Something I see in the spirituality/sacred sexuality community is the Appeal to Nature fallacy, which can be summarised: (1) That which is natural is good, (2) X is natural, (3) therefore, X is good. It can also be the negative sense: (1) That which is natural is good, (2) Y is not natural, (3) therefore, Y is not good. The Appeal to Nature is a logical fallacy because it poorly defines what is considered “natural” and presupposes that everything “natural” is indeed “good.”
I’ve also noticed the Appeal to Nature fallacy in discussions about sex toys. Among certain purveyors, it's believed that vibrations and synthetic materials are not natural and are thus not good and should therefore not be used. Some believe that using a vibrator will lead to “Dead Vagina Syndrome," a significant decrease in vaginal sensitivity.
When people say vibrators are unnatural and shouldn’t be used, my instinct is to retort, “Cars and planes are also unnatural, so does that mean we should never use them, and just stick to walking instead?” This isn’t conducive for civil discussion so here's some research.
While genital desensitization was reported in one study by 16.5% of women who have ever used a vibrator, it was largely described as mild and transitory (Herbenick et al., 2009). In other words, the genital nerves may adapt to high intensity vibratory stimulation and thus be temporarily less responsive to other forms of stimulation or lower intensity stimulation, but this state improves quickly with the introduction of new types of stimulation. Similarly, it is unlikely that, given the continuous restructuring of female genital nerve beds, vibrator use could result in long-term genital desensitization (Prause et al., 2012).
Yes, the pudendal nerve can potentially be temporarily overwhelmed by constant vibration. Nerves like variety. To avoid vibrator fatigue, choose a toy with different intensity settings and patterns to switch things up. It can also help to put up a barrier, like a sheet or underwear, between the vibrator and clitoris. Focussing on the whole genitals, not just exclusively the clitoris, can also help prevent temporary desensitization.
I've spoken before about how I think it is important for us to be mindful of the language we use to describe penises, moving away from words like "rod," "bat" and "gun," which equate the penis with an inanimate, weapon-like object.
It can be valuable to think of the penis as something softer and more tender in order to broaden our perception of penises and the people who have them. This speaks to the use of metaphor, the essence being understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980).
However, it is also important to acknowledge and own the power of the penis. The penis is powerful. And, there a few ways that this power needs to be acknowledged. Firstly, the penis can and has been used as a weapon. For example, Javaid (2018) discusses nuanced findings about men who rape other men as a way in which to exercise power and control. This is the penis as a weapon of power.
But the penis can also be powerful without being weaponized. While it may be difficult to see the penis as something other than subtly representing dominance over others, the penis can be reframed, as it is in some cultures, as representing generative power or a potent source of pleasure.
Black feminist Minna Salami argues that we need to resist the idea that the penis does not embody sensuality, beauty and love, whether erect or soft. She further argues that it is important to shift away from patriarchal ideas of male sexual aggression which present the penis as a symbol of domination.
If you or your partner have a penis, I invite you to lean in and acknowledge the power of the penis. If you have a penis, own that power. All of that power, from the destructive to the generative, from the pain it can inflict to the pleasure it can elicit.
This is just my opinion. As I understand it, Kundalini Tantra practices are about exploring Shakti, the Divine Feminine, the Great Goddess. Shakti is essentially energy; the spiritual power within every existing thing, including human beings.
The universe operates in terms of energy, frequency and vibration. Everything vibrates at a molecular level (Magnasco, 2013). In fact, resonance patterns - or the harmonization of vibrations - have been observed in living and non-living structures of many types (Hunt & Schooler, 2019). Kundalini is sometimes referred to as the Divine Vibration.
So, Kundalini is ever-present. Its an energy that has always and will always exist. It is the energy that our physical and subtle bodies are imbued with. This can be observed in the womb using a fluorescent sensor. Before the development of an embryo or anything physical, there is a spark of light (Duncan et al., 2016).
This light, this energy, this vibration, from which the body is formed, is Kundalini. It is always there, but the physical and energetic blockages that our body develops prevent us from observing or accessing this energy. Like light shining through a window. Kundalini is the light. Our body is the window. And our blockages are like mud on the window which prevents the light from shining through.
Kundalini isn't dormant. It doesn't need to be awakened. It is always there, we just need to remove our blockages, wipe away the mud, and allow the light to shine through us. We can learn practices to release these blockages. This is what a lot of Tantric practices do, including sexual practices.
Sexual energy can be awoken, it can be aroused and drawn up from the genitals, like a serpent rising from the base of the spine. But convulsions and orgasmic waves of energy are not Kundalini. They're experiences of sexual energy, which can be used to clear blockages. That is, sexual energy can be moved through the body to help us wipe away the mud and observe the light of Kundalini. Although sexual energy and Kundalini are linked, there is a distinction between the two.
I recently chatted with Parish Blair (@sexyspirittv) about oral sex. She helped me reflect on my own perceptions and offered a great reframe.
I was introduced to oral sex in my mid-teens, before intercourse. There was a sense of being welcomed into the club. My mates and I would tease those who hadn't experienced it. There was also a perception about the teenage girls who "gave head." They were considered more promiscuous, particularly if they also "put out" and had intercourse.
When I started having intercourse, this mentality shifted. My mates and I started teasing those who hadn't had "real" sex yet. When I shared with my mates about receiving oral sex, I remember them saying, "Yeah, but did you fuck her?" It was as if oral sex didn't count.
In my twenties, this became more true for me. I downplayed my desire for oral sex and pushed myself to have penetrative sex because that's what counts. I also still held an idea about the women who "gave head." I played into the narrative that "good girls don't do that." Regarding relationships, I wanted to date a "good girl," not a promiscuous woman.
Of course, this was all a warped perception of sex, masculinity and women. It made me feel ashamed about desiring oral sex and it made me project shame onto the women who gave oral sex. This tainted both my own experiences and no doubt the experiences of the women I was intimate with.
I notice a resistance many men have to fully surrendering and receiving oral sex because they think they need to be doing something, they need to be the active participant, that's the role of the man. This can add to the shame. Paradoxically, if a woman refuses to give oral sex, he may also feel shame, thinking something is wrong with him or his penis.
Parish explained that oral sex can be healing for both people. When done with gratitude and appreciation, it can dissolve shame and totally shift the way oral sex is perceived. She has a fascinating workshop called "How to Give a BJ With a Heart Full of Gratitude" which she was gracious enough to share with the women in my online course. I definitely recommend checking out her work at @sexyspirittv
The first erection.
It is common for newborn babies to get an erection. Even before the moment of birth, ultrasound scans have shown fetuses with fully formed erections (Sherer et al., 1990). According to one study, fetal erections occur mostly during REM sleep (Koyanagi et al., 1991). And, they can happen a number of times each hour (Shirozu et al., 1995).
The phenomenon of fetal erection has actually been recognized for about four decades (Hitchcock et al., 1980; Welder, 1981). Advancements in technology made it possible to demonstrate its occurrence even before the 16th week of gestation (Chamberlain, 1996).
Its thought that fetal penile erections are evidence of appropriate genital development and adequate hormonal and neurogenic supply. Therefore the occurrence of erection may be a positive sign of fetal well being (Jacokovitis, 2004).
The final erection.
Not only can you get erections in the womb, but you can also get an erection when you die. These death erections, also called angel lust or terminal erections, most commonly occur in men who have died from hanging, whether by execution or suicide (Byard, 1994).
As early as the mid-nineteenth century, observations were made of a more or less complete state of erection of the penis, with discharge of urine, mucus or prostatic fluid present in one of three cases of hanging (Guy, 1861). Erections sometimes occur after spinal cord injuries, with pessure on the cerebellum supposedly accounting for this (Gould & Pyle, 1900).
According to Kaplan and Horwith (1983), there is ample experimental and clinical evidence to support the idea that erections occur during hanging due to the central inhibition of erection being released.
The human body is fascinating and erections are a so much more than simple indicators of arousal.
Men just roll over and go to sleep after sex, right? Well, one reason why men may be reluctant to cuddle after sex is a phenomenon known as postcoital dysphoria (PCD). This isn't exclusive to men, as PCD has also been reported among women.
PCD is also called postcoital tristesse or post-nut syndrome. It is defined as a counterintuitive phenomenon characterized by inexplicable feelings of tearfulness, sadness, or irritability following otherwise satisfactory consensual sexual activity.
In a 2019 study, 41% percent of the men reported experiencing PCD in their lifetime and 20% reported experiencing PCD in the previous four weeks. Between 3% and 4% of the men reported experiencing PCD on a regular basis.
A 2020 study found that men specifically experienced feelings of unhappiness and low energy after sexual activity (especially following an ejaculation) whereas the most common experiences for women are mood swings and sadness.
Its not clearly understood, but PCD could be due to the diverging pattern of compounds released during and immediately after an ejaculation. For example, a hormone called prolactin is released from the anterior pituitary gland immediately after ejaculation. Prolactin is known to suppress sexual behaviour.
During sexual activity, as a man builds toward ejaculation, a neurotransmitter called dopamine stimulates the experience. Among other things, dopamine inhibits prolactin. Therefore, there is an inverse relationship between the two. That is, when dopamine is high, prolactin is low, and vice versa.
So, ejaculation floods the brain with dopamine, creating a transitory spike. But, what goes up must come down. His reserve stores of dopamine have essentially been used up. That is why, after an ejaculation, there are substantial increases in plasma prolactin. This increase in prolactin is partly responsible for the refractory period, that period of time after an ejaculation when he can't continue to be sexual.
I speak a lot about the intricacies leading up to and during sex, but what are you doing after sex has finished?
Contrary to what porn would have you believe, sex doesn't finish at the "money shot." And, unlike what you may see in movies, you shouldn't just roll over, have a cigarette and go to sleep after sex. Instead, if the sex is good, try enjoying that lingering feeling of pleasure, or sexual afterglow, because it may be more important for your relationship than orgasms.
Spouses who experienced stronger afterglow reported higher levels of marital satisfaction compared to spouses who have not (Meltzer et al., 2017). Specifically, after-sex affectionate activities, such as kissing, cuddling, and hugging, are crucial to sexual afterglow, playing a more important role in sexual and relationship satisfaction than foreplay or the duration of intercourse (Muise, et al., 2014).
The value of these behaviors is particularly high after sex, since they confirm that the relationship bond is deeper than a brief, superficial physical act. After-sex affectionate activities also prolong the duration of sexuality, thereby enabling it to have a greater impact on the relationship.
In fact, in a study of newlywed couples, sexual afterglow remained for about 48 hours after sex, and those with a stronger afterglow had higher overall marital satisfaction, implying that it is the afterglow, rather than the number of orgasms, which best correlates to the length and quality of the relationship (Danovich, 2017).
The pleasant sexual afterglow can involve the wish to have more sex. As Whipple and Brash-McGreer posit in their Circular Model of female sexual response, pleasure and satisfaction during one sexual experience can feed into the initiation of the next sexual experience. If pleasure and satisfaction were not met, it would decrease the desire for subsequent sexual interactions. Therefore, those who enjoy sex are more likely to enjoy it more, thereby enhancing their current romantic relationship.
So, take time to enjoy yourself and your partner after sex. Revel in the those pleasurable post-sex feelings and get affectionate with each other.
I've spoken before about the language we as a society use when talking about penises and how it paints a picture regarding our perception of penises and the people who have them.
From words like "pole," "hammer" and "pipe" to descriptions such as "meat rod," "pork sword" and "love gun," the way we refer to penises perpetuates the idea that male genitalia - and the men attached to them - are dominant, aggressive and even violent.
Perhaps without realizing it we have created a narrative around penises that they are like hard, cold, inanimate objects, weapon-like tools used for seemingly destructive purposes.
But imagine if we started talking about penises the way they're referred to in East Asian literature. The "jade stalk" and "coral stem" are common terms for penis in Taoist philosophy from Early and Medieval China. These descriptions conjure up different inferences about the penis and it's capacities.
Consider even the above depiction of a penis as the pistil/stamen of a flower. What does this depiction infer about penises? What connotations about penises might this image convey?
I enjoy sharing artwork like this because it goes against the grain with regards to mainstream and stereotypical ideas about male bodies, men and masculinity.
I have a theory. My theory is that the way you poop impacts your sex life. Hear me out.
The way many of us poop is incorrect. If you've ever seen the hit viral video ''This unicorn changed the way I poop'' by Squatty Potty, with Dookie, the magical unicorn who poops ice cream, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, here's the gist. When people use defecation postural modification devices to squat, studies show, they poop more quickly, they strain less and they empty their bowels more completely compared to when they sit on the toilet (Modi et al., 2019).
So if you're pooping incorrectly and incompletely evacuating your bowels, some of that poop remains stored in your rectum. It is my belief that this lingering poop can cause irritation and even inflammation, particularly of the lower gastrointestinal tract.
It is this irritation and inflammation that may impact sexual function. Firstly, the closeness of the lower gastrointestinal tract to the pelvis can mean that pelvic floor muscles can be impacted by intestinal inflammation. This is certainly true for people with inflammatory bowel disease (Bondurri et al., 2015). Typically, this impact is aggravation and tension of the muscles. And we know that a tight pelvic diaphragm can lead to a slew of sexual function issues.
Secondly, the enteric nervous system is located along the gastrointestinal tract and controls functions such as regulation of local blood flow as well as interaction with the immune and endocrine systems (Furness, 2012). Again, it is my belief that irritation and inflammation possibly caused by incomplete evacuation can impact the enteric nervous system, thus negatively influencing blood flow to the pelvic area and the function of the endocrine system, both of which are important in sexual health and function.
Like I said this is just my theory, but pooping better can improve your sex life by bettering your sexual function. There is evidence that sexual abuse is a contributing factor of chronic constipation (Forootan et al., 2018), so I don't think its too farfetched to think that pooping and sex are linked.
It is natural for erection firmness to wax and wane throughout a sexual experience.
Many of us expect a penis to be hard the whole time we're being sexual, but this is sometimes unrealistic, especially during longer sexual encounters. If a penis does go soft, it doesn't necessarily mean there is an emotional or physical block, it could simply be a natural fluctuation in firmness.
So, there is an acceptance piece to this which challenges the story that a man needs to be hard from start to finish of a sexual experience. One way to work on this acceptance is recognizing that a soft penis can still feel pleasure, it still has nerve endings even though it's soft. If you or your partner do lose some firmness, try exploring some soft penis pleasure.
Typically, it is the thought of not being enough, or of being embarrassed, or of being less of a man, that stops a guy from continuing to be sexual when he goes soft. There isn't anything wrong with his body but because for him "erection = arousal" he gets in his head and thinks that if his erection is gone it means he isn't aroused, which is a bad thing and makes him feel anxious/ashamed. This anxiety/shame does indeed dampen his arousal, making it more difficult to get firm again.
So spending some time getting back in his body when he does go soft can be really helpful. Helping him recognise that he can still feel pleasure in these moments of softness is one way of getting him out of his head. This pleasure that he can then start noticing becomes a positive feedback loop and helps him feel more aroused and in turn his erection firmness will probably come back.