Pleasure

Pleasure

Sex is different for everyone! How we experience it, if we even want to experience it, is a unique sensation for each of us. Pleasure from sex is an extension of individual needs and desires - what works for some people may not work for others. The beautiful thing about sex is that it can look different for everyone: 

  • Masturbation (alone or with your partner(s))
  • Phone sex or sexting
  • Oral, vaginal, and anal sex with or without sex toys.

These are all common types of sexual activity, but this is not an exhaustive list. What you like and what makes you feel good or what doesn’t are important! Communication is key – with yourself and any partners.

Health Benefits of Sexual Activity

There are documented health benefits to having sex. It has been proven to boost heart health, reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve sleep, relieve stress and more! This information is not meant to disparage those that do not desire or have sex, but rather to combat messages used to discourage people from having sex who desire sex. 

You do not need to compare how often you have sex to others- everyone is different. How often you have sex can depend on a lot of factors including your sex drive. Sex drive is your general desire to have sex and this varies- from day to day and person to person.

Asexuality

Asexuality is an LGBTQ identity in which an individual experiences anywhere between infrequent to no desire to have sex. Similarly, aromantic is an identity in which an individual experiences anywhere between infrequent to no desire to engage in "romantic" behaviors (kissing, hand holding, cuddling, etc.)These identities are a spectrum. Those who experience infrequent sexual/romantic attraction may be "Grey-Asexual/Aromantic" whereas those who experience no sexual romantic attraction may be "Asexual/Aromantic". The terms "ace" and "aro" are shorthand for "asexual" and "aromantic" respectively.  Asexuality as a sexual orientation and should not be confused with medical conditions like Hypoactive Sexual Desire DisorderOther forms of attraction include romantic, aesthetic, sensual, and so many more! Arousal does not have to be associated with sexual partners or the desire to have sex. Some aces can feel aroused but have no desire to have sex or act on that arousal, masturbate, and engage in sexual activities. Just like every identity, attraction looks different for every person and that is what makes it beautiful!

If you want to learn more about asexuality or connect with other aces, check out these sites:

  • The Asexual Visibility & Education Network
  • aces & aros
  • Asexualidad en Breve (in Spanish)
  • Asexuality Archive

Exploring Pleasure

Allowing yourself to explore sex and pleasure will assist you in being able to figure out what makes you feel good as well as communicate your desires to any partner. 

Ways to Explore: 

  • Explore your mind
    • What are your turn ons/what turns you off?
    • What are your fantasies or dreams?
  • Explore your body
    • Learn what feels good for you alone
    • Experiment with making yourself feel good
  • Explore with a partner
    • Try new things!
    • Listen to each other

Communication for Pleasure

If you chose to engage in sexual activities with a partner, communication is key - especially when we talk about pleasure. Everyone deserves to have consensual, pleasurable sexual interactions. Being able to communicate openly about your needs and wants can make every interaction more pleasurable.

Tips for Communicating:

  • Be direct and voice what you want
    • This is easier said than done for some, feel free to pull from the following examples:
      • “I like it when you…”
      • “I really enjoy….”
      • “Would you like me to….”
  • Trust yourself
    • If something feels off or doesn’t feel good, say so! 
      • "Can you actually..."
      • "Wait, I don't like that, try this"
  • Remember you can change your mind
    • Consent is an ongoing practice - if you liked something before but not now that is ok. Communicate your needs to your partner(s) and respect that your partner(s) may also change their mind(s).

Understanding Sexual Arousal

Sexual arousal is the feeling of being “turned on” sexually. Physical symptoms of arousal can come from physical stimulation (alone, with a sex toy, or with a partner), fantasizing, or even reading/watching/listening to erotica.  There are a number of emotional and physical changes that occur during arousal. In the physical sense, this manifests as the penis becoming erect, the feeling of being “wet” on the vulva or vagina as well as increased heart rate, breathing, and temperature.

Erogenous areas on the body are also known to sources for physical arousal. Erogenous zones are all over the body and differ for everyone. Common areas include the genital area, breasts, cheeks, lips, feet, arms, and butt cheeks.

The Sexual Response Cycle

This cycle describes the stages from arousal to post orgasm, encompassing the physical and emotional phases of sex. This cycle is generally applicable though not representative of every individual’s experience. Having an understanding of the change the body undergoes during sex and enhance your sexual experiences!

The four phases are:

  1. Excitement
    1. This is the beginning of arousal and includes increased muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing as well as the other visible signs of arousal such as erection and vaginal lubrication.
  2. Plateau
    1. Contrary to its name, in this phase the sexual excitement continues to grow. It has been described as a more intense excitement phase as the physical responses are similar.
  3. Orgasm
    1. This is the shortest phase of the cycle in which sexual responses vary for the different organs. The vagina muscles contract and uterus contract whereas the penis undergoes contractions at the base and semen is ejaculated. Endorphins are released that make you feel happy and overall relaxed.
    2. Orgasm should not be the only goal of sex! Experiencing pleasure is also very important.
  4. Resolution
    1. This is the end of the cycle where your physical responses return to their original state before arousal.

Orgasms

An orgasm is the peak of sexual arousal that is accompanies with a feeling of intense pleasure. It is commonly referred to as "cumming" or "climaxing." There is not one "right" way to orgasm as it looks and feels different for everybody.

During an orgasm, there are some general physical signs that it is happening.

  • Intense pleasurable feeling throughout the body
  • Muscle contraction (in penis, vagina, anus)
  • Increased heart rate and breathing levels

For those with a penis, during an orgasm ejaculation will typically occur. This is when a small amount of semen will be released from the penis. It is usually only 1-2 tablespoons. You can have an orgasm without ejaculating and vice versa!

For those with a vagina, it tends to get very wet before and during orgasm. For some folks, they may also ejaculate - but not everyone! This is often called squirting. 

How Does it Happen?

Typically, orgasms occur during masturbation, sex, or from the stimulation of the genitals. However, some people are able to achieve orgasm through stimulation of other erogenous zones or by thinking about sex. 

There is no “right” way to orgasm! For some people it is easier than others. For some it does not take a long time whereas for others it does. That is all ok! 

For many people, achieving orgasm depends on the type of stimulation they are receiving. For some people with a vulva, they need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. There are so many other variations and ways people can achieve an orgasm!

So, What If It Doesn’t Happen?

Not orgasming is not always the sign of an anatomic or other issue. Sometimes it has to do with arousal or being nervous! Sex and masturbation do not always need to end in orgasm. There is no need to pressure yourself or any partner to have an orgasm every time. Enjoying and exploring pleasure are great either way! If you are having a hard time having an orgasm consistently and are worried about it, speak to a health care provider to see how they suggest you go about getting help.

Sex Tech

Adult toys - often called sex toys - are used by all kinds of people. They can be used during masturbation, during sex, and even as treatment for some medical conditions (like erectile dysfunction). There are tons of types, brands, and styles of sex tech out there. Using sex toys or not using them is completely up to you!

Why are Sex Toys Used?

People use sex toys for all kinds of reasons! Sometimes they are used to help affirm someone’s gender identity or using them helps you masturbate, or it is just fun! There are many types of sex toys including:

Dildos

  • Often shaped like a penis or rod shaped
  • Some are slightly curved for pleasure
  • Made from materials like rubber, glass, plastic, silicone, crystal, or metal
     

Strap-ons

  • Dildos or vibrators attached to a harness and meant to be worn.

Vibrators

  • Objects that vibrate to stimulate genitals
  • Come in all shapes and size
  • Some are meant for external use only and others are made for internal and external

Anal Plugs - "Butt Plugs"

  • Smaller cone shaped toys
  • Inserted in the rectum
  • Large base to prevent toy from going completely in the body
    • Toys without a base are fine for use in the vagina but not in the anus due to the fact that the anus is connected to the rectum (a part of the large intestine). During orgasm, these muscles contract and can create a vacuum effect lodging the toy inside the body causing serious damage.

Anal Beads

  • Chain of small balls 
  • Inserted into the rectum

Sleeves (“masturbation sleeves”, “penis sleeves”, “strokers”)

  • Flexible tubes that a penis can go inside of 
  • Usually textured on the inside
  • Some strokers are designer for a larger clitoris as well

Penis Rings

  • Go around a penis or scrotum
  • Can increase sensation or make erections harder
  • Should not be worn for longer than 10-30 minutes

Pumps

  • Vacuum like device that create suction
  • Can be used on penis, clitoris, vulva, or nipples
    • *Note* You should NEVER blow air into the vagina as you may trigger an air embolism, tearing or damaging the vagina. 
  • Ben Wa Balls
    • Weighted round ball like toys placed inside the vagina
    • Used for exercises for the pelvic floor
  • Nipple Clamps
    • Apply pressure to the nipples

How to Use Sex Toys Safely

  • You should always read instructions for every new toy. 
  • Wash toys BEFORE and AFTER each use
    • Dry them thoroughly and store them in clean place
    • What you wash toys with depends on the materials
  • Sharing unclean toys can spread STIs
    • You can use condoms on toys!
  • Do not cross contaminate 
    • Do not use anal toys in a vagina or mouth 
  • Make sure to use lube when putting any toy in the anus
    • The anus does not self-lubricate
  • Only use toys with a wide base in the anus
    • You do not want it to get stuck
  • Do not use silicone lube with silicone toys
    • Only use water-based lube on sex toys