My name is Emma. I'm a former sex worker, a feminist and a sex nerd. Today I will write about tissues - body tissues in relation to sexuality
In this context, the word tissue refers to the material that makes up the body. Tissue always consists of cells, but cells can be very different. For example, our skeleton is made up of one type of cells, and muscles are made up of another type with different properties. I'll just be talking about our nervous system today, touching on how we can use that to deepen our understanding of sexuality.
Our entire body, including our reproductive/sexual organs, is covered with skin. Under the skin, we have muscles, veins and nerve tissue.
Today I'll be writing about nerve tissue.
The nervous systemNerve tissue in our bodies works similarly to our blood. The brain is the organ with the highest density of nerve tissue. From the brain, long paths of nerves run down through the spine and branch out into the organs and to the skin through holes in the spine, similarly to how blood circulates in the body.
Part of our nervous system detects sensory impressions. That is, we see, feel, taste, smell hear and feel temperatures with these sensory nerves.
When we touch something with our hands or other body parts, messages are sent to the brain, which instinctively interprets the sensory experience. For example warm human skin → nice and soothing, or my girlfriend's armpit → smells good, I will fall asleep here.
The head of the clitoris is home to a very large collection of nerve endings that make this spot particularly sensitive. To stimulate all the nerve endings in the clitoris, you can go ahead and try one of Peech's clitoris stimulators! They stimulate the entire clitoris, both the inside and the outside! There is also a large collection of nerve endings on the penis head, but not quite as many. These are also distributed over a larger area. To stimulate the nerve endings in the dickhead, you can use a regular vibrator. Another fun way to get to know these nerve endings is to use a little oil or lube (I recommend silicone) and gently stroke, caress or rub yourself or a partner in different places with your hands. This will show you that some areas of the body and near the reproductive organs can be awakened with very little movement and pressure, although some people prefer more pressure. Sometimes the heat of a hand or loving words is enough to awaken these parts of the body. Notice how the body often opens up, and adjust the intensity after a little while.
We use another part of our nervous system to consciously move our muscles and coordinate movements. This part often "responds" to the sensory impressions we receive. For example, this music is great starts to dance.
The autonomic nervous system
And then there's the autonomic nervous system. This is interesting to think about when we're trying to understand our sexuality. The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and regulated by the body, depending on stimuli.
The autonomic nervous system helps us react quickly to what we perceive as danger signals.
Sympathetic and parasympathetic
The relationship between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can be illustrated like this:
Being in tight bondage when you have to write and hand in your final exam in an hour not so nice (sympathetic)
Tight bondage with complete attention from a lovely person who inspires trust, red wine and no deadline looming really nice (parasympathetic)
The sympathetic nervous system is activated when we feel anxiety, stress and focus. Its basic function is to help us make a quick getaway from something that puts us at risk. When a person's sympathetic nervous system is activated, blood flow to the genitals is inhibited. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is active when we feel safe and relaxed. When we're in the parasympathetic nervous system, it stimulates digestion and blood flow to the genitalia. Therefore, it's good to know what activates the parasympathetic nervous system if you want to get in tune with your sexuality. NOW it'd be great if I would be so kind as to share a list of things that activate the parasympathetic nervous system, so you can get a little more of this into your everyday life and a little less of the other. My list of things to help you stay relaxed and safe includes:
- Relaxation and meditation
- Sauna and long baths
- Slow sex with focus on yourself or each other
- Take a walk in the woods or by the water
The body remembersFor some people, sexuality is straightforward, curious and amazing all the way, but for many of us, sexuality is a more complex picture. I'd almost stick my neck out and claim that Danish sex culture is so fucked up that the majority of young people and adults who are sexually active in this country are, at best, illiterate in the language of lovemaking and, at worst, cause more harm than good to each other's sexuality. I dare say it because I think my argument is supported by the latest #metoo wave and all the evidence of rape and transgressive behavior that has come to light. I think of sexuality and sexual personality as a complex thing that's shaped by our accumulated sexual experience, the attachment to our caregivers in early childhood and how these and the culture have shaped our views on our own and other people's bodies and sexuality. My definition of sexuality may reveal that I believe that sexuality is deeply shaped by culture and isn't purely biological. I find it interesting how culture, the subconscious and our biology interact and express themselves in sexuality.
Sexual ambivalence and traumaIf trust has been broken in an intimate space, such as if you've had your limits transgressed during sex or have been subjected to rape or sexual abuse in childhood, you may experience ambivalence in the context of sexual intimacy.
This ambivalence isn't just a psychological ambivalence. It lives in the body and can be reactivated when you're in a similar situation. It can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, and retraumatizing. There is a disconnect between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and things that some people like, others will find very transgressive.
Tips if you feel anxiety or discomfort during sex
I believe that most of us have one or more triggers to a greater or lesser extent, so in this article, I'll share a few tips to help alleviate discomfort during sex.
If you feel triggered during sexual activity:
Know that there's space for everything that makes up your sexuality, and express your discomfort in the situation; "I can feel that I'm resisting," "I'm getting a bit self-conscious/scared/annoyed right now", "I need you to stay with me." Try to figure out what makes you relax and feel connected to your body. Tell your partner what these things are, so you can find your way back to where it feels nice together. You don't have to go it alone!
As a partner to someone who feels triggered during sexual activity:
Books about the nervous system and body memory
Naomi Wolff: Vagina
- Emily Nagosky: Come As You Are
Unfortunately, both books are mostly aimed at cis people. Feel free to share any gender-inclusive recommendations in the comments!