Last week I learned that January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. I’m sure all y’all were already aware of this, but it was news to me. There’s a holiday, month, or awareness day for just about everything. Ice cream, pizza, steak, blow jobs (you’ve got to wait till March for that one), and now, cervixes.
The cervix is a pretty cool body part. It’s a little thing, about the size (and feel) of the end of your nose. It’s how the uterus opens into the vagina. It allows sperm to pass into the uterus, and it lets menstrual blood and babies come out. The cervix also protects the uterus by keeping it sanitary and blocking bacteria from entering. The cervix seems like a pretty simple body part, but folks have questions, and we’re here for those.
Why on earth am I supposed to get a Pap smear? How often do I need to get it?
Pap smears are pretty damn awesome. They may not be fun to get, but they’re one of the very few tests out there that can detect changes in cells BEFORE those changes turn into cancer. Your medical providers can then treat those cells and actually prevent cancer. Not detect cancer early, but actually prevent that shit.
Pap smears were invented by Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou in the 1940s and went into wide use in the 1950s. Before folks started getting Pap smears, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. After introduction of the Pap smear, cervical cancer rates declined by over 60 percent. That’s huge.
So yes. If you have a vagina, please get a Pap smear as frequently as your clinician thinks you should. If you are a trans or genderqueer person and dealing with your vagina doesn’t feel comfortable, there are medical providers who specialize in getting you through the exam (check out Chase Brexton). If you are a person of any gender who has a vagina and have fear or trauma associated with vaginal exams, there are medical providers who specialize in helping you get through the exam as well. Ask for a clinician who specializes in trauma informed care. A Pap smear can save your life.
I’ve been hearing about cervical orgasms. What are they? My one friend keeps talking about them like they’re the holy grail of orgasms.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: There is no holy grail of orgasm. Different people have different bodies, different relationships with their bodies, different histories and experiences, and different understandings of what sex and sexuality mean to them. Orgasms are, in general, good things. One kind of orgasm is not fundamentally better than another.
People who have experienced cervical orgasms describe them as deep in the body or whole body orgasms. These orgasms result from stimulation deep in the vagina, specifically from massage of the cervix or deep thrusting against the cervix. Some folks find that orgasms resulting from this kind of stimulation create a sense of spiritual well being or oneness.
So, what’s going on there? When it comes to science, the jury is still out. We know that the cervix has nerves, but there’s some dispute as to if it has the kind of nerves that are sensitive to touch (sensory nerves). One study, done by Komisaruk, Gerdes & Whipple, found that when pressure was applied to the cervix, study participants reported feeling the sensation. Some of the women described the sensation as pleasurable. In my work as a sex educator and formerly as an assistant in a clinic, I can promise that most folks with cervixes experience some sensation when their cervixes are touched.
We also know that the clitoris, which has a ton of nerves, is usually stimulated directly or indirectly when the vagina is penetrated. In fact, most orgasms that involve vaginal penetration are “blended orgasms”—meaning there’s a bunch of different nerves and neural pathways being stimulated at the same time. How that stimulation happens can result in different sensations.
In an utterly unscientific survey of folks I know, several people reported enjoying cervical massage, especially massaging around the cervix or using fingers to make a ring around the cervix. Other folks reported that they very much enjoy deep, hard thrusting on the cervix with a penis or dildo.
The best way to explore cervical or deeper body orgasms is to take your time and get really turned on. If you are someone who can have more than one orgasm in a session, do what you do to have an orgasm, then move on to cervical stimulation. Many people don’t like have their cervix touched when they aren’t turned on. However, the way we process sensation often changes with arousal. What doesn’t feel good when you’re not all revved up can feel awesome when you are. Lots of folks like to have their hair pulled when they’re having sex, but pulling their hair when they are walking down the street will get a very, very different reaction. Try massaging around the cervix and see how that feels. Then try putting pressure directly on the cervix and see how that feels. If the sensation feels odd, sit with that and see where it takes you. Keep breathing and relax into the new sensations. Breath is important to any sexual experience. It’s especially important when you are trying something new.
Enjoy yourself. If the sensation feels yucky, stop and do something else. No one likes everything. If you don’t like something, it just means that’s not the thing you should be doing right then. Keep playing and exploring. There’s a touch that will absolutely send you over the edge—let me know what you find.
Do you have a question about sex, relationships, or gender? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! Jacq Jones is a sex educator and the owner Sugar, a sex positive, education-focused sex toy store in Baltimore and online at sugartheshop.com.