Recently, we sat down with sexologist and fertility counsellor in Melbourne, Aleeya Hachem from Great Sexpectations. Through her work Aleeya aims to normalise the conversation around sex, pleasure, and fertility. In her role as a sexologist, she works mostly with women experiencing sexual pain or low desire/libido.
There has been a significant shift around sexual wellness, we're noticing more conversations around wellness, pleasure and connection. How important is the role of pleasure in a relationship?
Pleasure is a very broad term that I believe can extend beyond sex into everyday life. Little things such as your partner making you a cup of coffee in bed, or a foot rub on the couch all contribute to the overall experience of pleasure in a relationship. Within a sexual context, sexual pleasure has the ability to enhance physical and emotional connection with a partner. Giving and receiving pleasure is an essential part of a relationship that contributes to the desire that we have for our partner and overall relationship satisfaction.
Do you need to understand how to feel pleasure and what feels good to you by yourself before you explore with a partner?
In the first instance, understanding your personal likes, dislikes, and preferences certainly makes it easier to subsequently communicate these with your partner. However, these can also be explored with your partner as you grow as a couple. What you may find pleasurable together may also change your own initial perception of pleasure
How can people get ideas for expanding their pleasure centres and boundaries (in a solo setting)?
Experimenting and expanding our idea of pleasure in a solo setting is a safe way of figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t before introducing it with a partner. A great place to start is by examining your own definition of sex, and what pleasure means to you. Tap into your five senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, smell) and become aware of these sensations in your body.
Looking beyond what you already find pleasurable can expand our perception and experience of pleasure. Perhaps it is exploring ethical porn or erotic audio, trying a new toy or lube to try… the possibilities are endless.
With the frequency of ‘no strings attached’ and casual hook-ups, how can a person communicate their pleasure needs and wants? What are some tips for making things more obvious in these situations?
Communication isn’t always about conversations, however, the ability to verbalise our needs and wants not only makes sex a more pleasurable experience but can also lead to feeling more connected. If having a sit-down conversation seems a little too daunting, incorporating verbal and non-verbal cues during sex (such as a moan, or guiding your partner’s hand) is a great way of demonstrating what feels pleasurable and exactly how you like to be touched. The only person responsible for your pleasure is you, so don’t shy away from asking for what you want.
For couples, how can they bring the topic of sexual pleasure into their relationship?
Often, the most difficult person to talk about sex with is the person that we are having it with, as the fear of judgment from someone so close can be the biggest barrier for instigating these conversations.
Consider starting the communication outside the bedroom and always frame the conversation in a positive way. Invite your partner to express what they find pleasurable and be prepared to respectfully listen without judgment. A great way of taking the pressure off leading these conversations is by using a prompt card deck (Closeness and Pillow Talk are my favourites,) where you can take turns to respond to the questions on the cards.
Can you recommend resources or tools to support these conversations?
OMG yes is an online platform for vulva owners (and their partners) that aims to provide education on enhancing sexual pleasure.
‘Come As You Are’ by Emily Nagoski is like the sex education you wish you had, ultimately leading to a better understanding of desire and pleasure. Although aimed at vulva owners, I recommend this book to all my patients.
See a sexologist - booking a one on one appointment allows us to support your individual goals and needs, whether you are single or in a relationship.
Do your pleasure experiences change over time in a relationship?
Pleasure is completely subjective and fluid; our experience of what feels pleasurable changes from moment to moment. As a relationship grows, what we find pleasurable may also grow. What is important in this situation is the ability to communicate with your partner your charging needs and desires so that you can both experience giving and receiving of pleasure.
How integral to a pleasure experience are orgasms?
Although orgasms are ‘pleasurable,’ pleasure does not begin and end with an orgasm. The problem with viewing orgasm as the pinnacle of pleasure is that we put all our energy and focus on reaching orgasm, rather than enjoying the entire sexual experience. By removing the ‘goal’ of orgasm, we can key into the experience of giving and receiving pleasure and sensation.
What do you think we can be doing to normalise the conversation around sexual pleasure?
In order to remove the stigma around these conversations, we, as a society, need to adopt a more open attitude toward sexuality. This can be achieved by becoming familiar with topics and sexual terms so that they become a normal part of our subconscious social fabric. The more comfortable we are, the less stigma impacts our preconceptions. While a shift may not happen overnight, we collectively need to work to initiate, engage and be receptive to these types of conversations.
Aleeya’s qualifications include a Bachelor and Honours in Psychological Science, and a Masters in Sexual and Reproductive Health, specialising in psychosexual therapy and reproductive endocrinology. She is a sexologist and fertility counsellor who is passionate about normalising the conversation around sex, pleasure and fertility. She holds a membership with the Society of Australian Sexologists (SAS) and Fertility Society of Australia (FSA.)