Slippery When Wet, One Woman's Journey Through the Mystery of Sex, is a book I came across when the author (Dr. Joanna Ellington or Dr. E) commented on a post I had at BlogHer a couple months ago. Strangely, the name of her blog is Science, Sex & Nature - very similar to this blog and my movie, Science Sex and the Ladies, but it was a complete coincidence. I read the book, and now I'm about to do a proper SSL review - which as you know will focus almost solely on the discussion of orgasm and masturbation. So here goes.
The book is a mix of sex and relationship advice with a personal account of the author's sexual life learnings, plus a discussion of her scientific investigations into sperm and her discovery of a fertility friendly lubricant called Pre-Seed. I love hearing candid stories from women about their sexual lives. I think hearing those kinds of stories are important and in this book, they were also a lot of fun. I loved a lot about this book. I recommend giving it a read. It had some SSL positives. You can read about that below. I also, as is my way, had a couple bits of SSL critiques, and those are below too.
I also have something kinda strange to discuss about this book. The thing is, it gave me kind of a mind-blowing insight into a incredibly simple way women could approach getting the kinds of benefits men get from Viagra. It's actually really simple - probably a little too simple - and I don't really even know if the author would see it this way, but I it struck me hard, and I figure it's worth a sort of off-topic discussion at the end of this post.
|Dr. Joanna Ellington with her book, Slippery When Wet: One Woman's Journey Through the Mysteries of Sex from: Dr. E's BlogHer 9.10.2014|
SSL Positives in the book
- She is the mother of all boys and she points out that it was important to the parenting of her children that they not be sexually illiterate, which included these boys knowing where the clitoris was and its importance to the female orgasm. Kudos for that - if you have boys think about doing the same. I'm sure some woman down the line will thank you for at least setting your sons generally in the right direction.
- She also notes the importance for good education for girls. "Many Teens, including girls themselves, share confusion about female genitalia, such as not understanding the anatomy of the clitoris or mixing and matching the terms vulva and vagina (because socialy we use these terms incorrectly all the time). Additionally most girls aren't taught basic physiology, such as how their bodies lubricate for sex; why overstimulation of the clitoris (by an untaught partner or super tight jeans) can cause pain rather than pleasure; and what will and will not work to trigger an orgasm." Tell it, Dr. E!
- She speaks to the importance of masturbation as self discovery and acknowledges the problems that occur when girls don't do this. "In contrast, girls often first experience sexual arousal, not by themselves, but rather through physical intimacy with boys, including during intercourse. Because many women do not readily orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse, girls are much more likely to experience early sexual encounters in which orgasm isn't (*edited: accidentally put is instead of isn't at first*) a natural conclusion to feeling aroused. Additionally, the number of women for whom their first time making love feels good is much lower than that found in men. In one study, 36% of men and 10% of women considered their first intercourse very pleasurable whereas 5% of men versus 33% of women found it to be very unpleasant. Many girls feel embarrassed to admit that they didn't enjoy sex and unsure what they can do to improve their fulfillment and reach orgasm."
- She is quite candid and honest about the ups and downs of her sexual life which includes admitting to faking orgasms (cause come on, most of us have). I think this kind of honesty from women is a revolutionary act. The first step to acknowledging that women are not given the opportunity to learn as much about our bodies and to orgasm as much as we deserve to is to be honest to eachother about about our experiences. We need to break down the stigma surrounding that kind of honestly and a book like this helps.
- Another absolutely fantastic aspect of her book is her discussion about vulvar and vaginal pain. She has dealt first hand with vulvodynia, a chronic pain condition which "caused the relentless burning and irritation I experienced not just right after sex, but also for hours and days afterward. Even walking, sitting down and wearing certain clothes could feel unbearable." She's not alone. The condition affects about 20% of women. Pain down there is not so uncommon at all. In fact, she points out that 46% of women report pain during intercourse at some time in their life, and one in four women suffer at some point from the chronic burning rawness like she had. That's a shit ton of women, but it's not often discussed, and it's not well treated. Doctors aren't always informed, and often don't help much. To me, this issue is incredibly important to the orgasm equality movement, because if your shit hurts, you ain't getting aroused, and you sure ain't going to orgasm. Dr. E gives great advice about what she has learned on the subjects, and I think it could help a lot of women - not only in the learnings she has to offer, but also the sense that other women who are suffering are not alone.
Some SSL critiques
- When the author (Dr. E) speaks of her first orgasm, it is during intercourse - her 2nd intercourse experience with this boy. Although she describes that this particular boy was patient and sensual and that their first encounter was not so exciting, she doesn't really talk about what was different with this second situation that made it orgasmic (except maybe that it was in a bed and not with her back uncomfortably against the wooden floor of a boat). I really would like to see more detailed physical information from women to other women when talking about orgasms during intercourse. The advice and personal stories I see now are just way too un-detailed to be helpful about something so uncommonly experienced among women who have sex. It would have been helpful to see more specific descriptions of movement, positions, stimulation techniques, level of arousal, what-parts-were-rubbing-against-what etc. that were happening during intercourse to make one experience end in orgasms and the other not.
- She also goes on to say that once she had that orgasm and learned what one felt like, she found several ways to get one, both alone and with a partner. Everything is right with that idea if you ask me, but again, it would have been cool to get some detailed physical descriptions of the experimentation, failures, and successes during the time she discovered these paths to orgasm. Of course, this kind of detail is not right for every book or for every personal story, but I do think it could have fit in well and given a little extra umph to the Dr. E's open and informative style. She's got a blog, though, so there's still time :)
- I do have to also take quick issue with the discussion about female orgasm helping women choose the best dad; an argument that female orgasm evolved to help women find the best genetic partner with which to create offspring. It's a common and seemingly obvious way to look at lady-gasms, but it's probably not so correct. When it comes to female orgasm and evolution, the most well-researched, logically sound, and comprehensive voice on the topic is Elisabeth Lloyd, who wrote The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Study of Evolution. Female orgasm just doesn't seem to have a specific evolutionary role. Her book has been unfairly poo-pooed, and people often mix the idea of female orgasm with female arousal when arguing against it, but honestly her argument is so well thought-out and solid that I can't pass up the opportunity to bring it up when I see the subject discussed without recognizing her contribution. So there. I've brought it up. Go read it. I highly recommend it.
Slightly off topic insight inspired by this book
My sorta mind-blown situation that happened while reading this book came when she was discussing the product she created. She invented a lubricant called Pre-Seed. Being a scientist that focused on sperm (Seriously, she did some cool stuff with that. Here's a Radio Lab interview about a super cool experiment she did that is also discussed in the book), she somehow ended up making a lubricant that created a safe environment for sperm. Bet you didn't know that normal lubricants are not a great environment for sperm, did ya? It's not like spermicide bad - but it's not your best bet for fertility situations. So, if you're looking to conceive and want lube, maybe check into it (not my bag at the moment, but maybe it's yours). It's also reportedly quite mild. In the book, Dr. E says she was very careful about testing all the possible products on her own genitals and threw out anything that bothered her vulvodynia, so if you are also rather sensitive and looking for a less bothersome lube, maybe give it a whirl.
Okay, getting to my mind-blowing part, Pre-Seed comes with applicators to insert the lube up into the vagina. This way it coats all up in there, and bonus, you can put it in place 15 minutes before intimacy. So, I'm reading about this, and I thought, shit, is this kinda approaching the female equivalent to Viagra? I honestly have never heard of applicators for putting in lube. I don't know if I'm just an idiot, or I've just not been listening to the right people, but I don't think that's a common thing people use or talk about...but maybe it should be. Maybe, just maybe a simple thing like adding lube all up in there before sexy times could give most of the benefits to women that men get from Viagra. Stay with me now. Let's look at the details.
1 Does it make it possible to have intercourse?
Viagra - Yes, its main focus is getting that dick hard, and if the dick's hard it can be inserted into an orifice - which is technically intercourse.
Lube applicator - Yes, mostly. Technically there doesn't need to be lubrication for intercourse, but for god-sake it hurts like a bitch without it, so for all intents and purposes, there does actually need to be lubrication. So let me say (because I - in the name of blog research- tried the ol' shooting-up-lube-into-the-vagina-and-doing-the-intercourse-thing when it was previously bone dry down there) that it made it quite comfortable, in fact, very comfortable to accommodate some penetration. Just adding some lube to the outer parts of the vag lips and/or to the penis simply does not lubricate this whole intercourse situation well - not by a long shot.
The mostly part of "Yes, mostly," arises because there is this other aspect of the vagina and penetration. After a certain amount of arousal, the vagina will elongate to more comfortably accommodate a phallic intruder, and just adding some lube up there doesn't address this aspect of making it possible/comfortable for intercourse, but 1 out of 2 ain't bad.
2 Does it help libido issues?
Viagra - No, it's just a pill to help men overcome some chemical aspects of getting an erection. There still has to be sufficient mental or physical stimulation to begin the arousal process. If you simply aren't into getting it on, it probably won't get your dick hard.
Lube applicator - No, it's just putting some lube up your junk, so no.
3 Does it help get you to the 1st stage of arousal?
Getting increased blood flow to the genitals is the very first thing that happens to both men and women during arousal. For men, that means the penis begins to get hard. For women, increased blood flow means lubrication begins to appear on the vaginal walls.
Viagra - Yeah. However, it's not gonna just give you an erection for no reason. You need to feel kinda aroused to get there, but it helps many men overcome some chemical hurdles, and getting to the point where that first stage of arousal becomes, ya know, obvious, is much easier.
Lube applicator - No, but it basically fakes the first stage of arousal and since the lube is injected up into the vagina (and can be done before sexual encounters begin) it does it in a way that feels very much like what would be happening in natural circumstances.
Difference - So, yeah, just adding some lube in there isn't an internally biological way to help along that first stage of arousal, but it is a super non-risk and non-invasive way to mimic arousal.
4 Can it help with further arousal and orgasm?
Viagra - No, It's all about getting to that erection. The rest is up to you. Without a conducive mental state and appropriate mental and physical stimulation, further arousal or orgasm simply isn't going to happen.
Lube applicator - No. Like I said before, it's just some lube up the lady-junk. The rest is up to you. Without a conducive mental state and appropriate mental and physical stimulation, further arousal or orgasm simply isn't going to happen.
But also yes to both - Okay, so the thing is that Viagra isn't a magic pill and lube's just lube, but something kinda magical about both is that when it helps create that hard dick or those wet lady bits, all the past associations the person and his/her partner have with seeing said erection/wetness, could flood in and make all the shit that's happening feel sexier. Arousal has so much to do with our minds. so, feeling the things in our body (and seeing them in our partner) that remind us of past highly arousing times might do a lot to improve our arousal, which, of course, improves our chance for an orgasm. So in that way, using Viagra or a lube applicator could help towards greater arousal and orgasm in similar ways.
Neither are magic bullets, but they both maybe are a step in the right direction...and even if the lube applicator doesn't quite hold up to the power of Viagra, it's not too far off. Plus the lube applicator situation is non-prescription, easy to try out, and there aren't any real serious health risks, It's something to think about.
***Full SSL style discussion would have me remind you that women often lack the proper physical stimulation for arousal and orgasm (i.e. - too much vaginal stimulation and not enough clitoral stimulation), so if you are looking for ways to help with arousal, orgasm or libido, make sure that the sexual encounters you do have are full of the types of erotic touches that actually do arouse you...I mean, first things first. I also want to point out that intercourse isn't everything, and a little lube up the hoo-hoo could also be nice for things like manual stimulation, oral stimulation, and some good ol' grinding on eachother's bodies, so don't be forgetting about those things.