Join us this Sunday the 15th of September for our Vaginismus Awareness Day event. Vaginismus is a condition that affects at least 2 in every 1000 women in the UK, yet comparatively few people know what it is. This lack of awareness and subsequent stigma stops many from seeking medical help, often due to embarrassment or fear. We want to see this changed, and for everyone suffering to feel supported and know they are not alone. This is why we are holding a Q&A session at Sh! from 11.30am to 12.30pm, where we will be joined by the Vaginismus Network including the co-founder, Lisa Mackenzie, Sarah Berry, a psychosexual and relationship therapist specialising in Vaginismus, and Hazel Mead, a sex positive digital illustrator. From what Vaginismus is, to how you can have a fulfilled and pleasurable sex life the panel will be there to answer all your questions.
This event is open to all women and vulva-bearing people, in particular those who have been diagnosed with Vaginismus or who experience pain around their vulva or vagina (but may not have received a diagnosis).
It is completely free to attend, we just ask that you email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place to help us with numbers.
When emailing feel free to send in any questions you have in advance, and we will answer them anonymously. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions on the day, also anonymously if you wish. Refreshments will be provided. We hope to see you there!
Supported by Brook charity, Sexual Health Week takes place from the 16th – 22nd of September, and this year’s theme is sex, relationships, and disability.
Despite becoming mandatory in 2020, inclusive relationships and sex education in schools remain a taboo subject. Unfortunately, when it comes to sex education and disabilities, there is an even greater stigma. Sex and disability simply isn’t talked about enough and this means that lots of young people are missing out on valuable education, information, and support.
Through sexual health week, Brook wants to be part of normalising the conversations around sex and disability and supporting professionals to better equip the young people they work with. Cue the brilliant work of our dedicated sexperts at Sh!
We are aiding Brook to celebrate this special week by talking all things pleasure. Together, we will be co-hosting a night of #talkingpleasure with guest brands Hot Octopuss, System JO, Bathmate, and Je Joue.
Date: Tuesday 17th September
Tickets to this exclusive event are now SOLD OUT.
More About The Brands
The first women’s sex shop in the UK, Sh! was founded in 1992 as an antidote to the sleazy, male-dominated sex industry of the time and has since driven the sea change that transformed views on female sexuality.
Described as “true pioneers” (The Observer Magazine) “ground-breaking” and “the best sex shop for women” (Time Out), our innovation was simply to create a welcoming, honest and informative environment, where women could comfortably talk about sex and sex toys.
Sh! Sex Educator Evie Fehilly will take guests on a journey of sex toy history, showing off old-skool vibes from the Sh! Vibrator Museum.
Hot Octopuss are the people who design cutting-edge sex toys that look gorgeous and work with your body. They believe pleasure and sexual expression is a fundamental human right, which is why they are breaking taboos around sex and masturbation, creating pleasure products that work for every body.
HO take materials, concepts, and technologies from outside the adult industry and apply them to sex toys, working to destigmatize the sex toy business and create beautiful products that fit with people’s lifestyles, not just their bedrooms. Whether you’re cis or trans, straight or queer, have health conditions or disabilities that affect your sex life, and whatever your age, you’ll find a Hot Octopuss sex toy that’s perfect for you.
Hot Octopuss believe that pleasure and sexual expression is a fundamental human right: which is why they are breaking taboos around sex and masturbation, creating pleasure products that work for every body.
System JO are committed to enhancing sensual experiences with the world’s highest quality line of personal lubricants and sensual care products.
Because they know you care about what you put on and in your body, System JO holds themselves accountable to the highest level of integrity in all of our manufacturing practices for greater pleasure and peace of mind.
System JO will be treating guests to delicious lube-infused Vodka shots during the #TalkingPleasure event because their new Candy Shop range offers so more than just moisture!
Sophisticated, elegantly naughty and a sensual treat, Je Joue sex toys are the ultimate in quality. With beautifully crafted designs guided by expert insight and extensive research, their collection has been created to empower people to explore a new world of intimate – and infinite – possibilities.
Since 2005, Je Joue has been encouraging individuals to explore their bodies and indulge in feelings of ecstasy. They’ve taken sex toys out of a dark, shady alley and into the mainstream through beautiful design, education and the finest quality materials. If you want to experience mind blowing sensations with a luxurious difference, then you’re in the right place.
Je Joue have generously added a bestselling vibrator to each goodie bag at the Talking Pleasure event!
Bathmate is the world’s biggest penis pump company. Founded back in 2006, they’re proud to have helped over 1 million people worldwide build up real gains for their confidence and sexual performance, courtesy of their unique hydropump collection.
For those looking for a little bit more, they’ve recently launched Bathmate Pleasure, an incredible range of sex toys, exciting accessories and a whole lot more. Whether you’re looking for vibrators, want to get started out with anal, or practically anything else, they’ve got something for you.
Surprise treats from Bathmate will also be included in all goodie bags for guests!
What do you do when your libido is lacking? Join us at our upcoming event on Tuesday 15th of October!
Mindfulness & menopause expert Becks Armstrong will be sharing her tips to help you get your groove back during peri-menopause, menopause and long after your pesky period has finished.
Menopause can play hormonal havoc, and while some of the debilitating symptoms are well documented no one seems to want to talk about what can happen to your libido and if it’s dipped how to find your way back – so let’s talk about sex, baby!
Becks will give you some ideas about why it happens; will give you some tips on ways to help yourself if you’re struggling and also the importance of pleasure as you age.
Also bringing the heat – for entirely different reasons – will be our very own Renée Denyer, Store Manager & Sexpert right here at Sh!
Having battled through her own peri-menopausal symptoms, Renee favours an approach that involves water-based lubricants, vibrating toys, and frank vagina talk. Renee will be on hand to offer advice on how to best handle dry vaginal membranes and how to choose fun toys to help keep the pelvic floor in shape and orgasms at peak ratio.
Tickets: £20 per person, including fizz & fancies – Book here
This event is for women only and places are limited.
Becks Armstrong & Clarity App
Becks Armstrong is a degree educated women’s health specialist, with 20+ years of senior leadership experience within UK tech start-ups.
As a qualified acupuncturist, traditional Chinese herbalist and doula, Becks has harnessed her compassionate leadership style to operate women’s health clinics in Australia to high pressured Cheif Operating Officer roles with leading, fast-growth UK tech firms.
In 2017, Becks spotted a lack of real and substantive solutions for women going through peri-menopause and menopause. As a result, she created Clarity – a technology solution to improve women’s health through mindfulness, relaxation, and sleep.
The Clarity app’s mission is to improve the lives of women – one calming breath at a time.
The Clarity app features specific content and mindfulness practices for situations that may arise due to menopause like hot flushes, sleeplessness, night sweats and improving a low libido. Such exercises improve the quality of life for users – from better mental health, relationships to performance in the workplace.
RenéeDenyer is the award-winning Store Manager & Sex Educator at Sh!, the pioneering brand dedicated to women’s pleasure, and with 13-years experience, her main focus is on sensual liberation & empowerment.
With a particular interest in female sexuality and sex education, Renée teaches erotic classes with the help of with a plush vulva puppet, a realistic-looking dildo, and bags of good humour. She regularly offers sexual wellbeing advice to health professionals as well as presenting talks to groups of sexual violence and/or FGM survivors, and women with HIV+ diagnosis. Skilled at tailoring sessions to meet the needs of the client, she offers valuable one-to one support and advice for women, supporting them on their journey into wellness and pleasure with kindness and care.
For the past five years, Renée has written a regular column for ETO Magazine, Behind the Counter. She has been invited to share views, insights and tips & tricks with a wide range of online & print magazines and newspapers such as Grazier, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Glamour, Buzz Feed, The Debrief, Evening Standard, The Sun, Flavour Magazine, DIVA Magazine, Mirror, Amor Magazine, Bloomberg, So Feminine and Hindustan Times.
September is Sexual Health Month and whilst we’ll be sharing safer sex tips and talk about the importance of regular STI testing with our customers, we think it’s time to include pleasure & intimacy in sexual health care too.
Pleasure plays an important part in our lives, and sometimes even more so when we aren’t experiencing it. With media full of references to fantastic sex, multiple orgasms and the like, it’s easy to feel like the odd one out if you’re not enjoying it.
The thing is – you’re not alone. And we know this because we meet so many folx for whom sex isn’t the pleasurable activity they’d like it to be.
Let’s take Vaginismus, a condition that causes tightening of the vagina and makes any kind of insertion not only difficult and painful but sometimes even impossible. According to statistics, at least 2 in 1,000 womxn experience Vaginismus at some point in their lifetime – and probably many, many more who are too afraid or embarrassed to seek medical attention.
If you find yourself feeling this way, perhaps it’s time to reimagine pleasure in a new way. Sexual health and pleasure don’t revolve around vaginal penetration and neither should you.
Today we’ve got the lovely Lisa fom the Vaginismus Network with us, talking about why having fun is more important than getting ‘it’ in:
“I recently purchased a new sex toy – specifically the Rabbit from Sh! I’m in a really positive and healthy place with my dilating; I’ve tackled “the beast” as the largest of the set is now known, I’m finding that I experience pleasure pretty much every time I dilate and, therefore, I felt ready for something new.
The Rabbit seemed like a solid choice: not least because it has the ability to stimulate the clitoris while being inserted into the vagina (WIN!). And since I’m now really familiar with my dilators, it represented something different: girth. Though shorter in length than the beast, it’s definitely different at the tip!
When I tried the Rabbit for the first time, I could barely get it into my vagina. Yet, in spite of this, it was both pleasurable (those little ears certainly help!) and relaxing. Essentially, it was a positive experience with something new.
Fast forward to my second go at using it when I managed to insert it much further, and yet felt… absolutely nothing!? Let me tell you why: I had reverted back to my old pattern of absenting myself mentally as I tried to achieve a specific goal in relation to penetration. Sure it “worked” but, spoiler alert: this isn’t fun, and it isn’t progress.
So what is progress?
Progress for me is being able to recognise the differences in these two experiences and to understand that the latter isn’t a healthy, positive option. I used to try to have penetrative sex in the same way, and I used to dilate like this too: going through the motions with my body but sending my mind far away in an effort to prove that I was able to do something, despite how it made me feel – or didn’t.
This is why what happened the first time was so much more powerful and important than the second experience of greater penetration. I believe that so many of us with vaginismus often go through the motions with penetration in mind as the ultimate goal. But what’s the point if you’re not enjoying yourself along the way? We wouldn’t necessarily partake in other types of sex if we didn’t enjoy them, and the same should apply to penetrative sex.
Having fun is way more important than getting it in!”
Vaginismus is the term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted. It is important to note that when we say “penetration” we don’t necessarily mean penis-in-vagina sex; for many womxn, inserting tampons or having smear tests is just not possible.
The good news is that there is help available. Conquering vaginismus is a long-term plan, often involving medical or psychological care, dilation of the vagina, managing triggers, and regularly checking in with oneself.
The first step is recognising that there is an issue (vaginal pain, for example) and then booking an appointment with an understanding GP (“understanding” doesn’t apply to all health professionals, unfortunately) or a psychosexual therapist. The road to pain-free and pleasurable sex depends on what is causing your vaginismus, and you may need to unpack some heavy baggage in order to understand what’s going on.
However, whilst the vagina might not be open for business, the vulva & clitoris could still be interested in some good, clean fun!
Sex doesn’t have to involve penetration for it to be excellent.
Seeing as most of those with clits get their orgasms from rubbing, stroking or tapping their li’l pearl, there’s plenty of pleasure to be had without ever involving the vagina.
Playing by yourself may mean a good bottle of lube plus a finger or two, or perhaps a small toy for the clitoris. Choosing a vibe with several different settings mean you have plenty to explore, or – if you fancy treating yourself – how about a suction toy?
Suction toys have been designed for external use only and they are probably the most orgasm-reliable toys on the planet right now. We are particularly keen on Womanizer Liberty (pictured) for our orgasms. It’s waterproof and rechargeable, and it comes with a discreet case for storing or travelling – WIN!
Non-penetrative sex with a partner is great fun!
Partnered sex can be great fun without inserting part A into part B. There’s massage, nipple play, oral sex, mutual masturbation, sexting & aural phone sex, webcamming, and kinky play to mention just a few delicious non-penetrative activities.
We are huge on sensate play, i.e the kind of play that lets you lie back and feel wonderful – like playing with popping mousse or a warm massage candle. If you wanted to kick it up a notch, you could add a blindfold and a small finger vibe if your partner has a clit, or a Tenga Egg if they have a peen. We’re also keen on stroking kitchen forks gently over naked skin, so maybe give that a go…
Sex play without penetration offers up lots of options – your imagination is the limit here – and makes you think about your pleasure in new ways. Take the time to explore and play and discover new erogenous zones. Eargasms? Yep, it’s a thing – give it a go! Toe sucking? Sure! (Pathways are peculiar so you may find you feel sweet tickles in your clit when your partner sucks on your toes – definitely worth exploring!). Or how about challenging each other to a wank off – the person who comes first has to pay for dinner!
In order to get folx talking about this condition, we’re celebrating Vaginismus Awareness Day with an in-store event on Sunday the 15th of September. More details coming soon!
If you have Vaginismus, or know someone who does, we recommend checking out the amazing gals at The Vaginismus Network.
We are delighted to announce details of The Vaginismus Network (VN)’s next meet up, happening in-store on Friday 02 August!
This will be a relaxed, friendly and safe space to connect with other people who have vaginismus over a glass of bubbles (non-alcoholic if preferred). VN founders Kat and Lisa will host a relaxed and honest question and answer session with resident Psychosexual Therapist, Sarah Berry, on all related topics, as all three have first-hand experience of living with the condition.
Our store manager, Renée Denyer, will be on hand to explain exactly how Sh! can help sufferers and why many GPs and psychotherapists choose to refer patients to us. If that wasn’t enough, the fab Co-Active Coach, Audrey Cairo, will be making a guest appearance to share her experience with vaginismus as someone who has grown up with it:
“Vaginismus has been part of my story that has shaped me in various ways. While coaching people to get back their agency I hope to open my practice to women with similar challenges to build their confidence, their own self worth and step into their beauty & sexuality.”
You can read more about Audrey’s journey here. There is no reason to suffer in silence if you are affected by vaginismus. Come along, enjoy a complimentary goody bag and have a chat!
Red hair. Unusual? Yes. Abnormal? No. Prince Harry is ginger. As is all seven of the Weasleys. Bette Midler didn’t try to hide her bright red locks from the public. According to the World Health Organisation and the UN, roughly the same number of intersex individuals exist as there are redheads; so approximately 1.7% of the population.
Intersex is the term given to people whose genitals, reproductive organs, chromosomes, or hormones vary from the male or female binary.
According to this mutually exclusive limitation of sex, their reproductive organs may not match typically together with their genitals or, perhaps, when they mature they might realise that their pubescent hormones are more consistent with those otherwise experienced by people of another sex. The vast majority of intersex qualities have no negative implications, just like the characteristic of ginger hair.
From auburn to pure carrot, babies with shades of red hair aren’t required to dye it by society. Yet, intersex new-borns have traditionally been forced to undergo genital normalisation surgery, aka Intersex Genital Mutilation, before they reach six months. Doctors are physically modifying infants all over the world in operations that they are too young to consent to. This is especially shocking considering that the operation in question is not imperative to the person’s (or baby’s) overall health.
These operations usually cause intersex people to rely on hormone medication for the rest of their lives and need to follow up surgeries for at least until they reach adulthood. Victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder, negative body image, and scarring. In the worst cases, some are left infertile. This harrowing procedure is imposed on individuals all over the world. Fortunately, the UN has now recognised such operations as a violation of human rights, although there is still a long way to go for thousands of people. In several countries, babies are murdered upon the discovery of their intersex identity; the fear of negative societal judgment is so real that some parents consent to this atrocity.
“Normalisation” operations demonstrate the lengths that we, as a society, still need to go to understand and correctly separate sex from gender.
By practicing IGM, doctors are essentially guessing what gender an infant will feel most comfortable living as, in accordance to binary definitions of the male and female sexes. These assumptions are based around the exterior appearance of babies’ genitals. No doubt, they often get it wrong.
This may seem more out-dated than the marketing campaign of Yorkie chocolate bars but it is happening everywhere. Take the recent, infamous case of two-time Olympian Gold winner, Caster Semenya, for example.
After “suspicions” that Semenya has a higher level of testosterone than other runners in her category, she began a lawsuit against the international sporting organisation to fight the decision that she would have to take drugs to lower these hormones if she were to continue running for her country. Earlier this month, she lost her case. How ironic is this – coming from an industry governed by doping fears?
The sports world, like wider society, is failing individuals by continuing to implement increasingly archaic binaries. By doing so, they are stealing the individual’s autonomy over their own bodies. Throughout all of this, Semenya has remained defiant. Discovery US recently released this video on Twitter in support of the inspirational champion entitled, “How do you stop a determined woman?” We can’t get enough of it.
Who is fighting for the Intersex community?
A severe lack of awareness, acceptance, and visibility currently surrounds intersex people. However, there are many activists and organisations fighting to improve this. The Intersex Justice Project is one organisation that is currently pushing to de-stigmatize intersex and end non-consensual medical interventions. This project is gaining notoriety thanks to their leader, the activist, and filmmaker, Pidgeon Pagonis. Based in Chicago, Pagonis is involved with several protests at a local hospital that practice IGM on babies, named the Lurie Children’s Hospital. There is a petition that you can sign to support this mission, by following the link here.
Hida Viloria is another US based, intersex human rights activist fighting for equality. She was actually the second person in North America to be granted an intersex birth certificate. She has written a memoir entitled “Born Both: An Intersex Life“, and created this downloadable PDF; an educational tool that is primarily for new parents to intersex babies.
As the Chairperson of the Organisation of Intersex International, she rebranded it with Dr. Dani Lee Harris and Dana Zzym, creating the Intersex Campaign for Equality (IC4E). Dr. Lee Harris is an activist, an author, and life coach. Meanwhile, Zzym was the first American ex-veteran to apply for an intersex passport. Together, they have formed IC4E to be a great resource for keeping up to date with Intersex news through radio, podcasts or articles. They promote human rights through the “arts, education and action” of intersex individuals and allies.
For example, the critically acclaimed film, Ponyboi, which premiered in Canada on May 30th, 2019, was celebrated on the site. Directed by River Gallo and Sadé Clacken Joseph, it is produced by Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry and is the first film to feature an intersex narrative. Woop!
Finally, what can allies do for Intersex/human rights?
First and foremost, be compassionate and listen. Do not make assumptions and recognise that the rights of intersex people are no different from those of basic human rights. Be aware that an intersex person may not identify as queer or trans.
The Intersex Society of North America has compiled a list of practical tips or otherwise, you can check out this PDF from the OII.
Most relationships start hot and steamy with plenty of pleasure and intimacy, but as time goes by these often reduce in frequency and intensity and sometimes they come to a halt.
Is it possible that your relationship is just going through a temporary ‘dry’ spell or season or is this how it will remain forever? What can you do to change things for the better?
Find the answers to these questions and many more during this evening hosted by Leah Spasova of the Lifesexperts
A Social Psychologist, Situational Ethicist, and Sex & Relationships Educator, Leah focuses her work on helping individuals to improve their social skills, confidence, self-esteem, resilience, ability to deal with difficulties, maintain good physical and mental health and more.
The evening starts at 7.30pm with a unique panel discussion featuring 4 professionals working in the field of life, sex and relationships improvement. Make the most of this opportunity to ask them questions related to their expertise and work with individuals and couples who experience relationship and sexual struggles. After the panel we will move onto our talk for the night, exploring and learning more about Sexless Relationships.
Leah Spasova – Social Psychologist and Sex and Relationships Educator – LIFESEXPERTS
Lori Beth Bisbey – Psychologist, Sex and Intimacy Coach, Author – Wolf’s Fire
Jacqueline Chan – Life Coach and Yoga & Meditation Practitioner – Energy Before Matter
Glen Wiseman, Panel Moderator– Sex and Relationships Educator – Brook and The Mix Charity
After the panel discussion, Leah will explore the topic of sexless relationships in 2 parts:
1. How relationships enter a dry season – from a psychological: personal and interpersonal perspective?
2. How to navigate better and get ourselves back on track to a more connected, intimate and pleasure filled relationship?
*Understanding sexless relationships
This talk will help you gain insight into the reasons why sex reduces and stops in relationships from a psychological and sexual perspective. Although we shall briefly explore some of the social aspects that affect us, our relationships and sexual life; such as having stressful jobs, having children and else – we will concentrate more on the personal and interpersonal aspects of what causes individuals to end up in sexless relationships. We shall explore what kills passion, desire, and connection between individuals and how our emotional and psychological needs are often unrecognised and unmet and thus we lose interest, we stop yearning, feel pushed away or neglected.
*Ways to reconnect and end the dry season
Continuing with the psychological: a personal and interpersonal perspective which is rarely shared and spoken about yet it is so very important for us as individuals and partners – we explore how to end the dry season. We shall offer you invaluable strategies to reignite passion and desire, increase the connection and intimacy between you.
Attendees will receive a workbook to help them jot down notes and make the best out of the content this event has to deliver.
Who Are the Lifesexperts?
We provide high quality and unique Life Relevant Education for Adults!
Our content covers over 40 topics on all things related to sexuality, intimacy, relationships, mental health and well-being, interpersonal skills and more!
Our events are sex-positive, inclusive and welcoming to all human beings irrespective of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical ability, relationship status, etc. Put simply, if you’re a human being open to learning and growing – you are welcomed.
Pain during penis-in-vagina (p-i-v) sex has only received research attention in the last two decades. Within heterosexual relationships, most of this research has focused on women and whilst understanding women’s experiences is hugely important, sex is an interpersonal experience and much less is known about the experience of the male partners.
The aims of this research are to better understand how men make sense of and respond to their partner’s sexual pain; and to increase our knowledge of how men view pain during penetrative sex, how it influences the sexual relationship, the relationship in general and themselves individually.
The research will be used to inform therapeutic practice for both individuals and the couple and enhance support for anyone seeking help.
In order to collect as many and varied opinions, thoughts and experiences as possible, the survey allows participants to answer the questions in their own words rather than ticking boxes.
To take part in this study, you must be:
18 or over
Be in or have been in, a relationship with a woman suffering from pain during penetration (or pain that prevented penetration). The relationship can be current or in the past. The pain must have been present for 6 months or more.
The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete, depending on how long your replies are. At the end of the survey, you’ll be invited to request more information about a potential follow up interview if you’d like to talk more about your replies.
Confidentiality of all data will of course be rigorously maintained.
Who is the researcher?
Debbie Lovell is a psychology postgraduate student in the Department of Health and Social Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol. She is completing this research for her Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology dissertation project, and the research is supervised by Dr Nikki Hayfield and Dr Zoe Thomas.
It was a Wednesday in around 2003 when one of our team’s friends returned home after school to find the “Happy Period” cake her Dad had baked her. Absolutely mortified, she was blushing redder than the fake blood dripping off the icing. The secret news of her first period had only been shared with her mother. How she could have let this slip to anyone – let alone her father – was an act unforgivable to this poor twelve-year-old, for three whole days.
Despite the hilarity of this story we cannot ignore the underlying issue behind her embarrassment. Why are periods STILL so stigmatised? The earliest fossilised sign of human existence on this earth dates back 200,000 years and we don’t think that the process of conception has altered that much over that period…has it? We must be missing something. Lance Armstrong made it to the MOON and back and yet the period still eclipses us. An actual BLACK HOLE has been caught on camera but periods? Nah – can’t talk about it – too much.
Human behaviour is mind-boggling.
Thank God for Bodyform is all we can say. Praise the Lord. After 100 years of period ads, they were the first brand to actually feature menstrual blood in an advert selling menstrual products (see Blood Normal here if you haven’t already). How demonic of them. The innovation of it is almost overwhelming. In a period of #wellness and Fourth Wave Feminism (we’re not even sorry for the pun), it seems that menstruation and its real implications are finally being brought forward as topics open for discussion.
Seriously though, periods in the workplace? Quelle horreur. Say your goodbyes now because you know how awkward it is to come on in the middle of a meeting.
Menstruating in the office requires a great deal of stealth to avoid social embarrassment.
Firstly, you always make sure you’re prepared and you’re wearing the right knickers. Secondly, if you don’t have a sleeve to hide your tampon/pad in then, sorry, but you’re already lost to us. 51% of men apparently think that it’s inappropriate to reference periods in the professional environment; thanks THINX for that. Actually, THINX also wrote a helpful “how to” for trans or non-binary people who battle excruciatingly higher levels of shame around their periods in professional environments.
Rumours are circulating of Western companies following suit of private corporations in India, Japan, South Korea and several more, to introduce a paid holiday for the first day of a woman’s period. This suggestion of a blanket reform is causing controversy. Critics blast it for exasperating a hiring bias against women, encouraging their absence from decision-making in work and supporting the gender pay gap – all this, of course, fails to mention the social or ethical responsibilities of the sharp-suited male figures behind these decisions….
Still, there is some good news yet. Following the likes of Wales and Scotland, it was announced only this week that English primary schools would be offering free sanitary products to students in a bid to end period poverty. The organisation that pledged to get this act into place, Free Periods, have been fulfilled. Woo!
Not so woo, however, is the fact that the average woman spends £18,000 across her lifetime on sanitary products and we doubt that this figure includes painkillers, hot water bottles and the money lost from time off from work. For this price, you’d be forgiven from thinking that maybe the gender pay gap should be reversed rather than deleted.
The plight of periods proves to be endless. In the height of our climate change horror, it will not please you (or David Attenborough) to find out how many plastic bags are involved in your disposable pack of sanitary towels (spoiler: it’s four supermarket ones).
We joke, but these problems are all so easily solvable.
Natracare is a menstrual brand dedicated to a plastic-free period via ethically sourced soft cotton tampons. Launched in 1989 by the fabulous eco warrior, Susie Hewson, the sustainable brand has been saving vaginas and planets from chemically-enfused periods ever since.
Menstrual cups are another alternative. Mooncup has been waving this durable flag since 1999. Fun Factory is a more recent producer. These are all made from body-safe silicone, and are designed to last comfortably for a decade.
Periods, unlike what we’ve been conditioned to believe, are not unclean. They shouldn’t require safeword aliases (getting the painters in?) however creative they may be, to save speakers from dying of embarrassment during conversation. According to a study from the American Journal of Psychology, up to 85% of women report experiencing PMS (premenstrual syndrome) whereas only 5% recount having PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). These extreme figures show that there is a distinct lack of information about these two issues: what the difference exactly between the two is and how they are diagnosed. Apparently, if you experience PMS symptoms in the extremity or so much so you find it disabilitating, then you may have PMDD and should go to your GP to get checked out – although no one really knows why it occurs. Endometriosis affects 1 in 10, yet its diagnosis takes on average 7.5 years.
This cannot be the norm: we need more information and more education readily accessible, en masse. We need to start speaking about periods and female or non-binary sexual health. It’s 2019 for God’s sake, we don’t have time for period shame and we definitely won’t get anywhere by hiding tampons in our bras.
Did you know that there’s a penis museum in Iceland? (Maybe a bit far to travel for a look at phalluses seeing as so many just slide into DM’s on a daily basis, but that’s not the point.)
And did you know that there is no vagina equivalent anywhere in the world?
Cue Florence Schechter – superwoman extraordinarie, with a vision of bringing vulvae & vaginas to the world!
She decided to create the world’s first bricks & mortar museum dedicated to vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy; the Vagina Museum!
Join us for an enlightening evening of vag-and-museum-talk with the fabulous Florence, where she’ll present a talk on “Why The World Needs A Vagina Museum” and discusses why she chose to set up the world’s first bricks and mortar museum dedicated to the vulvas, vaginas and the gynaecological anatomy, and the strange reactions she’s received along the way.
By opening their first premises, the Vagina Museum can host an outreach programme that includes supporting healthy and inclusive sex and relationships education, engaging with doctors and other medical professionals to provide better services and supporting the trans and intersex communities. A packed events programme will include talks, panels, workshops, classes, comedy nights, performances and so much more!
In support of the Museum’s mission, the V.M crew have created an advisory and board of trustees that includes a hugely diverse group of people from all walks of life including medical professionals; scientists; academics in gender studies, literature and history of sex work; curators; activists working in LGBT+ rights, fighting
FGM and supporting people in poverty who menstruate; and sex educators.
But to make this great (and time-sensitive) opportunity a reality, the Vagina Museum Crew need your help to do it and have launched a crowdfunder to make the dream a reality – find out more and donate here > Vagina Museum Crowdfunding.