Dear Dr. Jenni,
I’m a breast cancer survivor and had a double mastectomy. I’m working with my therapist on grieving the loss of my old self and the feminine symbolism of my breasts. But I’m also struggling with the loss of sensuality from my breasts. I feel like my sexuality was also robbed. Any thoughts on how I can move forward?
—Seeking Sensuality Post Cancer
How brave of you to survive cancer and a huge surgery. I think you are doing the smartest thing right now by giving yourself permission to grieve. When you feel ready, the next step is to reclaim and celebrate your new self. This may take some time as you find a new sensual identity. Start by creating a list of what helps you express your feminine energy. What activities, like dancing, for example, help you access this energy? Are there certain sensual foods or smells or songs? Perhaps take yourself shopping with a close, supportive friend to find new outfits for your wardrobe that express this new, sensual you.
As for bodily sensation, this will also be a journey of rediscovery. Imagine that your body is like a map — a large topographical body map. As all bodies change and age, the erogenous zones on our bodies do as well. By yourself first, and then with a partner if you have one, slowly explore your whole body from head to toe. Try out different types of touch, varying pressure, using nails, kneading, pinching, tickling and tapping. You may find that your breasts do not respond to the same type of arousal as they used to, but you may be surprised with new stimulating finds!
Dear Dr. Jenni,
I’m a lesbian, and my girlfriend and I have been together for more than four years. We just don’t have much sex anymore. We love each other, and want to want, but just can’t seem to find the time. My doctor said that because we are women, we don’t have the benefits of a male sex drive to keep us going. He suggested we enjoy the friendship and intimacy we do have. I feel put off by his advice and want a better answer on how to reclaim our sex life.
—Defying Doctors Orders
I can certainly understand why you want to defy your doctor’s order, considering the lack of courtesy and consideration for you both. I presume he was thinking that women struggle with sex drive because we do not have the same abundance of testosterone as men have. Testosterone does help elevate the libido; however, the biggest sex organ is the brain. Seducing your partner upstairs can be far more important than seducing him/her downstairs.
Because you both want to want, consider yourself on the same team, steering toward the same goal. “Time” is your common adversary, as it is for most couples, regardless of sexual orientation. I suggest pulling out your day planners or Google calendars and penciling in sex dates, even if only for 30 minutes. Initially, this may feel premeditated and unromantic, but I encourage you to imagine each date as if prepping for your first time together. Remember, the objective is to seduce each other’s brain. Take turns setting the mood and initiating, and make a fun list of activities you want to try, like a lunchtime sensual shower.
Because this is a team endeavor, reward yourself similarly. Perhaps go out to a romantic dinner on the town after a series of seven dates. The goal should be about how much fun you can have together, regardless of the amount of time.
Send questions for Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., to firstname.lastname@example.org. Skyler is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist who runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org.