Have you ever found yourself wanting to ask close girlfriends intimate questions to seek answers but the subject is too awkward to approach? Or have you been in a space with women you have never met yet feel at ease asking difficult questions, sharing experiences, and exchanging ideas?
Creating safe spaces where women can talk openly about their sexual well-being is crucial.
As a passionate advocate for health and well-being, and as a coach and yoga teacher in Paris, I’ve witnessed the profound sense of connection that unfolds when women share spaces where they feel seen, heard, and safe. I’ve also closely observed some of the challenges and transformations that accompany women as they navigate different life stages. Certain situations are complex to decipher, rarely shared, and can leave some women feeling isolated, confused, and overwhelmed.
For that reason, myths around sexual health and well-being are important to address. For example, the myth that sexual health is not important after menopause or that painful sex is normal or that decreased libido is inevitable.
Myths about sex and sexuality can make us question ourselves or prevent us from developing a healthy sex life.
Gaining insights from experts can not only be uplifting but also empowering, offering opportunities to discover new perspectives that might not have existed before. I firmly believe in the importance of having access to accurate and reliable information for navigating each unique life stage. Learning can provide a powerful inner strength to help us make decisions aligned with our well-being.
In partnership with INSPIRELLE, we are continuing our conversations with and for women to gain insights into our sexuality and how to accept our sexual evolutions and desires. In anticipation of our next speaker’s event at Free Persephone Spa in Paris on January 24, I spoke with Paris-based experts OB/GYN Dr. Jocelyn McGinnis and Sexologist Jessamy Holland to start this important conversation.
What are common psychological challenges women face in terms of sexual well-being during different life stages?
Jessamy Holland: Women’s bodies develop with age and sexual experiences are influenced by life changes.
Teens/Young Adults: a sense of curiosity and self-exploration in different cultural/religious settings can lead to confusion, shame, and lack of awareness/education about intimacy. Developing a sexual self that feels authentic is psychologically challenging.
Mid-Twenties to Perimenopause: becoming more mature/experienced and adventurous with intimacy (emotional, physical, etc.) can lead to challenging scenarios and relationship dynamics that, if not processed, can potentially cause trauma.
Becoming a Mother: loss of sense of self, being “touched out”, and not knowing how to incorporate their sexual self into their new identity as a mother.
Menopause: Lower arousal levels can lead to a loss of sense of sexual Self or a feeling that this part of you has “abandoned ship”. I’ve worked with women who feel strongly that they lose an integral part of themselves when they no longer menstruate because they are no longer of “birthing” age and all that is implied with that in our society.
Are there specific strategies or tools you recommend for women to feel empowered to discuss intimate health openly and comfortably with their partners?
Jessamy Holland: Being open and vulnerable about intimate health with a partner may seem scary initially, but if done in a loving, caring way, it leads to emotional intimacy, and emotional intimacy leads to trust and feeling safe with your partner. One strategy to keep in mind is that overcoming an initial reticence or fear of rejection is key to deepening the relationship. And this deepening is very important to feeling seen. Also, it is essential to be comfortable and confident with your intimate health before you share it with your partner. This means doing some personal searching—emotionally, physically, mentally—into your own arousal before you confide with someone else.
Can you share insights into how mental and emotional well-being intertwines with sexual satisfaction?
Jessamy Holland: One tool I use with clients in psychosexual therapy is the Ladder of Arousal. This is the idea that we have three “rungs” in our ladder in order to reach orgasm and/or a fulfilled sexual experience. They consist of mental, emotional, and physical arousal. If one of the three is “broken” or weak, it is difficult to attain a rich, intimate relationship. So identifying which parts of the ladder could use attention will ultimately benefit the entire sexual well-being of a person.
How does a deeper understanding of female anatomy contribute to a woman’s overall sexual empowerment and confidence?
Dr. Jocelyn McGinnis : A deeper awareness of their own bodies can help women in different ways. For example:
1) It leads to a better understanding of their preferences and easier communication with their partners.
2) It can help them have a more positive attitude toward their body and sexuality.
3) It can also help them feel proactive in seeking reliable resources and making informed decisions throughout various life stages, such as perimenopause and menopause.
What practical advice would you offer women as a starting point for gaining a better understanding of their own anatomy?
Dr. Jocelyn McGinnis : Don’t be afraid to take a mirror and look. Or ask your gynecologist to show you. I am surprised at how little we know about our bodies and erogenous zones.
How does creating safe spaces for women to share intimate health concerns with other women contribute to their overall well-being?
Dr. Jocelyn McGinnis : In these spaces, women can be reminded that they have choices, that they are not alone, that it is okay to take a pause to understand better what is happening inside. We should never underestimate the power of women sharing moments of learning and connection. These safe environments can open doors for emotional connections among women facing similar experiences, making them feel less isolated, and providing emotional support.