I was participating in my monthly meditation meeting with a group of Black women a few months back. We had a guest speaker who was teaching us about how to pleasure ourselves sexually with a focus on the use of toys, and one of the ladies mentioned working with a sex doula. The host then asked her what most of us were wondering: "What's a sex doula?!" She explained how sex doulas are like coaches or guides who help you identify blocks so you can experience optimum sexual-spiritual health. Her sex doula helped her facilitate healing, fully immerse herself in sexual experiences, and enjoy holistic pleasure.
I was intrigued, as I was and still am on a journey to healing and reversing the effects of sexual repression. My goal has been to create sexual experiences that make me feel empowered and I want other Black women to experience this, too. For this reason, I got advice from a sex doula and a sexuality doula about how we can overcome sexual repression as Black women, and their responses were insightful, educational, and empowering. If you're also interested in improving your sexual health or want to experience more please, keep reading for their biggest tips.
1. Uproot Beliefs That Don't Belong to You
To find out who you are sexually, you first must discover what you aren't. This requires digging deep into ingrained beliefs given to you by family, friends, media, and society as a whole. I personally grew up in a religious Nigerian home, so I adopted many of my sex beliefs from there. I absorbed patriarchal messaging about how women should behave and what they should do with their bodies, and it wasn't until recently that I began exploring these beliefs and shedding myself of ones that don't serve who I am.
To begin uprooting any negative beliefs you've adopted, Ev'Yan Whitney, a sexuality doula and creator of The Sexually Liberated Woman podcast, advises figuring out what about you feels repressed. She also suggests you approach this self-discovery with curiosity, not criticism, judgement, or a need to fix it. "[People] should figure out where specifically they feel that shame and repression in their body and what exactly they're ashamed of," Whitney told POPSUGAR.
Once you've done this, the next step is to trace the origins of your sexual repression. Andrea Richardson, a St. Louis-based pleasure and sex doula, uses this strategy with new clients. She gets them fill out a questionnaire to understand where their beliefs about sex come from. "I ask questions like, 'What did you learn about pleasure as a kid? What did you learn as a teen? And what are you learning now?'" she explained. "It activates some real thinking about pleasure." This is an activity you can also try on your own to learn more about your beliefs around sex.
2. Define Yourself Sexually
For many years I struggled to define myself sexually because I was too ashamed to pursue my sexual desires. As Whitney rightly states, much of this repression often stems from our culture, white supremacy, and sexual violation Black women experience. "My struggles with my sexuality were definitely that I didn't really know who I was as a sexual person and who I was allowed to be," she said, adding that no matter how much she tried to be what society said a sexual person was, it just wasn't her.
Her quest to define her sexuality is what led her to becoming a sexuality doula. She trademarked the title "sexuality doula" because she wants to honor the Black women who came before her and were thrusted into work as doulas because of slavery. These heroes supported both enslaved women and white women through the delivery of their children and were also seen as spiritual healers. Whitney also feels like the title "sexuality doula" adequately represents the full spectrum of her work which includes helping people find their sexual identity. "The biggest lesson that I've learned in my personal and professional work is the power of being self-defined," she told POPSUGAR. "Finding yourself on purpose and being able to say I am sexually liberated because I say so, even if it doesn't fit into what we were taught or images we have seen."
3. Reclaim Your Pleasure
For many Black women, patriarchy and racial stereotypes have shaped sex and pleasure. However, you can reclaim your pleasure by giving yourself permission to feel and explore your sexual desires and making it a priority, which is something many of us often struggle with. As Richardson stated, "Black women have learned to prioritize men or our partner's pleasure and after so many years of being socialized to do that, we've internalized it." Thankfully, you can unlearn this behavior by being intentional and becoming cognizant about what brings you pleasure.
Richardson suggests discovering what turns you on non-sexually and sexually. "This is especially important for Black women," she explained. "Because of patriarchy, our pleasure has been denied, stumped down, and hidden and we deny ourselves."
Consequently, many Black women don't feel deserving of pleasure or become accustomed to prioritizing others' pleasure over their own. To help her clients prioritize pleasure, Richardson tells them to create pleasure goals for the month and keep track of them using a pleasure journal. You can do this by making a note of anything that brings you pleasure, whether it's eating broccoli or wearing a fabric that feels nice against your skin. The goal should be to experience it with all of your senses, every day.
I personally have prioritized self-pleasure and made a commitment to explore my sexual desires without judging myself.
4. Choose a Sex Doula
If you'd like someone to help guide you to sexual liberation, consider finding a professional. You want someone who will create a safe space for you to unpack your sexuality. "Make sure that their work is rooted in liberation and it's not discriminatory," Whitney advised. Richardson also suggests finding someone you connect with and that shares similar values. She also recommends you follow their social media accounts, read their work, and ask questions to gauge whether they're a good fit.
That said, you don't need a sex doula to sexually liberate yourself. What's most important is that you show yourself grace, compassion, and kindness as you unlearn toxic beliefs and adopt new ones. As Whitney rightly states, ultimately, "The most important sexual relationship you'll ever have is the sexual relationship you have with yourself."