If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I fall in and out of love with the term ‘self care’. Sometimes I find it an exhaustingly trivial and apologist phrase adopted by every woman in her twenties to get out of ‘adulting’ – don’t get me started on that one – and by ad agencies to sell throw pillows and moisturiser.
Other times I really do feel that I understand the process ‘self care’ pertains to. To me, self care is deciding to stay in and edit photos with a hair masque on, despite the fact that your toxic ex has texted you to invite you out and despite your better judgement, you really want to meet him for a drink. Self care is also going to bed early, meeting your deadlines and spending time with people who think you’re wonderful. It’s taking measures to protect and care for yourself because you’re a grown woman and you’re responsible for yourself.
Now, self care is all well and good but earlier this year a phrase popped up on my timeline that I took a much greater interest in. The concept of ‘sex care’ was not at all new to me, but the term really resonated with me. The idea that in order to promote our own happiness, protect ourselves and put ourselves first, we have to really feel comfortable with and connected to our sexuality is basically the epitome of self care, right?
While women are out here buying bath bombs and trying to nail the whole self care thing, plenty of us aren’t in touch with or don’t fully understand the value and importance of expressing and embracing our sexuality. So let’s take a look at the idea of sex care and how it can help us to feel better about ourselves and ultimately, happier and more mentally and physically healthy and whole.
Feeling ashamed about putting your own pleasure first and engaging in a bit of self discovery, whether on your own or with someone else along for the ride, is a default setting for many women. We’re raised to feel embarrassed about sex and masturbation and most of the touchstones and influences we’re exposed to prioritise male pleasure, which doesn’t help much.
Earlier this year I started working with Smile Makers, a femtech brand created to disrupt an industry aimed at women that also didn’t seem to cater to them. Smile Makers create tasteful products that seek to normalise female sexuality and reflect real women’s lifestyles. It’s a brand centred on sex positivity and sexual wellbeing with beautiful designs and a whole host of fans around the world – even Goop loves them.
I’m so proud to represent the creators of products specifically designed to help us get in touch with ourselves and feel better. Tools to specifically equip women with the means to achieve pleasure that’s just for us. Each Smile Makers product caters to a different kind of play and the same goes for the lubes, which are great for sensitive skin by the way. The brand is basically the epitome of ‘sex care’ – making it easier to get in touch with your sexual identity and spend time focusing on your own pleasure in a way that feels personal, relaxed and judgement free.
I know that putting yourself first in any situation is easier said than done, so I looked to a few sexual health experts and therapists for tips on connecting with your own body, placing your own pleasure and the centre of your intentions. Here’s what I learnt…
Applying self care in your intimate life requires you to be sexually authentic so start by assessing your preconceptions about sex. Let go of thoughts about what you should be doing, what you should be getting off on, and what has worked before. Instead, return to where you are in the moment and what makes you feel like yourself right now.
If it helps, forget male pleasure, forget looking sexy, forget performative orgasms, forget everything you’ve seen in porn and just focus on yourself and what feels nice. Spend some time in your head, self care is about mindfulness, after all. Be honest with yourself, focus on your intentions and acknowledge your needs. What do you like? How often? When do you feel most turned on, most gorgeous, most powerful?
Just do you for a while – no pun intended – and make sure that everything you’re doing is an expression of you and that you’re enjoying yourself, backing yourself and feeling positive about who you are. Whether that means spending some time in the bath, chilling on your living room floor, wearing something cute or making the noises that come naturally rather than emulating the ones you think you should be making.
Sexual wellness, self care and ultimately self respect means keeping your body and your toys clean and healthy. Whatever you think looks or feels best is up to you but remember that often, heavily scented products intended to erase your body’s natural scents and flavours are not great for your downstairs. Think about how you want to look, taste and feel and really enjoy it. I guess this is somewhat akin to what the companies trying to sell you bath bombs are saying – just take time to respect your body and treat it with love.
It’s the idea of ‘self’ and really liking, celebrating and feeling connected to your own sexual identity that’s most important here. Taking better care of ourselves by better understanding our own right to pleasure and the ways we can access and enjoy it is an essential element of self acceptance and self love and let’s be honest, the best thing about it is that it’s nobody’s responsibility but yours.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the importance of sex care as self care, share them with me in the comments below.