Illustrated Woman Exploring The Perks Of Sexual Pleasure

Getting Intimate: Exploring The Many Perks Of Sexual Pleasure

As autumn draws in and winter looms, we brace for longer, colder nights and instinctively reach for all those familiar comforts - loungewear, incense, oversized jumpers and such. Most of us will soon be nurturing our bodies with homemade soups and practising the art of self-care through the use of blankets, candles and long baths. Yet, life provides another completely natural and wonderful way to stay well, warm and content (sometimes even ecstatic) and we don’t talk about it enough - sex. Yes! Let’s talk about sex, baby. Because, whether it’s a solo activity for you, something you experience with a partner or a mixture of the two, it’s not only there for procreation. A healthy sex life offers many emotional and physical health benefits and we should be embracing sexual activity as part of our core self-care practice.

Naked Couple Illustration

You know what I think? I think, sex needs a rebrand! The subject itself evokes so many strong reactions and this is deeply linked to past perceptions regarding how we (particularly women) view sex. Once considered a wife’s duty and something that was more an act of service than an act of pleasure, many women still struggle to completely separate from a sense of shame when it comes to actually enjoying sex. And whilst men will regularly joke about masturbation, women rarely talk about it. In fact, it seems some of us aren’t even doing it. The British National Survey, conducted in 2000, found that only 71.2% of women indicated that they had masturbated at some point in their lives. From this, fewer than 37% attested to having done so in the previous four weeks. 

These are old statistics I realise, but it’s an old problem - whilst sex is generally perceived to be an important part of a romantic relationship, it’s often not thought of as an essential part of our wellbeing. And it should be, particularly in autumn and winter.

Whilst a healthy sex life has benefits all year round, the colder months can bring on SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and partaking in sexual pleasure can be one of the ways in which we can deter this through finding joy, connecting mind and body, and giving ourselves the love and fulfilment we need to stay strong both physically and mentally.

So, dear readers, allow me to take you through the many advantages of a healthy sex life and the perks of self-pleasure. 

A Quick Clarification

Before we get into it, a couple of quick disclaimers. I’ll be talking in broad strokes and generalisations, so not every point will be relevant to every person. For instance, if you are asexual then you may not reap the same benefits from sexual experiences that others might so this article may be irrelevant to you. Also, I’m going to talk to the girls for this one because, although I’m sure it is very healthy for boys to have regular orgasms too I have yet to meet a man who had to be encouraged to masturbate more. Again, a generalisation, but if I don’t generalise then we’ll be here forever and you have pleasure spots to find! So, please assume there are exceptions to each point being made and that there is, of course, a whole lot of nuance within everything we’re discussing here.

The Top Health Benefits Of A Healthy Sex Life

It’s no surprise we perceive sex to be a form of connection between two people. After all, it’s how we reproduce and it’s a way of expressing passion and love. Still, it’s so much more than that. If we are to look (as we're about to) at the health benefits of sexual activity, we have to wonder if we oversimplify the role of sex. In addition to reproduction and enjoyment, sex may well be designed to help us stay healthy and resilient, both in mind and body. 

A healthy sex life does not necessarily require a partner either. If you are single I am not encouraging you to go out and seek a sexual partner the way you might a personal trainer. You are perfectly capable of providing yourself with sexual pleasure - you may even find it's more effective. After all, you know your own body. 

At least, we know our bodies a little, but perhaps some of us could all do with getting a little more intimate with ourselves. Masturbation is no different to any other form of taking care of your body, or of your happiness. Some of us use yoga to connect the body and spirit, we will jog or swim or go to the gym to keep our muscles stretched and strong and we take care of our mental wellbeing with meditation, socialising or other activities that help to reduce stress. And yet, although many of us have become aware of and are invested in creating our own specific package of self-care, masturbation rarely features in this. 

So, why should it be? Here are a few of the top wellness perks of sexual pleasure:

Reduces Stress - Sexual activity lowers cortisol, a hormone responsible for triggering stress. Keeping cortisol levels balanced is very important, especially for those who suffer from anxiety so experiencing regular sexual pleasure can help to reduce stress.

Stimulates Sleep - Have trouble getting to sleep? A good orgasm can help. Orgasms can trigger the release of prolactin and, whilst you don’t want high levels of prolactin long-term, a short spike release of this hormone, such as that stimulated by..well...stimulation, can encourage relaxation and aid sleep.

Illustration Of Woman In Bed Sleeping

Improves Immunity - Many studies have indicated that a healthy and regular sex life appears to improve immunity against disease. One of the most interesting studies I came across was published in September 2021 and researched the effects of increased sexual activity in regard to fighting COVID-19 infection. The study found that the immunity status of those who had sex more than three times a month was more competent in dealing with the pathogens and resulted in a lower incidence of disease compared to those who had sex less than three times per month. So, more regular sex could reduce the chance of COVID infection? I mean, it’s not the sexiest come-on line, but it works for me!

Regulates Periods - As sexual activity increases blood flow through the reproductive organs, it has been known to regulate the menstrual cycle. 

Strengthens The Heart - Any exercise that increases your heart rate is good for the cardiovascular system. Whilst vigorous sex can be a highly beneficial workout, even mild masturbation will raise the heart rate which strengthens the heart and increases the flow of oxygen around the body.

Pelvic-Floor Muscles - Sexual pleasure will usually cause the pelvic floor muscles to tighten, in the same way they do when you do pelvic floor execises. Therefore, sexual stimulation can keep your pelvic muscles strong and, if it's a choice between a series of pelvic floor exercises and sex (or masturbastion), I know which option I'm choosing!

Pelvic Floor Muscles Illustration

Self-Esteem - Exploring your body, whether that be with another person or by yourself, can deepen your connection with yourself. Sexual pleasure is also the ultimate practice in linking body and mind because pleasure (and orgasm) happens both physically and introspectively. Your body is made so that it may feel and benefit from pleasure and embracing this (and exploiting the heck out of it) can increase your self-esteem and nurture the relationship you have with your body. 

Enhances Overall Happiness - Sex releases endorphins and we love endorphins! They boost our mood and help squash less welcome feelings such as depression, which we can be more prone to in the winter months especially. Not only can sex trigger this release, but even the memory of sex can do so. So just thinking ‘dirty thoughts' can enhance your everyday happiness. Enjoy!

Increase in Collagen - When a female body experiences sexual pleasure, hormones are released. This includes estrogen which helps to maintain collagen in the skin. Moreover, a rush of blood around the body delivers oxygen to the skin, which is why you may notice your skin looking more radiant, plump and youthful immediately after sexual activity.

For more about how orgasms promote glowing skin, check out my article - Formula For Glowing Skin - Oil, Water And Orgasms.

Three Ways To Increase Sexual Pleasure

Just because sexual pleasure can be beneficial, doesn’t mean that it comes easy to every one of us all of the time. However, neither do meditation, yoga, a fitness routine, healthy eating or many of the other ways we care for our physical and mental health. Sex for some may be a golden goose of wellbeing. A simple way of reaping many multiple health benefits by doing something we love. Yet, to some sexual pleasure may not come so easy. I mean, you may not literally ‘come’ so easily.

So, let’s look at three ways you might open yourself up to increased sexual pleasure, whether going solo or with a partner:

Understanding Your Sexual Needs And Desires

When it comes to sexual pleasure, most of us won’t know what we like until we experience it. Although we may discover this with a partner, aided by healthy open communication, many of us may find this exploration of sexual discovery best embarked upon alone. Whatever is learnt from this can then be introduced into partnered sex, if desired.

Illustration Of Woman With Sex Toy

Apps have been revolutionising the way that many women, men and couples are learning, experimenting and opening themselves up to new depths of sexual pleasure. OMGYNS is one of the leading apps teaching women how to reach new levels of intimacy with themselves. In 2021 an independent study found that 95% of women experienced new kinds of pleasure and 85% experienced more pleasurable sex after just one month of using the OMGYES app. There are also other apps providing sex-ed for grown-ups in an attempt to help them achieve more fulfilling sexual experiences, including Coral and Feel.

Just 40% of women climax during partnered sex so we need to educate ourselves, be open to experimentation and use our imaginations to find new techniques and/or other ways of achieving sexual satisfaction. Then, we need to be able to communicate this.

Communication And Sex

Many of us feel awkward discussing our sex lives, whether that’s with a partner or sharing with friends. Yet, it’s essential.

In partnered sex, it’s very difficult to ensure each other’s needs and desires are being taken care of if we’re unable to express what they are. Opening up communication may start with sex-positive declarations such as, ‘I like it when you….’, ‘I love it when…’ or ‘That really turns me on.’ 

You may also ask questions and seek guidance. For instance, ‘Do you like it when I…’, ‘Would you like me to…’, ‘What would turn you on now?’ 

Couple In Bed Communicating About Sex

Lastly, it’s important to feedback on anything that has been successful and, of course, make sure you speak up (sensitively and in the moment) when something is not working for you or is making you uncomfortable. In partnered sex, being able to let go and fully immerse ourselves in sexual pleasure can usually only happen when there is complete trust and communication is key in building this.

Furthermore, we need to be talking more openly about our sex lives (without breaking confidences) with friends, because when these conversations happen we learn, we share and we usually find our sexual confidence and interest grows.

Mindfulness And Sexual Pleasure

Did you know that the so-called ‘silent generation’, those born in the 1930s, were having more sex than either millennials or Gen Z? Isn’t that strange, being that we have supposedly had this sexual revolution and have promoted far more open communication around sex? How can this be? Maybe we’re too busy or too sidetracked or perhaps the perceived repression of former generations did create an underlying sense of shame around sexual pleasure that still penetrates today.

One of the key challenges in achieving sexual pleasure and orgasm is that it happens not only in the body but in the mind and if the mind is unfocused then the connection is broken. The female brain is where much of our arousal takes place. After all, dopamine is more often released in reaction to anticipation of climax, not climax itself.

Many women are finding that mindfulness is helping them to achieve higher levels of fulfilment in their sex lives. Through training the brain to experience the moment and learning how to deter the mind from wandering, we can discover how to turn-off and instead tune-in, enabling us to fully submerge in the depths of sexual pleasure.

Illustration Of Woman With Flowers To Represent Sexual Pleasure And Wellbeing

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