Natassia Miller: How to be confident and communicate about sex; and why it’s so hard for women
Natassia Miller is a sex educator and entrepreneur. Her company, Wonderlust, works to help couples build their intimacy and connection. We chatted with Natassia about breaking down some of the barriers to being comfortable, confident, and communicating about all things sex and sexual wellness.
Greta: I want to start by asking you to tell me a bit about yourself and how you became a sex educator?
Natassia: My name is Natassia, I'm a Brazilian-American sex educator. I used to work in finance, but knew it wasn't the legacy that I wanted to leave behind. I had a bit of an entrepreneurial exploration before landing on sexual wellness. I was always very passionate about wellness and making it accessible, digestible and inclusive. I noticed that more and more people were open to the conversation, and the rebranding of sex-ed.
I have always been somebody who really loves talking about intimacy, sex and relationships with my friends. That's partly because my mom was always very open about it, but more so in an educational manner of teaching her daughter how to protect herself, and not in terms of pleasure. I think that having an open channel of communication with my mom helped me become more open about sex with my friends and sexual partners. So I decided to journey into the sexual wellness industry and I'm currently getting certified as a sex educator.
Greta: That's very exciting. For anyone who isn't familiar, can you tell us a bit about Wonderlust?
Natassia: Wonderlust is a sexual wellness company on a mission to help couples build a fulfilling sex-life and relationship. It can be hard to navigate each stage of a relationship, especially when it comes to intimacy and sex. We have a hard time communicating, asking the questions that we want to ask, understanding our partners and even understanding ourselves.
I wanted to build tools that help people navigate different stages of a relationship’s intimacy. At the core of it, a fulfilling sex life and relationship is very individual. So learning how to define that for yourself by having access to education and tools is really at the core of what we're doing at Wonderlust.
Greta: Why do you think it is that couples have such a hard time talking about sex and relationships? And how do you think that we can combat and prevent that?
Natassia: I think it's two-fold: there's a lack of education on one hand, and sex is seen as taboo on the other. We've also been taught through cultural norms and through porn that sex should be effortless and spontaneous and everybody comes and it's great. And that's not true. Sex is the most complicated activity we can engage in because there are so many factors that come into play: your mental health, physical health, emotional health, socioeconomic status, trauma, gender, everything.
And because we think that it should be easy and spontaneous when it's not, we have a really hard time admitting that there's a lot of shame involved. Women have been conditioned to be very nice and agreeable and prioritize everybody else's needs before our own. So when that comes into sex, we don't want to be a nuisance if we're taking too long, because then we're making the other person uncomfortable. And we're worried about our body image. It's really hard to enjoy sex if you're worried about how your stomach looks in a certain position. Plus there's a lot of shame around our clitoris and our vulva. Nothing highlights this more to me than knowing that only four years ago I learned that a vulva is called a vulva and not a vagina.
Greta: Yeah. It's interesting how we speak about women's anatomy.
Natassia: A lot of us haven't actually looked at ourselves down there. How are you going to own your pleasure if you don't know your own body? So there's the conditioning of the female gender of how we should show up in the world that inherently puts us a few steps back, compared to men, when it comes to our sexual experiences.
For men, while they have been given the permission to be sexual, and selfish and place their own needs first, they've also been conditioned that they need to be performing at all times. Like if you don't get hard right off the bat, what's wrong with you? That's wrong because that's not how it works. Our largest sexual organ is our brain. And so if we're not mentally stimulated, we're just not going to be sexually aroused. We place so much pressure on sex, I wish that we would take it more lightly and look at sex as play and a fun activity for you to explore and not worry so much about.
Greta: I like that pivot. Looking at it as more of play and fun. One pain point that we hear about a lot in the Stix community is how to approach the subject of vaginal infections and insecurities and how awkward it can be. Why do you think that is? Do you have any tips on that?
Natassia: I've been there myself, the queen of UTIs for so many years. This goes back to the inherent shame that women carry around their bodies. If you have any infection, if you have any pain, if you have any smells, it means that you are dirty. Yet it's a normal process of how your body is healing from undergoing stress, or having an external organ inside of it, or unbalanced pH levels, which are super common.
First of all, you need to know deep down that there's nothing wrong with you. When you sit down with your partner and finally share that you're undergoing this, their reaction is a great indicator. If they have a bad reaction, it’s probably not somebody that you want by your side.
As for bringing it up, honestly I’m a big fan of just having a direct conversation. Explaining, “I just found out about this information, and it's impacted me in XYZ ways. This is the solution. This is how long we're gonna have to abstain from sex. I know these conversations can be hard. But there's nothing to be shameful about. I think a lot of the difficulty comes from within, like a lot of things, we put it on ourselves.
Greta: That’s very true- good advice. Can you share a little bit more about your experience with UTIs and vaginal infections- within the realm of sex?
Natassia: I had UTIs before I even became sexually active, as a kid. I've just been prone to them. But especially after I became sexually active. I didn't know that certain lubes could cause a vaginal pH imbalance. And that would cause UTIs and other infections. It only stabilized once I was with a long-term partner. Anytime I was single and having sex, but not consistent sex with one person, that would flare it up. That and the mix of lube with condoms. Often women don't carry their own lube or their own condoms, so you just never know what quality you're getting.
Now that I understand how product quality affects our vaginal health, I am a big proponent of carrying your own lube and your own condoms that you know work well for you– and make that a non-negotiable. If a guy judges you for it, then you don't want him in your life. Recently, when I'm stressed, like super stressed, I end up with a UTI regardless of whether I had sex or not. I know that's a big trigger for me. Peeing after sex has also been helpful in preventing UTIs.
Greta: That was great. What would be one piece of advice, I guess more for women, whether you're struggling with insecurities or a vaginal infection: How do you stay confident during sex?
Natassia: Your partner does not care about how your body looks or if you have hair growing in certain places the way that you think they care. When someone is insecure about their body, their partner more often than not expresses how much they desire them and think they look great.
There's a great exercise by Dr. Emily Nagoskiin her book, Come As You Are. You get naked and look at your body in the mirror. You tell yourself what you love about your body. You should do this every day. In the beginning it's going to be really hard, you're probably going to hate it and have many negative thoughts. But it really is a process of training your mind to think about the positive things about your body, the things that you love, rather than the negative. And eventually, as you continue doing this practice, you will see things shift. That's an exercise that worked really well for me too.
Second, curate the content that you consume. If it doesn't make you feel good, don't watch it. Mute, unfollow, do whatever it is that you need to do. Ask yourself, “if I watch this, am I going to feel better or worse about myself and my body?” If it makes you feel worse then stop consuming it.
Greta: Do you have any tips for couples in new relationships on setting a foundation for healthy communication?
Natassia: I think the earlier you start talking about sex, the better. When you express what turns you on, what turns you off, how you like in bed – that's a really great way for you to normalize that dialogue early on in your relationship. Nobody's a mind reader. It also creates an open channel for when you want to try something new. You already have a means of communication, you're not coming out of nowhere. So I think you can start super small, with questions like, what's a must for you during foreplay? What turns you on? When do you feel the most attracted to me?
Greta: On the opposite end of the spectrum. What about for couples in long-term relationships who have never communicated about sex and feel like it's too late to start the conversation?
Natassia: It's almost never too late, you’d be surprised. I would suggest taking a walk together. It's been proven that in terms of conflict resolution, when you're both walking forward in the same direction, that inherently programs your brain to know you're finding a solution together. Go for a walk and be like, “hey, I know we never talked about this. I was wondering, like, how do you feel about our sex life? Is there something that you miss about it? Is there anything that you want to try differently?”
Greta: I like that. That's good advice. Is there anything else you’d like to leave us with?
Natassia: The reason why we just have such a hard time around the subject of sex is because most of us were never taught much about it. We didn’t learn how to build a healthy relationship and healthy sex life. I think that's the reason why so many relationships fail. I'm really excited for this new era of sexual and relationship wellness, because it really normalizes the fact that we just haven't been given the tools and the education to navigate these two very important parts of our lives. Most of us want to be comfortable in our sexuality, and we struggle so much with that. When we are comfortable with our sexuality, everything changes in our lives. Don't be shy, educate yourself. Find the platform, the educator, the community that will help you learn the things that you need in order to feel like you have autonomy over this. Remember that. You can have autonomy over this.
Greta: Yeah, I totally agree. I think it’s good when we start talking about it when we're younger. You were talking about how you've always felt inclined to talk about sex with your friends. I think that's a good starting point.
Natassia: Also, normalizing talking about sex with your friends. I think women especially because we carry so much shame around this. I think we would have like 1/10th of the shame that we carry today if we knew that our friends are undergoing or have undergone the same thing at some point in their lives.
Greta: I think I saw someone on Tik Tok a couple months ago, I forget who it was. It was a celebrity talking about how women talking to each other about sex is like people talking to each other openly about salary; salary transparency.
Natassia: It was EmRata.
Greta: I loved that.
Natassia: That's exactly what we need.