As a sex educator that specializes in the needs of women, I work with hundreds of women who come to me with different sexual histories that often result in parallel lives of sexual dis-satisfaction.
*One in four women have experienced some kind of sexual abuse or trauma
*Many women experience pain during penetration
* Women in peri-menopause or menopause often feel a lack of desire or libido
* Too many women feel stuck in a place of sexual shaming
At the same time, these beautiful women come to me wanting to feel:
* Sexual "surrender." They are wanting to be able to "open" and "relax into their bodies."
* Erotic Desire
And yet, while we are wanting to feel all of these things in our erotic lives; so many of us walk around in a state of "clench." The image often used to represent the female erotic response is a opening flower, with petals vivid and inviting.
When in fact, the state of many women's erotic response is more like a tightly held bud.
For women today, it's all about hard bodies, tightened abs and guarding our emotional and physical selves. And that makes a lot of sense for a world that lives in combat. The only thing is that it doesn't make a lot of sense for living a life of full sensuality. An armored contracted body goes numb from holding tight, and is not an invitation for pleasure or a lover's hand.
In Sexological Bodywork, we have for years worked with people around what we call "genital mapping" and "pelvic release work." This particular aspect of sexual wellness is not necessarily around arousal or orgasm. It's about identifying where in our genitals and pelvis that we hold unconscious contraction and emotions. By doing a slow exploration manual and verbal exploration with our clients, we begin to identify in a somatic (in the body) and conscious way where the trauma and the contraction is held -- and we can learn to feel how to unleash it.
Putting all of the learned practices together, we are using the term "Genital De-Armoring." Dr. Joseph Kramer one of my key mentors would probably prefer the term; "Erotic Integration Work." But there is an imagery around the wold "Armor" that is helpful here for people to understand the concept.
traditionally worn as a defense against combat. This wording is used to describe the somatic process of 'armoring' that can happen in the body as a physical response to trauma.
There are many types of trauma, whether it is shaming around our expression of sexuality, difficult childbirth, medical/surgical experiences, sexual abuse, rape, or any form of unwanted sexual touch.
The body can go into a pattern of 'guarding' or holding, creating chronic pain or tension in the pelvic floor, or even 'numbing out' to suppress any sensation or feeling at all. Adhesions and scarring deep in the fascia can also contribute to feelings of pain and 'stuck-ness.' This can make it extremely difficult to be connected in a loving way with our own bodies, or fully engaged and present with our partners in intimate situations. Loss of intimacy and lack of desire can cause us to pull further away in relationship.
In a de-armoring session, we use a combination of breath work, touch and sensory awareness to help you relax into a deep state where subconscious patterns can begin the process of neural reprogramming. This is particularly effective for PTSD symptoms, when our bodies have been conditioned to react with a flight, fight or freeze response.
Each session is different for each woman, and is based on what you would like to explore. You are gently guided back to a place where it is safe to trust your body, and where it can become safe to trust pleasure again. You begin to heal yourself from within, and that is an empowering space.
So, to answer the question "Can a Vagina Wear Armor?" The answer is "Yes." And you can learn to take it off.
Pamela Madsen runs retreats around the world to help women re-connect to their bodies and sensuous nature (Back to The Body: Sensuous Retreat For Women) and is author of the book; "Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner" (Rodale 2011).