A top tip from me for more pleasurable sex? Learn to truly love your vulva or penis. Getting comfortable with our bodies – and especially our genitals – is one of the best things we can do for our sex life. If we don’t feel comfortable ourselves, how can we be properly relaxed with someone else being up-close and intimate with those parts of us?
However most people I speak with don’t know how diverse genitals are in looks and sizes, and have unwarranted concerns about smell and taste. Many people with vulvas tell me theirs is ‘ugly’, ‘hideous’, and ‘weird’… but sometimes in the next breath tell me they have never looked at theirs in a hand mirror. And most have never seen another vulva in real life. So how can they know?! Cultural conditioning and slang words steep us in shame and make us feel that whatever we have, it's unattractive.
Meanwhile many penis-owners worry theirs is too small. They are measuring themselves by porn standards, but typically porn performers’ genitals represent the largest few per cent of penises. And anyway, the majority of people rank size low down the list of most important attributes in a partner.
When we are not comfortable we can’t relax into pleasure. How many women receiving cunnilingus are spending more mental space on worrying how their vulva looks and smells and that their partner is ‘only doing this out of duty’, than on enjoying it? How many men are feeling ashamed and 'less than' as they undress, and find that's stopping them being truly in-the-moment?
The first step to getting comfortable is understanding what glorious diversity is all ‘normal’. How? See lots more genitals!
The way to do this is NOT to take out a subscription to an adult movie channel, but to see real-life examples. There are photography books and websites, but before that, I suggest viewing art, and… pies.
Pies In The Window is a fab website and Instagram account in which pastry artist Mikel creates delicate and beautiful pasty replications of vulvas. She says, “I am an artist exploring the paths between empowerment, acceptance, sexuality, and objectification. For Pies In The Window, desserts are my media of choice.” The image above is Pie 52, Blueberry.
If the thought of seeing lots of different photos of vulva scares or intimidates you, this is an easier first step. You know you are looking at pies, not vulva, and whatever shyness or worry you might feel around seeing ‘real’ vulva is lessened. The experience is a little surreal (pies with vulvas on the top?!); you can’t help but be wow-ed by the artistry (who knew this magic could be woven with pastry! - check out pie number 72 in particular); and maybe a little humorous (did you ever imagine pies would be educating you about sex?). That all makes the shy viewer feel more curious and comfortable.
A next step is to view paintings such as by Emma Halenko, aka @pleasure_portraits on Instagram, who creates watercolours from photos the public send in to her. In 2023 she released her first book, Pleasure Portraits - and yes, my vulva is in it! Along with that of a client of mine, who at the start of coaching with me had such deep shame around that part of her body she had never looked at it. Now she’s proud it’s on an Instagram page and in a book!
Penises are equally represented in Halenko’s work, in various states of relaxation or arousal...
When you’ve become comfortable with pastry and art, it’s time to graduate to photography, and plastercasts. Check out The Great Wall Of Vulva online plastercast exhibition of over 400 vulva by Jamie McCartney, and then the photography of Laura Dodsworth with her 100 Penises and 100 Vulvas books.
Hopefully after this journey you’ll be at the point where you are much more comfortable with your own. And appreciating the beauty and diversity that’s out there.
You may even be feeling confident yours is good enough to eat…