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Woodrow Wilson (Penguin Lives Biographies)by Louis Auchincloss
It was billed as the greatest day of my life by the man who was to be my husband. The room was toasty warm and filled with the sweet fragrance of roses. Soft music played. I'd planned for months for this moment. My "woman-of-the-world" roommate had taught me about birth control pills. I'd survived my very first visit to the university gynecologist. I was desperately in love and ready to give this perfect man the gift of my virginity.
He touched me slowly and gently. Softly. Lovingly. And as his hand brushed my breasts, my mother's "bad-girl" face appeared out of nowhere. "Good girls don't."..."Sex is only to please your husband."..."Don't let boys touch you."..."Keep your skirt down and your panties up." His hands touched my essence. Warm breath and moist kisses covered me. And as he neared my intact hymen, my preacher's "Thou-shalt-not" face materialized. "Fire and brimstone"..."Hell and damnation"..."Sin, sin, sin."
I dared not move. I dared not breathe. And just as Grandma's "Boys-are-no-good" face appeared, it was over.
"Are you all right?" He cradled me in his sweaty arms.
"I love you."
"I love you too."
I stared at the ceiling as silent tears scorched my face. Years would pass before I was confident enough to give myself permission to be a "bad girl" and celebrate the power of my sexuality.
The foundation of our sexuality and how we feel about sex is laid during childhood. Verbal and nonverbal messages from our parents, religious teachings, our culture and society all meld together to shape the sexual being that we are as adults. Traditionally it has been the job of the mother to teach daughters about sex; however, few women feel comfortable talking in detail about it. Don't blame Mom though, as it is unlikely that her mother was able to give her the complete story about sex. After all, mothers are a product of their environment. And many stories, myths, misconceptions, or complete silence have been passed down from generation to generation.
Most women assume that when it comes to the technique of lovemaking, their men will teach them all they need to know. What happens if your partner is a woman? What if your man doesn't have a clue? And who is teaching the men? Many boys learn about sex from their friends, and some depend on movies for the intimate details of making love.
In the twenty years that I have been an obstetrician and gynecologist, I have met thousands of women of every race, ethnic group, age, and socioeconomic class in America, and I have found that women's experience of sex is universal. We all share the same fears, myths, misconceptions, concerns, hang-ups, desires, needs, joys, and pleasures. Over the years, I have been asked time and time again to recommend a book that answered the basic questions that women have about sex. I studied what was available and found books that promised to teach you how to achieve hot sex, magnificent sex, mind-blowing sex, all-night sex, and incredibly outrageous sex. In my experience, most women would be happy if they got consistently satisfying, "good-enough" sex. A sprinkling of incredibly, outrageous, mind-blowing sex once in a while would be a wonderful bonus.
As women, we spend our lives thinking about and taking care of everyone else. Even when it comes to sex, many women feel that their partner's satisfaction is much more important than their own. Magazines at the checkout counters of every grocery store scream headlines expounding how to drive your man crazy in bed, how to make him beg for more, how to rope him, keep him, get him up, and get him off. Believe me, I agree that making your partner happy is important, but I also think that you need to spend just as much time and effort finding out how to increase the odds that you will be sexually satisfied as well. You must take responsibility for your own pleasure, because sexual satisfaction is your birthright.
Women are under a tremendous pressure to look perfect. When we fall short of society's look-of-the-moment, we don't feel attractive or sexy and have difficulty achieving the level of sexual pleasure that we are entitled to. Sadly many women are blind to the fact that the female body is beautiful. How did we allow "them" to convince us that women's bodies should look like that of a preadolescent boy? In an attempt to achieve a body type that is totally unnatural for most of us, we develop eating disorders, rob our bodies of nutrients, disturb our natural menstrual cycle, decrease our estrogen levels, and increase our levels of unhappiness and discontent. We worry about how we look during sex rather than how we feel. Often when I give a mirror to a woman to look at her sexual anatomy, she expresses displeasure and fails to appreciate the beauty, grace, power, and complexity of her female genitals. How did we allow "them" to convince us that our vaginas smell bad and have no feeling or that our vulvas are ugly or that the clitoris is the size of a small pea? Learning to love your self is the first step to enjoying sex and creating a fulfilling sex life. This book is written to give women the knowledge they need to begin to appreciate the wonders of female anatomy and sexuality. Chapters 1 and 2 take a look at the wondrous and exquisitely beautiful female body.
Ask a hundred women, "What is sex?", and it is likely that the majority will answer "intercourse." Yet many women receive no physical pleasure from intercourse. Expanding the definition of "sex" gives women options and the opportunity to find out what gives them the most pleasure. Chapters 4-12 present different ways that women may choose to express themselves sexually-and increase their sexual satisfaction.
In my practice, it is not unusual to see women who move between relationships with men and women during various life stages. According to the Hite Report, at least 17 percent of women have experienced sex at least once with another woman. Falling in love with a woman can be exhilarating and liberating but may sometimes be met with disapproval from family and others. Every woman, however, has the right to determine how she expresses her sexuality. In Chapters 7 and 9, I have included descriptions of specific sexual techniques that can be used when making love to a woman. And though this book is written primarily for women in opposite-sex relationships, most of the information applies equally to women-loving-women. It is impossible to cover the many dimensions of same-sex relationships and sexuality in this book, so I refer the reader to two excellent books listed in the resources section.
One of the keys to healthy sexuality is a healthy body. Chapters 13-15 discuss strategies for improving your sex life by improving your health and taking control of your body.
Female sexuality is not static; it changes over your lifetime. Pregnancy and menopause can significantly change the way a woman expresses her sexuality. Chapters 16 and 17 discuss how to keep the fires burning through these important life stages. Chapter 18 provides tools you can use to help your daughter grow up sexually healthy as well as happy and secure with her sexuality. We can break the cycle of myths, misconceptions, and untruths about female sexuality.
Satisfying sex can prolong your life and has been shown to decrease your blood pressure, decrease stress, strengthen your heart, and boost your immune system. Yet according to the NHSLS (National Health and Social Life Survey), 43 percent of women have sexual dysfunction. Mainstream medical journals have featured articles expounding the importance of sexual satisfaction in women's health and encouraging doctors to investigate the sexual problems of women. Pharmaceutical companies and researchers are working furiously to find a magic pill that will guarantee sexual ecstasy for every woman. While the attention to women's sexual issues is welcome, it is important that we don't make sex one more disease that needs to be treated. Chapters 19-22 discuss the many reasons that sex may not be great and offer tips to help you improve your sex life.
The keys to great sex are simple: feeling good about yourself, understanding how your body works-and that of your partner, knowledge of basic sexual techniques, willingness to experiment and ask for what you want, and, of course, caring and respect from your partner.
Getting to Know You
When was the last time you took a good look at your vulva? I'm not talking about anything clinical, kinky, or even sex-related-just taking a hand mirror and inspecting your genitals the same way you might examine your hands while you're doing your nails or look at your skin in the mirror when you wash your face. If you're like most women, looking at your genitals is probably not part of your usual routine. In fact, as children, most of us were taught not to look at, talk about, touch, or pay too much attention to our genitals at all. "Down there" was a private place. Additionally, female genitalia is naturally hidden-enveloped in soft folds of skin, covered by hair, and rather tucked away between our thighs-so it's no wonder our vulva has become a mystery-even to ourselves.
Beyond the woman-to-woman talk about menstruation, most mothers never sit down and describe the details of the vulva, vagina, or clitoris. (In defense of our moms, they may not know very much about the female body themselves.) Schools teach us more about dissecting frogs or turning proper French phrases than about the human body. In health class, the female sexual anatomy is not well taught: The conversation is reduced to talk of zygotes and dividing cells, accompanied by textbook graphics that rarely look like what we see between our legs. As girls, when we weren't trying to hide our developing bodies, we were whispering and giggling about sex, absorbing misinformation from friends who knew as little as we did. Magazines give ten tips for better sex, and novels describe heart-pounding accounts of sexual ecstasy, but these "resources" say little about the bodies involved-ours.
As we get older, we may listen to male sexual partners who claim to have been around. Unfortunately many men know little about their own bodies and considerably less about ours. Because many of us have been conditioned since childhood through verbal and nonverbal cues to think of our genitals as ugly, smelly, and unclean, we aren't able to fully enjoy intimate encounters because of fear that our partner will be turned off by the sight, smell, and taste of our genitals. Unlike men, who experience a veritable show-and-tell in the locker room, we can't compare our genitals to other women's. Unfortunately, we are often left wondering if our genitals are "normal."
We have few means of discovering the tremendous variability of the female sexual anatomy and discovering the truth about the fabulous female body. After years of ignoring that mysterious area "down there," it's no wonder we come to think of our genitalia as inferior, unattractive, unmentionable, and abnormal. When I pick up a hand mirror and ask the women who come to my office to look at their sexual anatomy, a too-common response is "Yuck! It's ugly" or "Am I normal?" I have never heard a woman exclaim "How beautiful!" Yet the female anatomy is exquisitely designed, miraculous, and beautiful. Getting to know your sexual body is vital for your physical health and sexual well-being because the more you know about your body, the more ways you'll discover to obtain pleasure and greater sexual gratification-and the more likely you are to know when something is amiss with your sexual health or sexual functioning. I find that when women begin to learn about their bodies and they begin to feel more comfortable with how their vagina acts and responds, they're intrigued by it-and usually quite empowered to take more control of their well-being-sexual and otherwise. The Vulva
The part of your sexual anatomy that you can see is called the vulva-the external part of the genitals that includes the mons, labia minora, labia majora,, and the clitoris.
To begin your examination of your vulva, find a well-lit room and grab a mirror. Sit at the edge of a chair or prop yourself up on pillows on a bed, then arrange the light and the mirror so that your hands are free and you have a clear view of your vulva. If you've never taken a look at your genitals before, don't be surprised if you don't find them particularly attractive; your vulva is moist and hairy with textures, colors, and aromas unlike those found on any other part of your body. Learning to admire and appreciate your sexual anatomy will make it easy for you to accept, enjoy, and experience the full potential of your sexuality.
The mons pubis, or mons, is a cushion of fat on top of the pubic bone that is covered with skin and hair. The hair begins to grow in as you hit puberty-around eleven or twelve years old. (We are not sure why we have pubic hair, but some scientists think that the hair may trap secretions containing pheromones, or sexual scents, that attract the opposite sex.) Over time, pubic hair may grow in thick or sparse, coarse or fine. It may be the same color and texture as the hair on your head, or it may be somewhat different. As you age, you may notice pubic hairs turn gray and begin to thin and grow sparse. Many young women intentionally shave away all their pubic hair, not just for a clean-cut bikini line, but because they say it makes their vulvas feel more sensitive. The mons contains many nerve endings, and some women find touch and massage of this area very stimulating. Others shave because they feel cleaner, or their boyfriends prefer the smooth feel of a bald vulva.
The Outer Lips (Labia majora)
The pubic hair continues down and over the labia majora, or outer lips. The outer surface of the labia may be smooth or wrinkled and darker in color than the surrounding skin. Don't be surprised if one of your labia is larger or longer than the other. You will notice that the inner surface of the labia is smooth, hairless, and moist because this area contains many sweat- and oil-secreting glands. (Oftentimes, my patients have mistaken the numerous large gland openings for genital warts or related conditions.)
These outermost lips contain fat, nerves, smooth muscle, and blood vessels, and they serve as guards, protecting the openings to the vagina and bladder. Erectile tissue deep within the labia swells with blood when you're sexually excited, and you'll notice that the lips feel full, swollen, tight, or tingly.
The Inner Lips (Labia minora)
If you spread apart your labia majora, you will notice two smooth, thin folds of skin called the labia minora. The sensitive inner lips are filled with blood vessels and spongy tissue and are covered with nerve endings and oil-secreting glands. Like the outer labia, the labia minora fill with blood and enlarge when you're sexually stimulated.
Don't fret if these inner lips don't look like the ones you have seen in books; the labia minora, more than any other part of our genitals, varies from one woman to the next. Your labia may be pink, burgundy, brown, black, or a mixture of colors. They may be so small that they are barely noticeable or large enough to protrude an inch or more beyond the labia majora. It's not uncommon for one to be larger than the other. They may be straight, slightly ruffled, or very wrinkled. (Contrary to the myth, neither wrinkling nor the size of your labia is increased by masturbation.) After twenty years as a gynecologist, I can tell you that no two women's labia look exactly alike. Each is unique, beautiful, and almost flowerlike. Occasionally, the labia are so large that they get snagged in underwear or pulled into the vagina during intercourse-both pretty uncomfortable occurrences. A surgical procedure can reduce the size of the labia, but it's not without risks, so it's usually performed only to reduce discomfort, not for cosmetic reasons.
The top of the labia minora come together and drape over the glans, or head, of the clitoris (which we'll explore a little later), forming the hood or prepuce. The hood is similar to the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis in that it protects the delicate glans. The labia meet underneath the clitoris at a point called the frenulum, which is intensely sensitive to stimulation. (Men have a frenulum as well, which we will discuss later.) The labia then continue toward your vagina and end just beneath the opening of your vagina.
The Pleasure Button-The Clitoris
If you look under the hood formed by the labia minora, you may be able to see a small pea or button-shaped mass, ranging in color from pink to purple to dark brown. That's your clitoris. If you don't see anything at first, don't worry. Sometimes it's difficult to see the clitoris even when you are sexually stimulated. Derived from the Greek word, kleitoris, meaning "divine and goddesslike," the clitoris has been the most ignored aspect of female sexuality in modern history. Many of us don't know where it is, how to find it, or its true size.
As a female fetus develops, the clitoris forms from the same tissue that becomes a penis in males-but it is not a "mini penis," as some people describe it. In many ways, this female organ is much more advanced! The multifunctional penis has to transport urine and sperm as well as serve as the main organ for male sexual pleasure. The clitoris is also the primary organ for female sexual pleasure-in fact, its sole purpose is pleasure. The clitoris is much more than meets the eye. As you look at your vulva in the mirror, the clitoris may look like a tiny button of flesh hiding underneath the prepuce, but it is much more. Your clitoris is a complex, fascinating, and powerful organ. The clitoris has a glans, shaft, or body, as well as crura, or legs. The shaft contains two corpora cavernosa, spongy tissue that fills with blood and increases the size of the clitoris when you become sexually stimulated. The average shaft measures 1-2 inches in length and a little over half an inch in width. But the clitoris doesn't end there. The base of the shaft attaches to the pubic bone and then divides into two crura, or legs, each measuring between 2 and 4 inches long. The crura follow and attach to the arch of the pubic bone. Extending from the base of the clitoris and lying between the crura and the labia minora are two additional masses of tissue called the vestibular bulbs. (This tissue is considered to be a part of the clitoris.) The vestibular bulbs fill with blood during sexual stimulation and make the opening to the vagina smaller, increasing the gripping and hugging of the penis by the vagina.
The size of the clitoris varies from one woman to the next. You may have a large clitoris that protrudes from its hood. Or you may have a clitoris that is so small that you can't easily see it (though you can usually locate it easily enough when you stimulate yourself). Your clitoris may appear to be very small if you have very large labia; if you're past the age of menopause, your clitoris may appear large because your labia have gotten smaller. Contrary to popular belief, neither masturbation nor frequent intercourse causes the clitoris to become bigger.
When it comes to pleasure and orgasm, size does not matter. With the right stimulation, even the tiniest clitoris can produce a powerful orgasm. The head of the clitoris is exquisitely sensitive, jam-packed with nerves that are larger and more numerous than the corresponding nerves in the head of the penis. The sensitivity of the clitoris also varies among women. Some women find that direct clitoral stimulation can be uncomfortable or downright painful, while others find great pleasure in prolonged stimulation of the head of the clitoris.
Pushing Your Pleasure Button
Although the clitoris is powerful, it must be handled with care. Once you learn how to stroke, massage, comfort, vibrate, rub, and love it, you are capable of experiencing divine pleasures.
Unfortunately, some people have heard that the clitoris is a small penis and think that they can treat it the same way they treat the male organ. Men may rub with gusto and suck vigorously, unaware that the pressure that works best for the penis can be too much for the average clitoris. If your sexual partner-male or female-is too energetic while manipulating the sensitive head of the clitoris, you may experience discomfort or pain. If you don't communicate clearly with your partner, your moans of pain may be mistaken for expressions of pleasure and lead to an even more intense stimulation of the clitoris. Many women tolerate pain, fake pleasure, and hope their partner will move on. Manhandling the clitoris may irritate it and leave you with a burning, swollen clitoris and labia, and difficulty walking or urinating that may last for days.
To fully enjoy the immense pleasure that the clitoris can provide-and avoid pain and discomfort-you must get to know your clitoris and what turns it on. Then you can help guide your partner in helping you experience ecstasy together. Lubricate your fingers well with a water-based vaginal lubricant or (since you're not using a condom that could be damaged by the oil) massage oil or other unscented oil. Now begin to stroke, massage, and explore your clitoris. Slowly slide your middle finger along the right side of the shaft of the clitoris and then the left. Now place your finger at the opening to your vagina and slide it up and along the head of your clitoris. Start at your mons and slide your finger down the top of the shaft, ending at the glans. Then place your index and middle finger on either side of the shaft and labia minora. Slide both fingers down the length of the shaft keeping contact with the sides of the shaft. As you reach the end of the clitoris, gently squeeze the clitoris and labia between your two fingers and, maintaining the squeeze, slowly move your fingers away from your body, bringing the clitoris and labia along for the ride.
If this is the first time you've explored your clitoris, this may not feel pleasurable. Keep trying: Repeat these strokes and others you may come up with, varying the amount of pressure you use and the speed of the strokes. Discover the area of the clitoris, the type and speed of stroke, and the amount of pressure that give you the most pleasure. Relax. As you become more comfortable with your body and your sexuality, you will be able to discover your particular trigger points.
Once you have learned what turns you on, describe your discoveries to your partner. Or better yet, let him watch you masturbate to learn what makes your clitoris rise to attention. Don't be shy. Many people are quite turned on by the sight of a woman pleasuring herself.
--from What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex by Hilda Hutchinson, M.D., Copyright © April 2002, The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
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