Viagra and the mythical man-unicorn

Viara and the myth of the man-unicorn | Betty Herbert

Reblogged from bettyherbert.com.

So, Viagra is now off-patent. Yes, it’s been a full fifteen years since Richard and Judy sent that middle-aged couple off to a hotel room with a packet of little blue pills and the chance to discuss the results on live TV. Hard to believe, isn’t it? (I may as well surrender to the double-entendres early.)

Since then, erections have changed for good. We’ve long lived with the myth of the perma-hard man, eternally baying for sex in a desperate effort to quell his raging stiffy. Viagra practically made that an obligation. Suddenly, erections became public property. There was simply no excuse not to have one anymore.

Clearly, Viagra has been a godsend for many men (and their partners) who have faced years of frustration at their insubordinate members. But it’s not a panacea. Plenty of people can’t use it (those with heart conditions, for example), plenty of people won’t benefit from it (including those whose erections have been lost due to prostate surgery) and plenty more don’t have access to it.

The wider issue is that we rarely speak the truth about erections. They’re fragile things, easily affected by emotional and physical states like tiredness or depression. Most men will experience an elusive erection at some point in their life (and not just because of ‘brewer’s droop’, that re-machoing of threatened manhood) – it’s normal, and yet we commonly portray it as a crisis. The ever-erect man is as elusive as his mythical cousin, the unicorn.

We need to stop talking about erections as the be-all and end-all of sex. They are not the only locus of male sensation; and they are not the only way that women can receive pleasure. The sole purpose of sex is not to create and spend an erection – that’s just a bizarre impression that we get at school. We can let go of it as adults. We have better imaginations than that.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with seeking treatment if it’s a long-term problem (not least because it can point to a range of underlying illnesses). It’s just that I think we should acknowledge that men have bodily insecurities too. While women get fed up with seeing thin, airbrushed beauties everywhere in the media, men can rightly feel aggrieved that they are expected to have access to an endless stream of tumescence, while an absentee erection is generally a sign of weakness or failure.

Sexual feeling resides in our whole bodies – and our minds. A lost erection doesn’t have to be the end of sex: it can instead be a chance to break up the in-out monotony, and to escape from the bizarre race-to-orgasm that happens so often in the bedroom. Forget Slow Food – this is Slow Sex: exploratory, appreciative, deliberate. It’s a chance to open up a dialogue about pleasure, sharing fantasies, learning about touch and reigniting our senses. As this article suggests, unreliable erections can make us better lovers.

And that’s all of us, not just those of us with a penis.

 

A Seductive Christmas Gift

The 52 Seductions - a great Christmas gift!The Christmas Gift That Keeps on Giving!

The smell of mince pies is in the air, and many of us have already endured the itch of a tinsel-boa at a Christmas party.

If you’re anything like me, you’re also in a blind panic about what to buy your partner for Christmas.

Fear not! I have an idea for a seductive gift that will promise your lover a happy new year, too.

Buy a copy of The 52 Seductions for just £8 including P&P (mainland Britain – please ask for details for postage overseas), and I’ll send you a signed edition with a hand-written inscription of your choice. I promise to use my best handwriting and to be utterly discreet.

The perfect gift for your partner of 20 years, your partner of two weeks, newlyweds, your mother in law…maybe not the last one.

Follow this link to read the first couple of chapters of The 52 Seductions, and follow this one to read our special Christmas seduction from 2010. Just so you know what you’re letting yourself in for!

I use first class postage and send within 24 hours of your order, but do order early to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve, ready for that stocking.

Buy your personalised copy now for just £8Email me with details of your inscription, and I will send you a PayPal invoice.


			

Tearing off a strip

Austerity measures are in place in the B&H household. Budgets have been drawn up. Certain parties (ahem) have vowed to not be quite so profligate with money. There is a distinct whiff of penitence in the air.

But for each item we have ruthlessly slashed from our budget (newspapers, meals out, the prospect of a holiday ever again), there is a sister item that refuses to to be cut. Take, for example, hair removal. I am used to happily trotting down to my local waxing parlour once a month to be thoroughly defluffed. This may now be £35 we can’t afford, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to let my lady garden fall to ruin.

A bikini wax is something I just can’t live without. I routinely receive lectures from other women that this is not the case, but I can only assume that they have a lot less public hair than I do. Left to its own devices, my bikini line extends halfway down my thighs. I would like to say that this is a joke, but it is not. If it is slightly thinner around the edges that it used to be, then that is due to years of devoted waxing. On the rare occasions I’ve tried to grow it back, I’ve developed thrush from the sheer heat it generates. I concede that no-one ‘needs’ a Hollywood (great to have the choice, though), but without my bikini wax, my pubis would resemble Brian Blessed after a particularly heavy night out.

So, there’s only one thing for it. Herbert will have to become my waxing technician. I ask him if he’d mind.

‘Of course not,’ he says. ‘It sounds quite entertaining, actually.’

Entertaining for you maybe, Herbert. Come Sunday afternoon, I spread an old sheet over the bed, and make up a batch of sugaring wax (see recipe below). I have taken the precaution of buying proper spatulas and waxing strips, and I lay these out on a tea-tray covered in newspaper. As a final touch, I bring in my desk lamp so that he can see what he’s doing.

‘Right,’ I say to H, ‘Spread the wax in the direction of the hair growth and smooth on the strip in the same direction. Pull it off in the opposite direction, but not upwards. Parallel to the skin.

‘Okay,’ he says, ‘I’ll just switch the tennis on to keep us company.’

I’m not sure this is a good idea. H is a tennis junkie, and in a battle for attention between my crotch and the ATP finals, I’m pretty sure I’d lose.

Nevertheless, I lay on my back and bend my legs outwards, revealing the full splendour of my thigh fuzz.

‘How far do you want me to go?’

‘Well,’ I say, pulling up my knickers, ‘you see the line where the hair goes from thick bush to wispy hair? That’s the line I want you to follow. Make sure it’s a triangle.’

‘Fine,’ says H, sunnily. He layers on a thick line of wax, smooths on the fabric strip, and then pauses dramatically before ripping out a big clump of pubes.

‘Ouch!’ I say. ‘Do you think you could avoid the long pause before you pull it off? It makes me nervous.’

‘That was brilliant,’  says H. ‘So much came off in one go. Look!’ He waves the strip under my nose and I see an alarming amount of black hair.

‘Remember, don’t go too far in,’ I say. ‘I don’t want a landing-strip.’

‘Don’t worry,’ says H, one eye on the telly. He smears on another streak of wax and tears it off.

‘H!’ I say, looking down, ‘You’ve gone even further in this time!’

‘I’m following the line of your knickers, but you keep moving them in!’

‘I’m moving them out of your way.’

‘Oh,’ says H. He peers in. ‘Problem is, there’s still a big patch covered in wax. Shall I just take that off anyway?’

This would mean losing most of my public hair, and I don’t fancy getting H to wax around my labia. ‘No,’ I sigh, ‘I’ll have to try and shower it out. We’ll do the other half in a minute.’

In the bathroom, I find that the right hand side of my pubic hair is a series of waxy dreadlocks. I shampoo them, but nothing seems to budge, so I begin to tug at the wax, hoping to loosen it. This leads to a huge line of hair tearing out in my hand. ‘Flaming Norah,’ I imagine Keeley, my usual waxing technician, saying. I can’t help but agree with her. I wish Keeley were here now. She’d be able to sort this out.

‘Right,’ I say to H, returning to the bedroom. ‘You’re just going to have to try to make this even. No-one will see the wonky bits but you anyway.’

‘Yeah,’ says H, ‘But I might find that a bit distracting, now that it’s my own handiwork.’

All I can hope is that I don’t have to show it to the midwife next week.

 

*

 

Sugaring Wax Recipe

I learned to make sugaring wax from an Iraqi friend when I was a teenager. It’s pretty simple and dead cheap. You can buy 100 fabric strips from Amazon for about £4 (we used about 1/3 of a pack, but I’m sure we’ll learn to improve on this rate), and 100 spatulas for about the same amount, although you only use one per session. That means my bikini wax cost about £2.50. Bargain. Clearly you could cut this cost if you had an old sheet you could cut up instead.

1. Mix 2 cups caster sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan.

2. Bring to the boil, and let it bubble away for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. You have to stand over it to make sure it doesn’t boil over.

3. Gradually, it will thicken slightly, and become darker (see pic above). Test it in a glass of cold water – if it disperses, it’s not ready yet; if it stays together, and is pliable to the touch, it’s ready. Because it’s basically a caramel, you can also taste it at this stage – it takes on a toastier flavour when it’s done. N.B. while still hot, it will feel too thin to be used as wax. Have faith.

4. Take it off the heat and cool for 30-45 mins before using – test a small patch of it on your wrist before smearing it on! If it gets too cool and hard while you’re waxing with it, you can ping it in the microwave for 10 seconds or warm it in a bowl of boiling water, but make sure you test the temperature before you use it again.

 

 

 

 

Aaaand squeeze…or, actually, don’t…much

Alright, I admit it: I’m a slightly smug Kegel-er.

Over the course of my working day, I like to give my pelvic floor muscles a good ol’ flex as often as I remember. Which is sometimes lots of times, and sometimes not at all. Not to worry. Despite my scattergun approach, they seem to be pretty good. For example, they did not fail me when I was required to empty half my bladder during a recent ultrasound.

The benefits of a strong pelvic floor are well known. Better bladder and bowel control, improved posture, reduced back pain, and of course, enhanced sexual pleasure. I started my daily flexes during the year of Seductions, mainly because I thought H would notice. I was genuinely surprised when my body’s response changed too: the whole length of my vagina now feels much more sensitive and ‘alive’, and orgasms almost tumble out of me.

But it turns out that my Kegel-ing efforts might have been in vain. A growing number of experts now argue that Kegels can do more harm than good – especially as few of us are doing them properly. It may be better to pay attention to our core muscles in general, rather than the specific muscles in our lower abdomen.

This all gets very complicated, very quickly, so I’ve compiled a handy guide.

1. What muscles are we talking about here?

Good starting point, imaginary questioner. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that stretch from your pubic bone to the base of your spine. They support your bladder, uterus and bowel, and help these to open and close effectively. We often use the term ‘PC muscles’ when we’re talking about a strong pelvic floor, but this actually only refers to one of the muscles (the pubococcygeus). It’s better to talk about whole lot together.

Pregnancy  and childbirth are renowned for damaging these muscles, but apparently they only tend to exacerbate existing problems. We’re suffering a epidemic of pelvic floor problems because of – you guessed it – our modern habits.

This is only half relevant, but I find this Betty Dodson video enlightening. In it, she draws the internal structure of the clitoris and vulva, which helps to illustrate why strong PF muscles can lead to orgasmic fireworks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhoSUoZ_uJ0

2. What’s a Kegel?

A Kegel is the classic exercise recommended to strengthen the pelvic floor. It simply  involves drawing the PF muscles upwards, and holding for a while. I say ‘simply’ but it can take a bit of learning so that you’re not tensing every muscle in your body, holding your breath, or generally making yourself dizzy in other ways. But once learned, it’s simple and convenient. There’s a good factsheet of how to Kegel from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital here.

3. But you said that Kegels might not be the answer. 

Well, yes and no. As this post on Mama Sweat shows, Kegels can make the PF muscles too short and tense, causing a knock-on effect to other parts of your pelvis. Your vagina may feel tight, but you’re not getting the support you need. This is particularly a problem for pregnant women, for whom Kegels can make it difficult for the pelvis to open up fully during childbirth.

Far better, says biomechanical scientist Katy Bowman, to do regular squats (not the gym sort, the ‘peeing in the woods’ sort), something that our ancestors would have naturally done all the time. She suggests you start squatting in your bath every time you pee, but if that’s not your bag, she offers a great squatting programme here, and a basic guide here.

As with all things, it’s essential to do these exercises with a correct posture. This video from Hold It Sister shows good practice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAFWK045r7k

4. So it’s goodbye Kegels, hello squats?

Well, no. Alyce Adams, the self-dubbed Kegel Queen, argues that there’s nothing wrong with Kegels if they’re done properly. Her guide to the Five Biggest Kegel Mistakes shows how many of us are misinformed about how to Kegel correctly. The most important point is this: to avoid over-shortening the PC muscle, you should make sure you fully relax (not push out) after every Kegel. And there’s absolutely no need to do hundreds every day.

It’s all about balance. The squats are great for overall pelvic health, particularly for pregnant women, but (properly done) Kegels have their place too – they’re convenient, discreet and really target sexual pleasure for those interested in that sort of thing. The Kegel Queen has something to say about that, too.

5. Okay, so it’s really a case of squatting a few times a day, and Kegelling a few times a day. 

Probably, yes. Let’s be honest, integrating both or either into your everyday life is your best chance of sticking with it.

6. What about all those PF exercisers that are on sale? Worth it?

Jury’s out. Studies seem to suggest that exercising alone is more effective than gadgets, including those that use electric currents. And pregnant women are at a higher risk of infection, so shouldn’t use anything that’s inserted into the vagina.

On the other hand, PF exercising gizmos may add an extra element of motivation, because they’re pleasurable, and you can sometimes leave them in place while you get on with your life, without having to remember to keep squeezing or squatting. Given the concerns about shortening muscles, though, it’s probably a good idea not to leave them in for too long, so that you make sure your vagina gets some r’n’r between sessions.

Also, for the love of all that’s holy please don’t use PF trainers with horrible chemicals in them. Just think: these things are sitting in your vagina for extended periods, thereby offering plenty of time for you to leach the nasties out of them. The lovely Amy of Pomegranate Boutique explains all here.

If you’re interested in a PF exerciser, Pomegrante offer a great, safe range, and I’m personally a fan of Coco de Mer’s breathtakingly expensive stone love eggs.

7. Shouldn’t you issue a disclaimer for all of this?

Yeah, probably. Take responsibility for your own pelvic floor, kids. If you’ve got any doubts at all, check with your doctor. And bear in mind that I have no medical training whatsoever, except a Girl Guide First Aid badge, and that really didn’t cover pelvic floors.