Let’s talk about sex, baby!
Now that I have your attention...
Today’s conversation is a bit of a spicy one, as I chat to Vanessa, founder of Authentic Awareness. Vanessa is a sex therapist and opens women up to authentic sensuality, confidence and good health by helping women to understand their bodies and recognise their pleasure.
In our conversation we talk about women's sensuality and why it is important, challenges women face when expressing their sensuality and tips for letting your sensual self shine.
Without further ado, let’s chat with Vanessa!
Hey Vanessa! Could you let us know who you are and what you do?
My name is Vanessa, and I am a Sex Therapist and founder of Authentic Awareness. I have a passion for helping and guiding women through challenging circumstances. I am enthusiastic about empowering women to take control of their bodies, their sensual selves and understand social misconceptions to confidently display their true self every day.
On a personal note, I’ve been married for 5 years (together for 13 years!), and we have two boys under 3 years old. Our house is noisy, busy and my biggest struggle working from home is getting out of the kitchen because everyone just wants to eat all day!
What exactly is Authentic Awareness?
Authentic Awareness offers sex therapy and education to women through courses and sexual wellness products. Authentic Awareness was established from a drive to make women and men aware of sexual misconceptions and provide assistance and education based on factual research to build positive internal connections and external relationships.
What inspired you to start Authentic Awareness?
I’ve always had an interest to learn more about and talk about sex openly. Having studied a Masters in HIV, STIs and Sexual Health, I realised I have the knowledge to share this information with other women. Sexual health is an important component of our overall health and it lives in a cone of silence, as a male-centred arena. I’m passionate about focusing on a holistic approach to female sexual health. I found a lot of inconsistent data and cultural and social misinformation. Even as a female with all this knowledge, I still had several “ahh ha” moments. I spoke to friends who also had ‘ahh ha’ moments and I knew that something was wrong with what we are teaching (and not teaching) during sex education! Being pleasure-focused can generate mind-blowing changes for both partners in the relationship, build overall confidence and self-esteem, and empower positive role modelling in calm and happy homes.
Why do you think women need to focus on celebrating their sensuality and what are some of the challenges women face in this department?
Celebrating sensuality is important because it’s part of our make-up, and there is untapped power in accepting yourself in your entirety. Understanding and expressing your sensuality boosts your confidence in all aspects of life. You are confident to ask for what you want and need, and when you feel good in yourself your body automatically distributes positive hormones around your body, stimulating your immune system and boosting your energy levels. It’s important to remember too that being sensual doesn’t mean being “media” sexy. Exploring and expressing sensuality is personal and varies for everyone.
It can be a difficult first step for women to decide to celebrate their sensuality because society tends to make this a challenge. How?
- Women’s sensuality has always been a hot topic in history and goes through highs and lows, as opposed to men’s sexuality. Why? Because we live in a male dominated society where women’s sensuality is perceived through a male lens as a comparison to men, as opposed to being celebrate as equal but different to men.
- Sex is so male focused that intercourse is always the end goal, yet for the majority of women this is not how they experience pleasure. It can be challenging to communicate that to a partner, as it requires a shift in thinking about sex (and intercourse as a single and separate activity within the domain of sex). Fortunately, most men are actually open to these discussions and learning as they want to give their female partners pleasure, but often women are too scared to start the discussion, believing they should be enjoying intercourse (thanks society!)
- Victim blaming when issues arise. We hide our sensuality because we are told from a young age if we show it we are inviting trouble and when trouble arrives women are blamed because “we told you so”. Men are taught to demonstrate their masculinity from a young age and the more it is shown it is celebrated which is completely the opposite of women and their sensuality. I remember my grandmother always said, “flaunt what you have”, but when I did I was then taunted which creates a confusing situation growing up.
- Self-doubt and judgement – this is a big challenge to overcome, as we are the worst when it comes to self-judgement. Our entire social and cultural beliefs surface and it takes a conscious effort to tell yourself you are worthy.
Once you allow yourself the freedom to explore and express your sensuality as you desire, these challenges actually don’t pose a threat to you anymore as your comfort in your own skin provides the confidence and power to understand the misconceptions of these barriers. You’ll also find a huge world around you of women that have made the same decision and proudly present themselves as they desire.
What made you decide to focus on working with mamma’s in igniting their sensuality?
After having my first son in 2017, I had all these new mum friends and many were struggling to ignite their mojo and feelings of self-love and sensuality 6 months, one year, two years on. I realised that any discussion at the 6-week postpartum check-up revolved around contraception. This lack of conversation on sexual functioning or pleasure leaves many women wondering why they are suddenly experiencing pain, dryness or a complete lack of sexual interest, and many are too overwhelmed or tired at that time to ask the right questions. Let alone feel entitled to think about their own bodies and enjoyment, as opposed to caring solely for a new baby and family. The fact that we even need to tell mums “you are entitled” to put yourself first and not feel guilty about it is testament to the need for change.
This was the moment I decided to help busy, tired mums to awaken their sensuality, empower them to have pleasure-focused discussions and to create deeper connections with themselves and a partner.
Any final words of advice for someone who wants to be more in touch with their sensuality but doesn’t know where to start?
Don’t be afraid to let your sensual-self shine! What matters is how you see and feel about yourself, not what others think or tell you to be.
Self-acceptance is important so I suggest starting with daily positive messaging. Get naked in front of a mirror, check yourself out and tell yourself something you like. If you discover barriers to your sensuality it’s important to explore them and work through how to break them down. Ask yourself what changes you can make to resolve it. Start with changes that you feel are the easiest to make. This will lead to greater success as those changes become habits. The Authentic Awareness specifically designed Mojo Matters Sensuality Journal is excellent at tracking barriers and changes to keep you track to your sensual destination.
Finally, you need to know what you like sexually before you can tell someone else what you want and need. This is where the fun truly starts in self-exploration. If you are overwhelmed, start by focusing on each of your senses one at a time until you discover your favourite contexts.
- Sound – what sounds/music gets you in the mood? Is there anything you like to hear before or during sexual activity?
- Taste – are there particular tastes that boost your mojo? Do you find particular foods enticing, or do you enjoy a sensual tasting platter during sex? Perhaps you are keen for some edible lube.
- Smell – is there a scent that gets your juices flowing? Sometimes smells are good for getting in the mood and others are good during sexual activity. Test out your candle or diffuser until you find your favourite.
- Sight – what gets you excited? Is it looking at yourself doing something, is it seeing a partner do something, is it wearing a particular piece of lingerie or is it removing sight all together from play?
- Touch – possibly the most important sense to understand. How and where do you like to be touched, what sort of pressure do you like? Do you like toys, lotions, massages or other props?
For the mamas out there who are interested in finding their sensuality, join the Mama’s Sensual Safari and be guided step-by-step through your exploration.
Any hints on what the future brings for Authentic Awareness?
I have several ideas for the future of Authentic Awareness to continue to educate, revamp and ignite female sensuality. Currently, I am focused on working with mama’s, however, there are plans to branch out to other niche groups in the community.
In the immediate future, now that Covid restrictions are lifting and people are feeling more comfortable going out, I am excited to run workshops and have the ability to sit down face-to-face with women and discuss all things pleasure-focused. It is a real joy to see women get excited about all the new concepts they can explore!
I hope you enjoyed this chat with Vanessa! I admire her genuine passion for helping women (especially mama’s) ignite their sexuality and hope that her knowledge is helpful to you, or someone you know. Sexuality can certainly be a bit of a taboo topic, and I think it's important to not let societal "norms" and stigmas stop us from having these important conversations.
You can check out more Vanessa's work here.