Getting Up Close and Personal

Knowing how your body likes to be touched is an important part of knowing yourself and getting in touch with your sexuality. You learned about your sexual anatomy in Chapter 3, and now it's time to do some hands-on exploration. You can refer to the diagrams in Chapter 3 to remind you of the names of the different parts. You may want privacy for these exercises or you may wish to share the experience with a lover or a partner. Honor whatever needs you have around this. It may be preferable to do this exercise in your bedroom, but you can also do it in the bathroom or anywhere in the house you feel comfortable.

Discovering Your Vulva

This may be the first time you have ever looked closely at your vulva. If so, be prepared to be amazed. Your vulva is the source of tremendous pleasure, and that makes it a thing of beauty. Regardless of how your vulva appears to you now, you can eventually learn to see it as a beautiful flower, an exotic orchid. You may have already looked closely at your vulva and know it well by sight but not be able to identify the different parts. If so, this is your opportunity to discover more.

For this exercise, you will need a handheld mirror and some good lighting. You may want to shower or bathe first and wash your vulva so that she is more presentable for this encounter. You will, of course, need to remove any clothes from the waist down. Find a comfortable seated position with both knees up and splayed apart. If you are in your bed, you can prop yourself up with some pillows behind your back. Then prop the mirror on the bed facing your vulva, freeing both of your hands for exploration. If you need to, you can use one hand for the mirror.

Begin by separating your outer labia with one hand. This will expose your inner labia and your clitoris. Appreciate the delicate tissue there. In your mind, connect how it looks with the exquisite pleasure it is capable of providing you. Notice the flap of tissue at the very top of your inner labia. That is your clitoral hood. You may notice the glans or head of your clitoris poking out from underneath it. Or you may need to pull the hood back a bit, up toward your pubic mound in order to see your clitoris. Touch yourself lightly on top of the clitoral hood first to assess its sensitivity. Then touch the head of your clitoris directly. Touching the head directly should feel considerably more sensitive. Now lightly touch your inner and outer labia to assess the sensitivity of these tissues.

Essential

Remember, no two vulvas are alike, and there is no right or wrong way for yours to look. Try to regard your vulva with a sense of mystery and curiosity. Notice any judgments you may have about the appearance or your vulva, and then try to just let them go.

After you have seen and touched the different parts of your vulva, spread your inner labia to expose the vestibule. The vestibule consists of your vaginal opening, your Bartholin's glands, and your urethral opening. Gently touch these different parts and notice how they respond to your touch. The location of your vaginal opening should be pretty obvious. It is at the base of the vestibule and will have a puckered appearance. The Bartholin's glands are probably not visible, but by looking at the diagram, you can get a sense of where they are located. Although it is very small, you should be able to see your urethral opening, directly above your vaginal opening. It is a tiny hole. Lightly touch these different parts to get a feel for their sensitivity.

For further discovery, try viewing the inside of your vagina with a speculum. A speculum is a medical instrument that inserts into the vagina and opens enough to allow you to view your vaginal walls and cervix. If you are comfortable with your gynecologist, ask her to show you how to use a speculum, or have her assist you. You can also ask your gynecologist if she has an inexpensive plastic speculum you can take home with you. If you use a speculum at home you will also need a mirror and a flashlight for this exploration.

Discovering Your Penis and Testicles

Being a man, you have probably looked at and touched your penis and testicles plenty, but you may not have studied all the different parts or their names carefully. Also, you may have never assessed the sensitivity of the different parts. This exercise may allow you to get some new information about your penis's and testicles’ sensitivity and responsiveness. Start this exercise when your penis is flaccid. If it becomes erect while doing the exercise, that's okay. It is good to notice the differences in sensation between your flaccid penis and your erect penis.

Alert

It is normal for an erect penis to bend slightly in any which direction and to have some curve in it. If, however, the bending or curving appears suddenly and is accompanied with any swelling or pain, you should consult with a physician.

Start by lightly cupping the scrotal sac that holds your testicles. Notice if one testicle hangs lower than the other, as it does in most men. Notice if one testicle is more sensitive than the other. Notice how your testicles respond to the light cupping. Then, let your hand lightly grip the shaft of your penis, and notice the texture, quality and sensitivity of the skin there. If you are circumcised, lightly touch the exposed glans of your penis. Notice its sensitivity. If you are uncircumcised, pull your foreskin back, exposing the glans, and notice the skin underneath. Touch it lightly, assessing its sensitivity. Then touch the glans itself. Locate the ridged band, the ring of smooth muscle, wrapping around the base of your glans. Softly touch your frenulum, the indentation on the underside of your penis where the glans and the shaft meet. Keep your touch very light, passing a single finger along the ridge and over the frenulum and notice their sensitivity.

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