For many of us, sex was a taboo and largely under discussed topic growing up. To learn, heal and grow together, we Mama Glow assembled a panel of game-changing professionals in the sex and intimacy space for our Mama Glow Webinar series for National Sexual Health Month. The illuminating and pleasure-forward conversation, “DEMYSTIFYING SEX & INTIMACY FOR MILLENNIALS,” presented by Foria, included The Village Auntie (Angelica Lindsey Ali), Kiana Reeves, Cindy Luquin, and Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., and was moderated by Mama Glow doula, Djali Brown-Cepeda.
In an hour and a half’s time, the panelists set the record straight about a number of sex-related myths we all should work to unlearn in order to be become better educated, more empowered, and sex-positive people. Here’s some of what we learned and affirmed:
Our pleasure does not belong in the hands of someone else
Your pleasure is your own before it is anybody else’s. Reeves reminds us that COVID has put a magnifying glass on a false belief that our pleasure belongs in the hands of someone else. Someone who might be feeling lonely in this moment is looking for intimacy and pleasure from a partner, when it is possible to get it from yourself. On the flip side, for partners quarantined together and co-habitating without longing or “otherness,” there are a unique set of challenges that exist too as a result of being together day in and day out. Ask yourself: If I don’t get in touch with my own body, how will I create healthy boundaries for myself?
Martin adds that our sexuality is never just about our bodies, and this moment we’re all in and the stresses it presents on a daily basis can make it feel impossible to prioritize or even locate pleasure. For people with vulvas, she recommends taking the time to really “tune in to where you get a hard on” and make pleasure a priority. If you have a clitoris, it is important to know what it is and get well-educated on the whole map of female erectile network quite literally at your service to identify where you like to find pleasure. Learn your spot, and find some other spots you get pleasure from, too!
While self-pleasure can include masturbation, it comes in such a range of forms. To put it simply, pleasure is whatever feels good in the moment. Luquin suggests you go back to things you found pleasure/joy in as a young girl – dance, eat the food, do what makes you feel pleasure. If you are living with a partner, dedicate yourself to making alone time to tune in to what fills you with joy.
Wondering how many of our moms and grandmas lived their whole lives sexually frustrated, Luquin urges that we need to reclaim sexuality for ourselves now. Consider quarantine, whether you’re single or in a partnership, as a needed time to really get to know oneself.
Expressing your sexuality does not make you “hypersexual”
Womxn are continuing to dismantle the harmful and dangerous construct that how a person chooses to dress and express themselves, is a direct reflection on their “morality” as it pertains to their sexuality.
Although The Village Auntie says her upbringing was relatively sex-positive, she still had to unlearn the myth that performative femininity was “whore-ish.” The panelists reflected on how anklets were referred to as “hoe chains,” and they were taught not to wear red lipstick or shave above the knee because of what those shows of self-expression might suggest about their character.
And while there are ways to express sexuality overtly, choosing to do so should not be deemed outside the norm.
Luquin, who is Latinx and comes from an evangelical background, says that sexuality was never really discussed in her house growing up, and that she was made to this the vagina was “a dirty place.” She recalls that even though there were men in her family who worked in the medical field, it was engrained in her at a young age that anything having to do with the vagina was “ungodly and sinful.” She points out that demonizing sexuality was a tool of colonization, and re-centering the earth and understanding a connection to the earth has helped her liberate herself sexually. We would not be here without sex, and understanding that fact alone helps people in Latinx community open up to deeper conversations about sex that are free of shame. “When you liberate and heal yourself,” Luquin says, “you are liberating and healing 7 generations before you and 7 generations after.”
Your sexuality is not defined by who you choose to have sex with
Reeves, who identifies as bisexual, reminds us that your sexuality is not defined by who you have sex with. In high school, she knew she was attracted to women, however, not being around other bi or lesbian women made her feel like that identity didn’t belong to her. Once she went away to college, she was able to change her understanding of what sexuality is and accept that she can be bisexual without having been with someone of the same sex. She recalls a period in her life where she felt “not gay enough” and went through a change of self-expression to be accepted by LGBTQ community. Finally, she came to accept that one’s identity is their own, no matter who they’re with.
For many, stigma plays a very active role in sexual fluidity and whether or not we’re willing to act on it and while sexual orientation is a real thing, some of us have fluidity which means our sexual orientation does not have final say on who we’re attracted to. Among women/men who are gen x and boomers, Martin says it is much more common for women to be sexually fluid; for women/men who are millennials and gen z, it is equal. Martin presents that for some, there is “homo-posibility.” By this she means that in some contexts (i.e. in college where sexuality won’t be as stigmatized), if we have fluidity we will act on homosexual behavior.
What can you do to support and create space that accepts and embraces all people, especially when homophobia is still present in our society today? The panelists say that an important step is committing to using neutral and non-judgmental terminology. Reeves says that a phrase like “people with vulvas” may sound like strange language, but it needs to be normalized so it feels less threatening to people who aren’t familiar with it. Changing that language does not take away from your identity. What it does do is refrain from assuming anything about anyone, so everyone feels included. It is important to recognize too, The Village Auntie reminds us, “I can’t talk to you about a queer experience because I haven’t lived it.” Know when it is your place to pass the mic and make space for those voices and experiences to lead the conversation and community towards a more inclusive and embracing space.
Faith-based belief systems can be sex-positive
Religious constraints for faith-based people can keep them from being fully realized sexually. The Village Auntie converted to Islam at the age of 23, but was raised in a Christian household. Growing up, her religion viewed sex as something that “those people” did, not holy or spiritual people. Her unlearning started from the sacred texts, and she points out that the sacred texts we read center the male gaze and narrate from that male lens. The Village Auntie has come to find that both Islam and Christianity are actually very sex-positive religions, but they aren’t preached that way because it doesn’t serve the patriarchy leading them. She advises that religious people go back to the original context of spirituality, taking the blinders off to make sex a conversation within faith.
Brown-Cepeda recalls that when she was growing up, her mother told her that her vagina was “the church,” and that she had to guard it and not let anyone in. Being of Latinx decent, Luquin notes that she not only has indigenous ancestry, but also has colonized ancestry. She says that her indigenous ancestors did not see sexuality as something evil or bad – that was a result of colonialism and white supremacy, because female sexuality didn’t fit the narrative of the bible.
“Sex done properly and done well is a part of spirituality,” The Village Auntie says, adding, “you’re getting a taste of the garden… and there’s nothing blasphemous about saying that.” With that in mind, why wouldn’t we talk about pleasure in the context of spirituality and look a bit deeper into what the texts are actually saying?
Monogamy is not easy for women
Martin jokes that the only thing you can count on about female sexuality is that you can’t count on anything.
We can’t break our sexuality off from the ecology in which it happens, and when we are biased about female sexuality, we are being biased about ALL sexuality. She notes that in spite of what we are taught to think, the male libido and female libido are not so different. It is not true that men have higher libidos than female, when measured correctly with “responsive desire” included in data. Where we do differ is that men do not have a menstrual cycle that fluctuates their hormones, and she says where we are in our menstrual cycle also needs to be taken into account when measuring sexual desire, because it impacts female libido.
Another “untruth” is the idea that monogamy is easier for women. She says it is harder for people who identify as women to want the sex they can’t have, and that there is data proving that women need sexual variety and pleasure as much as men, or even more. Women, in the aggregate, get bored in heterosexual monogamous relationships years earlier than their male partners. For women who choose to be monogamous, it is normal to feel bored, but Martin urges you not to have service sex. Know your body and what you like/dislike, and be clear with your partner when it comes to telling them what you need so that they can help you feel fully sexually realized.
Sexual Wellness Resources
- Foria – An innovative sexual health and wellness company powered by CBD
- Dame – Products is a women-founded company developing well-engineered toys that encourage vulnerability, heighten intimacy, and add value to your pleasure.
- LELO – Swedish designer brand and the worlds leading provider of intimate lifestyle products, high-quality pleasure objects and luxurious massage candles and oils.
- LOLA -Sexual wellness products made by women. Designed for peace of mind.
- Maude – A modern sexual wellness brand created to simplify sex with body-safe essentials like vibrators, condoms, lubricants and other personal care goods.
- Sustain – Founded to create a world that fosters open, honest, and real conversations about sex and periods.
- Sex with Emily – Leading Sex Expert Dr. Emily Morse shares insight and advice on sex, relationships, and everything in between. Home of the Sex with Emily Podcast.
- True Sex + Wild Love Podcast – True Sex & Wild Love is an open-minded exploration of love, sex, and relationship in the modern world.
- Unbound – Beautifully designed vibrators, lubricants, sex toys, and accessories at an affordable price. All products made with body safe material and medical grade silicone.
- Untrue- Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, by Wednesday Martin, PhD
Join us for the upcoming webinar on December 9th, 6:30pm ET – Demystifying Body Literacy for Millennials