How to Practice Holiday Self-Love with Dr. Zhana
The holiday season is here and it’s time to talk about self-love during the holidays! I got some really interesting questions. Let’s start at the beginning: What is self-love?
What is self-love and how to express that?
I define self-love as any act that you do to take care of yourself or your needs, and there are so many different ways to do that. In the sexual wellness space, we often talk about self-love as masturbation, which is a wonderful way to give yourself some love, but it can be so much more than that. It can be asking a partner for the kind of sex you want or saying ‘no’ to partnered sex you don’t want. It can also mean things that are non-sexual, like making time for sleep, exercise, healthy eating, or meditating.
It is hard to practice self-love with a partner around.
Yes, and even more so now during the pandemic! This is why I always tell people in live-in, long-term relationships to find time apart from each other. No matter your particular situation, whether it’s one night off a week, weekend, or month, communicate the importance of having time apart from each other, and then logistically work that out. People talk about there being 5 love languages, but I really think that alone time should be the 6th love language.
With all the holiday visits and visitors, what advice do you have for carving out time for self-love?
The holidays can be a crazy time for people in many ways, so you might not have as much time as you normally have, but it’s equally important to find some time for yourself. So, when you’re not visiting someone or hosting, find an afternoon to peel away for some alone time.
What long-distance relationship sex toy do you recommend?
I think any app-controlled toy is an amazing option for people in long-distance relationships. You can have the toy in or on you and your partner can be controlling it using the app.
What lubricants do you recommend for people who experience an increase in vaginal dryness?
There are a lot of reasons why someone might not be lubricating, and it doesn’t matter. No matter how much or little you’re lubricating naturally, you could benefit from using lube. Lube is self-love. Which type of lube is very much a personal preference depending on which consistency or smell your vagina best responds to. I personally like the LELO lube, but there are so many good ones on the market, so it’s a bit of trial and error to find the one that really works for you.
Is the stress of the pandemic something that would make it difficult for me to orgasm?
Absolutely yes. I mean stress is a very powerful force, whether it’s from the pandemic or other things going on in your life. Stress definitely decreases people’s desire to have sex and their ability to orgasm.
My libido has dropped so much. I used to practice self-love a lot, but can’t anymore… why?
There are so many other factors that can affect sex drive: your relationship dynamics, body image, mental health, being on antidepressants, physical health issues, medications for physical health issues, and so on. I’d recommend seeing a sex therapist to figure out what exactly is going on.
I never want to do any self-exploration by myself! Tips on getting in the mood when alone?
Different things will work for different people. Some of my favorite ways to get in the mood are: reading erotica, watching porn, just fantasizing, taking a nice long luxurious bath, walking around the house naked, or wearing something that makes you feel sexy. Sometimes even just grabbing a toy and starting to provide stimulation can kick in that desire even if you didn’t have it before.
¿Cómo puedo hacer que mi pareja acepte los juguetes sexuales? (How do I get my partner to accept sex toys?)
This is a question that comes up every time I do these Q&As, and I know it can be challenging. Some people, men, in particular, can feel a little threatened by them or don’t know what to do with them. The way to do it is to present them as amazing tools that can increase the pleasure repertoire for both of you. To involve them even more and give them agency in this, you can empower them to use these toys on you and co-create this expanded and elevated type of sexual experience.
I don’t enjoy masturbating. And I don’t understand why.
There are a lot of people who don’t masturbate for all sorts of reasons. It could be shame, body image issues, or simply that you haven’t find the right type of stimulation or context that works for you. It may even just be how you’re wired.
Sometimes I bleed when I masturbate. Is that normal?
I’m not a medical doctor and I also don’t know exactly where you’re bleeding from or how much you’re bleeding, but I would say that it is not normal to be bleeding during masturbation. So, if that’s happening, please go see your gynecologist.
Can stealthy affairs be a kind of self-love?
That is an interesting idea for self-love, and I can actually see how that would feel like self-love to you or even self-love that you do for the good of the relationship. Of course, your partner might disagree with that. Ideally, people who want to have extra relationship affairs would be able to do them openly and honestly, as in an open relationship, as opposed to stealthy infidelity. But, that’s not the reality that many of us live in and I acknowledge that.
Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, is a NYC-based sex researcher who studies casual sex, nonmonogamy, and sexual orientation. She holds a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, teaches Human Sexuality at New York University, shares new sex research on social media, and runs the Casual Sex Project, a place for people to share their true hookup stories. She provides daily sex education using the live video streaming app Periscope, and is currently writing a book
about the science of healthy hookups.