February Meeting: Angels Anonymous

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By Louise Daniels

At our February meeting we discussed sex, relationships and pelvic floor issues with two experts in those fields, Dr Karen Gurney a.k.a The Sex Doctor and Sarah Wolujewicz a.k.a. The Pelvic Floor Physio..

Angels were asked to submit questions anonymously via our website, and there were lots of them!

Dr Karen Gurney is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychosexologist, a self proclaimed ‘sex science geek’ and Director of The Havelock Clinic… ‘On a mission to help people have better sex.’

Sarah Wolujevicz is an expert pelvic-floor physiotherapist helping those with bladder, bowel and sex problems. She also works at The Havelock Clinic.

The Havelock Clinic’s online workshops are about sexual desire in long term relationships amongst other things. They are low cost, accessible from home (you log on but cannot be seen or heard by them) and include loads of information designed to get your sex life back on track and bulletproof (dates for the next series not out yet but register your interest to be the first to hear when it goes live).

Karen and Sarah were so engaging, warm, informative and insightful.

It was a fabulous opportunity to ask questions anonymously about things that many of us just aren’t that comfortable talking about. Why we’re not could be a whole topic on its own, but, the fact is, we’re not. We don’t talk easily on the whole about sex, we often worry that our vulvas aren’t ‘normal’. We don’t know where to get informed and we just soldier on with issues and concerns… all of that was clear from the many questions we received.

Lack of libido was a big topic. For various reasons – after having a baby/children, during and after the menopause, partners’ lack of libido and whilst trying to conceive.

Karen talked to us about ‘responsive desire’ and explained that we often are judging ourselves by an unrealistic expectation – that we should be having lots of sex – an expectation that nobody is reaching. We expect to feel spontaneous desire a lot more than we know, from research, that we should be. In reality, our desire ebbs and flows in a relationship across time in response to life events and women almost never experience spontaneous desire (wanting sex out of the blue) – we need to find ways to trigger it.

Cue 'sexual currency', which Karen defines as actions you wouldn't do with your Auntie Jean: holding hands, snogging, spooning on the sofa, holding a gaze across a crowded room. She advises couples to build up their sexual currency (with no pressure to have sex), and says desire will follow. For example, kissing. Not a peck on the lips but long, sexy, passionate kissing which often falls off the agenda in long term relationships – we tend to only snog as a precursor to sex which can be off-putting due to the pressure and predictability. In the early days of a relationship we look at each other longingly, touch each other and kiss passionately and we do those things as activities in their own right. Karen explained that reinstating these things can have a big impact on reconnecting with each other and lead to more frequent desir

There were a few questions about being distracted by other things and not being able to ‘switch off’ enough to enjoy sex. First of all, Karen suggested putting down our phones and she also explained that there is growing evidence that practising mindfulness in relation to sexual sensation and in the moment during sex can correct this and she recommended Lori Brotto’s book ‘Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire’.

There were questions around dryness, particularly related to the Menopause and subsequent painful sex and Sarah recommended vaginal moisturisers – Yes Organic, Replens and Sylk.

Topical oestrogen would need to be prescribed and is fantastic for peri or post menopausal women. 

Lubricants that Sarah recommends are Yes Organic (who do a water and oil based lubricant), Pasante TLC and Pjur. Better lubricants are silicone or oil based - not water based like KY jelly which is a common misunderstanding. Water dries up quickly and needs to be reapplied regularly so is not ideal. Most companies provide free samples too! We had a few questions around vibrators and Karen suggested visiting a good sex shop like Sh! (London) where they have vast knowledge and experience advising women and couples about sex toys, they also have workshops and talks and everything’s displayed so that you can try before you buy (cue my shocked face!... until Karen explained you hold a vibrator on the tip of your nose to gauge how strongly it vibrates.)

Ethical porn was also discussed – the fact that porn comes in a variety of qualities and ethical packaging, the fact that half of UK children have seen porn by the time they’re 12 and 94% by the age of 14 (link to article here) the fact that, like TV there’s bad porn but also good porn and Karen recommended Erica Lust for feminist, respectful, consensual porn that actually looks beautiful and has good story lines too!

Sarah pointed us in the direct of the POGP website. Their leaflets, which can be viewed as PDFs, have lots of informative, evidence based information and she’s suggested that probably the most useful for the group will be the pelvic floor exercises leaflet, one called 'fit for pregnancy' and one called 'fit for the future' which gives advice for the postnatal stage. 

For help on finding a women's health/pelvic floor physio, women can speak to their GP and/or contact POGP who can give details on local physios - some will be NHS and private. 

Finally, Karen explained the ‘orgasm gap’ to us – you can read her blog about it here. Basically, often women in a heterosexual relationship go along with a version of sex that doesn’t fit their anatomy leading to an orgasm gap of about 30% - women orgasm 30% less than men in the same sexual encounter. This gap doesn’t exist when women have sex with other women or when masturbating. Because we’ve come to define ‘sex’ as being just one type of sex (penis in vagina penetration) women are going along with sex that actually only suits men!