Written by Melissa Lee.
Art by Anthon Smith.
I’ve always been familiar with the concept of self-care. As someone who struggles with severe anxiety and depression, the idea was introduced to me early on by my therapist, who often encouraged me to engage in emotional self-care when life got particularly stressful. These habits typically consisted of journaling, meditation, exercising, and positive behaviors that would ultimately help me feel and be a better, more centered individual. As I came to terms with my sexuality — both on the LGBTQ+ spectrum and just in general — I realized that my sexual wellness is an ongoing area of my life that deserves attention, similar to my mental health or physical state.
Ensuring that my sexual welfare is taken care of is not only important to me, but it’s enjoyable, too. It took me some time to figure out what sexual self-care specifically meant to me. At first, the possibility of scheduling in more masturbation sessions seemed to suffice, but in reality, keeping up with your sexual wellness goes far beyond that. For me, I eventually figured out that it also meant being responsible for attending annual gynecologist appointments, finding birth control suitable for my lifestyle, cleaning my sex toys, and more.
Guaranteeing that you’re keeping up with your chosen form of birth control is super important, especially since most contraceptives release hormones into your body.
Here are some ways I stay in touch with my mind and body:
Keeping up with my birth control.
Personally, I’ve always found that the birth control pill is the best form of contraception for my lifestyle. When ensuring that I’m staying on track with my birth control, I set a daily alarm as a reminder to take it, along with bi-monthly notes in my planner to refill my prescription. If I’m trying out a new pill (which I’ve often done), I make sure to monitor my moods and its potential side effects, like increased migraines, cramps, anxiety, or sadness. Guaranteeing that you’re keeping up with your chosen form of birth control is super important, especially since most contraceptives release hormones into your body. Making sure that you’re choosing a form that’s realistic for your lifestyle and staying in touch with your gynecologist are both vital factors, too.
If you don’t have a consistent gynecologist or OB/GYN, the IUD can be a great contraceptive option. After insertion into the uterus, it typically doesn’t have to be removed or changed for three to six years, making it ideal for those unable to attend annuals. If you have Medicaid, you can schedule an appointment at your nearest Planned Parenthood, where they offer a wide variety of contraceptives for people of all genders.
Investing in new sex toys – and cleaning them regularly!
Since I’m fortunate enough to be able to invest in sex toys, I often enjoy experimentation with different types after doing my research. Sites like Adam and Eve are great for a variation of toys at all different price points, while LELO is a fantastic spot for high-end vibrators and dildos. Plus, more mainstream stores like Urban Outfitters are jumping on the trend, too — the website now carries vibrators and dildos at fairly inexpensive rates, making it ideal for purchasing sex toys in a rather discreet manner.
Sex toys are a ton of fun! They’re perfect for helping you get more in touch with your body, ultimately aiding in the process of understanding what turns you on, whether it be solo or with any number of partners. If I’m having a particularly stressful week, I’ll try to designate an evening to spend time with myself (and my body). Masturbation is a proven stress-relief tactic, and it’s fun, too! Light some candles, take a bath or shower, cozy up in a fuzzy blanket, and go for it.
Still, with great power comes great responsibility. After you finish up your session with your sex toy, it’s crucial that you maintain a sterile cleaning routine. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an elaborate process, either: you can clean vibrating toys with mild soap and warm water, while silicone and glass toys can be boiled in hot water. Regardless, make sure that you’re preventing any possible bacterial infections by cleaning off your toys.
Let’s get one thing straight: Self-maintenance and keeping things clean is important, but for people with vaginas, washes advertised to “fix” your pH are completely unnecessary. When it comes to hygiene, soap and water are typically the routes to go. Washing inside or even douching can seriously disrupt your vagina’s natural balance, resulting in infections or irritation.
While I don’t view cleaning my vagina on a regular basis as self-care, I make sure that the products I use around that area are beneficial for my sensitive skin. This typically means shaving (because, let’s be honest — I don’t constantly shave down there, nor do I want to), purchasing new razors and shaving cream to prevent razor bumps or ingrown hairs, and investing in body washes and natural soaps that make me feel good. Some of my favorite products include the Gillette Venus Sensitive Razors and this Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Body Wash from Shea Moisture.
After you finish up your session with your sex toy, it’s crucial that you maintain a sterile cleaning routine.
My relationship with my sexual wellness is something that I chose to build on my own, simply because I’ve realized the importance and the privilege behind it. There’s a mystification surrounding the concept of self-care that makes it feel like a type of luxury — and, in a way, it is. Not every person has enough time in their day to soak in the bathtub and experiment with a new vibrator, nor does everyone have healthcare or a primary doctor familiar with their medical history. Sexual self-care isn’t linear and it doesn’t look the same for every single person, but it is, however, an indulgence I encourage everyone to at least think about and incorporate into their lives.
About the Author
Melissa Lee is a freelance writer with a passion for wellness, lifestyle, style, and beauty. Her work has appeared in Hellogiggles, Supermaker, Greatist, and more. She’s always down to talk about sex toys, sexuality, and taking down the patriarchy.