In the immortal words of Salt-N-Pepa, "Let's talk about sex, baby."
But sexologist Rebecca Alvarez Story believes that people are becoming more open to exploring and experimenting their body.
"Sexual wellness has been underrated forever," she said in an exclusive interview with E! News. "Things have improved, partially because of Covid. With people being home a lot, they were really craving connection. They were tired and under interesting relationship stressors. And a lot of what the world went through accelerated normalizing sexual wellness."
And, yet, Rebecca—who founded Bloomi, a clean intimate care line—thinks there's room for an improvement, admitting there still isn't "a complete normalization of it yet" because of cultural and generational taboos.
"Some people are very shy or they're taught that you don't discuss personal topics," she said. "But overall those practices have been changing, especially with Gen Z and Millennials being open-minded and seeking solutions."
Ready to dive under the sheets? Great. Because Rebecca answered all of our burning questions about how to kickstart your sexual journey, how new parents can make time for intimacy and more.
E! News: How can people become comfortable discussing sex and intimacy?
RAS: People are motivated to change their perspective on sexual wellness if it's a self-care topic. Starting with small, everyday things are going to be very important. What would help people the most is to incorporate pleasure into your life because the brain starts to get used to those feel-good moments or feel-good touch. The more we have intimacy with ourselves or that we explore intimacy with a partner, the easier it becomes. When we normalize it for ourselves, then our body craves it.
The other thing is conversations. The less you talk about it, the more of a message you're giving that it's not healthy or OK. If you have small conversations with friends, family and children—and meet them where they're at—it opens the door to it being positive.
E! News: What are examples of small, every day sexual practices?
RAS: Don't focus so much on sex itself. Massages for yourself or your partner creates a sacred space. And think of moments where you have time for yourself. A lot of moms, for example, are very busy. If you use an oil or waterproof toy in the shower, in those five to 10 minutes, you could take advantage of the realistic time that you have.
E! News: What are some tools people can use to kick start their sexual wellness journey?
RAS: Getting an arousal or a pleasure oil can naturally boost your libido. It's also really fun to share with a partner or really great if you want to explore your body more. Toys are really popular—which is amazing—but what's nice about a pleasure oil is that it's not intimidating. And it's a multi-use product: You're using it to facilitate pleasure on yourself and your partner, but it's also very moisturizing, makes your skin feel nice and it smells delicious.
E! News: How can sexual exploration be a liberating experience?
RAS: The amount of pleasurable practices you can discover when you become open to it, opens the doors to this whole new world. Sometimes people will say, "I can't believe I hadn't done this earlier." or "I can't believe all this existed." Think of it as: I'm going to be curious. Whether that's buying a new intimacy toy or masturbating more often. Be open to what you enjoy and set your own goals—that puts you in a positive direction.
E! News: What are some major benefits of sexual pleasure?
RAS: When talking about masturbation, specifically, there's a lot of health and mental health benefits. It helps reduce stress, reduce pain and it helps to improve and elevate your mood. It's similar to the benefits you get from exercise—and it can be a form of exercise itself—our heart rate is going up, our blood is pumping. It helps with your mental health because your brain is flooded with oxygen. The one benefit I love seeing for people is their confidence. It goes up when you start engaging in self-pleasure because you feel ownership over your body, you're in control and can use those tools with your partners.
E! News: How can new parents keep the spark alive while having realistic sexual expectations?
RAS: It's so hard to find the energy to engage in intimacy when you have this little human depending on you. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself in the same way that you would with a friend going through a tough time. But the factor that's impacting libido the most is fatigue. If you can prioritize getting more rest, it will naturally boost everything else. I also don't want couples that have a newborn to put pressure on themselves.
E! News: How can new moms feel comfortable and connected with their bodies again when so much is changing?
RAS: There's this misconception that once you have a baby, six weeks later, your OBGYN clears you to have sex again. But the body doesn't say, "OK, the six weeks is here. I'm going back to how I was before." The body can take up to a year to start to feel like it's bouncing back. It's normal if you don't feel like having sex the first six months of having a baby or, for some, up to a year. Getting to know your body again will be a slow exploration process, but take your time in order to come back to what you want to do.