Book Review: The Pleasure Prescription: A Surprising Approach to Healing Sexual Pain Written by Dee Hartmann, PT, DPT, IF and Elizabeth Wood, MSW, CSSE, CTE, BC

By Amelia Saller

Pleasure is Impervious to Logic

How do you feel?”

What sensations are coming up in your body?”

Internally, my thoughts reflected something like this:

These questions bothered me, I’m not going to lie. They aren’t bad questions, but I often didn’t know how to respond. I felt clueless. I needed more guidance, maybe more choices to pick from other than my general go-to response: “I feel good.” “Fine.”

Am I supposed to be feeling something right now? Maybe I’m numb?”

“I’m drawing a blank. Can that be an answer?”

“Maybe I am feeling something, but I don’t know what it is.”

“Do I just say something? How can I move on from this question?”

“Why can’t I answer this? Why is this so hard?”

“What kind of response can I say to impress them? What are they expecting out of me?”

“Do they even care?”

“I suck at this.”

“What’s for lunch?”

I realized I lacked emotional intelligence and ability to feel into my body. My thoughts were negatively impacted because of it. We weren’t taught about feelings in school the way we learned about history, science, and all the other subjects that mattered to get accepted in college and develop the skills needed to be successful in our careers.

Emotional intelligence plays a huge part in how we learn, how we interact with others, perceive the world around us, the decisions we make, and even experience pleasure. We learned about the 4 basic emotions as toddlers: angry, sad, happy, and scared. We could recognize it in ourselves and in others. We weren’t taught to fully understand why these emotions came up, why we responded the way we did, how it influenced our thinking patterns and how we regulated it. Sometimes we have thoughts, often fed to us by the internal gremlin that lives in our brain, and we start to believe the lies we hear and we fester on it. We lack the tools to peel back the layers, figure out what’s true, and find the root emotion that caused all these thoughts to follow. Diving deep into ourselves, often with things like breathwork, yoga, taking walks, journaling, mindfully eating a bunch of Oreos, whatever it is your cup of tea may be, can help us to gain a different perspective on our emotions and choose to see a more positive outlook. Life is like a rose, there’s beauty weaved in with the thorns of hurt and hard lessons. We should embrace beauty if we can allow ourselves to see it.

I took an initiative to start learning more about myself, take better control of how I respond to things that come up in my life and be able to communicate with others more effectively.  I realized how much my communication patterns affected my relationships, specifically in my own sex life. It’s a personal area where we are allowed to be our most vulnerable selves. If we don’t communicate what we want, how we feel, what hurts, what we fear, what we want to try, then we aren’t being completely open and vulnerable. We ultimately decrease the capacity to experience pleasure and create a disconnect with ourselves and/or those we are intimate with. We were given the gift of pleasure in this life, so why not utilize it the best we can? I can sit here and enumerate some of the benefits of pleasure, but that’s another book to nosedive into.

I started reading more on the subject and I became a sponge. I finally reached out for help because I needed to.  I wanted to absorb all the information I essentially should have learned in school and now I’m making up for it. I also fell in love with words as I started to read more about emotions, feelings, and thoughts. The thesaurus became my best friend.  I was unaware of all the ways we could be more expansive in describing how we feel in our bodies and in our minds. It opens the door to communicating with more understanding and it creates a deeper sense of empathy with those around us.

 My goal is to someday answer “How do you feel?” with an authentic response.  I need to direct my attention to the sensations in my body: Is my heart racing? Is my breath calm? Am I hot or cold?  Is there a certain color I see when I close my eyes? Do I smell anything at all? Am I feeling something more tactile like tingling? What do I feel as a whole? Am I nervous or simply content? What do I need? Can I state what feels good? There are so many dimensions to what “feelings” may mean. Being able to recognize it can be freeing, but also helpful to others who want to know more, especially when it comes to pleasure. There are so many ways to elaborate on this open-ended question. The goal is to tune into yourself, feel all the feels and try to identify them. There’s no wrong answer.

I read several books, which helped me to grasp the concept that integrative couples therapy and sexual wellness are both necessary for a well-rounded relationship. I’m happy to share some book reviews to give you a sense of what you might enjoy or want to know about in your own journey. Even if you only choose to read one book, take the time to read several books, or go as far as listening to them all on audible, I promise it will be worth it. 

Remember diamonds may fall, but time is wasted. We all can experience pleasure. It doesn’t always fall in our lap the way we want it to, or maybe it does, but don’t waste the potential to fully enjoy it. Read, explore, communicate, do the work and you’ll thank me later.

Alright. Here goes… time to pick your homework.

The first book I was assigned to read was recommended to me by the fabulous Dr. Pebble Kranz:

The Pleasure Prescription: A Surprising Approach to Healing Sexual Pain Written by Dee Hartmann, PT, DPT, IF and Elizabeth Wood, MSW, CSSE, CTE, BC

I’m rating this 4 out of 5 Sunflowers (because I really love Sunflowers)

  • Written primarily for women, but can be useful for the general public to read if interested in gaining more insight on pain associated with the female genitalia. The book addresses female genitalia specifically in the prescriptions. 
    • The book is written in a warm, inviting way. It doesn’t not include heavily scientific words and explanations. It does not require college level reading to follow along.
    • Can be helpful to heal those who want to do the work to address their pain as it provides subtle steps to guide through it.                          
    • Includes how to talk about sex with your partner and the meaning of consent.

I’ll admit, I bought the first two books recommended to me off Kindle. I didn’t want to purchase a physical copy of the books because initially I found myself feeling shameful about openly reading anything related to sex in public. I grew up believing that sex was taboo. I assumed self-pleasure was not meant for women, that sex was supposed to be a huge secret. It was only meant to please a man in between reproducing mini versions of yourself.

Ya’ll.

My whole life was a lie.

Just kidding…. I came to realize that I needed to UNLEARN everything I thought was normal. I really didn’t know much until I started discussing more about sex with my friends. It created a sense of openness to new ideas, which was great, but it also made me feel alone in my own issues. I had lived with painful sex thinking we all endured this kind of pain because women are tough (I mean we really are). I internalized the pain, never talked about it or sought help to explore where it was really coming from. Reading these books allowed me to see that I wasn’t alone, but also that pain shouldn’t even be there at all. Period. NADA. Zilch. Got it?

This book is fantastic for women who simply need to start somewhere. Especially if you are on the path to reclaiming self-love, maybe starting to learn how to self-pleasure or if you are struggling to accept that it’s ok to do. It’s also a great read for those who are scared to have sex because the pain overrides the desire to.  It’s designed to help you first and foremost. It provides guided self-pleasure, and the goal is to eventually help you to achieve deep penetration without pain on a solo journey. Once this is accomplished, it goes into bringing communication needs and further steps to take with a partner if you have one. The Wheel of Consent is highlighted in this book, which gives expert advice on what consent really means.

There is no expectation to move to the next step until you feel confident that you are ready. Each step is another win, no matter how small…You deserve to feel pleasure, regardless of whatever intrinsic factors or extrinsic factors you have that make you believe otherwise.

I’ll admit this book is a little bit redundant when it comes to reading all the steps in the prescriptions. I would encourage you to read the prescriptions individually and try it out before moving on or opt to go straight to the prescription where you know you need more attention and love. Give yourself patience, kindness and don’t worry about achieving all the steps by a certain time frame. If you need to go back a step or two, do so. Who gives a flying hoot what anyone thinks anymore?  I know that I want to better myself because I DESERVE to have a great sex life and SO DO YOU. 

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