If you ask a grown-ass woman about her sex life, you might be surprised at what you hear. But today’s guest wouldn’t be surprised at all. Dr. Shannon Chavez is a sex therapist and sexual health expert who works with individuals, couples, and groups of all ages and backgrounds. Her work focuses on sex education, awareness, and growth emphasizing sexual satisfaction and empowerment. 

I recently asked the Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide community how satisfied they feel with their sex lives, and exactly zero people answered very satisfied. But what does very satisfied even mean? While the survey was anonymous, the comments were eye-opening. One woman wishes she wanted sex more, saying she adores her husband of the last 30 years but isn’t really attracted to him anymore. Another woman says it not just her husband of over 30 years she’s not interested in, but sex with anyone, adding, “I don’t know if it’s perimenopause that’s causing this! We used to have an amazing sex life.”

If you’re open to reconnecting with a partner or even yourself, getting back in touch with your sexuality, or improving the sex life you have, this episode is for you. We’re talking the female orgasm, tackling some of the biggest challenges grown-ass women are facing, and Shannon takes your questions.

Shannon’s Resources

Top lubricants:
 
 
Toys:

You grew up in a very conservative household environment. At what point were you like, ‘You know what I want to do, I want to talk about sex for the rest of my life?’ How did you– How did that evolve?

Yes. It was such a young age. You know, I was always curious about sex because it was– I grew up in the 80s. It was on TV, it was in music; it was everywhere. It wasn’t as taboo and confusing as it is today. And I thought it was just a curious thing. I found The Joy of Sex on my parents’ nightstand and was like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’ And I just was really curious and always comfortable talking about it, which is surprising because I was a super shy kid. A shy kid, but if you asked me about sex or wanted to talk about something a little naughty, I was all ears and open to doing it.

Oh, that’s funny. So, as long as you were talking about something that was taboo, you were good.

Yeah, so much for that conservative Catholic upbringing. I was like, ‘Oh, this is naughty, this is bad.’ You know, the Good Girl Syndrome. But sex was always something that I wanted; I was comfortable talking about, and I wanted people to feel comfortable talking about – especially the older I got, I was working in different communities and it was still so confusing for people to talk about it. They would whisper it, and they didn’t want to say the words. And I thought, ‘This is so strange, what is it with sex that people are so uncomfortable talking about it?’

Yeah. And even now, I totally relate to that. You know, I was raised by a nun. After my mom died, my dad married a former nun. And so, sex was definitely not something– Like, I still haven’t had “the birds and the bees” talk yet; and I’m 52. But also, I didn’t learn anything about my own body, about my own pleasure. I grew up believing that sex was basically how you got attention from men.

And in my twenties, I got a lot of attention from men in that way. And then even as I got married – I’ve been married for 21 years – it was not until, I would say, the last five years, maybe when I met you, and I started to see experts and doctors and people talking about the importance of sex. But I sent out an email this morning that said, “And so, we’re going to answer some questions, some listener questions.”

Yes!

But I sent out an email and immediately women started unsubscribing. And I thought, this is fascinating because you know I talk work, wealth and wellness. Sex is part of wellness. And so, why are we so afraid to talk about it? That’s my first question.

It’s so personal. You know, sex is really the personal, most personal topic because we’ve learned it’s private, it’s bad…there’s things that are normal and not so normal, or kinky or a little out there. And comparing yourself to a norm leads you to not wanting to talk about it.

And I think a lot of people have concerns and feel isolated and alone. So, when they hear or see sex topics, or see a newsletter, they might feel a lot of shame. There’s so much shame around sex, and people just avoid it and don’t want to talk about it because they; (1) don’t know where to start.

Right.

Maybe I don’t even have the language, how do I describe what’s going on? Or as you were speaking about, you know, understanding your own experience with your body and pleasure…and it just feels overwhelming. Like, ‘Ah, let me just look away, keep going on with my life…if I don’t have to deal with it, that’s fine.’

And that’s why I do this work. I want people to see sex is so much more than just this mechanical thing; it’s pleasure, it’s indulgence…it’s our relationship with presence and creativity and so much more. And that’s my mission. Can we make sex more than just this thing we learned it was – as you said – for other people’s pleasure or this mechanical thing or all about orgasms and make it so much more than that?

Right. And it’s interesting because you said, we compare ourselves to the norm. Right? And what the hell is the norm? Like, where do we determine there was a norm?

Exactly. What we see in the media, we call about a Hollywood’s norm. You know, this idea that it’s just so easy, and it looks really sensual and there’s no communication. And it is just– That’s what we see as the norm; we never see anything else. We don’t see aging bodies. We don’t talk about fluctuations and our daily sexuality. We don’t talk about female pleasure. We don’t talk about the clitoris, which is why I wear this necklace, because people have no idea–

I love it.

-that this is the main organ of female pleasure.

Right. And we’re going to get into some of the myths and the questions, but I mean, I remember when I– I think I heard it from you where it was like; the percentage of women who actually have orgasms through penetrative sex is very small, isn’t it?

Very small. It’s under 13% of women; it’s probably even less than that, I don’t know where they got this survey.

Oh my gosh.

But I know it’s extremely low, and it’s because we don’t know our anatomy; that’s a big part of it. Understanding the female anatomy is so helpful to understanding and claiming pleasure, and focusing on so many other parts of the body. I mean, the female body, to me, is fascinating. We can have so many different types of orgasms – multisensory, and all these different orgasms and go and go and go…and our body is built for pleasure – but yet, intercourse is the focus. And that’s what we hear over and over again.

Right. And then if you can’t get there, you’re broken.

Right.

And so–

Let’s fix the body so you can have intercourse. Even the medical community tends to focus on intercourse as the main outcome of sex.

Right. So, you just mentioned all types of orgasms. Can you– Let’s dive into that real quick.

Let’s go into all of them. Well, first and foremost, the queen of all orgasms, the clitoral orgasm; and I think that’s important to know. You can have an external and an internal clitoral orgasm. So, external is focusing on the external vulva and all the areas of the vulva. Most people don’t understand the clitoris; I always have one here on my desk. This was–

I love this. We’re going to have to put this episode on YouTube, I’m just saying.

-study Dodson’s design. And it sort of goes internal and external. And these nice little bulbs are full of erectile tissue; they go on the outside of the body. So, orgasm is external first; then internal stimulation, we hear about the G-spot. I really think the G-spot is not some elusive spot that we need to find and go on a mission to find; it’s really the internal clitoral body. And so, any internal stimulation around that bundle of nerves can elicit an orgasm. There’s the nipple orgasm. There’s the Coregasm. There’s a cervical orgasm.

Wait, what’s the Coregasm?

Coregasm. So, because the core muscles are connected through the pelvic floor, and there’s a lot of neural highways going through our body in that area, stimulation of the core can sometimes evoke an orgasm for people. So, that’s usually the unexpected orgasm you might have when you’re working out or doing a certain type of movement.

Never. Never have I–

I mean. Maybe you have not yet, but it is vague on waiting for microorganism to happen.

Seriously, we’re all– everyone’s signing up for Pilates right now. They’re dropping their phones and going to sign up.

That’s a great marketing though, hey.

Right? Wow. And you, so I interrupted with the core, and then you went on to the next one.

Basically, the anterior fornix, it’s closer to the cervix; on the top anterior wall of our canal, there’s a bundle of nerves. So, I always tell people, anywhere there’s a bundle of nerves in the body, there’s going to be heightened sensation and stimulation. Massage and caressing in that area can evoke an orgasm. I mean, an orgasm is a reflex, like a sneeze.

So, the more we kind of build up that erotic energy, we can trigger orgasms in many different ways. Women can actually think themselves off; that’s my favorite orgasm time.

Really?

We can engage in fantasy and erotic thought that causes a strong physiological response in our body. And we can, yeah, have thinkgasm. And it’s fascinating. Men can’t – sorry guys – but it really is another amazing mystery of the female body.

Wow. What’s like the wildest orgasm you’ve heard where someone’s like, ‘I had an orgasm doing this’?

You know, I think the full body orgasm, for example, in a lot of deep spiritual work, Tantra work, going into a lot of breath work…you can have these really amazing long, powerful orgasms that go and go and go. I think one surprising one to me is always the birthgasm.

Oh yes.

So, Orgasmic Birth, because again, you look at sort of this excruciating traumatic pain tied with sort of your body contracting and somehow converting that into an orgasm response; fascinating. I’ve seen videos, I’ve read books; I don’t know, it looks pretty magical if you think about it.

Yeah. Right?

It helps with the pain and also can ease some of the trauma that happens physically to the body. There might be something to that

That’s amazing. So, the women who listen to this show are over 40, possibly closer to 50. How do you see the way we talk about sex? So, I think that there are more conversations, there are more women in menopause and perimenopause who are like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to sign up for this life with no sex or sex that doesn’t work for me.’ What are the younger generations doing? Are they talking more about this? Are they a little bit more open-minded to the conversation?

Not necessarily. I don’t see that at all. I think there’s a really a mixed bag. Some younger people are, what I’ve seen is even starting out early on in dating or relationships – coming into sex therapy. I had a young couple who was two weeks into dating. It was like, ‘Hey, we want to have great sex. We want to be on top of anything that can come up. We want some help navigating communication.’ And I was blown away it thought, ‘Wow, okay, preventative care…here we go.’

But I think it’s all over the place. It has so much to do with our culture, our upbringing, the environment that you’re in currently…you’re in an environment where no one’s talking about it. I often hear this a lot from young women; you know, “We’re talking about it, but not talking about it.”

Maybe there’s a joke about a vibrator here and there, but no one’s really talking about how they’re pleasuring themselves or taking care of their sexual bodies. So, I think there’s some communication, but not enough; and that’s across the board. Every generation, I think, has some struggles with that based on conditioning, cultural messages…there’s so much influence to our ability to claim our pleasure.

Yeah. And I think we have an opportunity – right? – because many of us are raising the next generation, Gen Z. I have many more conversations about sex with my own kids. Like, well, from zero to anything is many more. But all the time, like they know, I’ll say, “What did I teach you about porn?”

And they’re like, “It’s not real mom.” I didn’t teach them like– I didn’t teach them, ‘Don’t watch it, don’t– shame, shame, shame.’ Because that’s what’s out there, right? Is that shame and then this addiction and all of those things, right? There’s so many feelings around it.

I just wanted them to understand like; women aren’t really loving that, they don’t think you’re all that when you do those things. Like, this is not real. This is performative. This is like watching romance on a romantic comedy; it’s, that’s not how it goes.

Exactly. Porn is sort of the Hallmark movie of the erotic world. I mean, it’s a fantasy. It’s someone’s fantasy, right?

Yeah.

It’s not everyone’s fantasy. And that’s what I always tell people; porn is not the enemy. Porn is entertainment just like anything else. There’s a lot of it. There’s so much. But I think porn does sort of give us a permission to think about and visualize and imagine sex in ways that we might take things from it and apply that in our own life. Even if it’s playfulness dynamics that might work for you. But you’re right, I love the message to your young ones, like…hey, not real, entertainment, but also not a bad thing. I think that’s important also.

Yeah. I don’t want to shame any of that. I mean, I’m certainly not like sending them links or anything like that…don’t get me wrong, that would be creepy. But I also don’t want them to grow up with the shame. I also want them to understand, like you figure it out with that other person you like– If you’re using this as How-To, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. That’s a whole other topic, talking about sex with teenagers; I’ll tell you right now but–

It’s not healing though; I think that’s something that I always tell my clients with young kids is that– in teenagers, especially; it can be healing for your own shame and barriers, especially the openness that some of your kids bring. Like, ‘Yeah, I got a question, I’m curious.’

Before the shame has settled in, there’s just a natural curiosity, an organic conversation that can happen with sex that can be so healing – especially if a lot of us grew up Catholic or conservative, where it was a bad word in the house. I remember we couldn’t even say “sex”; it was a bad word. We couldn’t say words like “suck” or anything; a lot of restrictions. So, having that freedom to talk about it with your kids can be, kind of, a healing.

Yeah. You just brought up a memory. I don’t know even– I can’t even imagine. I was probably in like fourth grade or something. And I was watching TV and my dad walked in; and it was just a sitcom, but I was watching The Facts of Life. And I was so afraid he was going to ask me the name of the show; and I would have to say The Facts of Life to my dad, that I pretended I was sleeping.

Oh no.

That’s how– It was like, you do not talk, you don’t even say The Facts of Life in front of your dad.

No, I always tell the story. A sex scene would come on tv and I had an older brother; and they would always tell him to pay attention, and they would tell me to close my eyes. So, there was these very different messages around what’s okay for girls versus boys in the house. And I always say, “Hey, well, look how I turned out.” So, I don’t know if those messages actually work that well. I would be peeking through my fingers.

Right, right. That’s hilarious. So, let’s go back to the grown-ass woman. What are our greatest challenges when it comes to not having the best sex of our lives?

Yes. Such a good question. You know, dealing with not so satisfactory sex; not knowing what is good sex. We measure good sex in this performative way; good sex is orgasms or feeling really sexy or these things that are sometimes just unattainable goals every time we’re engaging in sex and intimacy. So, I think not knowing what that is for us, or comparing it to what is outside of our environment – what we’re seeing on TV or media. Women get bored with sex more often.

I mean, the sex research is fascinating; it shows that we are more visually stimulated. We need a lot of different sexual stimuli. We get bored of routine. You know, most research shows, especially for heterosexual couples, men can have sex the same way over and over again and be satisfied completely. Women need variety; they need novelty.

And it’s not just romance; we hear that all the time. To me, romance is just creative expression. So, yes, we do need that in our sex lives. I think that’s a big struggle for women. And I think the older we get, especially as we go through menopause– I’m in my menopause transition now; I always say women aren’t dealing with just physical shutdown and low libido, they’re tired of bad sex.

I think in menopause you get this rage and energy that’s like, ‘Ah, I’m tired of dealing with things that haven’t served me. I’m taking better care of my body. Yes, I’m going through ups and downs, but I’m taking charge more, and that includes my sex life.’ That’s my message is encouraging women to think of menopause as a golden era, as a good time in your life.

I think many of us are feeling the best we have in our life. Maybe we’ve accomplished things; we feel really proud as mothers, as wives, and as career women. And it’s important to acknowledge that through this change, rather than hear societal messages that feel stigmatizing and discouraging, especially around sex.

Right. You just made such a good point that sort of blew my mind here. So, some of us are not having sex because we’re tired of mediocre sex. So, it’s like, I’d rather have none than go through the motions of that.

Yes. I mean, we’ve learned to be so polite and nurturing; and then there’s a point where if sex over and over again isn’t serving you– and for many reasons it doesn’t feel connected, it feels rushed, we’re not getting the stimulation we want, it’s short-lived– Again, it takes us about 20 minutes to get fully aroused to elicit an orgasm. So, if we’re just having a partner roll over and say, “You want to have sex?” and going right onto some penetration…no, I think that’s the point where women say, “Ah, this isn’t working for me, I’d rather not.”

And hopefully, exploring their own bodies. And I do encourage a lot of self-pleasuring; I think that is the key to getting over sexual boredom is having a romantic relationship with your own body, learning how to romance and be sensual with your own bodies so that you know how to spice things up for you first – rather than waiting for a partner to figure that out.

Right. There are plenty of listeners right now who are single or don’t have a partner in their life, for one reason or another; how do they have that sensual, romantic relationship with themselves? What are some tips?

Definitely get some good sex toys. I think that’s something that we should get comfortable with, is sexual wellness means we’ve got to have products that help us. And we don’t need vibrators and all of these great things, but why not? They’re an excellent way to boost, to add novelty, and definitely help condition our bodies.

I think of, especially as our bodies age, and we go through a lot of these transitions in our life…taking care of our body; I call it sexual priming. Not just using a vibrator to quickly get off and move on with your day, but thinking of it as genital massage and really priming your nervous system, your physical body to not only feel good and elicit a strong pleasure response, but sexual self-care.

You know, our pelvic floor, understanding all these changes we go through – especially in menopause – can be improved through masturbation. So, getting some good sex toys, getting some excellent lubricants.

Right.

I call lube the face cream of the vagina. We don’t want to just put anything on our vulvas, in our vaginas, we want really good products. And I sort of think of sexual wellness as a luxurious hobby. You know, get some nice things, be proud of your devices, be curious about using different things to elicit different responses.

So, that’s a practice I often recommend for my clients is design a masturbation practice. And that includes everything from the environment that you’re in…to what you’re wearing, how you’re feeling in your body, and adding some sensuality to that – whether that’s candles, music, anything you want. It can be completely up to you. But the creative process is part of getting your libido going.

Yeah. And I think that there are many people who are just like, ‘Oh, I don’t have the libido anymore, so I’m done.’ But some of these other practices on your own could actually increase that libido again, you’re saying?

Yes. There’s so much misunderstanding about libido. Like it’s this thing that we’re just kind of waiting for to happen, when is it coming? It’s either there, it’s not there – rather than feeling that it’s completely in our control. I mean, think back to times in your life where you felt really excited or you got some great news, you feel a burst of energy; that’s libido. That’s sort of this excitement and passion getting ignited from thoughts or some circumstance. So, it’s really that easy.

But yet, we’re so kind of heavy around sex and pleasure because we haven’t found a motivation. And as we talked about sex, that’s not so great; it’s not rewarding. So, our brain is not thinking about that. So, we have to start with creating pleasurable experiences for ourself.

It doesn’t have to be strictly sexual. I mean, sometimes when I do workshops, I take women out to the mountains; we get in nature, we dance under the moonlight, we do things that sort of elicit playfulness that can also trigger libido. So, I think you can’t just wait around for it to happen.

And the pillow princesses of the sexual world, we have to kind of wait for it, just like anything. And it doesn’t have to feel like work, but it can be something that we put energy towards that, that design. We design it for ourselves. And that’s important that it’s going to look different for everyone.

Yeah. I think even just that connection of dance, that connection to your own body.

Yes, in touching your own body– I always say we’re doing things daily that connect us with our body, but we may be on autopilot. Like showering and grooming and getting dressed and getting undressed, these are things that can be very sensual – but maybe in our heads, we’re avoiding our bodies. So, it’s good to connect with touch.

And many of us may feel touched out whether we’re raising children or, you know, in careers where we’re doing a lot of caretaking; so, it’s important to bring that touch inward and think about touch in ways in which you like to receive it. I think touch is such an important communication. Most of sex is nonverbal too. So, touch is really the language of sex.

And if we’ve been out of touch with our partnerships or not getting the right type of touch, we may notice a nervous system that’s a little overactivated; we may feel tense when we’re touched, we may avoid certain interactions. But starting with simple touch, hugs are great. I love hugs and kisses. Honestly, the easiest form of intimacy can be great for releasing chemicals in the brain, endorphins, things that help us relax and provide a nice environment for other pleasure to happen.

So, sometimes I think in our twenties – that’s where maybe sexually active – we know what we like; and then we go through thirties and forties and fifties and menopause and all those things…and what worked for us then, isn’t necessarily what works for us now. So, how do we get re-in-touch with what might actually work for us now?

That’s the exploration. So, being curious, without it being about technique. I think technique gets in the way because we think about positions or doing this or that – but that creates a very mental mindset of pleasure rather than embodiment, which is sort of seeing your body as a whole, dropping in and noticing what’s going on. And that’s going to be different for everyone.

I always encourage just being where you are with pleasure. You know, sometimes we can have lazy sex, sometimes we can have really energetic pleasure – but it doesn’t have to be, there’s no norm around that. So, it’s important to just drop into your body, notice your body…see what’s going on, and normalize that. I think we have so much around how to do it or give me all the techniques.

I hear this all the time in psychotherapy, “Just give me a manual, what do I need to do? Steps 1 through 10.” Not knowing feels so overwhelming and shaming. That’s why I try to shift the mindset. You know, sex is really about our limbic emotional brain, our creative center. So, getting into a place where we’re focusing on sensation – and again – play, imagination…thinking about different ways that we can experience our bodies.

Right. Because I think at a certain point, sometimes it’s all about the destination, right? It’s all about the finish, which makes it even more difficult to do that.

Yes. And we hear that, right? There’s foreplay, then there’s this, and then there’s the end…and you know, the cycle; and that’s just not how sex works. I think some of the best pleasure happens before we’ve even gone any– we’ve gone into physical touch. It’s the anticipation and the preparation, the rituals around it, that can be the most exciting.

Absolutely. So, I asked in a little poll how satisfied grown-ass women in their sex life; and not one person replied “Very satisfied”. Is it too late for us, Shannon? Is it too late?

No. No. But I think even that you know, what does very satisfied mean? You know? I would love to know more about that. Does that– Again, are we quantifying that? We maybe say, “Well, I haven’t had an orgasm in ages, so not very satisfied.” But I think even the idea of that, it’s more of a spectrum. Our pleasure really fluctuates so much. I think when we ditch the expectations and the pressure, we’re able to claim our sexuality much differently.

I’ll be honest, I’m going through perimenopause; my libido has tanked, and I have talked very openly to my husband about it. I’m like, ‘Hey, look, here’s what’s going on.’ But talking about it was such a rush and relief because it named it; it wasn’t something we were dancing around. So, I think we can be honest with where we’re at. We don’t have to feel shame around it. I don’t feel shame about having a lower libido; I know it’s kind of a ride and a journey, and there are things to do to better take care of yourself.

Sometimes having low libido means, ‘Hey, I might be getting really crappy sleep. I haven’t been feeling great in my work life. Maybe I haven’t been creative in weeks or months.’ And so, a lot of that has to do with getting to satisfaction. And I would want that to be something very subjective for everyone. What does that mean? What’s your definition of great sex?

That’s a good question. I’m going to get into some of the comments. But one of the women who replied said, “I enjoy in the moment VERY much – capital, VERY – just don’t need all the ‘work to prep for it, LOL!” I relate to that so much; whoever you are, I relate.

And so, I don’t have much of a libido. I had a hysterectomy at 35, 17 years ago. And so, I don’t walk around going like, ‘Whew, I think I want to have sex.’ However, I know when I’m with my husband or by myself or whatever, that I’ll get there. And so, my brain is like, ‘Girl, don’t worry…just follow me.’ You know?

Yes.

But sometimes it does feel like, oh gosh. It’s like going to the gym, right? You know you’re going to feel amazing after you go to the gym…but that whole like, I got to get– I got to get changed, I got to get in my car, I got to get da, da, da – all those things.

And so, how do you deal with that when we have these “low libido”, but the sex itself is not dissatisfying?

Yes. It’s the getting there that is the biggest obstacle because we think that desire is spontaneous; sexual desire is rarely spontaneous. It’s what you just described; it’s responsive. We’re not really in the mood. But if the context is right, if we have all the things we need in our environment, it creates a nice space for pleasure to happen. So, I think knowing that has created a lot of relief from women to be able to say, “Okay, that’s exactly my experience.”

So, we can focus less on spontaneity? That’s a pressure thing. We hear that in the media all the time, “Spontaneity, spice it up.” But that makes you feel bad sometimes about your own experience. I don’t want to be spontaneous. Or, that doesn’t really– I haven’t felt that way in ages.

So, responsive desire is more important and letting it be what it is without the goals or the outcomes. Maybe you’re just pleasuring each other. Maybe there’s just a little grinding and kissing; it doesn’t always have to be intercourse. I think that’s when it feels like work, sometimes as that all these things have to line-up and happen – and that’s just not how it works.

Sometimes we lose it while we’re in the midst of an experience. Like, I had desire and then I got a little tired, or I got distracted…all of that is okay. I think it doesn’t have to be this glamorous thing every time we’re having it. You know, sex is really mutual connection and pleasure that’s consensual between two people, partners, anything. So, remembering that.

Yeah. So, when you feel like you don’t have that libido, do you move forward with it anyway? Or, do you just talk about it? What does that look like for you? Because you are the expert.

You know, personally and professionally, here’s some things to do. You know, recognizing the libido drainers is important. Where is my energy going out? Where I don’t feel like I have anything left for myself? And pleasure, and remembering that sex is about feeling good. So, if we’re thinking, ‘Oh, it’s work…it’s this uphill battle, why am I not feeling good with sex?’

And that’s where we can ask for what we want. And that may be particular types of pleasuring. It may be really sticking with that foreplay period. And I don’t love that word “foreplay”, but to me that’s really the time where we warm our bodies up and get really embodied. So, I think libido drainers can be many things, knowing what those are.

And also, where do you feel those libido boosters that may be non-sexual throughout the weeks, the months? Sometimes it could be, ‘Yeah, I got a great outfit, I got my hair done, I felt really proud of myself this week.’ So, recognizing and understanding energy will help you with the libido.

And often, we’re just drained. We’re in a very stressed out and overworked society. So, I am not surprised that many, many people are dealing with low libido. And as we spoke about earlier, even younger people are dealing with libido issues. So, it’s not an age thing; it’s an energy issue.

Interesting. So, watch your energy. And you make a great point because when I’m feeling confident or I’m feeling cute or whatever it is, then I’m more likely to be interested in that. So, it’s really– It’s not that it’s a libido thing, it’s a Jackie thing. You know?

Yes. And when you’re feeling confident, you want to be a little more playful. You might flirt it a little. You might make more eye contact with your partner. You might be a little sassier. Some of those things are what get that creative energy flowing. So, knowing that it’s not just one thing; there’s no magic pill. There’s no, read these top five tips and you’re ready to go tonight; it’s finding it for yourself. And even all the things you may be hearing, if those aren’t working for you…it doesn’t mean that you’re broken; it means that giving yourself permission to find out what that is for you is part of self-care. That is sexual self-care.

I’m going to cut out all those outside influences and figure out how to get my energy going…how to start bringing eroticism into my life so that it’s something that’s important, I can prioritize it.

Absolutely. So, one of the things that I struggle with – and I know that other women struggle with – is like the mental load that I carry for my family, for my work and all of that. And so, how do you suggest we kind of like clear our heads of all of the things that we have to do so that we can enjoy that moment?

Having good habits, daily habits; that mental load is not just going to go away. It doesn’t mean checking all the things off the list and then…woo, my slate is clean, I’m ready for sex. But looking at the habits that we have daily, we wake up in the morning with to-do lists that we’re constantly taking care of everyone else and we’re not taking care of ourselves; that’s going to be the first priority in getting back to a good place of sexual health.

Having some time alone; that’s also something that us, overworked and overloaded, women are not getting is a little bit of time alone to be with ourselves – to be with our thoughts, to allow some relaxation and time to unload. We might need a type of emotional intimacy that’s not coming from our partners. I think that women do the best healing in community with other women.

Agreed.

We have since ancient times. So, if you’re noticing…ugh, I’m asking, I really need to unload or get some insight or talk about some of the deeper work I’m doing in my life, and a husband’s just kind of nodding, and maybe not giving you all the empathy or connection you need – bringing it to a different community doesn’t mean that your partner is not able to.

Right.

I think that we do a lot of our sexual healing with other women; it gives us confidence. Again, that’s why I do a lot of my workshops is I see so much magic happen when women get together in groups and do some deep healing work around their sexuality, their bodies, and their purpose.

Absolutely. Ugh. I just– I mean, this is why I do what I do, right? I just love the energy of women when we get together and lift each other up; there’s nothing better. Speaking of healing, my husband and I were talking with someone, one day; and they made the this point, and it’s really stuck in my mind for quite a while, that, ‘Men or boys, historically growing up in this country – the United States – are taught that affection and physical touch and all of that comes with sex.’ They’re not– You know what I mean?

Like, you get to a certain point– And first of all, they’re ridiculed if they cry or if they have any sort of physical needs – that they need to be hugged or touched or anything like that.

And so, if you are with somebody, if you’re a grown-ass woman and your partner is a man and he grew up in this environment, how do we express those needs for physical touch and other things other than intercourse when he’s been programmed to see physical touch as something that’s only sex-related?

We have to do reprogramming. We do most of our learning and healing in our romantic relationships. So, we’re relearning so many things from early life. We’re learning touch, we’re learning intimacy skills that – as you were saying – might have been conditioned against or told we’re weaknesses or really shamed in ways that are negative. So, we learn vulnerability in our relationships. We learn how to connect through touch.

I think knowing that, you know, having realistic expectations. You know, if our partner isn’t perfect at that, it doesn’t mean that we’re not compatible. I think that always is a big one; we’re not compatible. But remembering to take that time. You know, it isn’t about teaching, but it’s about creating space for there to be curiosity without perfection.

And there can be trauma around that, especially if we were in environments where we were touch-deprived or– culturally, I know there’s a lot of variation in how people experience touch and affection. So, taking that all into consideration.

Sex therapy, we do a lot of that deep diving right away before there’s any work around actual sex is values and beliefs, understanding how all of these influences shaped who you are and your behavior around sex. So, I think it’s good to have some awareness around that because that helps you not feel dysfunctional or broken as well. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense.

Absolutely.

I grew up with this type of messaging, or a lot of people have not seen that modeled in their early environment. My parents never kissed or hugged, I never saw hand-holding. I never saw any sort of intimacy. So, being aware of all of that.

Yeah. And making it safe for your partner to rediscover himself as well, if you have a male partner. So, we’re learning how to heal ourselves – but by design, we’re also giving permission to our partners to heal themselves as well.

Just one other exercise I always like to do with couples is called a hand caress. So, I’ll have them start with their hands, and it’s all nonverbal. So, you have to show with your hands a type of touch that you like to receive. And it’s just the most beautiful process with couples.

Oh, I love that.

You start in their heads and the vulnerability, and what should I do and how should I do it? And when you drop out of the technical and get into the body, their eyes are closed. There’s a slowness, there’s giggling; there’s just such a playfulness there and awareness of like, ‘Ah, okay, now I see how you like that, now let me give you that.’ But there’s no words. It’s all through the body.

And things like that can be incredibly helpful with little effort. I mean, it could be two or three minutes that you do that with your partner and you discover a whole world about touch that you never knew.

Right. That’s fantastic. I love that. I’m going to do that right when we hang up.

Will work for everyone out there.

Yes. Okay. Let’s get through some more comments and questions.

“I have vaginal dryness and atrophy…the doctors have not been able to help, and a procedure would not be covered by insurance. And from what I’ve been told by doctors, it’s only temporary. My husband doesn’t seem to get it and seems resistant to try other things with me other than intercourse, which I can’t tolerate. So, right now, it’s been a while. Nothing is happening. Not great for our marriage.”

Yes. And that can feel very isolating, but also very common to go through that. So, vaginal dryness, there’s a lot of things out there and a lot of suggestions. But I would say getting a good lubricant first, many lubricants now are also moisturizers; and starting to work with your body and rehabilitate your tissue, not just for intercourse, but so you feel more confident.

If we have pain in our bodies, we’re going to anticipate that, even one time where sex hurt or felt uncomfortable. So, I think starting with that. And once you feel better in your body, you may be able to show your partner what you like in terms of pleasure. So, if a partner is being a little resistant, sometimes they have questions or maybe they’re making assumptions that are not true; Oh, you just don’t want sex, or you’re avoiding it, or you’re making things up, whatever it may be.

So, having some open communication around helping partners to understand what that is, and then guiding them towards something that would feel better.

And getting a good practitioner; if you have a doctor out there that’s dismissing your dryness or giving you something that you don’t feel comfortable taking, we have some excellent providers out there that are specialists in menopause or even alternative therapies that can help with something that’s natural and easy to use on your body.

Awesome. And so, do you have a list of resources that I can add to the show notes too?

I do, yes. I’ll send over my menopause, top menopause resources, for sure.

Fantastic, thank you. And I think, how do you get to the point where, just with her situation– I’m not a sex expert and I’ve heard this story before, right? The resentment that happens though when one person has determined that ‘No, your reason for not doing it isn’t really that, it’s this.’

And so, how do you kind of come together emotionally to overcome that?

Sometimes there’s so much focus on what isn’t happening around sex, and we don’t talk about some of the strengths or positive aspects of the relationship. So, it starts to feel like a debate; and who’s right or wrong? And, we’re building a case until someone submits, right? And to think of it as, sex is a partnered issue; we each have a role. We’re not blaming or criticizing one another, but what is the intention? Why are we even communicating about this?

I think partners are sometimes feeling the same thing, even though you’re having a different experience; we’re feeling maybe neglected – we’re not getting our needs met – we’re feeling rejected, whatever it may be. So, having a sense of communication, not communicating too much. I think couples also do this; they sort of have this huge narration of what’s going on and so many details that we don’t get to what we really need.

So, I always recommend that; you know, being concise about what it is that you need…acknowledging that you’re not going to have the same experience – and that you’re not going to be in agreement, that is not the goal. It’s important to validate each other’s experience, even if you don’t see it from their point of view.

Validate that that’s what they’re going through and it’s valid because whatever that emotional response is, that’s what they’re going through in that moment. So, that’s important in terms of intimacy, skills and communication. Otherwise, we’re going to get into reactionary arguments or conflicts; and that’s where resentment bubbles up quite a bit.

Yeah. That’s fantastic. That can help in all areas of life, just absolutely understanding that point of view. All right, here’s another.

“As a senior woman, I miss intimacy and the excitement of passion. I don’t believe it’s supposed to be over, but it’s been years since seeing that look or feeling that touch.”

What would you recommend for her

To have a little fun playing with eroticism? So, maybe going and seeing a show or being out and about and making eye contact or flirting with someone you find good -looking – being able to kind of enjoy your sexuality, and feel some of that, kind of, spark and excitement. And looking for community is also where you can explore; maybe going to a singles event or something that allows you to find community and other people that you can enjoy with. Maybe you’re finding someone that you’re at the same place in life with and having an exploratory partner, a little trisp – nothing bad about that.

Love it. I think too that we’ve been programmed that it’s like…oh, it has to be, you have your three dates…and then you put out…and you dah, dah, dah, dah, you know? And it’s not that way anymore. Like, we are grown-ass women. If you want to go out and find someone, a partner…go for it.

Exactly.

Or even other couples, when I hear things that they’re doing – whether it works in my marriage or not, does not matter. You know, there are different sexualities, different kinks and groups and all of those things. So, being a podcaster, you discover a lot of people with a lot of stories. And so, I’ve just realized that like, it’s not for us to judge what somebody else– and it’s not for us to judge what we want ourselves. I think there’s so much personal judgment.

There’s so much judgment. Again, because we think there’s a right or wrong or there’s a norm. But that’s part of sexual health is having tolerance for other people’s sexuality. So, the more we accept diversity, the less shame we have – the less judgment we have. So, I think as a society, we need that more. And it’s tough. I mean, social media is a sex educator.

We can’t say– We can’t even say the word “sex” without being flagged or banished from social platforms. So, it’s a very confusing time now to provide good resource and permission for people, but also so much censorship and judgment and shaming around sex. So, not that that should discourage anyone, but just being aware that that’s out there and not letting that get to you – kind of, using that to maybe fuel your libido.

Oh, I’m doing something a little spicy or out of the norm and getting some looks or, you know, judgment. Maybe I can use that to feel more confident. You know, it doesn’t have to be something that drags you down or makes you feel isolated.

Yeah. And it just made me think though that, isn’t it interesting that the education– Like you can find porn which – yes, women watch porn as well…but as far as like the young people and growing up, it’s often the young men who are watching it. And that’s who it was created for; let’s be honest. But when it comes to education and empowerment, that’s what’s being censored.

Yes.

Like you can find porn on Twitter, but you can’t find education–

No.

-unless it’s worded absolutely correctly. So, it’s another way that we’re telling women like, “No, no, no, you don’t get to be empowered in this area.” So, I love the work that you’re doing because you’re saying, “Yeah, no, I’m going to empower you anyway.”

I’m going to find a way, even if we have to use some mysterious words to describe it…we’re going to do it.

More tricky language. Yeah, I think it’s interesting. It’s another way that we’re trying to keep women from being powerful.

Yes, exactly. That could be a whole another podcast there; sexually empowered women could take over the world, and that’s how they keep us repressed so we’ll just keep fighting the fight.

Exactly. All right, let’s keep fighting. So, next one is;

“I’m not as interested in intercourse anymore, more interested in mutual masturbation with my partner at this point. Is that normal?”

Absolutely. I actually encourage that because you learn so much from watching one another. So, there’s two ways to do mutual; you can watch one another self-stimulate, or you can watch and then actually show and do that type of stimulation on your partner. So, there’s so much. It’s hand sex. There are three sexual organs, our mouth, our hands, and our genitals.

So, using hands and masturbation, mutually masturbating is a way to kind of be a voyeur; you get to watch, you get to get excited, and it also expands your sexual potential. We’re able to see that; we get so much pleasure from engaging and enjoying someone else’s pleasure. So, it makes it less about the performative and more about sharing in one another’s sexual experience, which is really what sex is about.

It feels like the ultimate listening, when you both do that; you’re not using your ears, but you’re actually listening to see. You know, you’re experiencing what that person may be interested in.

Exactly. And it’s vulnerable. I mean, most people will say, “What? You want me to– You want to let my partner watch?” I give that first sex therapy homework, and there’s a lot of hesitation. But after we get over that as well– you know, vulnerability and showing one another, letting someone into our private world of pleasure is the ultimate form of sexual intimacy.

Yeah. It’s amazing. Okay, my last one.

These are great questions, by the way.

Right? Questions, comments. Okay. “My sex life is non-existent, and that’s just fine.” It says, literally says, “I had two-and-a-half sexual partners.” I don’t know what the half is.

“And never made great choices in my relationships. I’m 57 now, and I haven’t dated since my late thirties, early forties, but I don’t miss it. And it turns out I can satisfy myself much better.”

I don’t know if she needs advice or if that’s just a comment, what are your thoughts?

I don’t think that’s a problem. Again, that sort of this idea that we’ve all been conditioned with, that sex is about partnership. You know, sexuality is about self-expression and knowing yourself. So, it sounds like she’s at the time where she’s in a sexual relationship with herself – more power to you, and enjoy that. And we need that in our lives. I think we go through different phases of when we access that and give ourselves permission for that. I wouldn’t feel any concern around that.

Again, I think if there’s no distress that you’re feeling and you feel fine, who cares what everyone else thinks? That is your experience. Now, if it’s creating a lot of distress in you, ‘Well, I feel depressed about it,’ that’s something to explore. But she sounds pretty confident, so I don’t think there’s a problem either. I would say enjoy.

And that can change and shift; I think we also have to remember that, there’s not too many constants in our sexual life. So, we’re going through a period of low libido. That’s why I don’t worry about these lows and highs or neutral places, because it’s always changing. So, she may go through this period of time for a while, but enjoy it – enjoy the ride, and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

Yeah, that’s great. And you bring up a good point though. If you’re in distress, that’s one thing…but what if someone is in a relationship, and one person still has interest and another person doesn’t have that interest? How do you navigate that when the person without the interest is fine, not having an interest?

There needs to be some exploration in communication. So, often, it just feels like you’re hitting a wall because we don’t want the same thing. So, there’s all this effort to make you want what I want or for you to agree with where I’m at. And that is the opposite of what we need. We need sexual empathy, the ability to really acknowledge one another’s experience and find mutual things that are enjoyable.

So, often why that couple is stuck, because we’re trying to get one another to want what we want, and we’re not willing to compromise or negotiate towards something that we both want. So, you can stay stuck in that phase for decades if you don’t work on getting out of that pattern. So, there’s so much with sex.

That’s why I say if you’re stuck there and you just want different things or one doesn’t want it, and the other does, think about it outside of maybe it’s just intercourse that you don’t want. Maybe there are other forms of pleasure. Maybe you can do things together as a couple that can build this intimacy and closeness and creativity that might open up a whole new area of maybe you get into kink or something completely outside of your norm with sex…that might be the solution.

So, I would say to be exploratory and open. Now if you’re just like, ‘I’m not willing. I don’t feel it, I don’t want it,’ I would want you to look at that individually. Why does that feel like a position to take or a stance that feels really important? It could be less about sex, and sex is just a symptom of that. Important to look at some of those deeper meanings with our sexuality.

Yeah, that’s a great point. Do you see a lot of change when it comes to people sexually like…as they get older, they either get into kink or they discover something about themselves? Do you see a lot of sexual transitions in that way?

Yes, absolutely. And it’s sometimes very surprising. I think a lot of my clients in older ages – eighties, nineties – are having some of the best sex of their lives.

Really?

So, there’s something about being at a point in your life where maybe it’s not that you don’t care, but there’s a level of wisdom and permission that is so different from other stages of life. So, it doesn’t necessarily happen at a certain age, but what’s going on in your life does influence that. So, big life transitions tend to affect our sexuality quite a bit. There’s so much data when the stock market crashes, how that impacts compulsive sexual behavior.

Really?

Yes, absolutely. When people are dealing with stress or hit rock-bottom or their life changes drastically, that does affect our sexuality. So, I see a lot of exploration at different points.

And maybe after, you know, the empty nesters…I know sometimes they’re like, ‘Woo, the freedom, what do we do? What do we do with ourselves?’ And they open up to a whole new area. Or a big theme in my practice has been ethical, non-monogamy, people looking at meeting their needs in different ways and breaking out of the societal norms around monogamy and relationships and exploring sex openly.

And I feel so excited for those couples because there’s so much excitement and a renewed relationship with sex that– Again, that’s not the only solution to get there, but it definitely works for many couples.

And that works. I mean, it’s interesting, you know, swingers– There’s a restaurant here in town where apparently if you order a certain drink, that’s your sign that like you’re open…but swingers and ethical non-monogamy and all of that stuff, can couples really survive that?

Absolutely. I mean, it’s not for everyone, of course, like anything, but many couples do really well with ethical non-monogamy. It forces so much openness and radical honesty. And communication, that’s productive. You know, agreements and communication and negotiating and compromising your needs, having a lot of empathy even if you don’t agree with something.

It does open up a lot for intimacy, and it kind of really works a lot of muscles that we don’t work a lot. Learning tolerance, learning that jealousy is not a bad thing. Learning to enjoy and take part in a partner’s pleasure or experience. So, it challenges a lot, but I think that can be really exciting and thrilling for a lot of people.

And healing; I’ve seen a lot of incredible healing for couples who’ve opened up and discovered themselves or learned to love each other deeper because there was acceptance of these parts of their sexuality. And healing because this has been repressed for so long. And then maybe it’s, ‘Oh, now I can finally be real about it…and I feel that I can be honest with you, it’s brought us closer together.’

Right.

So, lots of variations of what’s come out of that. But it’s definitely not something that’s hidden anymore. It’s definitely out in the open and people are exploring.

Dr. Shannon Chavez has a variety of services from sex therapy for those in California, to Sex and Relationship Coaching worldwide. And she offers a complimentary phone consultation, check out the show notes for more information. Plus, we’ve got resources galore for everything that’s been mentioned in this episode.

If you’re feeling stuck or you’re kind of like, ‘Ah, sex, I don’t know, this is too much for me’…finding a good community, finding great events– There’s so much going on, doing a workshop, or even just talking to some people about some of the things that are working for them; I think that’s so, so important.

So, you are not alone. Whatever you’re dealing with; if I haven’t dealt with it – Jackie, any of us – somebody has, you are definitely not the only one. So, don’t give up.

And if you take one thing from this episode, it should be this;

I want grown-ass women to take control of their pleasure; it’s all about you first…be a little self-focused, be selfish with your pleasure and your body. Understand what feels good for you, and be exploratory; get some good toys. Think of sexual wellness as a gift. Get some good stuff, get a womanizer. There are some great products out there that I would not live without, but definitely taking charge of your pleasure is my biggest takeaway.

Excellent. Figure that out.

I’ll take care of all of you out there. So, all you grown-ass women that need some good pleasure, do not give up yet until you hear about some of these devices.

Awesome. Awesome. Fantastic.

For more from Dr. Shannon Chavez, visit drshannonchavez.com; and follow her on Instagram, @drshannonchavez.

Thank you so much for listening. For more information, links to related episodes, and a transcript of this episode, visit grownasswoman.guide/episode192. And let’s connect on social @GrownAssWoman.Guide. By the way, if you like the show, I would love if you’d share a rating and review on your favorite podcast app. Until next time, you are a grown-ass woman, act accordingly.

The Grown Woman’s Guide is produced by Grown-Ass Creative, a media and marketing agency powered by grown-ass women over 40.

menopause resources sex toys, lube, books

About:

Dr. Shannon Chavez is a sex therapist and sexual health expert who works with individuals, couples, and groups of all ages and backgrounds. Her work focuses on sex education, awareness, and growth emphasizing sexual satisfaction and empowerment.

Dr. Chavez earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Institute for Sexual Health in Beverly Hills, California treating clients dealing with sex addiction-compulsivity and sexual health concerns.  She is an active member of the Institute for the Scientific Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Dr. Chavez currently has a private practice in Beverly Hills, California using her unique mind-body approach to address both psychological and physical needs related to sexual concerns. Her passion is helping people gain sexual awareness through teaching workshops, retreats, community outreach, and writing. She has been featured in GQ, New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Broadly Vice, Instyle, and Self Magazines; and is a frequent contributor to the website SheKnows.com. She has also appeared on national news, podcasts, and radio as an expert on sexuality and women’s health.

Related Episodes:

Get Your Sex Drive Back

The Sex Episode

Let’s Talk About Sex over 40

You Want Me to Put That Where?