"When you have nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire." This is a lyric from the Stars song "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" and also the governing principle of my romantic life. With spring in full force—and cum trees blossoming all around my block—I felt inspired to revamp my life. But I wouldn't clean, organize my finances, or finally recycle the growing collection of wine bottles sitting precariously on top of my fridge. Instead I would relinquish all control of my sex life to a woman I'd never met before.
Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist and certified sex coach, writes on her website that her goal is to "save the world one orgasm at a time." I reached out to ask her if she'd be interested in micro-managing my sex life for a week, and she responded, "This'll be FUN."
I'm single, so my love life is a robust blend of masturbating and, like, biweekly sex. As a result Rodgers's tips would apply both to intercourse (should the opportunity arise) and self-pleasuring. Before the week began, I chatted with Rodgers about my fantasies and definitely-won't-do's, and based on our conversation, she developed a weeklong itinerary for me to follow. Here's how it went.
Day One: Drink Pineapple Juice for a Tasty Vagina
On a day she knew I had a date—one I suspected would involve oral—Rodgers instructed me to drink pineapple juice so my vagina would taste like fruit, thus infusing my sex life with bold flavor and island vibes. A few hours before we were set to meet, I chugged a can of pineapple juice and got heartburn instantly. Pineapples are high acid! I prayed my vag tasted like a piña colada so the discomfort would be worth it.
Back at my place after the date, the oral sex I predicted did go down, but I was too insecure to ask him if I tasted like pineapple. I couldn't ask him beforehand because I didn't want to inspire confirmation bias; I couldn't ask him after because I fell asleep immediately (my best sex move). The next day, I felt too weird to text, "hiii had a great time last night ;) oh btw did the inside of my vagina taste like pineapple ttyl!!" He didn't mention anything, so I'm sure everything tasted fine but maybe not strangely pineapple-y. I needed answers, though, so I took three anticipatory Tums and chugged another can. After a few hours, I tasted myself. I picked up on tinges of sweetness and some woodsy notes, but no pineapple.
Watch: Madame Hillary Is Punishing Regretful Trump Voters
Day Two: Admire Self in the Mirror
Today Rodgers wanted me to find three things I love about my body. While I'm pretty confident in my day-to-day life, I don't have any mirrors in my room for a reason—whenever I examine my body too carefully, I fixate on things that are wrong: the way my knees look like smiling baby faces, the bit of hair on my neck, the acne scars lining my jaw, the way my breasts are differently shaped, and neither of them round.
While home in Philadelphia, I stood naked in front of a mirror and examined myself, contorting myself into Bella Hadid–inspired poses. I couldn't stand normally. I pushed out my butt and sucked in my stomach. What did I like? I did a few squats to buy some time. I let my hands wander over my waist, feeling the way it curved in and then out. I liked that. I pointed my feet, admiring the shape of my ankles; I liked them, too. Now, I just needed a third thing. I moved closer to the mirror and settled on my lips, full and red from how much I bite them. I pouted. My dog trotted into the room to see what was going on.
"Rocky, you are so lucky to be a dog," I said. He farted.
Day Three: Examine Vulva, Labia, Clitoris and G-Spot with Hand Mirror
Apparently, by pulling up on the front part of your vagina and holding a hand mirror beneath you, you can see your G-spot, which Rodgers describes as "soft and spongy."
I was skeptical. When I dove in there myself, I couldn't quite see what she had described as the G-spot, but wow, it was enlightening to get all up in the crevices and dig around. I never see the inside of my vagina, which is why dick cams are so alluring to me.
I recommend this exercise to anyone with a vagina—as a purely educational experience. It didn't, however, make me feel more sexual; rather, it reminded me of how terrifying it is to inhabit a body, one with holes and corridors and darkness you can neither see nor control.
The secret did turn me on, sort of, but all the dogs were distracting. I just wanted to make friends with them.
Day Four: Masturbate Sans Insertion
"Masturbate! But only stimulation on the outside and no insertion," Rodgers said for day four. "Use this exercise to explore where your other erogenous zones may be located—inside your elbows, behind your knees, the backs of your ears, behind your toes, wherever. Often people are turned on by soft touch in seldom-touched areas."
I lit a candle and took off my clothes, positioning my cardboard cutout of Drake so that we could make eye contact. I felt around. I started with the usual suspects: breasts, neck, inner thighs. Pleasurable, as always. The "no insertion" component of the exercise was frustrating and, frankly, demoralizing, but I understood Rodgers's point. There was something satisfying about inhabiting and extending my desire, getting to know it without ever quite satisfying it.
I moved my hands around and landed on the inside of my elbows, as she suggested; that felt nice. I've never thought of myself as an Ear Girl but the back of my ear felt lovely, too. I may direct people's hands to these two spots in the future.
Day Five: Secret Stimulation
Rodgers wanted me to secretly masturbate in everyday places; little did she know I've done this countless times before, including while getting my passport photo taken.
"Use your panty vibe to have secret sex with yourself today," she said. "Promise yourself to turn it on at least three times—and once in a public place. Take time to see if this secret turns you on or makes you nervous. If you do have a willing date this day, perhaps allow your partner to be in control of one of your sessions."
After pausing to imagine what an unwilling date might look like ("I thought you reached out to network; I want no part of this!"), I decided this exercise would be more fun alone. I whipped out the ol' panty vibe, slipped into it, and walked around McCarren Park, feeling the sweet, sweet vibrations. The secret did turn me on, sort of, but all the dogs were distracting. I just wanted to make friends with them. Eventually, I found an isolated spot under a tree and let myself indulge the arousal. I rushed home to finish in private, because I'm still too nervous to come in public, especially in a neighborhood where odds of running into an ex, 2011 Tinder date, or almost-friend you never got drinks with are 100 percent.
Day Six: Self Love
"Today you can masturbate with insertion. But unlike many masturbation sessions, make this one unrushed and sensual," Rodgers said. "Start with a bubble bath and a glass of wine. Seduce yourself and your senses! Allow me to introduce you to a sexual practice that is on the rise—Kareeza, which is the enjoyment of the journey of sex and not necessarily the result."
In other words, the goal of Kareeza isn't ejaculation or orgasm, but rather a greater understanding of your body and arousal process. It is not the same as edging, which seems to me more sinister. It took me no less than 30 minutes to get over the pressure to "enjoy this!!!", but once I did, the Kareeza experience was delicious and, yes, romantic. The romance I feel with myself is the most passionate I ever feel. This makes sense: the person who lives in a body is the most equipped to seduce it.
Day Seven: Bad-Girl Maria
Though I spent the whole week getting to know myself, Rodgers instructed me to finish it off by developing an entirely new persona for an evening, saying that this would help me get in touch with my fantasies. For some reason, she had perceived me as nice, personable, and "wholesome" when we spoke over Skype, so she wanted me to try on a bad-girl persona—that is, slip into seductive, dark clothing, choose a new name and sit at a bar, committing to my new identity should I start talking to anyone.
I chose the name Lucille and put on an inappropriately short skirt (full-frontal when getting out of cars) and a low-cut top. I applied dark purple lip gloss and extra mascara. I was headed to Newark Airport to catch a flight to Bangkok. In this world but not quite of it, airports are the perfect place to assume a new identity. (After you get through security, of course; I want to make it very clear I do not break laws.) You're surrounded by harried strangers, many of them drunk, all willing to believe anything—that their plane truly is only 15 minutes delayed, that this trip to Paris will be the one where Jean-Luc finally agrees to leave his wife, and that I am Lucille.
I wasn't sure if I was aroused by the sex game or the smell of grilled bratwurst, but I was feeling it.
I arrived at the airport five hours early (Lucille would have cut it close, but Maria was going to Thailand and absolutely not going to fuck that up) and breezed through security. I posted up at a caricature of an Irish pub and surveyed the scene to see if there was anyone cute to talk to. I was nervous, but also excited—I wasn't sure if I was aroused by the sex game or the smell of grilled bratwurst, but I was feeling it.
Rodgers often has married couples—who "still love each other but have stopped liking each other"—do this exercise; they meet as strangers at a bar, which hopefully re-injects passion and intrigue into their otherwise monotonous relationship.
There was only one man sitting at the bar alone; all the other dudes were with their families or girlfriends, and Lucille is bad but not that bad. I ordered Jameson on the rocks and vowed to talk to the single man, who appeared to be 40 and very well-fed, once I finished it. He wasn't looking at me, or even pointing either of his knees at me, which is how I usually gage if someone is interested. (They may not be looking, but if their body is oriented towards you, it's on.)
"Hey, how's it going? I'm Jessica," I said. FUCK. Jessica?
"Hi, nice to meet you," he said. I smiled. As I tried to think of an inane question to ask him, his phone started beeping and, before I knew it, he was FaceTiming with his entire family: two small babies, a dog, and his wife.
I ordered tater tots and moved to a table in front of a TV blaring reruns of The Steve Harvey Show.
It is incredibly rare that people take active measures to improve their sex lives, the way they might in the realms of fitness and career. The fact that I'd never even TRIED to see the inside of my vagina before this experiment quite honestly upsets me; I'm so glad this woman I'd never met before asked me to do it. I'm also glad this woman asked me to take the time—the same amount of time I would have spent picking at an ankle scab or reloading Snapchat—to explore the rest of my body in a manner that had never occurred to me: thoughtfully, sensually, compassionately.
Maybe my vagina doesn't have the capacity to taste like pineapple—whatever. In the end, the goal of that exercise wasn't to enhance my body's flavors for the benefit of a guy. The act of trying the strange and unexpected—of crafting a novel identity and letting yourself inhabit it—adds excitement to your sex life because it disrupts the routine, the commonplace, and all the forces that make sex shitty.
Sex Machina is a very personal column exploring the intersections of sex, romance, and technology.