Venus Libido x Ann Summers

This month, qualified sex educator, clinical sexologist in training and content creator @venuslibido is taking over for a much needed talk on endometriosis awareness. As a writer & pleasure coach, toy enthusiast and lingerie lover, Venus discusses how the condition can effect sex and relationships.

From a very young age, I suffered from severe stomach, back, and leg pains and period pains, which resulted in many hospital visits, MRI scans and passing from one doctor to another. For years I was told that my pain was due to acute appendicitis, and further down the line was told it was due to hereditary back problems and at one point was even told it was all in my head. I thought I was going insane as no doctor could understand why my pain was so severe, as all tests and scans on my body showed that nothing was horrifically wrong with me. My mum even asked me several times if I was making it up to get out of school. Little did I know that all these issues were linked to my period and growing endometriosis tissues and none of the other reasons first suggested by professionals.

It wasn't until 2019, when I attended an event hosted by The Eve Appeal, that I found the answer to my problems. I had just started my new career journey exploring sexual health and wellness and gynecology health, so I was excited to be invited. It was here that I first heard the word Endometriosis, which was a light bulb moment. All my symptoms over the years are listed one after the other alongside this condition by one of the panelists who was a gynecologist. I was utterly shocked and quickly turned to my friend and whispered, "I think I have endometriosis." The next day I made an appointment to see a gynecologist, and three months later, I went under the knife.

March marks Endometriosis Awareness Month. Please give us an insight into why raising awareness of the condition is so important.

My story is like many others, and it continues to be the case that so many people go years and years before getting diagnosed. According to Endometriosis UK, 'Recent research shows that there is now an average of 7.5 years between women first seeing a doctor about their symptoms and receiving a firm diagnosis.' This is because of several factors, including the symptoms being very similar to other common conditions, an invasive surgical procedure needed for a complete diagnosis, and a lack of education about gynecological health. Unfortunately, having scans, blood tests, and internal examinations is not conclusive in diagnosing Endometriosis. This is precisely what happened to me, and after years and years of all the above testing, not one doctor suggested investigating Endometriosis. So we must understand what Endometriosis is, the symptoms and how to advocate for ourselves and demand further investigation when we know something is wrong with our body. Education is everything!

What tips help make sex more enjoyable if you have Endometriosis?

Practice solo masturbation. Experiment with depth, angles and positions on yourself to better understand your limitations.

For some, every position may be uncomfortable, but I recommend experimenting with this in great depth. Elevating my lower half worked for me, and if you want to invest, grab yourself a Bang on cushion. I recommend downloading an app that offers hundreds of positions for inspiration.

Lube is your best friend when you have Endometriosis because the last thing you want is dry, forceful and rough penetration. I have bottles of it in my bedside drawer.

Extending foreplay is a must for me. But remember, sex doesn't always have to mean penetration, and it's more about enjoying pleasure in whatever form it takes. This includes the use of toys and accessories!

What are three facts about Endometriosis that people should be aware of?

  1. Endometriosis is not contagious or an infection and can not be passed on from person to person.
  2. There is no cure for Endometriosis; unfortunately, the cause is unknown.
  3. The most common places for Endometrial tissue to grow are on or around your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels, rectum, and bladder.

What are three misconceptions about Endometriosis that need to be dispelled?

  1. Severe period pain and/or painful sex is not normal, and if your pain interferes with your day-to-day life, you should ask for further investigation.
  2. No one is too young to have Endometriosis, and most people experience symptoms in their adolescence.
  3. Endometriosis does not mean you can't have children.

Maintaining a positive mindset is clearly so important when learning to live with the challenges of Endometriosis. What advice would you offer to people struggling to adjust to the challenges and changes that the condition brings?

This is your chance to shine! Yes, having Endometriosis sucks, but it doesn't mean life is over. On the contrary, you now have the ability to tailor your life to suit your condition and work with it rather than against it. The first time I was told it was Endometriosis, I cried tears of joy after waking up from surgery. I was relieved that my pain wasn't just in my head for all those years, and I could finally understand my body. It's like the bond I had always been searching for within myself, as cheesy as it sounds. Learn to understand your triggers regarding your diet and prioritise your self-care and wellness more, especially around your period. I also recommend staying active when you can do so. I was too scared to work out heavily for many years. Yet, I have noticed a considerable difference since moving my body more and taking up yoga.

Most importantly, be kind to your body and appreciate that it may need more rest than others, and that's ok. Of course, not everyone will understand, but you know your body and limits best.

The Pleasure Positivity Project is all about female empowerment. So how would you encourage those with Endometriosis to embrace self-love, and how have you learned to embrace the condition?

I have learned to tell myself that Endometriosis does not and will not control my life, happiness or pleasure. I have the power to interrupt the energy and the trauma it has caused me. It had power over my past, but now I control the future.

I recently read this quote in the book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, which says, 'It appears our emotional and psychological states do greatly influence the onset and passage of illness, as well as our ability to heal.' Therefore, I encourage you to think carefully about how you view and speak to yourself, your lifestyle, diet, environment and most importantly, your mental health and emotions.