People feel weird talking about sex. There’s a lot of worry about whether or not we are “normal” when it comes to sex: Do I want it enough? Do I want it too much? Am I having sex the “right” way? If you’ve been here around long enough, you know I’m all for talking openly about sex and spontaneous or responsive desire without shame. Discussing sex creates a more sex-positive culture, which leads to better sex lives for people because we are informed and confident. Because people feel so self-conscious talking about sex, there are a lot of misconceptions about how you “should” be when it comes to sex, and if you don’t fit into this box of how you “should” be, you might feel ashamed.

What is spontaneous desire?

We grow up being taught that we should experience spontaneous arousal. Spontaneous desire is when you feel aroused and interested in having sex spontaneously or out of the blue. Perhaps you are watching tv and all of a sudden you’re horny, or you wake up in the morning and feel super aroused. Most people probably feel a good amount of spontaneous arousal when they are first being intimate with a new partner, but how spontaneously you experience desire will change throughout your life. 

What about responsive desire?

Responsive desire is when you feel desire and arousal in response to pleasure. Perhaps you are watching tv and your partner snuggles up next to you and starts kissing your neck or massaging your shoulders. You think “wow that feels nice,” and you start to feel desire in response to what they are doing. 

Is responsive desire better than spontaneous?

Neither form of desire is better or more normal than the other. Culturally we are told that men typically experience spontaneous desire and that women don’t experience desire at all, which is untrue. All types of people can experience either type of desire at different points in their life and throughout different relationships. 

One of my favorite sex educators, Emily Nagoski, has written extensively on responsive and spontaneous desire, and writes about it in her book “Come As You Are.” Nagoski points out that despite the cultural idea that spontaneous desire is correct and any other type of desire means you have a low sex drive that needs fixing, there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. She has done research interviewing men and women about their sexual desire, and both men and women experience both spontaneous and responsive desire, and both types of desire are healthy.

In an article for the New York Times and another for Medium, Nagoski writes about a drug called Flibanserin, created in 2015, which is also known as the “female Viagra.” The drug is intended to create a spontaneous desire for those who take it. As she mentions in her articles, the drug was created to treat low desire in women, as if lack of spontaneous desire is a disease — which it isn’t. The clinical trials of the drug were fairly unsuccessful and had several side effects.

How to communicate your pleasure needs

As Nagoski reminds us, focusing on spontaneous desire distracts from what is really important when it comes to sex: pleasure. We get too caught up in how much we do or don’t want sex when really the focus should be on the quality of sex being had. 

It’s important to know what type of desire you experience so you can communicate that with a partner. If one partner experiences spontaneous desire and the other is responsive, the spontaneous desire partner might feel like their partner isn’t as interested in sex since they might not initiate as much. In reality, their partner is interested in sex, they just don’t feel desire until they experience some pleasure first. Communication is a great tool for a healthy sex life regardless because you can tell your partner what you want and they can communicate their needs as well. 

It’s also important to remember that neither form of desire is more correct. Responsive desire doesn’t mean you have a low sex drive or that your sex drive needs fixing. Pay attention to your body and what does or doesn’t make you feel aroused, then communicate that with your partner or partners for a more pleasurable experience for everyone involved.

Our bodies are truly amazing! They help us breathe, walk, protect us, and literally bring new life into this world! They also help us experience pleasure, which is an added bonus! A lot of people don’t often think about the transition from giving birth back into having intercourse or penetrative sex, and let me tell you, it’s important to be informed! I recently was listening to a podcast where the author of the book Like a Mother, Angela Garbes, was talking about her first time having sex after giving birth.

In a hilarious and alarming turn of events, she squirted breast milk out of her nipples as she orgasmed! Apparently, the same hormones are released during breastfeeding and orgasm, and her body got confused. Is this normal? Will this happen to me? What even is “normal”?!

First thing’s first: when it comes to sex and sexuality, there is no “normal.” Every person’s body and level of desire are different. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

How long to wait to have sex after giving birth

Although there’s no set time you must wait to have penetrative sex after giving birth, it’s recommended to wait between four to six weeks, regardless of delivery method. If you had a vaginal delivery, your body needs to recover! Your vaginal tissue is thinner than before, your vagina is tired, and you may even need to recover from some tearing. If you had a C-section, that is major surgery! You were cut open, your organs were moved aside, and a human was lifted out of you! Your body also needs time to heal and recover. Although this is the recommended time to wait, pay attention to your body. If you need more time to heal, take more time. Make sure to communicate with your partner about how you and your body are feeling so they can be kept in the loop as well.

What is my body doing after birth?

Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and childbirth, so it’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling. After giving birth, estrogen levels drop severely. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for natural lubrication in your vagina, so once these levels drop, your vagina will be dryer than usual until the hormones balance back out. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, that can also increase vaginal dryness. When you are ready to have intercourse again, use lube baby!!! Also, take it slow and enjoy some foreplay with your partner to allow your body to relax and get its natural lubrication going as well. Technically your chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding are extremely low, but this isn’t a foolproof method of birth control. Use another method like condoms or an IUD. You can even use the progestin-only pill, but avoid any birth control with estrogen in it. This can lead to blood clots if used immediately after pregnancy.

Additionally, after giving birth, your vaginal tissue is thinner. This is also due to your hormone levels drastically dropping. This can lead to pain during sex. The tissue won’t stay this way forever, but just know that sex initially might feel different or more uncomfortable because of this. You might experience dryness as I mentioned above, you might have more pain or even bleeding, fatigue, or low libido. Your pelvic floor muscles also need to be strengthened after you give birth, and tired pelvic floor muscles can cause less intense orgasms. Those are easily strengthened with Kegel exercises though.  

Just be patient!

The biggest thing to remember when getting back in the sex-game post-baby is to be patient with yourself! Your body has just undergone a HUGE change and experienced something a little traumatic- either major surgery or pushing a human out of your vagina. The dynamic between you and your partner has also likely shifted a bit because you are now parents. You are tired. You have a baby to think about and care for 24/7. You also might feel like everyone needs your body and you have no energy to share your body with your partner at the end of the day. That’s okay. Communicate how you’re feeling! Talking about these feelings will also help build intimacy between you and your partner, which will lead to great sex when you’re ready.

You can also do other fun sexy things besides penetrative sex if you are not ready for that just yet. Passionate kissing, kissing anywhere buy the mouth, oral sex, finger and hand stuff, sensual massages, use toys on each other, take a bubble bath together, mutual masturbation. The list goes on and on!

Be patient, communicate your needs, and pay attention to how your body is feeling. You got this, mama.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. People of all ages are unfortunately subject to dating violence, but February is the time of year dedicated specifically to education and awareness around teen dating violence. Dating violence is using a pattern of aggressive or manipulative behaviors to control someone in the partnership. Dating violence could be physical, but it could also be emotional, psychological, or financial. Statistically, one in 10 teenagers will experience some sort of dating violence from a partner between the ages of 12 and 19. Since teenage years are when many people start with their first romantic and sexual relationships, it’s super important to teach consent from an early age. Although people of all ages experience dating violence, and it, unfortunately, happens all year round, you can use February as an opportunity to attend events or speak with a teen in your life about dating violence.

What is consent?

Consent is agreeing to participate in any activity, sexual or otherwise. Consent is a simple idea in theory – communicating if you do or do not want to participate in something. Oftentimes we get nervous talking about consent, especially in sexual situations. There used to be this idea that consent should be taught with a “No means no!” approach, but in some cases of dating violence, a victim might not literally say “no,” but they still do not consent to what is happening. If you don’t want something to be happening but you don’t say no because you’re scared, in shock, or overwhelmed, that doesn’t mean you consent. Rather than a “no means no,” approach, many sex educators are strong proponents of the “enthusiastic yes!” I’m also a fan of this approach to consent. An enthusiastic yes basically means there is no question about whether or not everyone wants to participate in what’s happening. The consent is incredibly clear and enthusiastic.

Healthy vs. abusive relationships

Consent is all about communication. Consent should be ongoing and can be revoked at any time. Just because you kissed someone once does not mean that you have to kiss them again if you don’t want to. Flirting does not imply consent. Wearing a sexy outfit does not imply consent. If you’ve been with a partner for years and had sex with them many, many times, you’re still allowed to not consent to sex with them if you’re not feeling it. If your partner reacts negatively or makes you feel bad for revoking consent, that is a major red flag. If your partner coerces you into any sexual activity, that is also not consent! If you say no and they keep begging you or try to convince you that you should participate, that is not consent! The National Domestic Violence Hotline has amazing resources for teens and adults, including lists of what a healthy vs. abusive relationship looks like, as well as resources for teens to connect with if they need help. 

Consent can be as simple as allowing someone to hug you, or consenting to being in a relationship in the first place. It obviously comes into play in an extremely important way with sex. You are allowed to say no and revoke consent at any time, and that does not make you a bad person. Young girls are cultured to be agreeable and kind, and oftentimes they can feel like they’re being mean or rude if they turn someone down. Prioritize yourself and your comfort level. 

How to talk about consent

There’s this idea that giving consent isn’t sexy because it “ruins the moment.” Do you know what ruins the moment more? Being forced to do something you don’t want to do. And if your partner is a decent human being with empathy, they should be jazzed to know that everyone involved is 100% excited about what’s happening. Consent is sexy! Simply ask your partner, “Is this okay?” as you slowly start doing something else. Ask them what they like. Have them tell you what they want you to do. Make it flirty and fun and sexy! Make a “Want, Will, Won’t List” – a list of things you want to do, things you will try, and things you absolutely won’t do. Talk about it together. Most importantly, make sure you pay attention to your partner’s answer and respond accordingly. 

Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but when you are physical with someone for the first few times, it probably would be most comforting to be verbal since you don’t know each other’s body language well yet. After you’ve been in a relationship with someone perhaps you’ll understand their cues better and you can consent with nonverbal reactions. You could also have some fun and make up some sort of code word or code signal to nonverbally consent with your partner. Make consent part of the sexual activity you’re doing. Open communication is key to consenting. 

I once had a friend who told me if you and your partner can’t talk about having sex, then you aren’t ready to have sex with them. I love this advice, however, with dating violence, not everyone is given that choice. That’s why it’s important to teach consent from a young age so teenagers and adults feel comfortable and confident setting their boundaries. 

Talking with your teen about consent and relationships

Additionally, talk with your teenagers about healthy relationships. Literally, every romantic comedy ever exhibits unhealthy relationship patterns and spins them as romantic. Relentlessly asking a girl out when she repeatedly says no thank you? Unhealthy. Showing up in a woman’s yard playing loud music to get her attention when she told you no thanks? Unhealthy. Showing up at a woman’s house or work or school because you want to run into her? Unhealthy. In fact, that is stalking. Calling and texting incessantly because they want to know where you are? Unhealthy. So much television and movies, and even music, romanticize these incredibly unhealthy behaviors so they become so normal that if they happen to us we think it’s okay. 

If you or your teenager want to learn more about unhealthy relationship patterns, The National Domestic Abuse Hotline and RAINN are both excellent resources for education and also for survivors.

It’s no secret that here at Just Jenn I LOVE talking about sexuality! We’ve discussed all sorts of things sexual health related here, and I’ve got another fun thing to add to our discussion: a Desire Journal. 

I first heard of the idea of keeping a desire journal from a sex educator on Instagram named Dr. Wendasha Jenkins Hall PhD (@thesensiblesexpert). Dr. Wendasha brought up the idea of keeping a desire journal in one of her Instagram videos where she discusses a different topic related to sexual health each week. The Sensible Sexpert describes a desire journal as a journal where you write down all of your sexual desires and explore the possibilities of your desire. I love this idea and totally think we all should start keeping desire journals, like, ASAP.

What is a desire journal?

As The Sensible Sexpert describes, a desire journal is a place for you to explore your sexuality and desire in private. if you want to share these desires with a partner now or in the future, of course you can, but the journal is just for YOU. Even just writing about your desires and allowing yourself to explore new ideas can help you better connect with your sensuality and sexual self. 

Why keep a desire journal?

There are SO many possibilities of what to write about in a desire journal. There are no rules! You could write about past sexual experiences that you’ve enjoyed, and why. You could write about past experiences you didn’t enjoy, and why. You could write down fantasies and let yourself explore them in detail. An important note about fantasies and a desire journal in general – just because you fantasize about something doesn’t mean you ACTUALLY want it to happen. That’s why it’s a fantasy. Besides, no one else is going to see these pages, so let yourself roam free with your sensual imagination. 

Suggestions for your next journal entry

You could make a list of sexy things that turn you on, non-sexual things that turn you on, ways you turn yourself on. Make a list of how you like to be touched by someone else, how you like to be touched by yourself, places you like to have sex, places you want to have sex. You could also use the pages of your journal to create a sex bucket list or a list of sexy things you’d like to try. Again, no one but you will see these ponderings, so let yourself explore your desire without shame! Are there any new sex positions you want to try? Write about it! Are there sex toys you’d like to try? Write about it! Is there a type of lingerie you want to try but never have? Write about it! Write down any and everything you desire, even if you don’t actually want to try everything you explore in the journal.

Being connected to your own desires and feeling safe and comfortable to express and explore them with yourself will help cultivate a more open, healthy relationship with your own sexuality and sensual self. Exploring your desires in a safe place such as a journal could help make it easier to express your desires to a partner as well. We are not often encouraged to explore our desires, or we’re shamed for being in touch with them. I’m here to tell you there is NOTHING wrong with exploring your desires, and in fact, I think it will improve your overall relationship with yourself. Get to writing!