Vaginismus

Hi Readers!

This week’s topic is Vaginismus. This is when the vagina suddenly tightens up just as you try to insert something into it. It can be painful and cause distress. Good news is that this can be treated.

Vaginismus is an automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration. Whenever penetration is attempted, the vaginal muscles tighten up on their own. The person has no control over this. Vaginismus does not necessarily affect the ability to get aroused and enjoy other types of sexual contact. 

If you are experiencing vaginismus, remember it is not your fault and there is nothing to be ashamed of. 

NHS recommends that you see a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if:

  • You find it hard inserting a tampon into your vagina 
  • You struggle with vaginal penetration during sex
  • You feel burning or stinging pain during sex 

Treatment for vaginismus usually focuses on managing feelings around penetration and exercises to gradually get used to penetration. Possible treatments are psychosexual therapy, relaxation techniques, pelvic floor exercises, sensate focus and vaginal trainers. 

There are no obvious explanations for vaginismus, but there are some things thought to cause it; such as fear that the vagina is too small, a bad first sexual experience, an unpleasant medical examination, a belief that sex is shameful or wrong or a painful medical condition.

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

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Erogenous zones

Hi Readers! 

Last week we spoke about the Masters & Johnson sexual response cycle. In that article, I briefly mentioned erogenous zones and today we are going to talk about them!

What are erogenous zones? Do we all have them? How do I know what mine are? 

Erogenous zones are located all over the human body. They are an area of the body that has heightened sensitivity, which, when stimulated, may generate a sexual response: relaxation, the production of sexual fantasies, sexual arousal and orgasm. Sensitivity to each varies and depends on concentrations of nerve endings that can provide pleasurable sensations when stimulated.  Touching another person’s erogenous zone is an act of physical intimacy. Whether a person finds stimulation in these areas to be pleasurable or objectionable depends on a range of factors; level of arousal, the circumstances in which it takes place, cultural context, nature of the relationship between persons involved and personal history.

Spending time exploring your own body and that of your partner is a pleasurable way to discover exactly what turns you on sexually and what you really don’t like. 

When anyone talks about erogenous zones, people immediately think about the obvious body parts: breast, nipples, clitoris, penis. Yes, these are sexual areas that are more erogenous than other parts. But there are plenty of other erogenous zones, including but not limited to:

  • Eyelids
  • Eyebrows
  • Temples
  • Lips
  • Feet
  • Shoulders
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Hair
  • Abdominal
  • Navel
  • The brain

I challenge you to find out what yours and your partner’s are. This can be a great lockdown activity or if you have some downtime during the holidays, explore!

Be kind to one another

Julia, Sexologist

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Intimacy

Hi Readers! 

This week’s article is about intimacy and alternatives to sexual intercourse. In a world so focused on penetration, its important to explore what is beyond that. I’m sure you can find something amazing. 

Everyone lives their sexuality and intimacy in their own way, whichever way suits them best, however they feel comfortable. 

What does intimacy mean to you? (Yes, you need to answer this question now.)

How do you define intimacy? (Yessss, you need to answer this question, too.)

The concept of intimacy is defined in different ways. Sometimes, we think of intimacy as two people having sexual intercourse. Intimacy can be defined by nudity or solo sexual practices, like masturbation. For some, intimacy only refers to the sexual organs. 

For others, intimacy encompasses emotional proximity, sharing, self-revelation and specific experiences related to intimacy. Intimacy is about well-being, confidence in connection with affection, perception and cognitive state before, during and after the exchange of intimacy. This is what I want you to think about and figure out (if you haven’t explored it yet). 

Intimacy is a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.

Sexuality is one of the core elements of what it is to be human. When we speak of sexuality, we speak of biological sex, sexual identity, sexual roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is also expressed with thoughts, fantasies, beliefs, relationships, roles, practices, behaviour, and desires. 

What are alternatives to intercourse? 

– Being physically close and intimate  

– Touching, stroking, oral sex

– Kissing

– Massaging

– Talking

– Holdings hands, holding each other 

– Taking a bath together 

– Using sex toys and other accessories 

Communicate with yourself and/or your partner about your needs, fears, worries, feelings, what you like and what you don’t like. You may feel a little nervous at the start the conversation, but that’s okay. Your partner may feel the same way. Figure it out together, learn together. 

In early 2021, we will be publishing an intimacy course that you will be able to purchase if you are interested in diving deeper into the subject intimacy. We will explore the components of intimacy and skills to better integrate intimacy into your relationships. 

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist 

Julia, Sexologist Blog

We are here to help you grow. To improve, maintain and restore your sexual health. To help keep this blog going, any contribution will be helpful.

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WORLD AIDS DAY – DECEMBER 1st

Hi Readers!

Every year on December 1st is World AIDS Day. On this day, we remember those who have died from AIDS, we show up to support those living with HIV and we continue to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

The objective is to end HIV by 2030! To do this the global community will need to once again defy expectations. Achieving the funding required to end the AIDS epidemic will require renewed commitment, innovative financing and an intensified strategic focus. 

We want everyone living with HIV to have access to treatment that will extend their life expectancy and improve their health. Investments will have to be made by each country, especially those with a high diagnosis rate. 

“Continued investments will be needed to build the capacity of health and community systems to reach the ambitious goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Importantly, quickening the pace of scaling up essential HIV treatment and prevention services will, in and of itself, result in substantial benefits to broader health systems. In addition to helping sustain the AIDS response, investments in HIV programmes will have the potential to transform national capacity to address other health priorities, such as noncommunicable diseases, maternal and child health, emerging diseases and outbreaks of infectious diseases.”UNAIDS

Reports from UNAIDS : The number of people living with HIV in 2030 could rise to 41.5 million if treatment and prevention services are kept constant at the 2013 level (current coverage). Conversely, if ambitious targets are met by 2020, the number of people living with HIV in 2030 would decline to 29.3 million. Much greater emphasis will be needed on community service delivery. According to recent consultations with countries and experts, 95% of HIV service delivery is currently facility based. 
To optimise efficiencies, UNAIDS projects that community-based service delivery will need to be ramped up to cover at least 30% of total service delivery. Not only will community service delivery reduce costs, but by bringing services closer to the people who need them, community service delivery will also improve service uptake.

To help raise awareness, in the next couple of weeks, you will find awareness videos to purchase in the shop section. These videos are great for teachers and parents who would like to raise awareness with teenagers and young adults, support group facilitators, community engagements workers please find activities related to HIV awareness on the shop page. 

Be kind to one another.

Julia, Sexologist

** We are here to help you grow. To improve, maintain and restore your sexual health.
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Gender Identity

Hi Readers!

Happy Monday! It’s great to be back on this platform. Today we are learning about gender identity! Let’s begin!

Gender Identity is a person’s internal sense or feeling of being male or female. This feeling may not be the same as one’s biological sex. To understand gender identity, you need to understand the difference between the terms sex and gender.

Gender is what you feel you belong to and may differ from the one you were assigned to at birth, based on your genitals.

Sex is about the genital and reproductive organs (penis, vagina, uterus, testicles, etc.), it is about the secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts, beard, hips, etc., it is the distinction between female and male.

By contrast, gender is the pronoun you use to speak to a person (him/her, he/she), it is the different social codes like the appearance, clothes, makeup, etc., it is the distinction between feminine and masculine.

Unfortunately, these terms are very rigid and binary. To be able to include and represent all of the diversity of gender identities, sexes and gender expression, we need to look at this in a more fluid way. Think of it as a horizontal ladder that represents diversity and so much more than just two options. Below we will look at gender identity, sex and gender expression. The words below are used to facilitate the reading. You can be anywhere on any of the ladders simultaneously as these 3 terms are mutually exclusive. If you do the exercise now and put a dot on every line where you are situated today, it may not be the same answer in a few days or months. Some individuals have a different response every day.

Gender identity

Woman                                                 Gender fluid                                           Man

Sex

Female                                                    Intersex                                             Male

Gender expression

Feminine                                               Non-binary                                  Masculine

There is an entire vocabulary to describe gender identity – let’s look at a few:

  • Bigender: Someone who identifies with two genders i.e.: male and female.
  • Cisgender or cis: When your gender matches the sex you were assigned at birth.
  • Gender fluid: when your identity moves around on the gender spectrum
  • Gender neutral: someone who doesn’t identify with any gender
  • Gender non-binary: Someone who doesn’t fit into the binary gender (male/female)
  • Gender fluid: When your identity moves around the gender spectrum. 
  • Gender expression: The way in which a person’s expresses their gender identity, typically through appearance, dress, and behaviour. 
  • Intersex: People whose biology doesn’t easily fit into male or female. This can include genitals, chromosomes or hormones. 
  • Polygender: describes people who have multiple genders at once. 
  • Transgender: A person whose gender identity, outward appearance, expression and/or anatomy does not fit into conventional expectations of male or female. 
  • Transsexual: An old fashioned term for someone who goes through, or wants to go through, gender realignment. This is why we use the word Trans* as it an umbrella term to describe people whose gender identity doesn’t line up with their assigned sex at birth. Also, if someone tells you they are a woman and would like you to use the pronoun she/her and her preferred name is ____. Respect that please. That person will really appreciate the fact that you are respecting their wish and you are not judging them.
  • Two-spirit: some Aboriginal people identify themselves as two-spirit rather than as bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender. Historically, in many Aboriginal cultures, two-spirit persons were respected leaders and medicine people. Before colonization, two-spirit persons were often accorded special status based upon their unique abilities to understand both male and female perspective (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2011). 

I hope this has helped you understand some of the different terms that are out there and helped your mind to grow a little …. If you have any questions please contact me on depetrillojulia@gmail.com

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

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Talking to children about consent

Hi Readers!

Do you like fries? I love fries! I promise this is relevant. Today we are going to talk about consent; more specifically, why it’s important to teach children about consent from a young age. I will give you some tips on how to do it.

Consent is when someone is explicitly agreeing (by choice) to an experience, whether it is sexual, touching, kissing or hugging. Every person has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

So… going back to my F-R-I-E-S.1Consent has to be:

F reely given (the person doesn’t feel pressured, coerced or obliged to say yes);

R eversible (the person can change their mind in the middle of the experience and that doing so is their right);

I nformed (knowing all of the facts before agreeing to something);

E nthusiastic (the person is happy to say yes, there is no confusion or doubt);

S pecific (the person is agreeing to something specific; if there is something else involved they must explicitly agree to that, too).  

Now that you know how important consent is, you should think about this framework every time you give consent and feel confident and enthusiastic about saying yes. But, if you have answered no to any of the statements above you should not be giving your consent as you probably don’t know enough about the situation or don’t feel comfortable.

Clearly, explaining F-R-I-E-S to toddlers and very young children may not be that easy. I suggest you try explaining it to them as simply as possible; you know your child, children or your classroom best. Kids also learn through experience, so giving examples and going through this more than once will be beneficial.

Respect a child’s wishes when it comes to hugging, kissing, cuddling and tickling. The only exceptions are in matters of safety; for example, if a child needs to be restrained from hurting themselves or others. The big example here is ensuring that they are not forced to hug or kiss anyone, even grandma.

Children need to choose their level of contact based on their level of comfort. While this may sound outrageous to some, as we usually greet people (especially grandma) with a hug and/or a kiss, why should we force children to say hello in this way or do anything else if they do not feel comfortable?

To do so is to teach a child that a familiar person can touch them even if they don’t want them to and could lead to a child being unsure of what to do in an inappropriate situation. This completely goes against the F-R-I-E-S concept and the definition of consent.

If a child doesn’t want to greet someone with a kiss or a hug, teach them to ask for a high-five or a fist bump. And if that still makes them feel uncomfortable, a wave and a smile is perfectly fine, too! As long as your children are respectful and kind to others, does it really matter?

It is normal for children to want their own space sometimes and children are also allowed to set their own boundaries.

It is important to teach children the correct language for their body parts. I know it can feel embarrassing but using code words with you child (usually said in a lower voice) will in turn make you child feel embarrassed about using the appropriate words.

We should be breaking the stigmas surrounding body parts by using their actual names. This also avoids any misunderstandings, especially if they need to tell an adult that something happened to them.

It is important to teach children that their bodies are their own and that no one has the right to touch them unless they ask for help. For example while toilet training, children may need help wiping their bum. It is important to start a habit of asking the child “would you like some help?” Look, I get it, most of the time it’s easier for an adult to clean up as the child may make more of a “mess” but this is how we learn, right?

Even if it is something as simple as adjusting a piece of clothing or cleaning their face because they have something on it, ask them first! Empower your child to make that choice. Obviously if they are harming themselves or someone else, you need to act fast! Use common sense.

Even though you shouldn’t have to, as a parent, you may find yourself having to explain to your friends and family that you are teaching your child about boundaries and consent if your child chooses to greets them with a high five. Might I suggest you send them this post and I’ll explain it to them for you.

Teaching the importance of reporting

You must teach your children that if someone violates their body, touches them inappropriately or crosses their boundaries, it is not their fault and that they need to tell an adult. Explain why it is important by going through the F-R-I-E-S concept.

These are lessons and reminders that need to be given often, consent is not a one-and-done concept. Many children know that they should immediately report to an adult they trust. That being said, it is important to continue having these discussions with your older children and teens as they may need reminding about what is not okay and who they can speak to about a violation of their privacy, body and boundaries.

Please take a few minutes to watch this video about consent for kids (and here’s one for adults too) and share it with your kids, family and friends. It is very easy for kids to understand this video but they may have some questions or you may wish to quiz them to make sure they understood what all this means.

If you have any more questions please contact me via email at depetrillojulia@gmail.com

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

 

 

 

1Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Asexuality

Hi Readers!

Today’s blog post is about a specific sexual orientation: asexuality. Yes, asexuality is a sexual orientation just like homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, etc. You may have heard people talk about someone being asexual or someone telling you that they are asexual and not knowing how to react, or not knowing what it means or maybe you had never heard the word before.

First, it’s okay not to know something – we learn something everyday. It’s okay to ask someone to explain it to you (just ask respectfully, please!).

Second, if you were too shy to ask for an explanation – do not fear, I am here! This post will explain what asexuality means. I would also like to refer you to a book I read a few years ago called  The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker. You can by it on Amazon or in your favourite bookstores. It is a really great book for those of you who are interested in knowing more. The author explains it through her experiences but also presents the facts about asexuality. I though it was a great book to give you… wait for it… as an introduction to asexuality! 

Approximately 1% of the population is asexual, though many experts think that the number may be higher.

Asexuality is defined as limited or no sexual attraction, interest or desire. An asexual person is someone who is not sexually attracted to anyone. This does not mean that asexual people are not romantic, do not fall in love or do not want to be touched. Asexuals can be romantically attracted to other people, be in relationships, be intimate with someone or be intimate with themselves and/or want to masturbate. Asexuals may be in a relationship and may not ask or want to have a sexual relationship, but they may chose to do so in order to please their partner. Just like sexual people, asexual people are all different; they have their likes and dislikes and have their own levels of comfort.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness concerning asexuality and this has an effect on asexual people as they may feel left out, misunderstood and hurt. Bottom line, be kind to one another, do your research, all the information is at the tip of your fingers.

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

“Sexologist? Ooohh what’s that?”

Hi Readers!

So, you might have heard loads of myths about Sexologists, what we do, what we studied, where we work, how can we help, etc. 

This blog post is to help you better understand our educational background, where we work and what our ‘actual’ job is. The following explanation is mostly based on what I have learnt, my experiences, people I have studied with or have met along the way. If you have read my bio or visited my LinkedIn profile, you know that I am from Quebec, Canada and studied at the only university (UQAM) that offers this specific bachelor’s degree in North America. The Province of Quebec even has a professional order for Sexologists. If you are interested, and can read French, you can check out their website (https://opsq.org/).

Please read this post to learn more about my profession as I try to demystify some of the commonly held misconceptions about what we do. #knowledgeispower

What is a Sexologist?

A sexologist is a trained professional with either a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD in Sexology. Our education focuses on understanding a person’s sexual behaviour, development, and well-being to maintain, improve or restore sexual health whether they be an individual, a couple, a family, a group or a community. Sexual health is a state of physical, mental, and social well-being; as such, Sexology is an interdisciplinary subject. As Sexologists, we are trained to implement educational and preventative programmes across several sexual health themes. During our studies, we learn about the history of sexology, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV/AIDS, human anatomy, sexual dysfunctions, creation and evaluation of educational and preventative programmes, theoretical and practical courses on sexual health counselling and coaching. These are the subjects that help shape a Sexologist as a professional, which in turn gives us the tools to help individuals and society with sexual health issues. 

The sexologist role is to improve, maintain and restore people’s sexual health and may include the determination of an intervention plan that is implemented alone or as part of a multidisciplinary team, or in collaboration with other partners.

Where to find us

Sexologists can work in private practice, in health and social services institutions, in schools, in correctional facilities or in community settings and so many more.

So, there you have it readers! I hope this has helped you understand a little more about what a Sexologist is.

If you would like to improve, maintain, or restore your sexual health you can contact me for more details.

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist