Your body is your vehicle for living – a means to express your sexual identity and needs, to feel pleasure and to communicate with others. The more in touch you are with your body (literally), the more likely you are to take care of it and enjoy it. In this section, you can learn about reproductive anatomy, puberty, menstruation, sexual arousal, health examinations and masturbation. Throughout your lifetime, your body will grow and change considerably. Learning about your body and sexual health is a continual process.

In North America we are surrounded by images and messages about how we should look, most of which are unattainable and unrealistic. Pressure to conform to an ideal concept of what’s attractive makes people feel bad about themselves, and can even cause health problems.

Media bombards us with products to fix insecurities; insecurities that we probably would not even worry about if there weren’t products to buy to ‘fix’ us!

These messages and images can make us feel unattractive and can even try to tell us what types of bodies we should find attractive. Just try to remember your body is one part of you – an important part – but only one part.

Try this….stand in front of a mirror and take a look at your body. What thoughts go through your mind? It is tempting to focus on the parts we don’t like – “My hips are too big”, “I’m too short”, “I’m fat”, “I’m too skinny, “my arms look weak”. Notice any negative messages that enter your thoughts and replace them with messages about how great your body is – “My hips are strong”, “I look healthy”, “I’m just right”. It may take willful effort to work against negative stereotypes of what our bodies should look like but you are worth it.

Sexual Arousal

We have a tendency in North America to talk about sex as a purely physical act. While sexual arousal certainly involves the body, it is not limited to the physical manipulation of body parts. Sex is much more than that – it involves your mind, your feelings, your body and your spirit.

The Mind Connection

The mind is our most powerful sexual organ. Our bodies respond physically to what is happening in our brain and this mind-body connection can either increase sexual arousal or inhibit it. Have you ever been turned on by just thinking about someone or imagining what it feels like to be touched by another person? It is normal to feel sexually excited by thoughts, fantasies, pictures and dreams; however, this mind-body connection also means that if you are worried, distracted or feeling stressed, your body will respond accordingly. Can you relax and enjoy sex if you are worried about an unplanned pregnancy or catching a sexually transmitted infection? Does guilt and shame take all the fun out of masturbation? Your physical response is intimately tied to thoughts, communication, feelings and emotional expression. For some folks, worries or negative thoughts may mean you can’t get or keep an erection. For other folks it may mean that your vagina doesn’t get wet or you can’t orgasm. The moral of the story is that sexual arousal is about more than physical stimulation alone. It needs to feel good in your body, your heart and your mind.

The Body Response

Sexual arousal is remarkably similar for males and females in terms of physical response but there are some differences.

During sexual excitement blood pressure and heart rate rises. Blood rushes to the genitals and fills the spongy tissue of the penis to make it hard. This is called an erection. When a penis is flaccid or soft, it can be small. The average size is about 3.5 inches but even this varies a lot depending on the person and other factors like surrounding temperature. For instance, take a swim in a cold lake and you will notice that your penis is even smaller than it normally is because your penis and testicles pull up and into the body to keep warm. When a penis is hard, it stands up and gets bigger (about 5 to 7 inches long and 3.5 inches wide). The testes rise up and the tip of the penis swells. In the excitement build-up phase, some folks also sweat, their skin gets flushed (reddened) and their nipples harden. Sexual arousal may or may not lead to orgasm.

During sexual excitement blood pressure and heart rate rises. Blood rushes to her genitals filling the clitoris and its nerve endings that extend down both sides of the vulva (the outside part) Usually the walls of the vagina (inside part) are resting in a closed position; however, during sexual arousal the vagina opens up and becomes wet as lubrication increases. The size of a  vagina varies but in general, it is about the length of your hand from the base of the palm to the tip of the middle finger. During the excitement build-up phase, some people sweat, they may get “sex flush” or a red flush on their skin and their nipples get hard. Sexual arousal may or may not lead to orgasm.

What is an Orgasm?

Orgasm is the word used to describe a sexual peak or climax. Orgasms all work in a similar way. During an orgasm, breathing gets faster, the heart beats more quickly, and there are muscle contractions in the genitals and the rest of the body. These contractions give a feeling of release. While muscles are contracting the brain lets go of endorphins and other chemicals that cause an intense feeling of pleasure. It is easiest for you to have an orgasm when you are relaxed, enjoying yourself, and not distracted. Sometimes thinking hard about having an orgasm will make it less likely to happen.

People can have orgasms after they have been touched in a way that feels good to them sexually, often on the penis, testicles, clitoris, breasts, nipples, vulva or in the vagina or anus. Not everyone likes the same areas touched.

Some females ejaculate or gush a slippery fluid during orgasm and some don’t. Because of their biology, females can stay aroused and have more than one orgasm over the span of several minutes.

During an ejaculation, the prostate and penis spasm and push semen (sperm) out of the body. It leaves through the opening on the head of the penis. Sometimes people will ejaculate without having the pleasure of an orgasm. Ejaculation is a reflex and very difficult to control. Rarely, folks will have an orgasm and not ejaculate (not release any semen). A short time after ejaculation the penis will usually get soft (loss of erection). After orgasm most people need a rest before they want to have sex again.

There can be a lot of pressure to perform when it comes to sex. This pressure can make it hard to relax and enjoy sex. The truth is that some people have orgasms quite regularly and others don’t. While it feels good to have an orgasm, it is not the only point of having sex. As American author Greg Anderson says, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”

We often receive questions about how to sexually please a partner. The answer is that there are as many ways to please a partner as there are people in the world. Being a good lover means more than knowing what buttons to push. Being a good lover is about feeling good about your own sexuality and sincerely wanting to bring pleasure to your partner. It can help to ask what your partner likes, listen to body language and take the lead by letting your partner know what you like.

Erogenous Zones

Erogenous Zones: Finding out what feels good

Our largest sexual organ is the skin and touching all over the body feels wonderful! The lips and tongue are very sensitive and using your mouth can be a sensual and exciting way to explore your partner’s body. An erogenous zone is an area of the body that is sensitive to touch and results in sexual arousal when stimulated. Each person reacts differently to touch. For example, some people love having their feet massaged; others get goose bumps when you gently nibble and kiss their ears lobes. Discovering where your partner’s erogenous zones are is the fun part!

While the entire body can be considered an erogenous zone, there are specific areas that are more sensitive than others including the lips, nipples, anus and genitals. Most of these zones are common to both genders such as the mouth, nipples and perineum (the area between the vagina and anus or the scrotum and anus); however there are some differences.

The word “sensual” includes all of the senses – touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. To heighten sexual pleasure, try arousing each of these senses

Erogenous Zones:

The Clitoris

As far as we know the clitoris has only one purpose and this is pleasure. For many females, stimulation of the clitoris is sexually satisfying and leads to orgasm. To please your partner, try stroking the clitoris with your hand or rubbing against it with your body. Remember, however, that every person’s body reacts slightly differently to touch. Some people like vigorous stroking of the clitoris and others prefer slower, gentle touch. If you are comfortable talking about sex, ask your partner how and where she likes to be touched. If you are not comfortable with direct questions, then pay attention to her reactions and follow her lead.

The G-Spot

The G-Spot is a sensitive spot or zone about two to three inches inside the vagina on the anterior wall near the opening to the urethra. It is named after Dr. Ernst Gräfenberg, a gynaecologist who first wrote about this mystery spot back in 1950. It is supposedly a supersensitive spot that leads to high states of sexual arousal and powerful orgasms when stimulated. However, there is plenty of controversy about whether a G-Spot exists and whether or not it is connected with female ejaculation. Some women claim to have a G-Spot and others deny it exists. Either way, we encourage you to keep in mind that there is not one magic spot that needs to be touched in order to please your partner.

The penis

The penis is very sensitive to touch, particularly the head of the penis where many nerve endings are concentrated. Stroking the length of the penis or the shaft including the head can be pleasurable and will often lead to orgasm. With that in mind, remember that every person likes to be touched a bit differently. Some men like the friction of quick and vigorous strokes on their penis and others prefer slower, gentle touch (or both).

The scrotum

The scrotum is the thin skin that surrounds and protects the testicles. It is very sensitive and responds to light touching or stroking. Some men find the scrotum is quite ticklish so you have to handle this part with care. It’s a good idea to ask your partner how and where he likes to be touched. If you are not comfortable asking him directly, then pay attention to his reactions and follow his lead.

The prostate

The prostate gland is the size of a walnut. It is found in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, which stores urine. The prostate makes some of the milky fluid (semen) that carries sperm. The prostate wraps around a tube (the urethra) that carries urine from the bladder out through the tip of the penis. During an orgasm, muscles squeeze the prostate’s fluid into the urethra. Sperm, which are made in the testicles, also go into the urethra during orgasm. The milky fluid carries the sperm through the penis during orgasm. The prostate gland may be stimulated from inside the rectum, or by applying pressure on the base of the perineum near the anus. Some who report the sensation of prostate and seminal vesicles stimulation often give descriptions similar to females’ accounts of G-Spot stimulation.

Masturbation

Masturbation means touching one’s own body including the genitals for sexual pleasure. It is sex for one — guaranteed fun without the risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections or the complexities of a relationship with someone else! It is completely normal; in fact, young children and even babies will soothe themselves by rubbing their genitals against comfortable objects because it feels good.

During puberty and into adulthood, masturbation can be a healthy way to discover what feels good, how your body responds to touch and what an orgasm feels like. It can involve touching any part of your body but most often it includes stimulating your genitals. Some people masturbate by rubbing their clitoris and vagina with their fingers or a pleasurable object; others stroke or rub their penises with their hands.

Masturbation is safe and healthy. Some people masturbate to relax or help them fall asleep because it is an effective way to release tension and stress. In fact, sexual pleasure and orgasm release endorphins in the brain that help with mental clarity and mood. It feels good and it is the safest sex you can have.

There are no rules for masturbation — with the exception of where you masturbate, you get to decide what feels best, how to do it, where to touch yourself and how often. You are not allowed to masturbate in public as it is a boundary violation of other people’s rights. Instead, choose somewhere private to masturbate where you feel safe, comfortable and can relax (by yourself or with your partner).

There are lots of mixed messages out there about masturbation and what will happen if you touch yourself.