SEXPLAIN'S ELLEN KIELY POSED SOME OF OUR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS TO SEX THERAPIST EVA NOGALES.
HOW CAN YOUNG PEOPLE LEARN TO LOVE THEIR BODIES?
For Eva it’s about exposure to images of different body types and the normalization of bodily fluids. Her advice? Eva recommends that you treat your body as if it’s your best friend’s body: “What would you say to your friend? Would you say to your friend, “Oh, you look disgusting in that skirt”? It’s not about telling yourself things that you don’t even believe… but are you using vocabulary that is really negative, that makes you feel really terrible? What about changing that vocabulary to something more neutral or more positive?”
WHAT IS 'NORMAL' WHEN IT COMES TO GENITALS?
In March this year the Huffington Post reported NHS statistics that ‘in 2015-16 more than 200 girls under 18 had labiaplasty’. With so many young people seeking to change the appearance of their genitals I ask Eva, what is normal?
‘Well there is no normal’, Eva laughs, “or even more important, why are we so worried about being normal? Creating a great piece of art is not the norm, is not normal, but it is great! Genitals are like any other part of your body, we are all different”. The problem is that the range of images that we are exposed to (porn) is very narrow, vulvas with very small labia, and very big penises, we think this is the norm, but it isn't, the reality is diverse, your genitals are unique (more or less hair, more or less skin, bigger, smaller...)
“When I was about 27 I was in the toilet with my friend and she looked at me and said, ‘oh, your pussy looks like mine, I thought that was just me, we are pussy sisters!’ she was so happy to find out that she wasn't a weirdo”.
And for Eva feeling happy about your body is only a good thing for sex. “If you are too worried about how you look like, your mind would be focusing on something that’s not sexual at all. So that’s not erotic. It's a total turn off, to be sexual we need a erotic mind not a worried mind”.
DOES IT HURT (AS SOMEONE WITH A VAGINA) WHEN YOU HAVE PENETRATIVE SEX FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“It doesn’t have to hurt. The tension and the fear hurts. If what you’ve always been listening is that you're going to bleed and it’s going to hurt, that you just have to do it and get it over with, then you are probably setting the perfect scenario for pain to happen. The pelvic muscles around the vagina will contract and tense as a result of this fear, and penetration can be painful because you’re not relaxed enough. If we engage in penetrative sex not being ready enough, being tense, not paying attention to arousal, if we rush, if we do it because we're suppose to do it, then it can be painful.
We need to pay attention to our bodies, be assertive and communicate, tune in with each other, enjoy the erotic, be slow, gentle, progressive, calm, throughout the expectations, remember there's no rush, learn how to relax your pelvic floor muscles. Make sure that you are enjoying the experience, know that you have the right to stop it whenever you want to. And understand that sex is not just penis in vagina, that you can have amazing sex without penetration”.
WHAT IS AN ORGASM?
“When you build up sexual tension and feel more and more aroused, you'll start feeling more tense. The release of that physical tension is an orgasm. Physically it is the contractions of the pelvic floor muscles, rhythmic contractions of those muscles as a result of a release of sexual tension. There are many different kinds of orgasms, sometimes more intense than others. Some people can even have an emotional release like crying or laughter. Sometimes the contraction is only in the pelvic area, sometimes it passes through the whole body. It varies from time to time”.
That’s the toe curling we see on films? “Yes, but careful, it doesn’t have to be like in films all the time or maybe it’s never like that. The main enemy of an orgasm is the expectation; the best friend is abandonment and letting go”.
“Of course an orgasm is pleasurable, it feels nice, but it is important not to get obsessed with having one, as all enjoyment can go away”.
IS IT A GOOD THING TO LEARN ABOUT SEX FROM PORN?
“Oh no, no, no. Learning to have sex from porn is like learning to drive from watching The Fast and Furious”. Eva, like many sexologists does not believe all porn is bad, the problem comes when it is being used for education.
“Some porn is okay if you know that it’s porn, that it’s fiction. You can see Fast and Furious at the cinema and you know you can’t drive like that because otherwise you will hit a wall and die, we have driving lessons in real life. The problem is that we don't have the driving lessons of porn. Young people watch mainstream porn and then that think this is how bodies work, that this is what everyone likes to do. But not many people would like to act out a mainstream porn scene, trust me. We need sex positive people educating young people and saying, ‘Look, porn is fiction, is entertainment, this is not how your penis should work, they are actors and actresses, there is a behind the camera, their bodies are not the norm...’”
Is some porn better than others? “Of course! There is some porn which is just terrible… but there are many feminist porn directors out there that are trying to change the industry from the inside. The problem is that it is a little bit less accessible as you probably have to pay to watch it, (one of the reasons why is better quality). Feminist and ethical porn doesn’t mean soft porn, we have this idea that if it’s feminist or for women, it’s very soft, kissing, hugging and that’s it. It can actually be rough porn. The difference is that it's ethical, aesthetically pleasing, diverse, and consent is paramount during the filming.”