Embracing Your Sexuality

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Sex & Sexuality

Sexuality is an organic, normal, physical, and emotional function of human life. And women are capable of sexual function and pleasure throughout their entire lives. It’s realistic and entirely possible to create the sex life of your dreams, one that includes nurturing, intimacy, love, passion, and a spiritual connection—if that’s what you desire.

In order to do this, you have to distinguish between your own personal truths about sexuality and the distorted views we’ve inherited from our culture. Here are some:

  • In this society, sexuality is closely linked with body image and self-esteem. Women are brought up to feel that they deserve sexual pleasure only if they look a certain way or weigh a certain amount.
  • The cultural imperative that judges a woman’s worth by her attachment to a man and by her sexual attractiveness to men—all men—runs very deep. (In lesbian relationships, a woman’s partner or who she is sleeping with is also often used to define a woman’s worth.)
  • Clearly many women believe that it is their duty to fulfill their partner’s sexual desires and frequently ignore their own erotic or physical needs. They may engage in sexual behavior from which they receive very little more than an unwanted pregnancy, discomfort, or various diseases. And as a result, far too many women turn themselves into pretzels trying to become what they think their partner wants.
  • The culture also believes in the “big bang” theory of heterosexual pleasure, which holds that the thrusting of the penis into the vagina is the most important part of sexuality. Though this is true for some women, it is not true for others. It’s only one aspect of sexuality and pleasure, and women who do not enjoy it or who don’t reach orgasm through it, need not feel abnormal in any way. For some women, penis-in-vagina intercourse—the kind that we’re taught is the “real” thing—is not particularly satisfying.
  • Most Western religions seldom perceive female sexuality and motherhood as component parts of the same whole. Walker1 Many women have experienced the controlling attitudes and negative effects of certain religions on female sexuality. Tenets that degrade sexuality and subordinate it to reproduction.
  • It is not uncommon for frequency of intercourse to be the sole measure by which the quality of a sexual relationship is judged—especially in medical circles. According to Dr. Gina Ogden, a well-known sexuality researcher and author of the groundbreaking book The Heart and Soul of Sex (Trumpeter Books, 2006), when measured by men’s standards almost half of American women suffer from sexual dysfunction and low desire! Any woman can tell you that many other factors determine the actual quality of a women’s sexual satisfaction besides the number of times per week she has intercourse.

Clearly the old myths no longer work!

The first step in updating your beliefs around sexuality is to think of yourself as a sex subject rather than a sex object. This is a revolutionary paradigm shift that can change your life. It starts with the absolute knowing that it is possible to have all the pleasure and fun you have ever wanted in life with or without a man.

When we reclaim our own sexuality and experience it on our own terms, the whole world changes. When we learn how to turn ourselves on to life, instead of waiting for a Prince Charming to come along and do it for us, then we hold the reins of revolution in our own hands. It’s also a surefire way to have something of extreme value to share with another.

A Women’s Sexual Nature

Appreciating and embracing our sexuality is important for maintaining or regaining our health. We are hardwired from birth for sexual pleasure. It is our birthright. Humans are the only primates whose sexual desire and functioning are not necessarily related to the reproductive cycle. Women’s sexuality is involved in giving and receiving sexual pleasure, as well as reproduction.

Women have their own unique anatomy designed to allow women to experience as much, if not more, sexual pleasure as men. In fact, the clitoris is the only human organ whose sole function is to generate sexual pleasure. During sexual arousal the female clitoris becomes engorged with blood and becomes very sensitive, the vagina elongates, and the innermost third of the vagina balloons out, lifting the uterus and cervix. (If intercourse occurs after full female sexual response, this changed shape in the vagina helps bring sperm to the cervix, facilitating conception.) Women’s vaginas have a cyclic sexual response of lubrication about every fifteen minutes throughout the sleep cycle, while men get erections. There is also the G-spot (or Grafenberg spot) sometimes referred to as the “sacred spot,” deep inside the vagina. Proper stimulation of this area can result in ecstatic sensations and multiple orgasms.

And though the clitoris (with its 8,000 nerve endings) is clearly the most erogenous part of the female body, our experience of sexuality is not necessarily determined by our genitalia; nor is it limited to the external genitalia, any more than male sexuality is defined solely by the penis. Each woman’s body and mind—another important sex organ—is different. As Dr. Ogden described, “Some women approach sexuality through the emotional path, where we open our hearts. Some experience sex through the physical path, where we are aware of sensations. Others approach sex through the mental path, where we bring our dreams, imagination, and images to the experience. While others move toward the spiritual path, where we connect with energies beyond ourselves.”

Spiritual and Holistic Options

Embrace the idea that you are far more attractive to a man if you first figure out what you want and what pleases you sexually.

Just as with any kind of sex, the most important thing is to relax and take your time. Maintain a curious attitude, rather than being performance-oriented. Don’t have any goal other than to have fun and see what happens. If you’re at all worried that you’re too old for this sort of thing, remember that some experts believe that women in their forties and beyond get more pleasure from G-spot stimulation than younger women because their lower estrogen levels make the vaginal lining thinner, which makes the G-spot more prominent when stimulated. Have fun with this.

Although it takes time to learn these techniques, every woman’s health can benefit from developing pelvic floor muscles (PFM) including the strong pubococcygeous (PC) muscle, one of the major muscles of contraction during female orgasm. Women who have healthy, strong pelvic muscles are less prone to vaginal problems and urinary stress incontinence, and they tend to have more fulfilling sexual functioning with better pelvic blood flow, better vaginal lubrication, and stronger orgasms. There are a number of ways to condition and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles including Kegel exercises or using special devices for resistance training.

For women who have experienced sexual or other pelvic trauma, I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation.

Regardless of where a woman begins to reclaim and explore her sexuality, it’s helpful to know that female sexuality, by its very nature, is a total sensory experience involving the whole body as well as all the senses. Bring romance into your life in whatever form appeals to you. This could be candlelight, a romantic dinner at home or in a favorite restaurant, a token of your love, or an exchange of massages. Be creative. And enjoy your unique romantic and sensual nature.

Learn More — Additional Resources


  1. Walker, B., 1983. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, HarperSanFransicso.
Last Updated: February 27, 2007

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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