I want to talk about arousal for all body types.

I want to talk about bodies as they are, unique, like fingerprints.

I want to talk about sex as inclusive of everything that happens after two or more people consent to engaging in sexual activity. And steer away from the heteronormative concept that sex is specifically intercourse involving a penis penetrating a vagina.

I also want to talk logistics.

‘Getting wet’ in an arousal context most likely has you thinking about people with vulvas, i.e. vaginal lubrication. And if movies, TV and porn are anything to go by it happens for cis-women quite quickly, and is very desirable for men – “[excited moan] oh my god you’re so wet!” This has become an expected norm for cis-women’s arousal, one that is largely inaccurate and can leave people who don’t fit that very specific state of arousal feeling inadequate or not normal. The other side to not being wet enough/quick enough to arousal is being too wet/female ejaculation. Like women only exist to accommodate men and must be tidy in doing so [eye roll]. Let me just say now before anything else, how ever your body responds to arousal/pleasure/orgasm is normal*. Every body is unique.

You might be wondering if people with penises can get wet too. Umm yas! Pre-ejaculate aka pre-cum is completely normal, very common and sometimes fertile! It is produced by the Cowper’s glands, which are located at the base of the penis. The fluid lubricates the urethra and facilitates semen flow during ejaculation. Sexual activity doesn’t have to occur for there to be pre-ejaculatory fluid, it can just be there, similar to vaginal mucus. During sexual activity the penis can continue to produce pre-ejaculate, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, either is very normal.

Natural lubrication for people with vulvas is commonly perceived as an indicator of how aroused they are e.g. if there is a lot of lubrication the person must be very aroused, if there is no lubrication the person isn’t aroused at all. This misconception limits our understanding of how people receive and respond to pleasure. You can in fact be very aroused and produce no lubrication at all, or not aroused in the slightest and in desperate need of a dry pair of undies. Vaginal moisture can change day-to-day, week-to-week, during the monthly hormone cycle; it exists to keep the mucosal tissues of the vagina healthy. Lubrication that occurs during sexual arousal appears clear and is much slipperier, it happens due to an increased blood pressure around the tissues inside the vagina.

Now, that was a very basic overview of anatomy speaking mainly to why we get wet, and not always in a sexual context. There are many studies that have looked into human sexual response; most famously the Masters and Johnson study which documents four stages of sexual response, a more complex exploration of how we get wet. They report it as such:

1. Excitement – genitals swelling with blood, sensitive nerves, lubrication.

2. Plateau – responses may continue to intensify, more lubrication.

3. Orgasm – the release of tension in a series of involuntary and pleasurable
muscular contractions, ejaculation.

4. Resolution – In the half an hour or so after orgasm the muscles relax.

Their study looked at men and women having sex with one another and masturbation. What we’ve come to learn since is that sex is so much more than penis-in-vagina penetration till orgasm. So although they were great for their time and the history of human sexuality, we have moved beyond the four stages, and will continue to do so in the future. Also umm heterosexuality is not the only sexuality, duh.

In the theme of considering sex as inclusive of everything that happens after two or more people consent to engaging in sexual activity, I’ll try to illustrate what that might look like. It can be everything from conversation, to touching while fully clothed, to oral sex, to multiple partner play and everything in between! What’s most important is that it’s consensual, safe and pleasurable.

“I want you to get to know your body and how it works, how it responds to arousal and pleasure.”
Naturally getting wet is just something that may or may not occur for you, either way it’s absolutely fine! However, part of having a safe and pleasurable time may require lubrication to accommodate certain activities e.g. objects or body parts going inside other body parts. In that case, if you produce a generous amount of natural lubrication but are worried it’s excessive (it’s not, but) you can manage it with having towels or tissues handy, or take breaks and communicate with your partner/s. If you don’t produce any naturally, invest in a quality lubricant, and make sure it’s the right kind for your specific activity e.g. water or silicon based lube for latex condoms, and always read the care instructions for sex toys. A lack of lubrication can lead to the tearing of genitals, causing pain (not the good kind) and risk infection, which is neither pleasurable nor safe. I will note here that the anus can naturally lubricate too, this can happen during sexual arousal, or just be there to help you poop, either way it is not sufficient lubrication for anal play/sex so please come prepared.

I want you to get to know your body and how it works, how it responds to arousal and pleasure; Emily Nagowski’s book, Come As You Are, is a great start.

I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE BOTH UNIQUE AND NORMAL.
I WANT YOU TO BE OPEN TO A BROADER CONCEPT OF SEX.
AND MOST OF ALL I WANT YOU TO GET WET**!

*As long as you are not experiencing pain/discomfort, or have an unpleasant smelling discharge, you should be all G! If you’re worried please check with your GP.

**As needed 😉

This article was first published for neutral.love

“If you are not enough for yourself
you will never be enough
for someone else”
— RUPI KAUR

There have been many times I’ve felt ‘not enough’, and those times were usually when I spent too much time with other people – invested in their lives, and failed to nurture myself.

It is not an easy thing to say, ‘I am enough for myself’, or to acknowledge that you deserve to take care of yourself. We can mistake social occasions, acts of love for others, and work as fulfilling, because mostly they are. However, these are all times when you are giving, and without taking time to replenish or receive you can be left feeling empty, lacking, or not enough.

When you are single it seems like you have so much time for yourself, a bed all to yourself and a clear schedule with no co-dependents to consider. But your calendar can very quickly become full with first dates, going out, brunch with friends, more work because you’re “really focusing on a career right now” and hangovers. We fail to schedule ‘me time’, because we fail to see that we are enough. Often in times when we are single we expel a lot of energy in trying not to be single anymore, even if we do say things like “I’m not interested in dating anyone at the moment” or “I just want to do my own thing for a while”. We are human, we are social creatures and we rely on sex and intimacy for survival, so it is perfectly natural that we invest so much time in making that happen. But what would it look like to actually commit time to yourself?

When you are in a relationship it becomes even harder to commit that time to yourself, and part of you neglects to see the significance. This is when we begin to lose ourselves and stray far from the people we were before we got into the relationship. It is fine and normal to get wrapped up in a new romance – the date and time of day doesn’t seem to matter anymore and either does… say… wearing pants! But then reality sets in and when that happens all of a sudden your plans become “our” plans, and ‘me time’ becomes sparse or non-existent. What you are saying when you fail to value yourself, alone, is that you are not enough. We prioritize others because we love them and enjoy giving love, and receiving love in return – it feels reciprocal, and for the most part it is. But what happens when your person can’t give one day, or the next… or the next? Will you be enough for yourself when they can’t?

‘Me time’ takes practice and commitment.

A few years ago I was struggling to do anything creative, I had lost my motivation to write and had no confidence to perform. A friend gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way (this is not an endorsement) and although I never finished it, the one take away for me was the concept of the ‘artist date’. This means committing to one creative date per week, like visiting a gallery, seeing a play or reading a book, the only condition being you have to do it alone, just you and your artist-self. I had to value myself enough to make that effort, something I would have done easily for someone else, but struggled to for ‘just me’. Slowly I started to gain confidence and really enjoyed my own company, and eventually my creativity came back because I was nurturing that part of myself. I accepted that I was enough.

Before a lack of ‘me time’ becomes an issue for you, make that commitment to yourself right now.

Clear some space in your schedule just for you, make a date, and don’t compromise. Take yourself to that movie you want to see, that café you’ve always wanted to try, that band no one else likes, masturbate! Stay in on a Saturday night for some self care or get in your car and go for a drive.

Just for you. No one else.

This article was first published for neutral.love

Humour me while I refer to women as butterflies for a moment. Correction, allow me to compare a girl’s transition to womanhood as a chrysalis. Womanhood is a resolution after a state of transition, in addition to that I believe that womanhood itself is also transitional and multifaceted. I liken the transition towards womanhood to that of a butterfly’s chrysalis.

So, what is a chrysalis exactly? Well, caterpillars must shed their skins as they grow and when the caterpillar is large enough to enter its transition into a butterfly or moth, it develops a new skin under its old skin. This is called the chrysalis. When it is first secreted, the chrysalis is soft and sticky but it soon hardens to form a protective outer layer. After a few weeks (sometimes months), the animal inside the chrysalis gradually turns into a butterfly or moth. In a butterfly’s life cycle they are eggs for an average of five days, a caterpillar for ten to fourteen days, a chrysalis for several weeks (sometimes months) and a butterfly, depending on the species, for several days – making the chrysalis, on average, the longest stage in its life cycle.

Chrysalis is defined as a transitional state and most dictionaries provide the following example “she emerged from the chrysalis of self-conscious adolescence” (Oxford). In my opinion, chrysalis says more than “a state of transition”, or what happens between caterpillar and butterfly. The significance of chrysalis, for me, is that the change is mostly unseen. Superficially there is a change but it is a protective facade, allowing those on the outside no opportunity to really know what is going on inside. Hence why I believe chrysalis to be the perfect word to describe what happens during moments of transition – more specifically the transition towards womanhood, and changes within womanhood. The emergence of a butterfly or moth from a chrysalis in itself is a poetic way to look at a woman in the first stages of navigating her new being – sopping, awkward, perhaps a little scared until she is strong enough to shed her protective layer and move with confidence, and often beauty.

When I discuss womanhood, I am referring to a state of being, a feeling, an experience and an identity. A woman to me can possess both feminine and masculine qualities, she is woman whether she is cis, trans or fluid in gender, it is her choice how she identifies. She calls herself woman and therefore she has reached womanhood, regardless of age.

Many debate what it means to be a woman. The Oxford dictionary defines woman as “a human female, a member of the fair/gentle sex”. This is an ideology all too well ingrained in our patriarchal society, and enforces the idea that we need to be fair and gentle (feminine) to be women. And while we give pause for that, human female? The definition is not trans-inclusive in the slightest, and still links gender with sex.

Cis women experience a transition from girlhood to womanhood that society defines almost always according to age, however, I would argue that coming of womanhood is not exclusively linear. I would also like to acknowledge trans women and non-binary people who come of their womanhood differently to cis women. Therefore, coming of womanhood cannot be appointed to an age, rather to what happens following an event or a shift in feeling/experience of being. American author, bell hooks, refers to a coming of womanhood as a “growhood”. Describing it in this way really illustrates how transitional coming of womanhood is and implies progress.

It has become increasingly significant for me to share my coming of womanhood story proudly and publicly, and since doing so I have become more aware of those who deny their womanhood, people who shame women, and the prejudices women face daily. By naming the struggles I have faced trying to navigate girlhood and womanhood, I have felt empowered and more confident in my womanhood. As a cis woman, a lot of my chrysalis happened during adolescence though it was not exclusive to that time. When I consider chrysalis in relation to my development, I am reflecting on times when ‘unseen’ change was occurring in addition to more obvious changes i.e puberty. As my body changed and developed during puberty, I became increasingly aware of my biology and subsequently I began to think about what my new experience of body meant for me as a girl/woman. In addition to this, my socialisation – the culture I grew up in, heavily influenced my experience of coming of womanhood. It was not during adolescence that I first noticed gender inequalities; it was in my family home that I learned that there were certain privileges reserved for boys/men and that girls/women endure new restrictions. Negative ‘unseen’ changes that occured in addition to or alongside more obvious physical changes included the feeling of inadequacy, depression, anxiety and peer pressure. Positive ‘unseen’ changes included confidence, agency, desire, pleasure and self love.

I believe that there is a surge in negative ‘unseen’ changes during chrysalis because girls are being socialised to see their gender as inferior. I believe that celebrating coming of womanhood and educating and socialising girls as equals, as well as sharing stories told by girls and women will contribute to more positive ‘unseen’ changes occurring during chrysalis. We are not all fair and gentle, and we shouldn’t be forced to shield ourselves with protective layers and hide during moments of change and growth. We deserve to be seen.

This article was first published for neutral.love

Can we consider a woman’s sexuality independent from her body? In my case, I find it difficult to discuss one without considering the other. Looking at my personal development story, I came into my sexuality almost simultaneously with coming of womanhood. I also wonder had I not experienced sexualisation as a result of my gender, would I be able to consider my womanhood and sexuality in the same way I do today.

Before I go on, I recognize that my story is not representative of all who identify as women, and I acknowledge that sex and gender are not one in the same. This is an exploration of my sexuality and lived experience in a cis woman’s body.

Historically, women have been limited to being sexual objects for men (virgins, sluts, prostitutes/sex workers, wives, or mothers), and have been prevented from expressing their sexuality in itself and for themselves. Often women’s bodies are considered in terms of what they provide men; from mothers who nursed them to wives who raise their families and run their homes, to sex workers who, well, fuck them. I believe that because women have developed in a world structured by man-centric concepts we have had no way of knowing or representing ourselves separate from men.

When I was young and discovering my body for the first time, I enjoyed it, but struggled to understand it because of the lack of female discourse available, therefore I suppressed it and ignored it. As I have physically developed, so to has my sexuality and as a result of this I cannot separate my body from my sexuality. In the early stages of my development I explored my body for the sheer natural enjoyment of it (and curiosity), in my awkward teen years I remember feeling completely out of control of my own body, lousy with shame, then finally as an adult I was able to reclaim my body and really listen to what it wanted. I believe women need to first learn their bodies and sexual pleasure in order to create their own identity, and consider themselves independent from men.

One of the biggest struggles in navigating my sexuality during the years between puberty and womanhood was maintaining any sense of agency whilst trying to “fit in”. I grew up in a country town – everyone knew everyone, the female to male ratio was about three to one, corresponding in my girl friends and I having dated the same boy at one time or another. The idea that I might want something outside of the hetero-normative, never crossed my mind, because I had no alternative point of reference. I felt pressured to look and act a certain way, seek a certain boy, have a certain kind of sex, none of which was authentic to me.

Even though I tried everything I could to adhere to the prescribed social code during my teen years, I was not exempt from judgment – I don’t know a single girl who was. Being called a slut was detrimental to my sexual development – I thought that it was wrong to desire, but to be desired was ok, just not too much! Walking the fine line between frigid bitch and slut was impossible, and I found myself countlessly slipping into either category, never allowed the freedom to just be.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, living out of home, and had been in a couple of relationships (with people that I didn’t grow up with), that I finally felt like I had a sexuality that was my own. For a long time I only knew what I didn’t want, as opposed to knowing what I did want; being allowed to want something free from shame is a liberation too few women get to experience.

For me, this confusion around sex and sexuality always comes back to the way we are educated and socialised. I know that by celebrating female sexuality and by providing young people (especially girls) with comprehensive and liberal body and sexuality education, inclusive of pleasure and consent discourse, we will see a change in society for the better. There are connections between our bodies, our genders, our sexualities, as much as there are diversities and disconnections. I know that everyone’s intersections are different, which is all the more reason to stop telling the hetero-normative, man-centric narrative. I have had to unlearn and learn my body, my gender and my sexuality as I’ve grown and developed. This has both been a journey and a destination of self.

This article was first published for Neutral.Love