As with anything related to sex, there are always plenty of questions worth asking that go beyond the basics. They’re usually questions that help us better understand our relationship to pleasure, personal roadblocks to intimacy, and communication with a partner - and, of course, how to have more satisfying orgasms. They're usually the questions that can be uncomfortable to discuss, yet having an open and honest conversation about them can be incredibly helpful in helping people to feel better educated and more comfortable in their sexuality.


This is exactly why we turned to Sexual & Relationship Psychotherapist, Kate Moyle, the host of The Sexual Wellness Sessions Podcast, to answer some of our questions about masturbation, pleasure and intimacy, so we can help everyone get on a path to sexual health, happiness and wellbeing.



Q

What kind of conversations do you tend to have with clients around masturbation? Can masturbation really be a part of our self-care routines?

A

It absolutely can be a part of our self-care routines. Our bodies are designed to experience pleasure, with the clitoris having 8000 nerve endings, and being the only organ in the human body with the sole purpose of giving pleasure. The struggle that most people have with masturbation and self-pleasure is how they think and feel about it, much of which has come from negative social and cultural messages about (particularly female) masturbation. In therapy, I often talk to people about their relationship with their body, including in that conversation about their genitals; and it's also about exploring what they know about their bodies. In a survey by The Eve Appeal, they found that only half of women aged 26-35 were able to label 'vagina' correctly on a simple diagram. We aren't educated fully about our bodies, and so given that it's left out of the conversation in such a big way, it's no wonder that so many women struggle to talk about or openly explore masturbation



Q

What are the biggest misconceptions that you hear around sex toys in your practice?

A

The two most common examples that I get asked both in my practice, and in the media are about introducing sex toys to your partner for couple use, and about becoming reliant on sex toys. In terms of the anxieties about introducing sex toys to partnered sex, the common misconceptions that people have are around a partner being 'replaced' by a sex toy, which if you communicate about it properly that will never be the case. Sex toys are an additional and a way of mixing up partnered play, and instead of being seen as a threat see it as an opportunity to play with pleasure and sensations. They offer an alternative or an additional experience and importantly something fun to be explored together. The other is about reliance on sex toys, in a nutshell women worry if they use a vibrator too much that they won't enjoy sex as much. What we won't build up is a reliance, but people do get into routines in their sex lives where anything that then falls outside that routine can feel more challenging, or can mean that they find it harder to get in the right sexual headspace. It's always a good idea to try and break up routine when it comes to sex lives, whether with yourself or with a partner.



Q

Can sex toys help to strengthen intimacy within a relationship?

A

Yes, if the communication is there. Communication is the key ingredient to any good sex life and so talking about sex toys can be a great opportunity to discuss trying something new together. You can always look at a website together, I work with the sex toy brand Lelo who have a great range, so I often suggest couples have a look, talk about what they like and don't like the look of, and then choose something together. Ultimately sexual experiences should be fun and pleasurable and sex toys can definitely be a part of that.



Q

How can someone become more sexually self-confident?

A

A large part of it is about getting to know your body better. Information and familiarity assists confidence. This is a combination of knowing your anatomy, and which bits do what and are where they are located, using the right language - e.g vulva vs vagina, and knowing how to enjoy your body and what feels good for you as an individual. This then equips you with the knowledge and experience to share that with a partner. We are more anxious and afraid of what we don't know and fully understand, and this can apply to our bodies too.


The other part is about thinking about our definitions of sex and where they come from. Many of us have never really opened up or explored our meaning or thinking about sex, and much of it comes from our learning from others across our lifetimes, whether that be formal sex education, or more informal such as conversations, the media, and our own experiences. Listen to a range of voices and experiences about sex, for example podcasts - I host one called The Sexual Wellness Sessions which Ellen Terrie have sponsored an episode of - watch Ted Talks, follow sex educators and therapists on social media, and read up to date books on sexuality. There is so much that can be learnt from discovering more about sexual wellness, and importantly how it fits into us being in a good personal place of sexual wellbeing. 


And finally, it's about accepting that there is no normal. Sex is a tricky place where we are simultaneously trying to be very open and intimate with someone, but also trying to balance 'getting it right' and fearing the judgement of others. All bodies are beautiful, and all bodies are different; but we don't often see that fully represented which can leave us with a sense of insecurity about us being the way we are, which is a huge cultural problem. 



Q

How do you build up the confidence to communicate what you want when it comes to sex with a partner? 

A

Opening up to a partner can feel incredibly challenging and scary, but I can't say enough how communication is the lynchpin of a satisfying sex life. We and our partners are not mind readers, but for some reason when it comes to sex we all expect, and feel expected to be. 


I often talk to people about starting the conversation outside of the bedroom, framing it as a positive. "I love when we do X together', 'I read about something that could be fun for us to try', 'I want to try something new with you'. If you approach the conversation as 'Our sex life isn't good enough', or 'I need more' then it's going to be met with defensive communication as it could be received as criticism, and that's not where you want to start. I really like some of the prompts from The School of Life such as the Pillow Talk cards, which offer really good prompts and questions to start those conversations.




Join us next week for Part 2 when Kate answers YOUR sex questions.




Kate Moyle


Kate is an  Accredited Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist in Central London. She specialises in working with those that are struggling with difficulties with their sex lives and sexuality, including many in their twenties and thirties who are impacted by the stresses of modern life. Kate often works with people to recognise their personal understanding of their sexuality and sexual health; with the view that issues have roots in psychology, emotion, the physical body, and a person’s history and culture. Ultimately her aim is to help people get to a place of sexual health, happiness and wellbeing. 


You can find out more about Kate on her website and on Instagram, or you can listen to her podcast The Sexual Wellness Sessions