As the month of March comes to an end, so does Endometriosis Awareness Month, an initiative created to shed light on the condition and how little it is talked about. Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and those assigned female at birth, yet society all too often considers it a taboo. In order to encourage more people to talk openly about endometriosis and create awareness around it, we first need them to understand how it can impact women. Here’s what you need to know to #EndoTheStigma.
Endometriosis (pronounced en-doh-mee-tree-oh-sis) is the name given to the condition where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body. Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding during someone’s period. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as periods, this blood has no way to escape.
Evie Plumb, fabulous host of the sex education podcast Cliterally The Best and presenter of the YouTube series of the same name recently published an overview video of the condition where she explains a bit more about why we need more awareness, what symptoms to look for, and how we can treat endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and often debilitating condition that can cause painful or heavy periods. It may also lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems. Around 1.5 million women in the UK are currently living with the condition. Endometriosis can affect all women and girls of childbearing age, regardless of race or ethnicity. The impact can also be felt for life, and currently, there is no way of preventing the condition.
Every month, a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes. Hormones are naturally released which cause the lining of the womb to increase in preparation for a fertilised egg. If pregnancy does not occur, this lining will break down and bleed—this is then released from the body as what is known as a period.
In endometriosis, cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb grow elsewhere in the body. These cells react to the menstrual cycle each month and also bleed. However, there is no way for this blood to leave the body. As a result, this can cause inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.
Endometriosis can have a significant impact on a person’s life in a number of ways, including: chronic pain, fatigue and a lack of energy, depression, problems with a couple’s sex life, an inability to conceive, and difficulty in fulfilling work and social commitments.
However, it is important to note that, with the right endometriosis treatment, many of these issues can be addressed, and the symptoms of endometriosis made more manageable. It should also be remembered that endometriosis is not an infection, it is not contagious, nor is it a type of cancer.
Endometriosis symptoms can vary in intensity from one woman to another, and the amount of endometriosis does not always correspond to the amount of pain and discomfort experienced. Some women with endometriosis experience symptoms while others do not.
The classic endometriosis symptoms include: painful, heavy, or irregular periods, pain during or after sex, infertility, painful bowel movements, and fatigue. Women with endometriosis also report the following symptoms: back pain, leg pain, prolonged bleeding, bleeding between periods, loss of ‘dark’ blood before periods and more, which you can read through here.
Although the condition affects 10 per cent of women worldwide—that’s 176 million people—the actual cause of endometriosis remains unknown. There are several theories about the cause of endometriosis, but none fully explains why it occurs. It is possible that a combination of the following factors could be causing endometriosis to develop in some women: retrograde menstruation, genetic predisposition, lymphatic or circulatory spread, immune dysfunction, environmental causes, and metaplasia.
Getting diagnosed with endometriosis can take some time because the symptoms of the condition are very similar to other common conditions. It is hence important to share as much information with your doctor as possible.
The only definitive way to diagnose it is by a laparoscopy, which is an operation in which a camera (a laparoscope) is inserted into the pelvis via a small cut near the navel. The surgeon uses the camera to see the pelvic organs and look for any signs of endometriosis. If endometriosis is diagnosed, it may be treated or removed for further examination during the laparoscopy. Scans, blood tests and internal examinations are not a conclusive way to diagnose the condition.
Because endometriosis manifests itself in a variety of ways and shares symptoms with other conditions, diagnosis can be difficult and often delayed. Recent research shows that there is now an average of 7.5 years between women first seeing a doctor about their symptoms and receiving a firm diagnosis, according to Endometriosis UK.
Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis. The different treatments available for endometriosis help to reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the quality of life for a woman living with the condition. Your healthcare professional will consider many different factors when working out the best endometriosis treatment method for you, such as your age, the severity of endometriosis you have and the severity of your symptoms.
Treatment options available to women with endometriosis are: surgery, hormone treatment, and pain relief. Surgery can be used to alleviate pain by removing the endometriosis, dividing adhesions or removing cysts. As endometriosis responds and grows when exposed to the female hormone oestrogen, a number of hormone treatments attempt to block or reduce the production of oestrogen in the body. This means the endometriosis will be unable to continue growing and will help to relieve symptoms. Lastly, as the main symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, there are also various pain relief and pain management options available.
As stated above, endometriosis remains a relatively unknown medical condition, which is why anybody with a uterus should be made aware of it. Just like sexual health, it is not something we should be embarrassed to talk about. For too long, we’ve been taught that periods are meant to be painful for most people, something that is not true. If you are ending up sick as a result of periods, you deserve to be made aware of the fact that you may need medical help and are entitled to receive it from someone who will take you seriously. Endometriosis can affect anyone with a uterus, regardless of race or ethnicity. So why are we still not educating young people on the condition?
If you suspect you may be suffering from endometriosis, please visit a GP or medical professional. Support is also available through organisations such as Endometriosis UK, who can be reached online or by calling 0808 808 2227.
Just like many other topics that revolve around sexual pleasure, squirting remains a mystified and oversexualised male fantasy, which in turn breeds misconceptions about it. Yes, squirting is real. No, there’s nothing wrong with being able to squirt—or not being able to. Isn’t it just pee? Well, it’s slightly more complicated…
That’s why—with the help of Kama, the sexual wellbeing app that places pleasure at the forefront of the conversation by focusing on the science-backed idea that pleasure is health—I went on a mission to debunk a few of the myths that surround squirting and let you in on what I learned from Kama’s Squirting 101 workshops, so that you can try your hand at it too.
A lot has been said about squirting, both good and bad, yet most women remain confused about the whole experience. On the one hand, you have porn, which promotes the false idea that only women who can squirt are sexually liberated and that squirting comes with a merit badge of some sort. On the other hand, you’ll find women who have been shamed for being able to squirt in the first place—by uneducated partners reacting with disgust, for example. Yet squirting is also a very useful practice to flush harmful bacteria out of the urethra and reduce UTIs.
But before I take you on my own squirting journey, let me first give you the details on exactly how the Kama Method works. Don’t get me wrong, sex is great, but there’s way more to it than what we were taught in sex ed or discovered on our own while browsing through porn websites aged 17. Before launching the Kama Method, Kama’s founder Chloe Macintosh had been researching intimacy and sexuality for the past 10 years, travelling the world to meet experts and practitioners across a wide range of disciplines.
“Kama is based on the science-backed idea that pleasure is health. Our body is the most advanced technology that we will ever interact with and yet we know so little about it. We often leave it to others to make decisions about our health and sexual wellbeing, which ultimately leaves us unfulfilled. Sex therapy is mostly unregulated but, at Kama, we are working with leading experts to create the new industry standard, to address insecurities, and to educate our clients about pleasure,” Macintosh explains.
“In the midst of a pandemic, global mental health epidemic, and with stress as the number one proxy killer in the world, our mental health is more important than ever. Many societies focus on managing the pain and looking to the brain to restore balance. At Kama, however, we take a different approach to wellness and wellbeing: we use breath and touch techniques to shift the focus back to our bodies and to increase sensation. Think of it like Headspace for the body.”
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Squirting for the first time is not easy—in fact, it was probably one of the hardest things I recently had to go through. Not only because the psychological fear of being seen to have wet myself was still unconsciously holding me back, but also because the whole experience (from start to finish) was more ‘enlightening’ than I could have ever imagined. First of all, I was pretty sure I knew my body and what it liked, but when focused on trying to associate the sensation of peeing with pleasure, it’s like I went from numb to over-sensitive every two seconds. Sitting in my bathtub on a Saturday morning, I truly thought that squirting was simply not meant to be in my case.
Secondly, although I first insisted on involving my partner in the process, I realised later on that him being there only added another mental block between me and my ‘so close yet so far away squirting goal’. After a few days of trying, I became aware of the fact that if I were to truly let go of tension and memories in this area, then I needed to first go through it alone.
I am still unsure of what it says about me or my relationship, but I am glad I made the decision to do so on my own, at least for now. But even after then, breathing in and exhaling while going through the steps mentioned underneath felt somewhat off—like I didn’t know how to fully relax. So, I decided to have a bath (something I never do), and in the middle of the week on top of that! I used Espom salt—the bath salts normally recommended for athletic people suffering from sore muscles but also used by people with messed up backs, like myself—and stayed in there for close to an hour.
As I emptied the bathtub, I realised that I finally felt pretty relaxed, and that now might be my time to shine. I went through the steps once again, and even used a curved vibrator as a little helper, breathing in and out as I tried a few different motions and moved my hips slightly. That’s when it happened; an intense, almost uncomfortable sensation that I had to push through in order for it to ‘become part’ of my orgasm. After that? It just felt like the most relaxing feeling ever, but strenuous at the same time.
What truly surprised me was that, unlike what I expected, I didn’t squirt a crazy amount of liquid, and on the contrary, being in the shower made it seem pretty ‘neat’. Afterwards, because the whole moment felt so intense, I fell asleep in no time. Have I tried to squirt again since then? Not yet, as I feel I need to come to grips with my first experience before trying it again.
At the beginning of my Squirting 101 (and one-on-one) session with Kama’s in-house sex educator Aaron, we looked at what squirting really is, where it comes from, and why it happens. Interestingly, Dictionary defines squirting as “a slang term for female ejaculation. In pornography, it usually features a voluminous, projectile stream from the vagina. Science says it’s largely just urine.”
And here we have two of the first myths I’d like to debunk. First of all, squirting and ejaculating are two different things. As Aaron explained to me, research has shown that both differ in their composition. Vaginal ejaculate comes from a woman’s urethral sponge erectile tissues and is released through her Skene’s glands (located close to the entrance of the vagina where the infamous g-spot is usually found). Squirt comes from the bladder and is released through a woman’s urethral opening when she is very aroused—yes, that’s the pee hole. So not so different from how it works with men…
While ejaculate tends to be slightly thick and white, squirt usually looks like watered-down urine, which brings me to my second point: squirt is not urine… but it is composed of diluted urine. Squirting is the act of releasing fluids via the urethra tube, but although it has the same journey urine has, squirting can happen even after the bladder has been emptied, as more liquid builds up in the bladder with arousal. In other words, no, squirt is not only composed of urine—and it is not dirty or smelly!
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Now that I’ve shared my personal experience with you and explained the basics of squirting, let me get straight to the hot topic: how can you squirt? Well, I’ll stop you right there for a second.
As someone who’s always shown a strong interest in sexual pleasure in general as well as my own sexual wellbeing—duh—I, for some reason, had never pursued the idea that I could squirt too. Without even realising it, I was led to assume that squirting was reserved for women who had more than a decade’s experience in sexual activities. I like to think of myself as someone sexually open-minded, but perhaps I had already shown signs of pre-built censorship when it came to squirting.
That’s why first of all, if you wish to explore pleasurable ejaculation too, you need to be ready to learn more about yourself above all, both mentally and physically. Squirting is not about turning one knob left or pushing another one hard enough; it is about becoming aware of certain blocks that you may come across, recognising them to then overcome them in order to truly ‘let go’. Sounds complex, right? Don’t worry, I’ve got some serious Kama advice for you.
Before you start claiming that you know your body like the back of your hand or that touching yourself is your number one skill, hear me out, because I initially thought the same things. But in order for you to even consider squirting, you’ll first need to identify all the anatomical parts you’ll have to play with and massage later on, and as Kama experts will further explain to you in their Squirting 101 workshops, there are quite a few places you’ll be touching.
Don’t be afraid to sit yourself down in front of a mirror and explore your own anatomy. My advice? Use this time to gently stimulate the different areas you’re identifying. There’s no shame in mixing business with pleasure, if you know what I mean.
This is where things get a little complicated. In order to squirt, you need to associate the sensation of releasing fluids from the urethra with arousal and pleasure, which is not an easy task. What this means is that—when you learn to remove the mental and physical blocks that most of us come across when allowing fluids to be released from the urethra, you’ll reach a point where you’ll learn to associate the feeling with arousal instead. “The idea here is to become familiar with these sensations and processes being combined,” explains Aaron.
To do so, I had to wait until I really needed to pee, and then made myself comfortable in my bathtub. Once I was all settled in, I started by touching myself gently (externally) to become more aroused. Then when I really needed to pee, I reiterated the same actions while actually peeing. By doing this, you’re teaching your body to connect the sensation of release with pleasure.
Once that’s done, stay where you are, and continue arousing yourself to start ‘engorging’ (meaning the erectile tissues that are in the vulva fill with blood). Get yourself aroused, and start tracking your urethra tube, which begins at the bottom of the bladder, otherwise known as the neck. It extends downward, through the muscular area of the pelvic floor. From the opening of your vagina, feel along the track of the tube until you get the sensation of peeing. When you do feel like peeing while feeling aroused, push down with your pelvic floor—but don’t push hard while holding your breath, remember to focus on your breathing.
Then focus on letting yourself release fluids by simply pushing down and holding that push while you inhale and exhale. Don’t hesitate to repeat the whole exercise as many times as you need to—I know I certainly gave it a fair amount of tries!
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Of course, this is only half of the whole process you’ll need to go through in order to squirt; as Kama states, “practice makes pleasure.” From finding your G-pad to perfecting the Kama Push method, Kama’s Squirting 101 workshops will further prepare you for the physical and emotional rollercoaster that the experience of squirting will take you on.
But understand that this experience won’t happen without obstacles getting in the way. Many women report a strong feeling of discomfort sometimes connected to repeated UTIs and yeast infections. Others have shared they felt strong (and surprising) emotions such as shame, anger, and even sadness while and after squirting. These can all be explained by the fact that this area holds tension and memories too, just like the rest of your body does, which is why massaging it for the first few times can be a draining experience for most women.
That’s where Kama comes in to teach you how to turn pain and discomfort into pleasure by reawakening areas of your body that had become numb. Practising squirting becomes all the more important as it helps you release tension and pain in those areas. As your body and mind get used to this specific kind of release, you’ll be able to get to the near-mythical part of squirting: the intense pleasure it will make you feel.
If you do find yourself holding back or holding onto previous misconceptions about squirting, then you probably won’t be relaxed enough to squirt. Sexual pleasure is all about enjoyment, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. My last piece of advice? Whether you squirt or not, continue to explore your body without any expectations—it can only do you some good, trust me.