Essays & Confessions

What 3 Different Women Spend On Sex & Intimacy

By Friday, April 30, 2021

As some readers may know, I worked with a sex and pleasure coach in 2020 to “get my groove back.” I was feeling a bit depleted spiritually, and it was bleeding over into all aspects of my life including work, money, and my sex life. Before your imagination runs wild, the coaching was less freaky than you might expect. We worked on inner healing, childhood trauma, and reclaiming all of the areas of life that can be pleasurable including sending emails, eating food, and yes, of course, self-pleasure. 

Through working with Michaela I learned just how fractured my relationship with my body was and all the ways in which I had a radical responsibility to reclaim control. During the three-month intensive I had with her, there was one particular homework exercise that really forced me to confront how I view sex as a consumer. To protect the integrity of her paid program, I won’t go into detail of the assignment, but it did require me to buy items meant to elevate my sex life.

However, when I was online shopping, I found myself making excuses to not  buy the items. 

Oh my gosh, I can’t buy this. I can’t spend X amount of dollars on my sex life.

Let’s see what’s on clearance; I don’t need to spend a lot of money on this.

Know what? I bet [household item] would be just as effective.

Am I going to look sexy in this? Why would I think I would look sexy in this? 

…If only I had this much discipline when buying overpriced face serums. 

Eventually, I made the purchases and they proved to be a significant step toward healing the toxic relationship I had with myself and my body. I remember the day that my purchases were delivered and I thought, “I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made a conscious purchase for my sex life.” 

I spoke with licensed clinical supervisor, couples therapist, and founder of Millennial Life Counseling, Liz Higgins, LMFT-S on the topic of sex, empowerment, and making space for it in our daily lives. “We are in an exciting time where a woman’s exploration of her sexual desires and knowledge of her sexual self is becoming not only discussed but encouraged,” Higgins stated.

She continued, “From a historical, patriarchal perspective, women have not had this kind of permission, and shame is often the context a woman lives inside when it comes to her sexual sense of self. Some women don’t even feel that their bodies belong to themselves. In some countries, they still don’t.”

“Some women don’t even feel that their bodies belong to themselves…”

Which then got me thinking, Are there women who include sex in their monthly budget? And, How does sex and pleasure factor into their behavior as a consumer? So I sat down and spoke with three women to find out if and how they budget — and spend money on — sex. 

(Author’s Note: some names have been changed and all questions were optional to answer.)

When did you start to become more intentional about your sex life? 

When I moved out on my own. [As a childhood sexual assault survivor], I never had a good history with sex. My first image of sex was horrible at first, and was in high school it was me trying to replace my idea of sex on my own. After graduating college, it was important to me to save and get my own space so that I could bring guys home and explore. — Nora*, 20s, Teacher 

Not until I was like 23, although I had been a sex educator, I still didn’t realize the power in leading my sex life rather than being a participant for others’ pleasure.Cassandra*, 30s, Sex Educator 

I got out of a super toxic relationship when I was 20, and from that point onwards was committed to bringing positivity into my sex life. Communicating openly both with partners and with my friends about what I like and don’t like was a big part of that, but equally so was empowering myself through education and making conscious, rather than passive, decisions. — Chloe, 20s, Undisclosed profession

“I still didn’t realize the power in leading my sex life rather than being a participant for others pleasure.”

Is your sex life/intimacy something you currently budget into your monthly budget?

I do make sure that I am ‘prepared’ for whenever the mood sparks. Also, just having a pretty vagina makes you feel good naked. I have exfoliating gloves and dry brushes for ‘down there’ that I change out monthly, but I get those at Dollar Tree. I have brightening wipes that I get for problem areas as well. Making myself feel good down there has given me power and it’s so intimate, your relationship with your vagina. So I spend money monthly on upkeep.  — Nora

I actually have a lot of sex toys that I have accumulated over the years but I should spend more money, because as I have become more comfortable in my body, I want to buy more lingerie outside of special events. — Cassandra

Why do you think sex and money are such taboo subjects? 

I  feel like people are insecure about what they do in bed so they never want to talk about it, honestly. They hear someone else did this and start thinking if they should or shouldn’t do that to their partner. People are only created one way, so I don’t understand the aversion to this conversation. And same goes for paying for sex, everyone has watched porn at some point. [Sex workers] need to get paid too! — Nora

Because we live in a capitalistic society that tells us what is appropriate to do with our bodies and values — except when it comes to the huge amounts of money that are made off porn and sex trafficking. Sex is a the very core of how we all got here, and money is a necessary evil, so you have to decide the value you place on it. — Cassandra

“Also, just having a pretty vagina makes you feel good naked. I have exfoliating gloves and dry brushes for ‘down there’ that I change out monthly.”

We’ve only barely gotten to a point in culture where talking about sex isn’t considered totally vulgar or taboo. I think admitting to spending money on your sex life is one step beyond that; it’s acknowledging that sexuality isn’t just something ‘natural’ but rather something we value and enjoy. I also think this ties into the idea that, as women, there’s this pornified idea that we should just enjoy sex automatically and with little, I guess, effort (Cf. Bridgerton and its bizarre lack of foreplay). By admitting that we spend money on toys, treatments, whatever, we’re acknowledging the reality that enjoyable sex often requires a little more forethought, and can’t be taken for granted. — Chloe

How has being more intentional surrounding your ‘sex life spending’ affected your sex life and relationship?

I’m so much more confident. I don’t have a boyfriend; but I have friends, and I like adding accessories to the fun. I love soooooo much SavageX because investing in lingerie just makes me feel like a bad bitch on a Monday night. I was insecure about sex when it was my turn to choose. And being confident in my body by making it look and feel sexy with a fresh cat and body snatched in some lingerie made the world a difference in how I feel about myself and in turn I blossomed. — Nora

My partner loves me to be sexy so additional spending makes him happy. — Cassandra

Honestly, I find it a good litmus test of whether a partner and I are more generally compatible. If I’m the one putting in all the investment – either literally or in terms of emotional labor in initiating dialogue – that tells me a lot about their openness, communication skills and sense of equity. Someone who is mortified by a conversation about splitting the cost of a vibrator is probably not the right fit for me! I also think it just straight-up improves the quality of my sex life – I spend on things that make me feel confident, which of course makes me more engaged during sex, plus I have drawers full of accessories which definitely help!  — Chloe

“If I’m the one putting in all the investment – either literally or in terms of emotional labor- that tells me a lot about the person. Someone who is mortified by a conversation about splitting the cost of a vibrator is probably not the right fit for me!”

Biggest splurge you’ve made related to sex?

My toys!️ They even have names. First, there is “Confidence,” the suction dildo. She requires confidence; you need to feel sexy to get you there while riding. And riding is the power. Next there is “Patience,” the vibrator go-to because while top speed gets you good, the different speeds are there for a reason, it takes *patience*, and you’ll find something for each box of your organs checklist. And finally, I have “Respect,” cause you have to respect the penetration and clit stimulation. — Nora

Well I recently became a Sex Doula so that bill was close to $1000 but well worth it. The biggest splurge I have made is probably one of my partner’s birthdays where I went into full character with the outfit and accessories to match. — Cassandra

One of my great passions in life is luxury lingerie. There’s a narrative these days that you have to wear lingerie just for how it makes you feel and that’s totally a part of it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider the viewpoint of a partner. I have a lot of Agent Provocateur, and a couple of sets from a very expensive but incredible English brand called Studio Pia. I also treat myself to a new vibrator once in a while, and that’s not something I’ll scrimp on – last time I got a Lelo Sona Cruise, and right now I’m eyeing a WeVibe Melt. — Chloe

Regular sex or body-related treatments you have to improve your sex life or confidence during sex?

Pamper your body, all parts of your body. Take the time to make that sh*t look beautiful so you feel better about yourself. Lingerie helps as well as kegel workouts. — Nora

I love the spa and Yoni steams are amazing and make me feel like a walking herb. — Cassandra 

Sugaring! I never used to be a Hollywood wax kind of girl, but I tried it once when a cute new sugar wax place opened up near me and I loved it – for me, it really increases sensation. — Chloe

***

After speaking with each woman, it’s clear that sex is something that has begun, and will continue to, carve a space in a monthly budget. For me, I’m left reflecting on what my dollar represents, what it symbolizes. I’m asking myself, does my spending reflect the beliefs I have surrounding sex, pleasure, and self-exploration? I feel empowered to see sex as a monthly expense because it is part of my daily life.

“I feel empowered to see sex as a monthly expense because it is part of my daily life.”

I know each woman’s relationship with sex differs. So I asked Liz for advice on how we as women can prioritize it with intention. “For women who are looking to explore what they like sexually, I might recommend a few relevant, inclusive books, including Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, and Taking Sexy Back by Dr. Alexandra Solomon. While this desire to want to expand your sexual realm is absolutely amazing, this won’t simply be a moment of actualization, but a journey of exploring and expanding this part of yourself as you go. 

“I would suggest getting plugged into sex-positive support systems where you feel safe to bring questions, thoughts, and commentary to others. I also think it’s incredibly important to tune into your internal voice so that you can better define what YOU want to experience. If your interests include a partner or others, it’s imperative to strengthen your relational skills, too, so that you can enter these dynamic experiences from a place of confidence in yourself, and security and knowledge of your boundaries so that you feel respected, while respecting others.”

Image via Unsplash

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