Monday, 8 February 2016

Interview with Kim Sedgwick from Red Tent Sisters

Welcome a special guest to the blog today! I'm interviewing Kim Sedgwick from Red Tent Sisters. You may remember her from last year when she and her sister brought us 10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back After Baby.

Since love is in the air, I thought now is the perfect time to have an open and honest conversation about women's sexual health. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did!

How did Red Tent Sisters become your passion?

I was lucky to grow up with three amazing older sisters - Amy (whom I now work with) and my stepsisters Emma and Jenny. They were really open about menstruation and sexuality, so from a young age I was exposed to things like the Diva Cup (a reusable menstrual cup), The Sunday Night Sex Show, Dan Savage and other sex-positive resources. As a result, my friends would often come to me for advice. If I didn't know the answer, I'd ask one of my sisters or consult my well-loved copy of Lou Paget's Orgasms or Our Bodies, Ourselves. This was back before information was readily available online, so it was a lot harder to get access to this stuff - especially if you wanted to read it anonymously. So I feel like my role as a sex educator developed organically. I was so used to talking about sex and other "taboo" topics that it seemed natural to pursue it as a career. 

After I graduated from university with my Gender and Women's Studies degree I was living with my sister (she let me live in her basement - sadly there aren't a lot of jobs for Women's Studies grads!) and one night we were up late talking about our respective passions. I was interested in finding ways to coach women and improve their sexual experiences, and she had just learned about the Justisse Method which is a natural form of birth control. We're both huge fans of the book The Red Tent and loved the idea of creating a safe space for women to gather to support one another, so the ideas just all came together to form what is now Red Tent Sisters. What is pretty cool is that it was exactly nine months from the day we came up with the idea to the day we opened our doors. We often talk about Red Tent Sisters as our baby, so it seems fitting that it was the length of a pregnancy.

What are some of the biggest myths connected to women's sexual health?

Sadly, there are a lot of myths when it comes to female sexuality. I feel like many of them are rooted in the idea that we’re supposed to experience pleasure a particular way. On one hand we live in this sex-saturated society, but in reality the conversation is limited; we’re exposed to very narrow definitions of sexuality. I can’t tell you how many women worry they’re not “normal” because their bodies don’t look or react in the ways they think they should. For instance, many women worry if their labia are different sizes or if their inner labia are bigger than their outer layer. That’s completely normal! 

Similarly, many women aren’t able to orgasm during intercourse without some kind of clitoral stimulation (estimates suggest as many as 70% of women), but in movies women seem to be able to climax simultaneously with their partner from vaginal penetration alone. Since that’s all we see, women worry there’s something wrong with them if they can’t orgasm that way. I look forward to the day when women don’t feel so much pressure to have their sexuality match some mythical ideal and instead get to explore what works and feels good for them.

How can women help build their confidence in the bedroom?

I think the first step is recognizing that it’s okay to not feel confident. Sex ed class is all about how to prevent pregnancy or STIs which is obviously incredibly important, but by leaving out the pleasure part of the equation we’re given the message that we should just magically know how to have sex. You don’t expect to be a good driver without taking lessons, so why do you expect to be good at oral sex without being taught? I find that for a lot of women that adjustment in expectation removes some of the pressure that they should already know what to do and gives them permission to seek some help. Whether it’s taking a class or reading a book, it’s helpful to learn some practical tips so that you have a starting place. From there it’s all about experimenting and finding out what you and your partner like. It can be awkward to give feedback because you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings by saying you don’t like something. To help with that, I suggest offering options. So rather than asking, “Do you like this?” ask “Would you like more pressure or less?” That will give you more information than “yes” or “no” and it helps open the conversation rather than shutting it down.

What are some key things women can do to help their bodies get ready to be pregnant?

I don’t know about you, but I grew up thinking that I could get pregnant any time. I had no idea a woman’s fertile window was so small! One of the things we’re passionate about at Red Tent Sisters is helping women learn to track their cycle. We’ve had clients spend thousands of dollars at fertility clinics because they were having trouble conceiving, and it turned out they just weren’t timing intercourse correctly. So knowing exactly when you’re ovulating can save you a lot of time, stress, and money. 

Not only is this helpful when it comes to timing intercourse, but your cycle can also tell you a lot about your overall health. We suggest women start tracking well before they plan to start a family so that there’s time to address potential health concerns, like hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, etc. 

Lastly, there’s no question that stress has a huge impact on fertility. Many of us have high stress jobs and don’t have a lot of systems in place to help us truly relax, so I recommend finding at least one thing that helps you unwind whether that’s meditation, journaling, or exercise.

What are some great books that women can read if they want to learn more about their sexual health?

Of course I have to say The Red Tent! The other fiction title that’s influenced me is The Mists of Avalon which is a retelling of the King Arthur legend from a feminist perspective. In terms of my work, I’d say Taking Charge Of Your Fertility. It’s an amazing resource if you’re looking to chart your cycle for contraception or if you’re looking to conceive, but I think it’s empowering for all women to understand their cycles. I own quite the stack of sexuality books so it’s hard for me to choose just one… I love She Comes First which has been out for awhile now, but it’s still a go-to resource. Ian Kerner argues that we should think of foreplay (oral sex, manual stimulation) as “coreplay” – meaning that it becomes the main event rather than always seeing it as the precursor to intercourse. Come As You Are is a new favourite of mine. Emily Nagoski does an amazing job of making scientific research about sexual desire accessible and fun, and her book dispels so many of the myths that prevent women from experiencing pleasure. Lastly, I just picked up O Wow which covers a little bit of everything - anatomy, positions, and sex toys. I’d say that’s a great choice if you’re picking up your first sexuality book.

Thanks so much, Kim!

Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.
Find them on Facebook and Twitter

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