a thrilling and sexy thing to do. It’s lost a bit of its novelty for me now, but it did feel quite freeing in the beginning. Remember, there is never anything wrong with getting in touch with your sexy side and feeling good about your body. Getting comfortable with yourself actually is one of the top ways to reduce most types of sexual pain.

From another (completely not medically-related) standpoint: You’ll never have to worry about panty lines ever again.

Commado: 1
Underwear: 0

Thank you for the monthly gift, Mother Nature.

Thank you for the monthly gift, Mother Nature.

But what about all the gunk that comes out?
One of the top concerns about going commando that I hear from my girlfriends – and women in general – is dealing with vaginal discharge and menstrual blood flow. I usually wear cotton underwear during my period (at least when I go out), so I never have to worry about sitting down for lunch with a friend and finding a little red surprise when I go to leave.

As for the discharge, when it does happen, I can usually feel it. I simply take a trip to the bathroom and clean myself. As far as I know, it’s never really run down my legs, gotten on any furniture I was sitting on, or any other horrific scenario that might be running through your head right now.

But What About the Pants?
If you’re a fan of wearing pants, the discharge isn’t a worry, but this presents its own host of issues. Wearing pants can actually aggravate pelvic pain (more on that in a later post) and going commando might be even more painful than wearing underwear in this scenrio. Luckily, there is a product available to solve this problem. Commandos are little cotton liners with adhesive that you can paste on the inside of your pants to catch anything that might come out and create a barrier for your lady parts.

If you don’t wish to spend the extra money on cotton pant inserts, head on over to your local drug store and buy regular ol’ panty liners (minus the actual panties of course!) This will add a barrier between yourself and that pesky seam that runs right along the crotch of your pants.

Marilyn Monroe 7 Year Itch Dress

Apparently a nice breeze – whether the product of nature or a subway vent – never goes out of style

The Answer My Friend, Is Blowin’ in the Wind
If my aversion to wearing underwear happens to come up in conversation (it’s amazing what kind of conversation a few drinks can inspire), I’m always asked about walking around outside amid the capricious breezes of mother nature. I’m a loyal dress and skirt wearer – for reasons that will be addressed in later posts – and people are simply baffled that I could walk around constantly at risk of being exposed to the world.

My answer to these questions usually involves a little quip about my time living in the dorms of Ithaca College, which would get dreadfully windy during the Fall and Winter months. It goes something like this: “I’m pretty sure a solid quarter of Ithaca College’s student population has gotten a full shot of my ass at some point or another. Most of them have seen ass before and they’ll see it again.”

To my knowledge, getting a quick flash of my butt has yet to inspire world wars, suicides, or mass killings. A stranger briefly saw something I wasn’t intending on showing. It’s a small price to pay for being comfortable.

Whether you’re wearing panties or not, your butt is never safe from possible public exposure if you’re walking around outside. Nature and her winds will do what they please. To me, this means the difference between getting your dress blown up while wearing underwear and getting your dress blown up while going commando is basically a moot point.

The ultimate answer to the Commando VS Underwear is simple: Whatever blows your skirt (sorry, the chance for the pun was just sitting there waiting to be taken advantage of). I’d just highly recommend going commando before slipping into some panties, for the sake of both comfort and self-love.

Boyshort underwear without elastic tend to be the most comfortable kinds of underwear

Boyshort underwear without elastic tend to be the most comfortable kinds of underwear

Still Not So Hot On Feeling A Breeze Between Your Legs?
I understand that everyone has their reasons for wearing what they wear. And even if you just feel uncomfortable going commando despite what I’ve written here, I get it. It can take a little while to overcome feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, or disapproval from other people. Maybe you just don’t like the breeze flowing between your legs.

No matter what your reason, that means you might want to be looking into some other options. What underwear should you wear for maximum comfort?

All women – whether they have pelvic pain or not – should be picking out loose-fitting, cotton underwear. This fabric is breathable and slowly releases moisture throughout the day, reducing your chances of contracting a yeast infection. Wearing them a little looser also reduces friction between the fabric and your lady parts. Slipping into some cute synthetic underwear to show off to your partner for a few minutes won’t make your vagina burst into flames, but it’s not recommended for long term, daily use. This is especially true for women with vulvodynia or unexplained vulva pain.

Thank you College Humor for actually pointing out how funny thongs are.

I’m just gonna leave this here.

For my lovely ladies with pudendal neuralgia or pudendal entrapment, be sure to stay away from underwear with elastic in the legs. It’ll grip right around your nerve and aggravate the hell out of it.

As far as cut goes, this can be a tricky one. It’ll vary depending on the problem.

For most pelvic pain conditions, thongs are a no-go. Thongs or g-stings aggravate most nerve issues and put far too much pressure on the vulva. You’re basically taking a taut string and pulling it right against your most sensitive areas. Dropping the thongs wasn’t really a problem for me, because I’ve never been a big fan of the feel or the aesthetic of this cut. My thought process has always been “Why wear a thong when I could just wear nothing?”

Boy short underwear are usually the best for pelvic pain suffers. The leg seams generally don’t sit right on the pudendal nerve, nor do they cling to the vulva. They’re not traditionally sexy – which contributes to their lack of popularity – but they’re comfy as hell and have a cutesy charm to them that can really grow on you.

Like most of the advice I give on this blog, the best way to find out what works for you and your pain is to experiment. If there was a cure-all or guaranteed way to make you feel comfortable, then this blog wouldn’t exist. Hopefully, this post will at least give you a little guidance and a place to start.

“Wait, That Ice Pack Goes Where?” and Other Sexual Pain Relief Techniques

"After sex smoke" by ~elvizuko

“After Sex Smoke” by ~elvizuko

Most movies show happy couples post-coitus in the most idealistic light. Men are usually drenched in a glistening sheen of sweat that suggests their exceptional athletic abilities and admirable stamina, while women are shown with suspiciously gorgeous tousled hair and colored with the blush of orgasmic bliss. They may embrace lovingly or – if they are more progressive types – light up a cigarette and talk about life. For many real couples, this is not an accurate portrayal of the minutes spent after the deed.

What would my post-coital movie moments look like? Well, a few years ago, it would have included me slinking out of my partner’s arms, strolling over to a mini-fridge, retrieving a cylindrical ice pack from the tiny freezer, then trying to hop back into bed casually with my little cold companion.

Then my partner would utter the fatal question: “Wait, that ice pack goes where?”

If you’re a dyspareuina sufferer, then post-coital bliss may have lost all meaning for you. Instead you might be spending those precious moments of intimacy with your partner trying to control the pain that hits you afterwards. If you’re one of the lucky dyspareuina sufferers that are able to enjoy sex overall, then congratulations! But when you are able to enjoy completing the act itself, then it’s likely your pain will quickly come knocking on your door afterward. After all, when you have chronic pelvic pain, that prized post-coital bliss can quickly turn into “pay the piper” time.

This is especially the case for women with pelvic floor dysfunction, vaginismus, and other pelvic muscle problems. The muscles will tense up during sex and – depending on the severity – may not be noticed during the act, but afterward the muscles will ache intensely. It usually feels like a burning sensation.

Okay, we all knew I'd put the obligatory photo of a woman clenching her midsection in this blog at some point...

[insert obligatory photo of an exceptionally slim young woman clenching her midsection here]

Though my nerve problem had been treated with medications, I struggled to control my pelvic floor muscles and often experienced this post-coital muscle burn. If you have a similar condition you know exactly what I’m talking about and boy, it’s not pleasant.

So how do I deal with post-coital pain? In truth, I have much more control over my muscles now than I did in the past, so that annoying burn is minimal now. I usually just ride it out. Of course, it wasn’t always like that. Sometimes gritting your teeth and sucking it up simply isn’t good enough. 

Here are some great methods for helping prevent and soothe post-coital pain. Some of these tips could also be useful for women experiencing non-chronic pain for more momentary reasons, such as pre-period sensitivity, vaginal dryness, or a particularly stressful day (yes, even this can cause problems). As per usual, not all of these methods will work for everyone. It’s all about trial and error!

Proactive Pill Pop
Time to turn to the most famous pain killing move of them all! For some milder forms of pelvic pain, you can simply pop a pill to help relieve the pain. If you’re expecting to have sex within the next hour or two, pop a mild, over the counter pain killer like ibuprofen, and enjoy a pain-free ride! Of course, anyone with a severe nerve problem knows that ibuprofen or Advil won’t even going to put a dent in the pain. However, many women have reported that this can dull the pain to the point where they can enjoy themselves. The key is to take it in that sweet window of time about an hour before you have sex. Obviously, this can be pretty difficult.

Pre-Whoopee Meditation
Meditation - Stress Relief
Chronic pain is inherently connected with stress and anxiety. This is especially true if your pelvic pain stems from your pelvic floor muscles. One of the most important elements to reducing sexual pain is learning how to relax. Of course, with modern life keeping people busier and more stressed out than over, this is much easier said than done. Luckily, meditation can really relax you and reduce your pain during sexual encounters.

I’m going to write a post a little later on different visualization and meditation techniques you can use, but you can always fall back on this simple exercise: Find a quiet space, sit cross legged or lay down on the floor, and close your eyes. Inhale for ten seconds and exhale for another ten. Feel the air filling and leaving your lungs. If any thoughts or worries come to mind, don’t push them away violently, but don’t entertain them. Let them show up at your door and then politely turn them away. 25 minutes of this exercise is ideal, but you can shorten it to 15 minutes if you need to.

Am I saying that when a hot and heavy moment begins to overwhelm you that you should push your partner away and immediately begin chanting your mantras? Of course not. However, it’s important to be proactive. If you and your partner both work full time, you can predict what times you’re most likely to have sex. However, if you have a more unpredictable schedule, this can really be a challenge. One way to ensure that you’re mentally prepared for sex at different times in the day is to kick off your morning with a focused meditation session. Not only is this great for your sex life, but there is evidence to suggest that it’s great for productivity levels and mental health in general.

Side note for skeptics:  Because meditation is often shown in a religious context, there is this misconception that one must be religious to benefit from this activity. Meditation isn’t exclusively meant for “spiritual” people. Though it can certainly serve religious or spiritual purposes, it can also be a simple way to organize and calm your thoughts. Many doctors like to incorporate meditation and stress relief exercises into their treatment plans for pain patients.

These Japanese Macaques have the right idea!

These Japanese Macaques have the right idea!

Lounge in a Warm Bath
Warm (not scorching hot) baths are a fantastic remedy for many different kinds of pain, pelvic pain included. It’s a great chance to just take some quiet time to yourself and de-stress. Make sure you put on some peaceful background music or read a book to unwind a little bit. Physiologically, taking a warm bath before having sex increases circulation to that region, which his great for loosening up the pelvic floor muscles. Increase the muscular benefits by adding Epsom salts to your bath.

Keep in mind that using scented or soapy products – particularly if you have vulvodynia or unidentified pelvic pain – is not a good way to go. Though aromatherapy can be relaxing, the oils and/or chemicals used in these products are potential irritants for vulvar and vaginal tissues. The effect of scented products on your pain will vary depending on what you have, but if you’re not sure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Pelvic Floor Exercises or Stretches
If you have a tight pelvic floor or some kind of pelvic floor dysfunction, then this is absolutely essential. You should be doing exercises and stretches prescribed by your specialist or physical therapist every day. Because it’s so simple, it becomes an easy obligation to blow off, but don’t do it. Make it a priority. Incorporate it into your daily routine. The more you stretch and understand how to work those muscles, the less pain you’ll feel during sex. Like any other form of exercise, it requires focus and dedication. Doing a few simple stretches before gettin’ nasty can mean the difference between intense post-coital agony or post-coital bliss.

Terrifying? A little bit.

Terrifying? A little bit.

A Little Lube Goes A Long Way
This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but don’t be afraid to use a little lubricant. The easier things can slide around, the less stress you’re putting on your vaginal tissue and pelvic muscles. Many younger women I’ve spoken to avoid using lubricant because they seem to take it as some personal affront to their ability to get juicy downstairs. Don’t look at it like a challenge. Your natural lubricants are great, but sometimes you might need a little boost. Use lube if it’s needed. Water-based lubricants tend to be the least irritating products you can find on regular store shelves, though there are all-natural and specialized lubricants that you can find online. If you have vulvodynia or unidentified pelvic pain, choose your products wisely. Obviously, steer clear if you’ve been advised to do so by your doctor.

Post-Whoopee Ice Packs
When I first started going to physical therapy, my therapist handed me two “ice packs” to help me with my post-coital pain. Let me tell ya, they were nothing like any ice packs I’ve ever seen before. One was a doubled up latex condom filled with icy hot and tied off. The other looked like a tiny test tube filled with vodka. Both were ice cold to the touch. The condom ice pack was intended for exterior pain, while the test tube was used for interior pain. Initially I thought she had lost her marbles, but when she explained to me that this would help relieve the pain, I thought I’d give it a go. I was surprised by the results.

Is sticking an ice pack on your crotch the most flattering thing to do once the deed is done? Nope. Does it work? Yeah, it totally does. This option comes highly recommend for women experiencing unbearable post-coital burn or nerve pain.

Please keep in mind that if you’re not sure what is causing your pain, it might be best to refrain from sexual activity until you see a specialist and they give you the green light. Pain is your body’s way of trying to tell you something. Ignoring pain during intercourse can sometimes make matters worse. As always, be sure to consult your doctor if you are having chronic pelvic pain and ask them how to proceed. These methods are only intended for women who have been told that having sex will not worsen their pain. 

Your Cat Isn’t the Only Pussy That Cleans Itself: A Lesson in Intimate Hygiene

"Happy Grooming" by Takashi Hososhima

“Happy Grooming” by Takashi Hososhima

From the day most women become aware of their “private areas,” they’re told that it’s unclean. This leads to a lifetime of anxiety and self-consciousness about cleanliness, smell, and appearance. There are entire markets of beauty products that bank off of this insecurity. You can enter the aisles of any drugstore and find numerous options for “cleansing” your vulva and vagina: douches, feminine hygiene wipes, special washes, perfumes, and delicate soaps. Many women don’t realize that cleaning yourself with these products can actually cause numerous health problems. It can even cause vulvodynia flare ups in more extreme cases.

Okay, so I’m obviously suggesting that these products are not the way to go.

But if I’m not supposed to be using beauty products to make sure I’m clean “down there,” then what am I supposed to be doing? I’m glad to you asked!

The Real Trick to a Beautiful Pussy
No, you don’t have spend hours grooming your privates to be clean and healthy. No, you don’t have to sell your soul to the devil to obtain the “perfect vagina.”  The real trick to a beautiful pussy that Cosmo will never tell you about is simple, easy, and (mostly) free: lukewarm water.

So simple, yet so overlooked!

So simple, yet so overlooked!

A clean, healthy pussy requires very little maintenance. You just need to let it do its thing and then wash the vulva area with lukewarm water every now and again to wash away any buildup. Most of the time, just standing in the shower is enough to give it a good wash. Can you believe that? You need little to no money and no elaborate beauty routine. All the products you’ve been told you needed since puberty are completely unnecessary. If you’re a makeup/beauty freak like me, then this should be a relief to you. Just one less thing to add to your maintenance routine!

Yes, there will be some goo in your underwear and this is all perfectly normal. Your vagina is a self-sufficient mechanism. Think of it as its own ecosystem. The vagina and vulva are flourishing with bacteria, but that doesn’t mean they’re dirty. These bacteria actually keep harmful foreign bodies from invading your vagina by creating an acidic environment that destroys bad bacteria. If you’ve gotten a yeast infection before, it’s because the yeast broke through your natural defenses and invaded to set up house in your vagina. The discharge you find in your underwear every now and again is actually meant to flush out bad bacteria and keep everything balanced. When it comes to your pussy, “clean” does not mean discharge and scent free. “Clean” means that business is running as usual. If you want to have a healthy pussy, then do yourself a favor and leave it alone.

Of course, I’m certainly not suggesting that you should never cleanse the vulva at all. After all, you certainly won’t see me performing fellatio on a guy who hasn’t washed himself in a few days, and they have even less folds and crevices to worry about than we do. The vulva does get some build-up – the female version of smegma (that’s the nice word for “dick cheese.”) All that you need to do to get rid of this is open up the lips of your labia and wash some lukewarm water over it. You can do this in the shower without much effort. Depending on the amount of build-up you have, you probably won’t have to do this more than twice a week.

Why Scented Products Are The Devil
From day one we’re taught that any scent our body emits is foul and unnatural and should be covered up ASAP. This is especially true for our vaginal scent. I can’t begin to tell you how many women I’ve talked to who are self-conscious about the way they smell, myself included. I collided with this self-consciousness head on when a guy first offered to give me oral sex. The idea of him having his face buried in my “smelly” lady parts only made me anxious. I actually avoided receiving oral sex for some time because of this. Of course, after reading  into the subject and talking to other women, I finally realized that every woman has her own unique scent that should be embraced. It’s a reflection of your body chemistry and is as unique as your fingerprint. There is no reason to be trying to cover it up.

Believe me, if you put this between your legs, no one is going to be joyful about anything.

Believe me, if you put this between your legs, no one is going to be joyful about anything.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, beauty companies have made bank by exploiting our insecurities (many of which are perpetuated by their advertising and products). Beauty companies all over the world offer a plethora of products that attempt to camouflage or eliminate vaginal scent. Not only is this completely unnatural, but it’s also really terrible for your sexual and reproductive health. Now I’m not trying to perpetuate some sort of hippy-dippy “all natural” agenda here. The whole organic, granola  au naturel movement isn’t really my thing. I’m simply stating fact: Using scented products in your genital area is terrible for you.

Many of the perfumes contained in scented products are extremely irritating to the delicate vulva and vaginal tissues. They contain strong ingredients such as alcohol and other chemicals that will wipe out the ecosystem between your legs. This will make your vagina a haven for bad bacteria and makes you significantly more susceptible to yeast infections and other problems, such as excessive dryness, itching, and burning. I’ve seen articles in ladies magazines that advocate the use of gentle soaps for cleaning, but here is the thing: Even gentle soaps meant for sensitive skin are too strong for those tissues. Even products meant for vaginal use are potential irritants, such as scented tampons. The bottom line is that your pussy is a completely self-sufficient zone of your body. Keep it that way. Numerous women around the world experience intense vulvodynia flares because of the scented products they use. Some find that once they discontinue the use of these products, vaginal dryness and pain vanishes.

Always keep in mind that while every vagina has its own distinct scent, smell can also be an indicator when something is going horribly wrong “down there.” Your vagina should never smell distinctly fishy. If your scent changes dramatically or changes from a scent to an intensely unpleasant odor, then you could have an infection or STD. Consult your GYN for immediate diagnosis and care.

Stronger smell during your period? Not to worry. This is perfectly normal. It’s actually not your vagina or the menstrual blood that causes the smell, but the increased amount of moisture in that area of the body. The scent might be much stronger if you leave a tampon in for too long or wear pads. Change often and shower daily to stave off some of the smell.

If you’re still unhappy with your own smell, then there are natural ways to change it that don’t involve putting damaging products on your delicate skin. Your diet is a large determiner for your smell and taste. Reducing the amount of processed foods, specifically sugars, that you consume will tone down your scent. Some studies show that adding yogurt to your diet will not only make your scent a little more subtle, but will also contribute to your general vaginal health. Trimming your pubic hair decreases the amount of discharge and moisture that will be retained by your lady parts, so that’s another options. Wearing cotton underwear or going commando can also help release trapped moisture. I’ll be doing another post on that last part in the near future.

Still feeling self-conscious? You might be thinking this: If control my vaginal scent, then I will be more sexually desirable. But let’s be honest here ladies. You shouldn’t be having sex with someone who is squeamish about a perfectly natural scent anyway. If they’re squeamish about that, then imagine all the other things they’ll be squeamish about. Forget about it. Hell, how about you forget about your current/potential sex partner(s) for a minute and maintain yourself the way that is most healthy for you.

Bald pussy

What’s your verdict on bald pussy?

What About Shaving?
I have a love/hate relationship with shaving: In 6th grade, I became obsessed with my body hair. Why did I have so much of it? I couldn’t understand why I didn’t a look like those shiny, smooth, bikini-clad beacons of beauty laying across magazine pages. Whenever I looked at my naked body in the shower, all I could focus on was the hair and I despised it. How did I deal with this? I shaved my entire body, head to toe, several times over. I only stopped when my mother noticed the peach fuzz on my arm had mysteriously disappeared and yelled at me. “It’ll just grow back thicker!” she exclaimed (by the way, that’s an old wive’s tale, but it might grow back courser). Though I stopped shaving my entire body after that, my self-consciousness continued. When I started dating, I had the nether regions to worry about. All I knew about sex I’d gotten from porn, so shaving everything seemed like the natural thing to do. Of course, over time and with more experience I threw away this silly idea, realizing that bald wasn’t a great look for me. While I haven’t entirely cured myself of my dislike for body hair (I’m not sporting underarm hair or letting my pubes grow feral), I’m far more accepting now. I had to get more comfortable with my body, partly because of my nerve pain.

But what is the health verdict on shaving “down there?” Well, it depends on the person. It’s certainly not the worst thing you can do to your lady parts, but there are many women who should reconsider their Brazilian nether-hairdues. If you’ve found that you’re susceptible to vaginal infections, shaving your pubic hair is a bad way to go. Pubic hair is there to act as the first line of defense for your vagina against the outside world. Shaving this hair just makes you more prone to infection. If you’re a sufferer from vulvodynia, the verdict on shaving is basically a no-brainer: Keep that razor far, far away from your lady parts unless you’re a glutton for punishment. Shaving could aggravate a flare further, or trigger one if you’re currently in remission. If you’re prone to nasty in-grown hair infections, shaving your vagina is not a good bet either. If you fall into one of these categories, but are still concerned about easy cleaning during menstruation or easy access for oral sex, just stick with a nice trim. The effect will be exactly the same.

Honestly, if you’re going to stick with a full bush, now is the time to do it. The all natural pubic hair look is coming back into fashion and it’s more and more common now to see women with a little hair “down there.”

In short: Stop looking at porn stars and advertisements for advice on how to treat your lady parts. Start looking at the facts. All pussies are alike when it comes to cleanliness. The pussy between your legs can take care of itself just like the purring pussy cleaning itself on your bed. Leave it alone and let it do its thing. Give it too much attention and it will bite you.

In response to some controversy about this article, written 4/15/14: First off, I’m surprised by the negative responses this has received, especially on Reddit. I had no idea people were this opinionated about personal hygiene! It’s been fascinating to observe, to say the least. Anyway, on to my actual response.

I’ve noticed that there has been some misunderstandings, partly from lack of clarity on my part. I’m not against using soap altogether and I’m certainly not against showering. I can skip a day (at most) before I start feeling like an itchy grease ball. If soap runs over your vulva, it’s not going to burst into flames. But for many women, this can cause problems. I put this out there as a good hygiene option based on research that I’ve done and direct advice I’ve received from my GYN. Obviously, your hygiene routine will vary, particularly if you sweat a lot. Some people sweat more than others. Some people’s vulvas build up smegma faster and thicker than others. Experiment with hygiene routines and see what works for you, especially if you perspire excessively.

However, I would also take self-consciousness into account when looking at your hygiene routine. A lot of women smell perfectly fine and would keep their genitals plenty clean with just warm water, but they are so clouded by self-consciousness that they might not even realize that they really don’t need it. I’m talking about women who refuse to stop shaving and scrubbing their vulva, despite experiencing pain and being told to discontinue these routines by their doctor. They’re so afraid of being dirty that they’ll just keep on truckin’. Some people’s zealous hygiene routines emerge from low body image, while others have simply adjusted to suit their needs. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both. It’s up to you to analyze yourself and figure out what’s what. Obviously, I can’t do that for you, nor do I have the right to do so. I’m just trying to save you time and money, possibly even pain if certain cleansing products mix poorly with your body chemistry. If you don’t have to worry about negative consequences to using soap or shaving, then that’s awesome! I wish my body was the same way.

Also keep in mind that while this post is speaking to all women, it is more specifically targeted towards women with pelvic pain troubles or those prone to vulvodynia flare ups. Discontinuing any sort of cleansing products and shaving around the vulva was the first thing my pelvic pain specialist (one of the best in the country) told me to stop doing when I walked into his office.

Take it as you will. Everyone is different. This is just my opinion. I’m glad it has sparked so much discussion.

What a Pain in the V: Sexual Healing’s Ultimate Guide to Pelvic Pain

Anatomical Drawing of a Female Pelvis

During my first visit to the pelvic pain specialist, I found myself sitting across from a middle aged male doctor who bore a striking resemblance to one of my ex-boyfriends’ fathers. “I don’t want him poking around inside me,” I thought. Of course I feared the inevitable pain, but I also couldn’t stop obsessing over the creepy likeness. It was the beginning of a very surreal hour.

I listed off my symptoms as he nodded and calmly entered my answers into his computer. It was so impersonal. He’d probably gone through the whole process a million times in his life. He probably couldn’t  wait to enjoy that beach in Maui as soon as he retired. Those were the thoughts running through my head when he, to my surprise, informed me that we were going to do an exam that day.

I was prodded and poked at with tiny needles and metal rods while my legs were held up in metal stirrups. I rated the pain on a scale from 1-10 (which I’ve always hated, because everyone’s pain threshold is different). The nurse stood in the corner – a shining beacon of cheeriness – and tried to talk to me about school. It was slightly humiliating. There is nothing quite like chatting about the poems of William Wordsworth while having a metal prod shoved up your vagina.

I strolled out of the office that day with a diagnosis: pelvic myalgia. This was a nebulous term, my specialist admitted. He wasn’t exactly sure what was causing my symptoms, though the location of the pain suggested a nerve issue. Still, he believed there were other factors involved. “As far as treatment goes, let’s just throw everything and the kitchen sink at you, and see what happens. We might be able to narrow down possible causes and treat them accordingly later,” he had told me.

I had to fight my feelings of dissatisfaction. All I had gotten was some amorphous idea of what was wrong with me, and I still didn’t even know what had caused all the pain in the first place! Of course, my doctor ended up being right. It just required a lot of time and patience. As we went through different treatments and experimented with various medications, we began to narrow down the exact cause of my pelvic pain: a damning combination of pelvic floor dysfunction, pudendal nerve entrapment, vaginismus, and dyspareuina.

“Quite a list,” you might be thinking. The thing is, that kind of diagnosis isn’t all that unusual. Chronic pelvic pain is often caused by a multitude of different factors that combine to create the pain. When a woman consults a pelvic pain specialist and walks out of the doctor’s office with multiple – and often confusing – names for her condition, she may feel lost. Here are some questions you might be asking yourself: I have a name for my pain, but now what? What does it mean? Are only one of these causing my pain or all of them? How do they relate to one another? Where do I begin treatment if I have multiple disorders? How am I going to explain something so complex to my partner?

My ultimate goal is that women can turn to this list for without being intimidated by medical terms (I try to explain as much as possible) or worrying about judgement. I also hope that the partners of pelvic pain sufferers can use this guide to deepen their understanding pelvic pain disorders, what causes them, and how they might affect quality of life/sex. Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive, nor can I diagnose you. I’m not a healthcare professional of any kind, just a nerd who has done excessive amounts of reading.

The What’s What of Pelvic Pain

Cervicitis (pronounced “sir-vuh-sahy-tis”): When the cervix (entrance to the uterus) is inflamed, swollen, or irritated. This will cause pain during sex, bloody discharge, or spotting. In most cases, STDs are the culprit, particularly chlamydia or gonorrhea. However, Cervicitis can also be caused other factors, including allergies, radiation treatments, hormone imbalances, and physical trauma. Certain birth control methods – such as spermicides, diaphragms, or IUDs – can also lead to this sort of inflammation. Treatment depends on the cause, but the go-to’s are antibiotics, various pharmaceuticals, or ablation (freezing or burning off the top layer of cervical skin).

Dyspareuina (pronounced “dis-puh-roo-nee-uh”): Continually painful intercourse. It could be caused by a number of issues, both physical and psychological. Before worrying about whether you have this condition or not, be sure that your sexual pain is not caused by lack of lubrication. Supposedly, doctors will check out possible physical causes before looking to the psychological causes of this condition. Admittedly though, this has not been my personal experience, nor the experience of many other pelvic pain patients I’ve spoken with. I will be writing a post in the future on how to handle doctors that belittle your pain or try to tell you that the pain is all in your head. Treatments vary so dramatically for dyspareuina that I’m not even going to bother listing them.

Endometriosis (pronounced “endo-me-tree-o-sis”): Little bits of the uterine lining begin growing outside of the womb, primarily in the ovaries or fallopian tubes. However, the tissue can grow in other pelvic areas as well. These bits of uterine flesh gone AWOL bleed during menstruation, causing painful scar tissue in the pelvis. Some symptoms of this disorder include pain during sex, chronic pain, agonizing periods, and infertility. What causes it? Genetics is the primary player, but aging can also be a cited as a cause (unfortunately cells can go senile far before the brain does). Though there is no cure for the disorder, there are a number of pharmaceutical treatments: NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory), Opioids (strong painkillers), birth control pills, and other hormone medications.

Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy that occurs in the fallopian tube, rather than in the uterus. Sometimes the pregnancy can even grow in the ovary or wander outside the reproductive tissue entirely, though this isn’t as common. It only occurs in the early stages of pregnancy. Usually this is caused by damaged fallopian tubes, scar tissue, IUDs, STDs, or fertility drugs. Symptoms include belly pain, weakness, absence of period, and spotting. If you suspect that you have an ectopic pregnancy, do not hesitate to call your doctor or head to an emergency room. This is an emergency situation that will kill you if not treated. This is especially true if you are begin showing signs of shock (paleness, weak pulse, confusion). Treatments include medication that will abort the embryo or surgical removal of the embryo.

Oh God, why?

Never showing my face in that hospital again…

(Quick story if you’d like a laugh at my expense: I had continual pain in my lower left abdomen for several days, worsening in intensity with every hour that passed. I got dizzy easily and was constantly nauseated. I feared that it was one of two things: appendicitis or an ectopic pregnancy. After a lot of self-debate and consulting my nurse mother, I finally went to the emergency room. I spent over 6 hours waiting and got an MRI. The anticipation was killing me. What was the result? I had a young, exceptionally foxy doctor announce that I was just severely constipated. “Go to the drug store and pick up some MiraLAX. That should work,” he said. It wasn’t one of my finest moments.)

Interstitial Cystitis (pronounced “inter-sti-shil / sis-tight-is”): The bladder lining becomes inflamed for a long period of time, often resulting in bleeding. Interstitial Cystitis (IC) causes chronic pain, painful sex, and difficult/urgent/frequent urination. The exact cause of IC is currently unknown, but it’s often diagnosed in conjunction with irritable bowel and fibromyalgia (double whammy, baby). Whether the conditions have any direct cause-effect relationship has yet to be determined. Regardless of the cause, the current treatments are physical therapy, nerve stimulation, surgery, and various medications taken orally or injected into the bladder (ouch).

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Excessive tightness or looseness of the pelvic floor muscles. Ever done kegels to tighten things up a bit? This is the set of muscles we’re talking about! If your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, it can cause many symptoms, including constipation, chronic pain, painful sex, muscle spasms, and urinary frequency/hesitancy/pain/general dysfunction. If your pelvic floor muscles are too loose, you can suffer from incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse (your reproductive organs slide out of your body). Pelvic Floor Dysfunction can also cause or worsen a number of other conditions, but we’ll discuss that later! The treatment depends on whether your muscles are too tight or loose, but it usually involves lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and the possible prescription of muscle relaxants.

(Another funny…well, not-so-funny aside: I discovered what prolapse was after being shown a porn site that exclusively featured women with pelvic organ prolapse. It wasn’t pretty.)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Inflammation of the pelvic region due to an STD, usually gonorrhea or chlamydia. Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) include pain in the belly area, strange vaginal discharge, fever, and painful intercourse. Usually this condition is treated with antibiotics and then disappears without a trace. However, in some cases, it causes infertility and/or leaves excessive scar tissue, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain. Further pharmaceutical treatments will be used in this case.

Pudendal Nerve Entrapment: The pudendal nerve (a major nerve running between the vagina and rectum) is compressed or trapped by the muscles surrounding it. Basically you have a pinched nerve in your lady parts. Symptoms include pain when sitting, genital numbness/sensitivity, vaginal/rectal spasms, and painful intercourse. The causes are varied, but usually involves a combination of the following: lifestyle, posture, scarring, stress, or physical trauma. Usually doctors will experiment with various meds – painkillers, SSRIs, and anti-depressants – and see what relieves the most pain for you. Physical therapy, certain exercises, and lifestyle changes can help loosen the muscles causing entrapment. Surgery may be performed in severe cases, but this is a high risk option, as the patient can lose all feeling in that part of the body.

Pudendal Nerve Neuralgia: This term is often used interchangeably with pudendal nerve entrapment. Though the symptoms are the same, the actual cause is not. Rather than being compressed, the nerve is simply damaged. The treatment for neuralgia is similar to entrapment, because nerve regeneration is unlikely (but you can always dream). At this time, it is basically impossible to figure out whether you have pudendal nerve entrapment or neuralgia. At least as far as I know. If anyone has any info on this, feel free to shoot me an email or comment below!

Cynthia Bailey on Fibroids

Cynthia Bailey’s Fibroid Wisdom

Uterine Fibroids: Benign (not cancerous) growths of various sizes growing on the uterine wall. Fibroids usually cause chronic pain, painful sex, urinary frequency, weakness, and extremely heavy bleeding. Symptoms tend to get worse when thefibroids are larger. There are different ways to approach treatment depending on the severity of the fibroids: uterine ablation (destroying the uterine lining), uterine embolization (process that blocks blood flow to fibroids), surgical removal of the fibroids, or pharmaceutical treatments. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary.

(Fun Fact: Model and actress Cynthia Bailey from Real Housewives of Atlanta documented her troubles with fibroids in Season 6.)

Sex toy or medical device? Maybe both? Hmmmm…

Vaginismus: Vaginal muscles tensing unconsciously to disturb and/or prevent penetration. This disorder is often mistakenly (and laughably) called “vaginitis.” It causes painful intercourse and sometimes makes sex impossible altogether. The condition usually develops as a psychological response to painful conditions, anxiety, stress, conservative moral upbringing, discomfort with sexuality, and sexual abuse. Treatment depends partly on the cause, but the most common remedies prescribed are lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, physical therapy, electrical muscle stimulation (not as painful as it sounds), and dilators (basically the medical world’s dildos). Finding the root of the disorder is essential to treatment.

Vulvodynia: Chronic pain of the vulva (vaginal opening and surrounding tissue), usually characterized by burning, itching, or stinging. Sitting, sex, and urination become extremely painful. Vulvodynia in waves (or flares), followed by periods of dormancy where the sufferer can live a relatively normal life. Unfortunately, there is no explanation for vulvodynia yet, but there are many speculations: allergies, autoimmune disorder (an overactive immune system that attacks itself), poor diet, nerve pain, or traumatic injury. Because the exact cause is unknown, a variety of treatments are usually applied. Some of the treatments include lifestyle changes, alkaline diet (avoiding acidic foods that aggravate inflammation), physical therapy, various medications, and – in extreme cases – surgery.

How are these all connected?

Chronic pelvic pain is incredibly complex. Many conditions are caused or affected by other disorders. Sometimes you can eliminate one problem, but just can’t shake another. It’s tremendously frustrating to experience and difficult to explain to others. The circumstances aren’t ideal if you’re attempting to communicate with your partner.

Of course, the better you understand the way certain conditions connect, the more you can work on getting better. Eliminating one problem might be a step in the right direction for treating your other issues. Here is a little map I’ve drawn up to help you:

Watch out Picasso!

Watch out Picasso!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave! Okay. So this “map” is a hot mess, but that’s what chronic pelvic pain is sometimes! I’m attempting to give it some sort of physical representation here. Even if it’s a bit…uh…primitive, it gives some understanding of the way various disorders impact each other.

I hope you find it helpful. If so, you could even show it to your partner. Communication and education is key to curing yourself sexually, but you can’t do it alone! Your partner needs to be involved in the process. If you’re sick of hearing me say this then buckle up, because I’m going to keep on emphasizing it until the end of time.

Going for the Big O: The Difference Between Faking It & Lying About It

I see tons of different statistics detailing how many women lie about orgasming. A few years ago it was 60%, this year it’s 80%. Every year the numbers seem to go up. Women are finally opening up about their lack of sexual satisfaction to scientists and researchers, but what about their partners? Personally, for every friend who expresses sexual satisfaction to me, I’ll have another three who express sexual dissatisfaction.*** When spending a night out on the town, I’ve even had women drunkenly rant to me about how they can’t cum. In turn, I always ask one question: “Have you talked to your partner about it?”

Almost always, the answer is a no. There are always explanations as to why, but none of them are particularly good. It turns out that many men also lie for similar reasons.

Seek Intimacy by Sherri Samson

Seek Intimacy by Sherri Samson

Initially, I was baffled by this. I’ve experienced sexual dissatisfaction myself, but I never lied to my partners about orgasming. If they asked, I was forward and told them why. My first partner and I were really inexperienced, so we learned together. Eventually, due to my pelvic pain and the development of different tastes, we grew apart sexually. Even after I was treated for my dyspareunia and could have pain-free sex again, I realized that I just didn’t enjoy sex with him that much anymore. I had tried everything to convey my preferences. I knew I could orgasm by myself, so how could it be that difficult for someone else to help me along? Most women are driven to orgasm through some clit action, so I would show him how I masturbated. He had trouble hitting the mark. I even gave him a diagram of the female anatomy, so he would know “what button to press” so-to-speak. Nothing changed. I couldn’t even hit the Big O during foreplay. It wasn’t his fault. We just didn’t enjoy the same kind of sex. After a while, I began feeling sexually inadequate, which lowered my libido. This was yet another blow to my self-esteem (as if all the pelvic pain nonesense hadn’t been enough). I actually gave up on the idea of another person giving me an orgasm altogether. I resigned myself to my fate: having sex for intimacy and masturbating for sexual pleasure.

Eventually, I ended up giving up on the relationship as well. Much of my orgasming problems were remedied once I got my pelvic pain under control and began finding partners that were more experienced and shared my sexual preferences. Of course, I still can’t cum at the drop of a hat. There is still some effort involved, but it’s a lot better. Anyway, when I thought about my first relationship in retrospect, I realized that for the last year or so – when we actually were having sex – I would fake it. Honestly, if I feel the need, I still occasionally fake it. But I never did, nor will I ever, lie about it.

What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked.

***Taking a quick aside here to mention that having an orgasm isn’t always an indicator of sexual satisfaction. Of course, if you have sex continually without feeling satisfied, it could still have a devastating effect on your relationship.


First Off, Why Lying Isn’t the Way to Go
Straightforwardly telling your partner that you had an orgasm when you didn’t simply isn’t smart. The more you lie, the more your partner is going to think that whatever they did was a brick in the road to O-town. They’ll keep repeating the same moves that you don’t like over and over again. Plus, the more you lie, the more it’s going to hurt them when the truth finally comes out – and believe me, the truth will come out eventually. I hate to say it, but all those self-help books are right: Communication is key. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Most women know that lying about it isn’t the way to go, but they still continue to do it. Why? Here are the most common reasons I hear from women about why they lie:

  • Getting It Over With: You’re tired. You have a million things to do. Sex is the last thing on your mind, but your partner wants it, right? Here is the thing: You are never obligated to have sex just because your partner wants you to. I think most people would agree that they’d rather wait until later so their partner will enjoy sex sincerely. I had a partner who would perform cunninglingus (on incredibly rare occasions), and every time he did, I could tell that he hated it. Honestly, I would have preferred that he just skipped it. It made me feel gross knowing that he was doing something he didn’t like. Also, masturbation is a thing that exists. Don’t forget about it. If they need to get off and you can’t provide, let them do that without complaining about it or shaming them. Now, if you push off sex constantly, then you need to suck it up and make some time. Make sex a priority in your life.
  • Sparing Your Partner’s Feelings: The top reason cited for faking orgasm is to spare the partner’s feelings. You might fear that your partner will begin to feel inadequate if they find out you’re not orgasming. In my experience, they might take a hard hit to the ego, but it shouldn’t be enough to permanently cripple them. If you discuss your problems respectfully and give them some reassurance, then you should be able to move past it. Be delicate with your partner’s feelings, but don’t condescend to them. They might just be tougher than you’d think. If you and your partner can’t speak honestly about sex, then neither of you are mature enough to be having sex. I don’t care if you’re 16 or 40. If you can’t communicate with your partner, then you should reconsider the essential nature of your sex life.
  • You Don’t Want to Deal With the Pressure: Some women fear that once they admit that they can’t orgasm, suddenly there will be tremendous pressure on them to cum. There is some truth to this, but it’s better than not working towards orgasming at all. Pressure and anxiety about reaching the Big O has always been one of my greatest downfalls. It’s actually part of what perpetuated to my pelvic floor dysfunction and dyspareuina in the first place. The key is to keep the objective of orgasming in mind, without making it your mission. Easier said than done, of course. Think about it as a skill you’d like to work towards, but not become obsessed with. I will have more in-depth posts about this in the future.
  • You’re Afraid Your Partner Will Leave You: Not surprisingly, statistics show that women are much more likely to lie about orgasming if they’re afraid that their partner is on the brink of leaving. The logic: The more successful their partner feels in bed, the more successful the relationship will feel. This is, of course, total bullshit. If your partner is going to leave you, there is probably something much deeper going on that not even a mind-blowing orgasm can fix. If it’s based in sexual problems, then you’re trying to fix the problem with a lie. This will blow up in your face. Even if an faked orgasm or two did repair some cracks in the relationship, what happens when there is another bump in the road? They’ll probably leave you anyway. If this is all it takes for them to leave you, then good riddance. No one has time for that shit, including you.
  • Plain Ol’ Denial: If I don’t acknowledge a problem, then it doesn’t exist, right? If you just ignore the fact that you’re not cumming, then there won’t be an issue. If this were true, then I wouldn’t acknowledge world disasters, Westborough Baptist Church, or the United States Congress. The first step to a healthy, happy sex life is by acknowledging the problem. This goes for more than just orgasming. It goes for pelvic pain too.

Okay, so I’m beating a dead horse at this point. You get it. Lying is bad. So what do you do instead? When asked, tell. If you didn’t orgasm, let them know. Don’t be rude about it, but definitely mention it. This is especially important if you can pinpoint the reason why. The sooner you can figure out why it’s happening, the sooner you can move forward.

Light Lovers in Bed by Ley Dallimore

Light Lovers in Bed by Ley Dallimore

Fake It ‘Til You Make It?
So you’re saying it’s really terrible to lie, but okay to fake? What does that mean? Aren’t those two things contradictory? In my opinion, they are quite different. Perhaps this is because I have a much different definition of “faking it” than Cosmo and other pop culture media outlets.

Sexual arousal comes and goes naturally, even while having sex. Sometimes when I’m feeling anxious, I can push aside my anxieties until I can get into the act. Then, even if I’m totally enjoying myself, an anxiety might wander into my brain. Suddenly the well goes a little dry and I find myself distracted, as well as frustrated. I was having a perfectly good time a minute ago, so what changed?

How do I manage such a situation? I focus on faking it.

By my definition, “faking it” means putting yourself in a mindset to become sexually aroused, even if you’re not feeling in the mood at that moment. If I think I could become aroused with a little more “inspiration,” I fake it. Sometimes I even pretend that I’m building up to orgasm in the hopes that I can get back in the mood. And believe it or not, it works for me. Arousal is a mindset as much as a physical state and trying to get back into the game really helps me. If you’re one of those people that could just listen to porn and get off, then this might just work for you. For a while I thought it was a little strange that I did this, but recently I found a study in The Journal of Sexual Archives that suggests I’m not part of a small percentage.

Faking it can work. Does that I mean I lie about it when the deed is done? Nope. Let them know why you “fake it” sometimes, so they’re not left in the dark. As for the orgasm part, it’s either a yes or a no, and I’m not afraid to gently say no. You shouldn’t be afraid either.

Where Does Pelvic Pain Play Into All of This?
For my ladies (and gents) with chronic pelvic pain, all of this could be hitting home for you, just in a different way. You are in an even tighter spot than everyone else, because your problem is health related and sometimes orgasming (or having sex at all) isn’t physiologically possible.

Number one thing you keep in mind if you’re having pelvic pain of any kind: NEVER stay silent about it. I’ve known women who have had vulvadynia or pelvic nerve damage, but continued having agonizing sex until they couldn’t take it anymore. Admittedly, I was one of these women. My pain began with a slight discomfort during intercourse, until finally any sort of penetration felt like my vagina was being evicerated with a kitchen knife. Of course, it was a little hard to stay quiet at that point. When I finally talked to my specialist about the progression of my pain, he said that I probably made my pain worse by continuing to have sex without seeking treatment. It certainly increased the severity of my pelvic floor dysfunction and caused my vaginismus. Don’t remain silent. Express yourself. Your partner and your body will appreciate it in the long run.

If you’re not orgasming or getting even close to orgasming, then this could be a signal that your pain is getting worse and/or not improving. Listen to your body. Translate what your body is telling you to your partner. You are the Rosetta Stone. Work your magic!

Sitting Down for a Change: Top Five Chronic Pelvic Pain Cushions


Photograph by Chi Chang Wu

 When I was officially diagnosed with chronic pelvic pain, my specialist gave me a sheet of basic “Do’s and Don’ts” for my condition. First thing I read under the “Don’ts” section: “Avoid sitting at all costs.” An adjacent diagram of a little stick person standing at desk confirmed what I had read. So wait, you mean no sitting at all? Ever? As an internet connoisseur and (at the time) student, I remember being appalled by this realization. How was I going to continue my life without sitting? How was I going to drive to school? When I asked my doctor about, well, basic living, his answer was blunt and unwavering: “If you want to get better, then you have to make it work.”

I was resistant to this idea initially, but, of course, this ended up being true. There were many things I had to start standing for (no pun intended). My sedentary lifestyle simply couldn’t continue if I wanted to recover.

However, it also isn’t realistic to assume that pelvic pain sufferers can navigate through modern life while avoiding sitting entirely. There are some day-to-day activities where sitting is basically necessary. This was especially true as a student. Most of my day was spent at a desk, sleeping (errr, sitting) in class, or at a computer. If you’re one of those people with a desk job or a long-distance commuter, then eliminating sitting from your life is easier said than done.

For those instances where you are required to sit, you’ll need something to relieve that lovely nagging pain that radiating from your loins. Well there is a solution for that. Early on, doctors realized that pelvic pain patients experienced brief respite when sitting on the toilet. It makes sense, considering it takes the stress off of your problem region. Of course, that’s great and all, but who wants to drag a porcelain throne into their cubicle everyday? Doctors found a more practical solution by creating cushions with a hole in the center, which works similarly to a toilet seat.

If you decide to purchase one of these cushions, it will quickly become your best friend. My pain would have likely become significantly worse without it. Believe it or not, there is an entire market out there for these cushions, but not all of them are created equal. Here are a list of some of my favorites, along with a few that have been recommended to me by other Pelvic Pain patients:

Though this is one of the more pricey options in the list, it’s definitely my favorite. (Then again, I always did have expensive tastes). Thera-Seat is made out of a durable foam that’s liquid-resistant and will last you a lifetime. Of course, I don’t know that from experience, but mine has been going strong for over four years now! It is large enough to support people of almost every size. Like all cushions made for pelvic pain, it has a large, oval hole in the center to take the pressure off of your pelvic region. Many of the jobs I’ve had involved a lot of desk sitting and carrying a cushion into work was always a little embarrassing, especially if the giant hole in the center was visible. I even got a few unappreciated hemorrhoid jokes every now and again. It was a relief to discover a quality cushion with a slip cover. It has zipper closure that allows you to be discreet and helps the cushion last longer. This feature is especially useful if you commonly go commando (as I often do, for many reasons). It even has a handle for easy mobility. You can bring it into work right next to your handbag! It is only available in black, but I personally don’t want to draw attention to my cushion, so I found the black option appealing. Thera-Seat can be found here.

Twin Cheeks Folding Cushion
Gotta love a cushion company with a sense of humor! Anyone who suffers from chronic pain needs a laugh every now and again. Anyway, the cushion is built similar to its humorous namesake, with two separate cushions for each butt cheek and a large “canyon” down the center. This allows complete relief off your entire pelvic/vulva area. The best part? The two separate cushions are completely adjustable, so you can customize it to your shape and pain levels. If you’re constantly finding cushions that fit oddly around your bum, then this might be a great option for you. It’s also great for the perpetual traveller, as it folds up. If you have a big purse, save some room for this baby! Because it is meant to be discrete, it only comes in black and navy blue. It’s also a bit on the pricey side, but did you read about all of those features? Totally worth it for ease of use and pain relief. The Twin Cheeks Folding Cushion can be found here.

Pelvic Pain Solution’s Seat Cushion
This cushion is sold by, a website that specializes in pelvic pain products. This is a square seat cushion with a long, 12 inch “channel” cut down the center, creating an opening at the back of the cushion for your tail bone. You can place the channel in the front or back of you, depending on the nature of your pain. The foam is high quality and firm and is guaranteed to last up to 15 years, which is what warrants its high price. However, this cushion is less discreet than many of the others on this list. Though it is made of durable fabric that won’t stain or tear, the “channel” is fully visible and has no slip cover. It also comes in a variety of colors to match your personality and decor. Hey, might as well have a little fun with it, right? If you want to wear your pelvic pain condition proudly, than this is the cushion for you. Pelvic Pain Solution’s Cushion can be found here.

Duro-Med Molded Foam Ring Cushion
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never used a ring or “donut” cushion before (bet you Dunkin’ Donuts wouldn’t want that associated with their name). I always thought they looked a little uncomfortable compared to square cushions, but some people swear by them. It’s about 18 inches in diameter, but is not adjustable. Unlike many other donut cushions (can’t help myself) that are usually inflatable, the Duro-Med is made from a sturdy foam that will support your cheeks without too much give. It also has a removable slip cover, which will conceal the fact that this is anything but a normal cushion. It also allows for easy clean should you get anything on it. Amazon sells the slip cover in a few different colors and patterns, including navy, white, and plaid. Compared to the other cushions on this list, it’s a steal price-wise. However, some Amazon reviews have suggested that it is not as long-lasting as some of pricier cushions. It’s probably ideal for more short-term pain or someone just looking to test out a donut cushion for a few months. The Duro-Med Ring Cushion can be found here. 

DIY Donut Seat
Let’s just be honest here. Sometimes you simply don’t have the money to purchase at $75+ piece of foam to support your bum. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should have to endure pain just to keep up with your budget. There is a great tutorial on how to make handmade cushions on this blog.

Always keep in mind that pain acts differently for everyone. Some of these cushions may not work for your pain. Make sure you know the company’s return policy or try a similar cushion before purchasing something permanently. As always, be sure to consult your specialist if you have any questions and concerns.

If any of you have had a great cushion experience, post the cushion name and condition it helps you with below. As always, all other comments are welcome as well!

Sexual Healing Manifesto

Oh great, another blog to add to the millions already floating around the web. What is about this time? Lifestyle blurbs? Inspirational tidbits? Great fitness tips? Visually appealing hipster recipes? Steamy sexcapades? Tales of some random person’s daily grind? Actually, it’s all of the above. Kind of.

Who the hell are you?
I’m Jackie, a recent college graduate with a writing BA and no major career prospects ahead of me (yet). I’m that retail clerk at your local bookstore that waxes poetic about the beauties of Shakespeare all day, but can barely count back change. I tweet about my trivial problems and share adorable animal pics on Facebook when I’m having a crappy day. Ultimately, I live the relatively mundane existence that many other “millennials” do. Not so special right?

What sets me apart: I’m one of the lucky few that have been successfully diagnosed and treated for chronic pelvic pain, dyspareuina, and a number of other pelvic conditions.

Hold the phone. Dyspa-what?

Dyspareuina (dis-puh-roo-nee-uh) – noun
Any kind of continuous pain experienced during intercourse; pain comes in many different forms and is caused by a variety of factors; comes from the Greek term meaning “bad bedfellow”

Now that we got the fancy medical terms out of the way…
I call myself lucky because hundreds (maybe even thousands) of women experiencing these conditions remain silent about their pain and/or go untreated. Perhaps they are embarrassed of their pain. Perhaps they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings. Perhaps they feel they are too “young” to have chronic pain problems. Perhaps their doctors just aren’t listening. There are a million reasons why it happens and all of them – for lack of a better phrase – fucking suck.

"The Room" by Jesse Therrien

“The Room” by Jesse Therrien

That’s great, but what exactly is this blog?
It’s my struggle with these conditions. More than that, it’s my struggle with coming to terms with my own sexuality in a world that scandalizes desire (while making a pretty penny off of it). I’m here to give out the candid info that I so desperately wanted when I was finally diagnosed at the age of 18, after experiencing extremely painful intercourse and a lingering pain in the ass (literally) every day for almost two years.

So what do you have to say that’s so unique?
Let’s be honest here, this blog certainly won’t be one of a kind. There are other blogs out there about pelvic pain, but many of them are about as warm and welcoming as a dead fish. They are either numbingly clinical or downright depressing.

The way I see it: No one needs help wallowing in their own misery. Hearing someone else’s raw anger and sadness won’t change shitty circumstances. This is not a place for me to bitch and moan and cry. This is not a place to feel sorry for ourselves.

Instead, I aim to help the woman who is anxious about her sexual future, unhappy with her current health, and/or feels uncomfortable with the sexual nature of her illness. By writing about my own intimate health journey (euphemism for “over sharing”), I hope to accomplish the following:

  1. Show pelvic pain and dyspareuina sufferers that this is NOT end of the line for their sex lives.
  2. Ensure younger people suffering from chronic pain that they are NOT delusional or freaks of nature.
  3. Assure sufferers that there is NOTHING embarrassing about this condition.
  4. Tell ALL women that their lady parts and sexual health should be celebrated instead of shamed.
  5.  Spread general awareness about the nature and prevalence of pelvic pain and painful intercourse.
  6.  Become the (much more educated and articulate) Cosmo for pelvic pain, female sexual dysfunction, and those who find themselves uncomfortable with their own sexuality.

While I won’t treat these illnesses casually, I will almost certainly treat them with a sense of humor. Let’s be honest here, life serves up a lot shit among the occasional good stuff. It’s like going to that derelict Chinese buffet (every town has one) that serves up a lot of nasty mystery meat, but sometimes you bite into that one perfectly cooked chicken skewer that makes it all worth it. Anyway, my point is that if you can’t laugh at the crappy things and enjoy the good stuff, then why live at all? Of course, if you’re not quite to that point yet, I’m certainly not suggesting that you fling yourself off the nearest building. We can work on the laughing part together.

Actually, hell with that. Let’s work on the recovery part together.

Getting to the point yet?
As cheesy as it sounds, ultimately, that’s what I want to build here: a sense of togetherness. It’s easy to feel isolated from others when you’re living with any kind of pelvic pain, but especially dyspareuina and other sexual dysfunctions. It comes with a lot of social baggage. Your doctor may be blowing you off. Your partner may feel distant from you or frustrated with the situation. Your family and friends may be uncomfortable discussing it.

You need a support system somewhere and if you can’t find it anywhere else, you might as well start here.

With this in mind, please feel free to chime in. That’s what the comment section is for. After all, this isn’t a one-woman freak show!

I look forward to meeting you all and seeing how this project develops.