Stop worrying about whether your body looks, smells, or functions “right”. It does!
Sexual satisfaction is the sum of many parts. It’s about the right technique, the right moment, and a feeling of connection between you and your partner. But what about confidence in your own sexual anatomy? Self-assurance about your nether regions plays a more important role than you may think.
Genital self-image (GSI) is how I describe a woman’s feelings about her sexual anatomy. You may be thinking it’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard, but thoughts about your sexual anatomy are actually quite common. After all, it’s a part of the body like any other.
Questions such as, “How do I look?” and “Is everything working right?” are just some of the worries we may entertain, without even realizing it. Men’s locker rooms provide them a much better frame of reference for their genitals. Women lack the opportunity to compare their sexual parts like men do. For us, even when we are naked in the shower, so much of our anatomy is internal that we can’t sneak a peak. It’s hard to know what a clitoris should look like!
Fortunately, a study by the Berman Center shed some light on female GSI and its importance for good sexual function. The study was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Summer’s Eve. More than 2,500 women ages 18 and over shared their most private thoughts about their sexual anatomy. What we found was the way a woman thinks about her genitals has a powerful affect on her sexual function and her sexual satisfaction.
Want the details? Women with more positive GSI were found to have higher libidos and better sexual function. Arousal was better and easier, as was ability to reach orgasm. It’s no surprise that women with better GSI also reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction in general. In fact, women who had the best GSI were 61 times more likely to have ever been sexually satisfied than women with the poorest GSI! So the thoughts about our genitals that often fly under the radar have a real impact on our sex lives.
Women who want to develop a better GSI have many options. First and foremost is becoming more familiar with your sexual anatomy. Don’t just leave it to a partner! Learning about the different parts — where they are and what they do — helps every woman become more connected to a fundamental part of her body. It’s important to feel confident about both function and appearance. Looking at realistic pictures of other women’s genitals can help (and I don’t mean Playboy ).
Concerns about genital odor can figure prominently in GSI. Women commonly worry whether their odor is normal, or maybe have been told by a partner that it’s not. Finding solutions for genital odor concerns is a primary way to boost your genital confidence. First and foremost, odor can be a sign of infection, so see your doctor. Even if you don’t have an infection, you can take charge by making use of unscented wipes or various grooming techniques. Also, it’s important to realize that every woman has a natural scent that should be embraced.
Maintaining Healthy Genitals
The skin of the female genital area is especially sensitive and needs protection from physical damage and certain chemicals.
Keep the vulva dry and well aired by:
• wearing only plain, loose-fitting cotton underwear and changing it daily.
• changing out of damp bathing suits or exercise clothing as soon as possible.
• changing pads and tampons regularly (check the packaging instructions if unsure about time length).
• avoiding tight-fitting clothes, g-strings, panty-hose and synthetic materials next to the skin.
• avoiding long exposure to hot, sweaty or chafing conditions, eg sauna, aerobics.
Irritation to the vulva can be avoided by:
• not using soaps or antiseptics – use plain water or a soap alternative such as Cetaphil, Dermaveen or Hamilton QV wash to wash the area.
• not using perfumed deodorants or talcs near the vulva.
• not using perfumed pads and tampons.
• using soft, unperfumed toilet paper.
• not over-washing the area (once a day is sufficient) and patting it dry after washing,rather than rubbing with a towel.
If you are experiencing vulval irritation you should:
• make sure that all clothing in contact with the vulva has been rinsed well so no washing detergent remains, and avoid fabric softener on underwear.
• wash the genitals gently in plain, cool water. Burning and irritation can be relieved by cool washes or salt baths (2 teaspoons table salt per litre of water).
• avoid getting shampoo on the vulva, and avoid using bath gels and bubble baths.
• avoid panty liners and use only 100% cotton tampons and pads.
• avoid sex when you have pain, or consider alternatives to painful intercourse, such as oral sex. Avoid using lubricants such as KY jelly if these increase irritation. Light vegetable oil can be useful as a lubricant for sex, but will cause damage to condoms, dams and diaphragms. Sometimes semen can be very irritating, so condoms or ejaculation outside the vagina can be helpful.
• avoid scratching as it can damage vulval skin and make itching worse. Reduce itching with cool washes and compresses. Don’t rub the area with toilet paper, just pat gently dry with unperfumed paper.
• limit exercises that can irritate the area, such as horse and bike riding.
• avoid shaving or waxing the genital area.
No matter what, love your genitals. Your sex life depends on it!