Kegel exercises are important for folks with vaginas, like myself. Toned Kegels—AKA pelvic floor muscles—can deliver a host of benefits; studies have found exercising these muscles can help treat organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, ease labor, and even give you stronger, more reliable orgasms.
Naturally, I want my orgasms—and, thus, my Kegels—to be in peak condition. But I'm terrible at sticking to a routine, and I'm even worse at it when that routine involves exercise. I've also always been confused about what, exactly, I'm supposed to be exercising down there. One friend told me to pretend I was holding in a fart; another told me to stop my flow mid-pee. (Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist, wrote me that the second friend was right.) Samantha Jones told me to "tighten and release it for ten minutes a day," but that feels vague. More specific directions, though, felt overwhelming: start two to three reps of four or five seconds each, two or three times a day. It was all so confusing that I'd pretty much given up.
Over the years, a growing number of Kegel-focused devices have claimed to help those who are clueless-yet-hopeful like me. It began in the mid-twentieth century, when the eponymous Arnold Kegel developed the perineometer to measure the strength of pelvic muscles in his subjects, an unwieldy invention made of tubing and a balloon. A host of devices have followed: the Kegelmaster, a diabolical-looking device that relies on springs for resistance; Kegel weights; Kegel panties; something called the Magic Banana. Ben Wa balls (also known as Kegel balls) have come to such prominence that the Broad City ladies recently unveiled some in their new sexual health line.
But none of these analog options did me much good. And apparently, I'm not alone—a slew of digitally-powered, Bluetooth-connected, app-based Kegel exercisers have hit shelves. "Let's be real. Pelvic floor exercises are boring," Sunny Rodgers wrote me. "Having an app or device can definitely make it more fun and provide more motivation to actually do them." I agreed: I needed something that wouldn't just help me along the path to Kegel enlightenment, but make that journey fun.
Still, I eyed the emerging field of advanced Kegel exercisers with suspicion. (Case in point: Behold the Intensity, a combo sex-toy-Kegel-trainer that promises to strengthen and get you off all at once, an… intimidating promise) The Elvie, a smart pelvic floor trainer paired with a training app, sounded interesting, but focused more on preventing incontinence—not what I was looking for. The kGoal looked nice, but it just didn't seem interesting enough to keep my interest.
Then I discovered the (wildly successful) crowdfunding campaigns for the Perifit, a pelvic floor trainer that sends out a Bluetooth signal to a video game app on your phone. A gamified Kegel experience, I thought, might actually motivate me to keep at it. The device appeared simple to use. And the developers told me in an email that Perfit is the only Kegel exerciser that strengthens "both superficial and deep pelvic floor muscles." At last! My Kegel Holy Grail.
I managed to nab one before general release as a beta tester; it's scheduled for international release on October 19, and will retail at €179, or around $200. The device is lightweight and compact, at about 4.5 inches long and 1 inch across at its widest insertable point; it comes in a small case with a manual that explains how to start whipping your Kegels into tip-top shape. Among the four different training regimens to choose from (Pre & Post Pregnancy, two having to do with incontinence, and Intimate Well-Being), I chose the latter, and began a five day intensive workout regimen.
The user experience is pretty simple: You turn the device on, place it inside your vagina with the wide base sticking out, turn on the video game app, and off you go. Your avatar (either a little bird or a colorful butterfly) proceeds from left to right across the scrolling background, collecting small, lotus-like tokens. These are arranged at varied heights, which you navigate toward by contracting your pelvic floor. It's cute, intuitive, and really cool.
I started at level 1, and took it all the way up to level 10—which I repeated a few times, hoping I could master it.
Full disclosure: I did not succeed.
At first, the Perifit kept falling out. I lubed mine up for ease of insertion, but within seconds it would slip back out. I tried without lube (don't do this) and it still slid out midway through my training session. Lying on my back only alleviated the problem a little, which meant that the problem wasn't gravity or my exceptionally weak vagina. But if my muscles weren't completely atrophied, why was it falling out?
Cyril Haoudi, co-developer of Perifit, told me that I was "using your abdominal muscles or your buttock muscles instead of the pelvic floor muscles." She told me to "touch your belly while you are exercising to make sure your abdominal muscles are relaxed." Armed with this new information, I went back to the drawing board and began again at level 1, lying on my back so I could easily keep a hand on my belly.
And. Woah. It was a completely different experience. I'd been muscling my way through every level using my abdominal muscles almost exclusively. With those muscles relaxed and my brain focusing on Kegel muscles it didn't know how to locate, level 1 became much more difficult. The device was far more responsive than I'd been aware of before—so much so that I had to watch how I breathed or I'd send my avatar rocketing skyward. Keeping my hand on my stomach became dual barometer of whether I was relying on my midsection to do the work of my nether regions and whether I was breathing too heavily.
Suddenly, I didn't feel like a Kegel master. My initial successes were lies.
Still, I kept at it, moving much more slowly through the levels. And lo and behold, a miracle: I began, at last, to isolate the muscles in my abdomen and to use them correctly. The Perifit stopped sliding out of my body, and after some more concentration, using it became fun. Playing a video game with your vagina is a singularly exhilarating experience—it almost feels like magic. It occurred to me one night when I was using Perifit in a skirt that if someone were to ask what I was doing, I could have convinced them that I was practicing with a telepathy app.
I'm now locked into what looks like a long but rewarding exercise regimen with my Perifit. As Rodgers put it, "Anything that can help people achieve and maintain sexual health and wellness is a beneficial product, so these device/app combos are definitely worth the money." I'm training my body to respond in an entirely new way and protecting myself from all manner of potential unpleasantness later in life. No word on whether my orgasms will improve yet, but my hopes are high.