Here’s a fun assignment for the holidays that’s just for you. Take time to discover what brings you pleasure and turns you on. You don’t have to start from scratch. You probably already have a few go-to sensuous pursuits—a luxurious bubble bath or time with a naughty novel—and you’ve figured out what checks the boxes with your partner in bed. But there’s the potential for so much more. Especially during these stressful times, women need to make pleasure a priority.
For guidance, I interviewed renowned intimacy and sexuality expert Michaela Boehm, author of The Wild Women’s Way—Unlock Your Full Potential for Pleasure, Power and Fulfillment and a coach on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sex, Love & Goop Netflix series. She believes it’s empowering for a woman to take ownership of her pleasure. “It’s essentially our body and pleasure is our birthright. We are born to have pleasure, all bodies are capable of having pleasure,” she says, adding, “If we wait for a partner to discover what we like, we might wait for a long time.” Here are some practices that can help you find more pleasure—both sexually and in life in general.
Get Ready: Drop Into Your Body
To experience physical pleasure you’ve got to get out of your head, which isn’t always easy to do. We spend much of our days being static and cerebral, often hunched over a computer, squinting at the screen. To get in touch with your body, Boehm recommends a practice she calls “Moving What You Are Feeling” which is simply letting your body respond to a piece of music through intuitive, freeform movement. Women really benefit from awakening their lower body, says Boehm, which is the seat of not only pleasure and sexual connection for women but also creativity. Undulating hip circles are an effective way to loosen up and activate the lower body.
Movements like these can help a woman transition from the “Go” part of her day to a “Flow” state, where she is more able to experience pleasure. Boehm puts it like this: “Okay, I’m done at the office. Now I’m going to go home and have a bath, move my body, put some music on, enjoy that I’m done with the thinking and doing, and get into my body. Then the body comes alive, and with that comes pleasure and blood flow and sensuality.” The transformation can happen quite easily, says Boehm. It only takes five to ten minutes of dance or hip circles to make the shift.
Get Set: Relax
Pleasure isn’t something that can be forced or won. It’s more about being in a state where you can appreciate it. “The first step to claiming sensual and sexual aliveness is relaxation,” writes Boehm in her book. In fact, she says, being relaxed is already very high on the pleasure spectrum. Many women can have trouble enjoying sex when they’re stressed out or uptight. But when we are relaxed in mind and body, our all our sensual perceptions are heightened and it’s easier to notice and enjoy what we’re feeling.
“Emotional and mental relaxation—the ability to stop the doing aspect and go into the flowing aspect—allows us to engage with those sensations,” says Boehm. Sensory pursuits like listening to music, massaging lotion into skin or taking a hot, steamy shower are relaxing and yummy in their own right. Knowing how to relax and giving yourself the time to do so is a vital step on your path to pleasure.
Go: Explore without Expectation
“For women to be sexually alive and empowered, it is useful to spend some time with our own bodies, exploring sexual pleasure by ourselves,” writes Boehm. Set aside some time when you can drop into your body, relax and see what feels good. Everyone is unique, so be curious about the type of touch and spots that feel most delicious to you.
Sexual pleasure encompasses much more than orgasm, so you don’t have to make that the goal. “Gwyneth (Paltrow) and I did a “live” on Instagram and we were talking about the fact that the whole idea of orgasms is limiting, because how they feel in each woman is radically different,” says Boehm. Plus, the pressure of having to reach orgasm can actually inhibit it. “No, you do not need to achieve an orgasm, you can actually enjoy yourself.”
This is not to diminish the value of the lovely, gratifying sensations of orgasm, which, while highly individual, aren’t as elusive and mysterious as they’re often portrayed. The website OMGyes.com explores the latest scientific research on women’s sexual pleasure and presents real women talking about (and demonstrating) techniques they use to find gratification. Not only can women learn a variety of approaches to orgasm, they can find a new language for talking about it with their partner. Even actress Emma Watson is a fan of this frankly informative, empowering resource (one-time subscription required).
Prioritizing pleasure often falls to the bottom of the to-do list, because women simply don’t know how or are dealing with past negative sexual experiences. This is all very normal, says Boehm, reassuringly. “It’s okay to not know and it’s okay have questions. It’s also okay to be a bit freaked out. Even if somebody has had trauma, you can learn these things. The body is very forgiving and very intelligent.” Hopefully, the ideas presented here can be a supportive starting point to experiencing more pleasure and turn on in your life.
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Marjie Killeen is a freelance writer and speaker specializing in communication, relationships and lifestyle. She’s the author of Better’s award-winning Sex & the Suburbs column and has worn many hats during her career including marketer, corporate trainer, actor and two-time mom. Now an empty nester, she and her husband split time between downtown Chicago and Bonita Springs, Florida. Read more of her work at stylechallengers.com and subscribe to the Better Letter to read her monthly column on sex and relationships in Better.