Pleasure—we all seek it, aim to understand it, experience it, expand it… so why is there so much stigma and shame connected to pleasure for vulva owners?
A few weeks ago, surrounded by incredible humans all immersed in the landscape of sexuality, sexual wellness, pleasure and sex positivity, we gathered together for a round table salon discussion focusing on the topic, Aging with Intimacy: Embracing Sexuality Throughout Life’s Chapters.
Our discussion with Jenny Dwork, VP of Marketing at Wisp, Alexandra Fine, CEO of Dame Products, and myself, was joined by 10 remarkable journalists, writers and creative directors. We played with what it means to live with erotic aliveness, embracing the vast possibilities for pleasure across the life span. It was a journey of exploration and empowerment for everyone present.
As vulva owners, we are beautifully wired for pleasure, no matter our age or where we find ourselves in our life's journey. Achieving optimal sexual wellness involves fostering a deep connection and comfort with our bodies. How we embody pleasure is integrally connected to the quality of our relationship with our bodies and our sexuality at any given time in our lives. It is this journey through learning about and embracing ourselves, our unique wiring, challenges, and strengths that nurtures our self-esteem and sexual confidence.
I firmly believe that pleasure is our birthright. It is an invaluable treasure that every woman deserves to unapologetically claim for herself! The aim of the roundtable was to champion the eradication of shame for all vulva owners as they embrace and celebrate their pleasure at all ages.
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As a group, we addressed ways to erase the existing stigmas around pleasure experienced by women, regardless of age or life stage. What I find noteworthy is that pleasure is NOT static—it is a very fluid experience. The more women learn to find comfort in their bodies and embrace their needs and desires as they evolve and change, the more they have access to their own pleasure.
This remains true across every stage. Within each phase, there are shared and unique themes and challenges. Embracing these can profoundly deepen a woman's comfort with herself and strengthen her connection to her body, turn-on, sexuality, and pleasure. A woman has the potential to become the best lover, both to herself and to others at any stage of life!
We explored the exciting possibilities for amplifying pleasure and satisfaction through four pivotal life stages (not necessarily in the same order for all vulva owners):
- Coming of age into sexuality: 20/30’s (or later in some cases)
- Becoming parents and postpartum
Throughout our conversation we continued to circle back to reflecting on the evolution of our own sexuality and how our current knowledge and life experiences have created a deeper connection to our own pleasure.
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We talked about the stigma and shame with STI’s, how to navigate that with sexual partners, and how the awareness of that changes the landscape of how we connect sexually with others. A key take-away was treating our bodies with the love and respect they deserve.
We talked about the fluctuations brought on by childbirth and how moving into motherhood impacts a woman’s relationship to pleasure. Pregnancy and childbirth are a time of profound changes- shifts in time demands and coming to terms with a new identity. Some experience an increase in sexual arousal, but for many, there may be vaginal trauma. The thought of being touched in ways that were once turn-ons previously now no longer work.
Our ongoing journey is to open to what one’s body is experiencing, needing, calling for and to honor how that evolves and changes over time. Pleasure and intimacy also radically shifts to a different, but potentially more expansive landscape when mothers open to the beauty and pleasure of the skin to skin contact with their babies and the deep intimacy bonds between mother and child. We talked about how embracing that and releasing shame about experiencing that as pleasure is radical in re-writing what pleasure actually means within our bodies and psyches.
Another pivotal time of upheaval and disruption for vulva owners is moving through perimenopause and menopause. Massive disruptions in hormone levels affect our bodies, our libido, our sexual identities and our connection to our pleasure.
It is time to debunk the fear that one’s sexual life is over as we age. It may be changed, but that change is actually a beautiful opportunity for expansion.
A consistent theme that emerged throughout the evening is that how we experience pleasure is integrally connected to the unique ways each of us are wired erotically. I expanded upon this through the lens of my work as an Erotic Blueprint™ Coach. What became clear in the discussion is that there is no “one size, one way fits all”. Our experience of pleasure is quite variable and integrally related to the stage of life where we find ourselves, our physical and emotional bodies, our relationship both to ourselves and to our partners. And even then, just when we think we’ve got it, we realize it is always shifting, always connected to who we are being and how we are being at any given time. Isn’t that delightful and freeing, to embrace and honor our uniqueness!!
A compelling question about orgasms was raised by one of the journalists, sparking a beautiful discussion which led to a more expansive view about the intricacies of orgasm. We talked about pleasure being less goal oriented than how we traditionally have thought about what orgasms are, evolving to considering orgasms from a more energetic and whole body related experience. For example, tuning into one’s Energetic Erotic Blueprint can allow a human to experience an extended orgasm, sometimes lasting several hours, and even without genital touch. If we move to thinking about an orgasmic state or a pleasure state that is non climax based, the possibilities become endless. How’s that for juiciness!!
This thread continued with another journalist’s compelling question about dealing with desire discrepancies between sexual partners. The more we are connected to our bodies and what we may want or need and the fluidity of that, and the more we recognize that in our partners, the greater the ability for us to open to the spectrum of what is possible for us with pleasure and connection.
My big takeaway from the evening: pleasure is ever evolving. We are capable of so much if we allow connection to the full expression of ourselves. Let us commit to being the most exquisite lovers to ourselves, listening, learning and opening to who we are and what we need at any given moment across the span of our life…at any age!
About Dr. Penelope Neckowitz
Penelope Neckowitz, PhD is a licensed psychologist and therapist, a certified Erotic Blueprint Coach™, an Embodied Female Pleasure™ facilitator, and a long time pleasure researcher and pleasure activist. She is committed to helping women connect to their erotic life force energy and live more freely with less shame and greater freedom of expression. You can learn more on her website https://www.penelopeneckowitz.com/.
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