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When Your Body Betrays You

By Briar | Uncategorized

You are your most merciless critic.

Intellectually, we all understand this. “Would you treat your best friend the way you’re treating yourself right now?” Of course not. But also… fuck you.

Because I’m pretty sure my best friend would never treat ME this way, either.

It’s hard enough moving through the world when your body does what it’s supposed to. It’s another matter entirely when your body or your brain willfully betrays you. It’s hard to feel grace in a body that won’t cooperate. You’ve already tried “just being happy,” thanks.

The problem is, self-confidence is much more nuanced when it’s not just about feeling good about what you’re capable of. Because today, I may be capable of a marathon (and I say marathon, but what I really mean is Tuesday), and tomorrow, incapable of getting out of bed. How do you measure your worth in that?

And the answer is…. You don’t. 

Your value to the world doesn’t come in quantifiable, measured portions. You can’t write your worth in the number of Twitter followers you have (thank the gods), which means it also isn’t measured in your ability to keep your home to Martha Stewart standards, or how many Pinterest projects your children completed over the summer. 

“Okay, but Briar…. I look like everyone else. THEY expect me to maintain those standards.”

And there’s truth in this. I remember the first time my mother in law looked at me with open skepticism when I told her that I couldn’t move those thirty pound boxes of books, because I would throw out my back. And I remember how everyone else gave me a hard time for it, so I did the stupid thing, and did it anyway.

YOU know what’s coming next. I very predictably threw out my back, and had to spend well over a week in bed recovering. My husband was livid. Not with me, but with his family. Yeah, okay, he was a little pissed at me too, for not standing my ground about my limits. I’ve gotten better about this.

But it’s hard to love your body when it’s broken.

And today, you just don’t.

And you know what? That’s okay. Today, it’s okay to hate your body. 

Today, it’s okay to berate your hormones for running rampant in all the wrong ways, causing weight loss, weight gain, infertility, low libido, memory or hair loss. 

Today, it’s okay to curse your need for all those drugs in your medicine cabinet, without which you are a husk of a human being with questionable sanity.

Today, it’s okay to loathe a reproductive system apparently only occasionally capable (and perhaps not even that) of nurturing or sustaining the life that you ache for with every fiber of your being. 

Today, it’s okay to hate your body.

The reality of chronic illness or mental health challenges is that you will likely be living with this problem (or a whole host of new ones) for the rest of your life. This IS your reality. You can possibly, but not always, treat the problem. But will you get better? For some of us, that answer is always no.

And today, I hate my body for it.

So today, I have very deliberately wallowed. Today, I have not practiced self care. I have practiced self soothing. 

Today, I have eaten my feelings. With chocolate. And whipped cream. And hummus. But not together.

Today, I sat in the shower and cried. And then I crawled into bed, cuddled up with Bob the Bear, and took a nap. 

Today, I hate my body. Not for what it is, but for what it isn’t. So today, I grieve deliberately.

Because it’s okay to grieve for the body you will never have. It’s okay to mourn a life that is no longer possible, or never even existed. Because this IS a loss. You have lost, not someone else’s idea of perfection, but your own. Your life is not now, and possibly never will be the one you envisioned.

And today, you should grieve for that.

So that tomorrow, when you look in the mirror and do an inventory of what you do like about yourself, it will mean something.

Tomorrow, you will be able to recognize just how much this body serves you. This body carries you daily through your life, and it does it remarkably well, all things considered. This body was perhaps a home and a sanctuary to amazing children. These arms are capable of soothing away the hurt of the world, just by wrapping them around someone.

This body, for better or worse, is your place in the world.

And tomorrow, you can find the joy in that. Tomorrow, you can try again at experiencing weightlessness, or a perfect moment in time, or maybe even just a few fleeting moments of grace. 

But that’s tomorrow. 

How To Talk About Sex

By Briar | Uncategorized

Here’s a question for you.

How often do you talk about sex?

Not, talk DURING sex, or talk about HAVING sex. How often do you have meaningful, involved discussions with your partner about your sex life? About what’s working for you, and what’s not?

If it’s less than once a month, it’s not often enough.

More talking

Here’s another question for you. How often do you THINK about having sex? Generally, it should be kind of a lot, regardless of your sex, gender or identity (asexuals being the ONE exception here). Obviously, there are a number of factors that come into play, including age, general life circumstances, happiness with your partner, all that jazz, but according to a recent study, your typical female thinks about sex 10 times a day, and your typical male 19 times a day.

Note that these are conscious thoughts about sex, and not that crappy, “men think about sex every seven seconds,” trope that seems to get so much airplay.

Almost done. How many times a week do you HAVE sex? Your typical happily marrieds do it around 10 times a month (that’s about twice a week). I average over 20 times a month. But, and this is key, you’re not aiming for MY sex life.

You’re aiming for yours. Which is the last question.

How many times a month would YOU like to have sex? Aaaaaaaannnnnddddd… how many times a month would your partner like to have sex? Because somewhere in the middle lies your happy medium.

And to get that number, you have to… yes. Talk about sex.

When your sex life is new, there’s a lot of lust involved. There’s a lot of passion, and energy, and touching. You’re learning what this body likes, what it responds to, and generally, that process is pretty natural, if occasionally really awkward.

However, after a certain point, you pretty much know what does it for your partner. They know what does it for you. The tricks have been LEARNED.

And this sort of predictability is actually really dangerous, because if you’re not careful, sex can become routine. As in, you rub me here for five minutes, I rub you here for five minutes, we trade oral sex and then we have sex in one of three positions. (That’s not our routine or anything. Nerp.)

And let’s be real. There’s not a whole lot of enjoyment in that. Sex is supposed to be FUN, not obligation, and definitely not chore.

And the solution here? Yep. Talk about sex.

The problem is, you probably don’t talk about sex much at all. You probably fight about it, though. It starts innocently enough. “I wish we did more of this.” Or, “I would like to possibly try this some time.”

But it pretty quickly dissolves into recriminations about what YOU’RE not doing adequately, at which point, you’re wondering why you ever even bothered to have sex with this person in the first place.

And the truth is, the title of this post is kind of a lie. I can’t tell you HOW to talk about sex, because your needs are always going to be different than mine.

I can give you some ground rules, though. These are all techniques I have personally used, or used with clients. They are suggestions for creating frameworks for making conversation possible.

Actually plan this conversation. On the calendar. For us, it’s a part of our regularly scheduled Weekly Review. Every Sunday at 4pm (seriously), we sit down with our respective calendars, and plan out our schedule for the week.

(Coincidentally, that’s this month’s workshop. Go forth and register.)

If you run a business, you probably evaluate your numbers at least quarterly. If your children have Individualized Education Plans, you review no less than once a year, and more often if necessary.

When it comes to the person you have committed to spend the rest of your life with, you should check in AT LEAST once a month. And this, like so many other things, doesn’t have to be a chore. We usually put on some music, make snacks, and hang out on our bed for these confabs.

Have established ground rules for these conversations. I’ve talked before about how to set ground rules for fighting, and the goal here is similar. You want an established parameter for the flow of these conversations, so that you stay within your lanes. This keeps you from meandering down tangent road, but also helps to keep conflict at bay.

At the moment, we are currently transitioning to something fairly closely resembling lifestyle dominance and submission. So these conversations are especially important to us right now as we consider particular techniques and forms of training. It allows me, the submissive, a clear space to express my feelings outside of the role I’ve assumed.

For you more vanilla folks, you can structure this in a couple different ways. I really like to strike a balance between what IS working, and what ISN’T, so you can use a classic asspat sandwich, “I really like oral sex, but we don’t have enough of it, and I wish we could maybe do it more, like at least half of our sexual encounters, because did I mention I really like it?” Or a basic, “I really like it when you suck on my earlobe, but it DRIVES ME INSANE (and not in a good way) when you pretend my penis is a joystick. Please don’t do that anymore.”

Notice that I’m giving you very concrete examples to work with here. The more specific you are in these conversations, the better off you’ll be.

Have notes. Especially in the beginning, especially if you’ve not had these types of conversations before. Having things written down helps you to stay focused on the conversation.

Obviously, I like systems, and I also write a lot. For me personally, all of this information is captured on an almost daily basis in my Bullet Journal, or the Kanban Board on my desk. Sometimes I’m better about keeping track than others, but the act of managing my thoughts is an especially important one to me, so it’s almost an artform at this point.

If it isn’t for you, don’t despair. There’s a number of ways that you can manage this new level of necessary communication. Journalling is exceptionally easy to do, and you no longer have to do it on paper if that’s just not your bag. I have clients exceptionally devoted to journalling apps and their tablet (and have you seen some of the new styluses? Best of both worlds).

I also have clients (especially guys) who like talking to Siri. They add this stuff as audio notes as it comes up, and then manage action lists natively, or by importing out to other task managers. You have so MANY ways to make this work for you.

Be mindful of what you say. My general rule is, how would I respond to hearing this particular thing about myself? If the meat of your asspat sandwich is kind of moldy, then think about your delivery ahead of time.

Talking about sex is hard, at least in part because of how sensitive a topic it is. We take a tremendous amount of pride in our sexual prowess (or we should), and being told we don’t do something quite right can be difficult to hear.

Remember, you’re doing this again soon. If your laundry list of sexual complaints is long, then consider what your highest priority is, and focus ONLY on that this time.

Bottling it all up seems to be human nature. But it’s also a big instigator of fights, especially when it comes to sex. Suddenly, it’s not just this one thing you do wrong, it’s the fifty eight things you do wrong, and compromise is never achieved in that scenario.

But one of the amazing benefits to a regular review is that you can just deal with one thing at a time. And consider that personally. If you KNOW you’re only going to have to hear about one complaint at this point in time, will you be more or less receptive to hearing it? Will you be more or less receptive to ACTING on it?

Interesting.

Every now and then, go for the guided tour. You remember how you learned what works for your partner in the early days, and it’s what you’ve been doing ever since because it works? Yeah, that’s actually not remotely true. Bodies change. Especially if they’ve been through the physically altering transformations of pregnancy and birth. And needs and desires change over time, too.

After the birth and recovery of each of my children, what worked for me physically changed a lot. Like, nerve endings moved. And this is totally normal. But if you aren’t talking about those changes, it can be very difficult for your partner to adjust, because they are, quite simply, NOT a mind reader.

We are also very visual creatures. So it can be especially helpful to actually point to a specific place on your body and say, “I like it when you [lick, chew, suck, stroke, etc.] in this particular area.” And if this visual demonstration leads to the action being performed, well, so much the better, eh?

Most importantly, remember what you’re together for. In the beginning, when you commit to spending the rest of your life together, you create this very idealized, idyllic picture of your future. You know, the, “when we’re old and grey,” fantasy.

This vision includes family dinners, lots of grandchildren, rockers on the front porch, or a cafe in Paris. It probably never included the idea of really old and decrepit you knocking boots, because, ewww. And I’m still not asking you to picture that, because seriously, no one needs that image of themselves.

What I AM asking you to consider is the longevity of your sex life. It’s a reasonably pleasant activity when done poorly. It’s amazing when it’s done well, and generally, good sex begets more good sex.

In other words, there’s still much sex to be had. Go and make it great.

Managing Connection Overload (Even When It Hurts)

By Briar | Uncategorized

How do you define connection?

Well, according to Merriam Webster, connection is:

the act of connecting (well, duh); a causal or logical relation or sequence; a contextual relation or association; a relation of personal intimacy; a means of communication or transport; a person connected with another via marriage, kinship or common interest; a political, professional, or social relationship; an arrangement to execute orders or advance the interests of another; and definitely also a source of contraband.

In other words, connection is everything.

It’s in every potential and actual social interaction, every place you go, everything you do. Connection starts the minute you open your eyes in the morning. You connect with your partner, your children, your pets, and the world around you, and that’s before you turn on the tv, or literally connect to the internet.

There are a multitude of scientific disciplines that study connection. A bunch of woo varietals, too (for a really good time, look up Earthing). Connection is found through the media, in the marketplace, through every single monetary transaction. It is the foundation of our world.

And all of that makes connection overload a very real thing.

The problem is, we’re not remotely deliberate about limiting our connections to the ones that really matter to us.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is “lack of time.” You’re overwhelmed, overloaded, and uncertain of why every time management technique you’ve ever tried has failed to properly manage your damn time.

And you definitely can’t understand the people who always appear to have everything together all of the time. They look great, their houses are clean, their children wear clothes that match… and they either have super fulfilling careers, or the time to do Pinterest projects (or they have made a career OF Pinterest projects, in which case, just STFU).

Sure, sure, intellectually you know that these people have the same problems as everyone else, and their lives aren’t perfect. But how do they seem to get so much more out of their 24 hours a day than you do? Do they just not sleep?

Well, mostly they say no.

There’s been a lot of research done on the value of clarifying your intentions versus trying to self motivate–and, wouldn’t you know it, beating yourself over the head is actually LESS motivating than doing nothing at all. The clear winners are those who establish a plan and a deadline, regardless of whether or not the deadline was actually met.

But it’s much more than that. People who are conscious of how they connect to the world are much more likely to say no.

I want to be perfectly clear here. I do not want you to feel guilty for how you are currently managing your time. Because I know that’s exactly where your brain is going. “I know I spend too much time on Facebook, Briar.” Instead, I want you to focus on simple awareness.

My favorite tools are Moment for iPhone, and RescueTime for everything else digital. Offline, I recommend a hyperdex, but the spiraldex is also nifty (there’s also the chronodex, and if you can figure out how to use it, please teach me).

And I’m not even going to lie to you. At first, it’ll be hard not to mentally berate yourself for what you find here, but again, the goal is awareness. It is impossible for you to know how to better manage your time if you don’t actually know how you’re spending it.

Take some time to evaluate your actual habits. Track yourself for at least a week, but two is better. See if you can spot trends and patterns.

BUT. But, but, but! Don’t try to make changes yet. If you do, you’ll be right back where you started. You’ve run this hamster wheel before.

Our tendency as humans is to see a problem, and want to fix it. Because if we can make it better, we can make it go away. However, one of the problems with connection is that you can’t ever turn it off. You can’t disconnect. I have TRIED.

So. We’re back to saying no.

Once you have a clear understanding of how you manage your time, you can start to eliminate the unnecessary.

What’s key here is to eliminate what YOU think is unnecessary, not what everyone else thinks is unnecessary. So, if your Facebook time is mostly acquired while you’re nursing, and all your friends live there, don’t feel obligated to remove it completely. Maybe you need to cut back, but only you can make that determination.

A note here if the majority of your time is spent with very tiny humans: you’re only ever gonna be so great at time management. Unless you have significant, regular help, you are NOT going to be able to manage your time effectively when it is dictated to you by terrorists in short pants. THEY don’t accept the word no.

Everyone else, however, is going to start.

Your mother, who expects you to drop everything on less than a days’ notice, and drive eight hours to not just move her, but also to PAY for the moving truck? You can and SHOULD tell her no.

Your husband, who informs you two days before the Officer’s Ball, leaving you to scramble for a dress, childcare, and everything else? Yeah, you can absolutely tell him, “no, you’re going by yourself.”

Your sister, who demands you plan her bridal shower, and then demands you pay an exorbitant amount of money so you can be a bit player in her bridezilla tour de force? You can cut her off. You CAN set limits on what you will and won’t do.

Your church friends and family members, who show their true colors by posting racist memes on Facebook? You should only educate if you feel called to do so. Otherwise, you should let them go. Hide if you must, but frankly, you get to be the judge of what you want to see online. If you want to surround yourself with cat pictures and smiling babies, then I think you should do it.

Those, by the way, are all real examples. I can’t make stuff up better than this. It’s the people we love who are most likely to abuse the trust of our time. After all, it’s not THEIR time they’re wasting.

You don’t have a choice to connect. You DO have a choice in HOW you connect.

Make those connections matter. Choose to spend your time on the things that matter to you, in the ways that matter to you. And understand now, you MUST pick your battles. You simply cannot be a warrior for every cause, every movement, every battle that needs to be fought.

If you try, you’ll only succeed in spreading yourself too thin, diluting not just your time, but even more importantly, the power of your voice.

Because… there’s a lot of injustice in the world. There’s a lot of pain, and death, and tragedy. It’s in the far corners of our world, and it’s in our neighborhoods. Right this minute, there are actual battles being fought in the arenas of racial equality, marriage equality, religious equality, mental health care, victim’s rights, prisoner’s rights, patient’s rights, and guys, that’s just the BIG stuff, and only a sampling of it at that.

And here’s the really horrible part. You have to let some of it go.

You have to decide which fights are yours, and which ones you’re going to walk away from. And the choosing? It HURTS.

Because the reality of these choices is, you’re going to feel selfish. You’re going to feel like a horrible human being. How DARE you prioritize your wants and needs when there’s so much pain and suffering in the world?

Except it is those very feelings that marks you as a worthy inheritor of humanity. It is your empathy that speaks to the world, a beacon of hope and light that you get to share with the world. THIS is what makes you YOU.

Don’t waste all of that on indecision.

It’s YOUR time. Only you get to decide what is actually worthy of spending it on. Go and make it amazing, okay?

Snowballs of Gratitude

By Briar | Uncategorized

You know how shit snowballs? How, when one thing goes wrong in your life, EVERYTHING goes wrong? You don’t just sludge the engine block in your car, you also lose your job, and your house burns down in the same month.

Our relationships are like that too. We don’t just stop having sex one day. We stop having sex because we spent the last six months doing nothing but screaming at each other. I don’t want to fuck you, I want to gouge your eyes out with a dull, rusty spoon. And I wanna hear you scream. Not like, in a good way, either.

At some point in time, you will reach your crossroads. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less likely to make me commit homicide.

Your choice?

I’ll tell you a secret. It isn’t divorce or stay married. That’s NOT your crossroad. Your choice is simple. Survive, or thrive.

See, if you’re miserable in your relationship, it’s highly likely that you’re miserable in the rest of your life too. Divorce may fix your problems with your partner (and I know a lot of divorcees who are crying with laughter at that, because for them, divorce has infinitely complicated their relationships with their ex-partners), but even if it does, it won’t fix your relationship with yourself.

If this is an area where you struggle, I have a class for that.

But I promise you, divorce isn’t a quick fix. And it won’t automatically make you happy. I will qualify that statement by saying that if your relationship is abusive, then leaving IS the solution to a great number of your problems.

However, in the absence of that, you’re still left with a partner you fantasize about killing. I adore my husband, and my current plan includes bricks, the stairwell in our backyard, and an “accident” (although now I will have to come up with a new plan).

“You said gratitude, Briar. I’m not seeing any gratitude round these parts.”

Ah. So I did. Just as the bad shit snowballs, so can the good shit. Fine wine, limos, pretty girls, all yours.

Sorry. Forgot where I was for a minute.

No, I’m not channeling The Secret. It’s like that old insurance commercial. One good deed leads to another, all that crap.

But it’s true. If you think of partnership as an equal exchange, then you get out what you put in, right? So, if the partnership is not functional, chances are good that BOTH partners are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.

Now, let’s be real. Women usually get the short end of this stick, especially women with children (says the lady on her laptop, watching The Lego Movie, and waiting for the dryer to go off). I work full time, homeschool my kids, generally keep a pretty tidy ship, and occasionally manage to throw food at people. If my husband didn’t adequately contribute to the day to day management of our household, then I would lose my everloving shit.

However, men have their complaints too. I’ll give you one guess as to what 93% of them are. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t justified.

Remember, it’s an equal exchange.

Now, if you’re reached the stage where you’re shopping at a hardware store for a shovel (in cash), chances are good we’ve got a lot of problems. You’ve considered cheating, finding a divorce attorney, or just running away, and never looking back. At the very least, you have a laundry list of complaints.

And I want you to write them all down.

Seriously.

Write them all down, and then prioritize them, from highest to lowest. So, the fact that you haven’t has sex in a year, can’t be in the same room together without snarling and / or foaming at the mouth, and are irritated at every single word that comes outta their mouth before they even say it… that’s top of the list stuff.

Bottom of the list stuff are things like… not kissing your partner before they leave for work in the morning. Leaving the cap off the toothpaste. Not putting your dirty ass socks in the fucking hamper. Because it’s RIGHT FUCKING THERE. (Not my issue at all. Nerp.)

Anything that makes your blood pressure rise should go on the list.

The next step is to have your partner write a list of their own. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t write your lists together. I promise you’ll fight about them if you do. Even sitting at the table together is dangerous. Don’t give in to that temptation to impale them with your writing implement.

But, once everyone has completed lists, then you can swap. Expect to fight about that. Not the actual swap, just the contents of what’s on your new list. Some of it will be expected. Some of it will not, and that’s likely the stuff that will hurt the most.

Now, here’s where the magic happens.

That big stuff, at the top of the list? You can’t fix that. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but mostly, it comes down to a simple fact. That shit is WAY too fucking big. Take sex. If it’s been awhile, the idea of jumping right back in the saddle isn’t just unrealistic, it might actually be downright repulsive.

It’s too big, it’s too scary, and it’s just too much.

And, if you are a human being, that means that you won’t do it. As a species, we’re LAZY. The scope of our evolution has been to create ways to be even more lazy. The idea of fixing something as vague and ephemeral as your sex life just ain’t happening.

But those socks?

Yeah, that I can probably do.

Gratitude is cumulative. Just one small action on your part, just one equal exchange can turn into a snowball of gratitude.

Because remember, it’s a partnership. If I do something nice for you, you will probably be motivated into doing something in return. And the motivation here doesn’t matter. Even spite will do at this point (seriously), as long as there’s forward momentum.

Just start at the bottom of your list, and work your way up.

Now, some ground rules.

This isn’t a competition. Getting to check something off your list doesn’t earn you brownie points. Especially if your list happens to be shorter than your partner’s—ladies, I’m looking at you. Gentlemen, doing something once does NOT in fact mean that you will never have to do it again. And for the love of the gods, don’t wait for your partner to start on their list, or neither one of you EVER will.

Remember when I said you had two choices? Survive or thrive?

Marriage is kind of like a peace lily. Just… go with me for a sec. If you aren’t familiar with them, this is the plant to give your friends who kill everything. A peace lily is incredibly hardy, and will grow in about any condition. They are exceedingly difficult to kill, because when they need water, their stalks will get all droopy. It’s a slow process, but one day you’ll look over and think, “I can’t remember the last time I watered you.”

And then you water, and you can literally watch the leaves perk back up. It is a process of minutes.

However, appearances are deceiving. Despite it’s hardy nature, that poorly tended peace lily is only surviving.

You see, a happy peace lily blooms.

But this is actual work. Not an occasionally watering. It takes daily watering, in just the right proportions, tending, pruning, proper sunlight, an occasional repotting, all of that and more for a peace lily to thrive.

So too must you tend to your partnership. It takes daily maintenance for it to thrive.

Just remember, maintenance doesn’t have to be hard. Repotting doesn’t happen everyday, and watering is easy. Over time, the little things DO add up. And before you know it, you’re looking at the big stuff on the list, and it’s not that big any more.

So, decide. Survive, or thrive?

Cunnilingus 101

By Briar | Uncategorized

I saw this meme on Facebook the other day….

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Here’s some hard math for you. It’s estimated that no more than 30% of women are able to achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. For at least 70% of us then, that means that some other means of stimulation is required. The options are endless–manual clitoral stimulation, nipple stimulation, vibrators, even anal penetration, are just a few possibilities. However, I’d say if given the choice, most women would prefer cunnilingus. Which, by the way, is Latin–derived from the words cunnus (vulva) and lingua (tongue). I’ve known a few women who don’t like it (they’re rare, but they ARE out there). I do occasionally wonder how much of that lack of enjoyment is pure self consciousness or an inability to turn their minds off, but it is what it is. And yet, cunnilingus is a challenge for a lot of men, because they don’t understand the mechanics of it.

For the purposes of this post, I’m breaking things down into three sections. Anatomy, because, yay science! Technique, for which your mileage may vary, and finally, what it’s like inside a woman’s head. I know, I know, you don’t really wanna go in there, but trust me, it’ll be worth your while on this one.

Starting at the top then, with anatomy.

First, the clitoris. It’s important to note that the clitoris is not just a button. In fact, the clitoris is a complex organ system that extends internally far up against the vagina, and is an average of 9 centimeters in length. Recent research suggests that the g-spot is actually just the terminus of the clitoral structure. The point of all this, then, is that you can’t just focus on the button. There’s also another access point to the clit just inside the inner labia. Mind blowing, I know.

Next, the labia. No, NOT the vagina. The vagina is the tunnel, the labia is the entrance. And, just like storm windows, there’s two of them–the inner and outer labia. These delicate flowers have nearly as many nerve endings as the clitoris, so it’s important that you treat them gently. And like a flower, they unfold, or open, upon arousal. If they AREN’T open, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t just ram stuff in there. The inner labia is especially delicate, and can very easily be injured.

Lastly, we have the vagina. Don’t ignore this part, just because you’re going to be getting to it later. There are an estimated 20,000 nerve ending per square inch of human anatomy. But estimates for specific anatomical features vary wildly (you’ll read 8,000 in the clitoris a lot, but that number is OLD). Let’s just say there’s a lot. Make it your personal mission in life to stimulate as many of those nerve endings as you can.

The vagina is kind of a biological marvel. No two are alike, and not just in shape. There’s a huge range of sizes, textures, and surfaces. And no two labia look alike, so far as I can tell. Yet another part of what makes them awesome.

Finally, before we end this little science lesson, let’s talk about arousal. Biologically, the nub of the clitoris is exactly like the head of a penis–they’re made from the same set of stem cells, and the only difference is in the chromosome. When properly aroused, it receives extra blood flow, and in some women, can even become visibly erect. Blood flow can also darken the clitoral area, and labia, another indicator of readiness.

For a really good time, next time the lights are on, watch this process. It varies from woman to woman, but I personally have always enjoyed this show. Usually, the extra blood flow comes first, darkening the clitoris and surrounding tissue. Then the labia start to unfold. See if you can make this happen without touching. Anticipation kills, but usually in a good way.

Now with that out of the way, we can talk technique.

It’s important to note that like all sexual practices, a degree of personal preference is involved here. What works for one woman may not work for another, and some of these techniques may even be painful. When trying something new, pay attention to her reaction. A sharp inhalation of breath generally means that it’s painful. She may also arch her back away or down. So unless she’s into that, try something else.

Even more important, is this: what works once isn’t going to always work. In fact, what works now may not work two minutes or even thirty seconds from now. The clitoris is a fickle, fickle beast.

Start slow, and gentle. Use the tip of your tongue instead of the blade to begin with. Gently tease the outer and then inner labia open for best access.

Once she starts moving around, you’re ready to start the show. Rhythm is important. Whether you’re licking, sucking, or anything in between, the more consistent your rhythm, the easier it will be for her to achieve orgasm.

Side to side can be just as much fun as up and down. Circles, gentle flicks with the tip of your tongue, and long deep strokes are all fun too.

Once the inner labia is completely open, try inserting your tongue into the vaginal canal, and bending it upwards. That’s the internal access point I was talking about earlier. And it’s a sweet spot for a lot of women.

Ever been licked by a cat? The human tongue is nowhere near as rough, but with all those nerve endings, it’s possible for the clitoris to actually feel the taste buds. Licking like you would an ice cream cone then, can actually be quite painful. It can also feel amazing. Like I said, fickle beast.

ABCs? Don’t do that shit. Look, just like you know when you’ve been farted on when we’re spooning (and are kind enough to not mention it), we know that you’re doing the damn ABCs. From a practical standpoint, there is no rhythm, and if you take nothing else away from this post, I want you to take away this. Rhythm is fucking important.

Need something to do? Try a Fibonacci sequence. Seriously. Using gentle flicks, work your way up, then back down again. Stars are also fun, and since they explore the Divine Proportion, it’s highly likely to get you a response. Hell, play a counting game, consider baseball statistics, whatever. Just lay off the ABCs.

Also, unless she’s giving you clear directions, pay less attention to what she’s moaning, and more attention to what her hips are doing. When she thrusts upward, she’s trying to direct you to where she wants you to go. Assuming you’d prefer not to be stuck under the covers unable to breathe for an hour, I suggest you take her advice.

When she arches her pelvis up and locks it there, it means she’s close to orgasm. She may also get the twitches. This means you should keep doing what you’re doing for as long as possible. If you change the rhythm or technique at this juncture, she’s likely to lose her focus.

One final thought on technique, and this is a biggie.

No matter what you do…. Be fucking into it. A woman’s orgasm is more complicated than a male’s. It just is. Not only can we achieve orgasm from multiple erogenous zones on our bodies, we also have different KINDS of orgasm. Women report to me that there’s a HUGE range in the quality and intensity of orgasms. Men tell me that there’s mostly two kinds: pretty great, and mind blowing.

SHE wants mind blowing. Every time. The fastest way to deprive her of that is to be unenthusiastic or bored when you’re between her legs.

And now, I tell you what we’re really thinking.

Look.

The reality is, every single orgasm a woman has is a battle fought with a whole host of external and internal pressure. We argue against the idea that we’re ugly and undesirable. We resist societal expectations of what beauty and sex appeal are supposed to be. Some of us even have to fight our own personal values and belief structures. In nearly every single modern theology, a woman’s sexuality is BAD. All of these things, all of these feelings? They run through her mind while she’s attempting to let go and get off. If YOU aren’t into it, she NEVER will be either.

We might also be thinking about the laundry in the dryer that needs folding, what we have to do tomorrow, if there’s a kid awake, any number of things, really. Most women have an exceedingly difficult time shutting off their brains, so in addition to all the other shit I just told you to do, it’d be really awesome if you set the right mood.

Turn the TV off, turn some music on, and enjoy the process, not just as a means to an end.

Make her feel valued, cherished. Make her feel adored. More than anything else, that focus, that attention, will go a long way to putting her at ease.

Do your friends a favor and share. They’ll thank you.

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