What Role Does the Pelvic Floor Play with Sex?
Are you curious about how the important role that the 14 muscles that comprise our pelvic floor (or the “bicycle seat” muscles) have in our ability to orgasm and enjoy sex?
Let’s start with where these muscles are in our body.
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that extend from our pubic bone back to our tailbone and sit in a bowl shape at the bottom of our pelvis. The pelvic floor actually has 3 main functions:
1) The Elimination of Waste (controlling the closure and opening of bowel and bladder)
2) Organ Support (holding up all the essential organs like an awesome support base)
3) Sexual Appreciation
Let’s talk a bit more about that last one! By sexual appreciation, I am referring to orgasm, which is not that different from doing pelvic floor exercises as orgasms are just a series of small muscle contractions. The other reason I say sexual appreciation is because these muscles are sphincters -- they need to both contract and relax, just like any other muscle in the body. One way to enhance our sexual experiences and have a more robust orgasm is by gaining greater control of those muscles to be able to relax and open and then contract them. The more robust movement we have (the more our muscles and contract and relax), the more sensation we will have.
To figure out where these muscles are in your own body, let’s find the bony landmarks that connect to the pelvic floor muscles. First, put your hands on your hips, as if you are being “sassy.” (It’s totally optional to wiggle your hips!). This is the top of your pelvis. Let’s now take one hand and place the palm (facing downwards?) on your belly button. Where your fingertips land is your pubic bone. This is one attachment point of your pelvic floor. Take that same hand and place it at the top of your pants. Where your fingertips touch is likely your tailbone. This is the second attachment point of your pelvic floor. There are two more to go. Take both hands and simply sit on your palms. Rock your pelvis back and forth. These are your sit bones, the last two bony landmarks where your pelvic floor attaches. These 4 points create a diamond shape.
To contract your pelvic floor muscles, think about pulling your pelvic floor muscles up and inside your pelvis while bringing all four of those boney landmarks together.
If you are doing a Kegel correctly you should not have any muscles on the outside of your body visibly contracting. Nobody should know you are doing a Kegel. If your pelvic floor muscles are weak or you don’t know how to activate them correctly, your butt, leg and abdominal muscles kick in to try and help out.
Don’t forget to check-in with the relaxation – this is the other half of the Kegel story. To relax your pelvic floor muscles, they should move in the opposite direction – instead of the muscles moving together and up inside your pelvis, they should move down and away, towards your feet. Feeling both contraction and relaxation is the full definition of a Kegel.
If your pelvic floor has the ability to contract and relax fully, sex will be more pleasurable and beneficial for your muscles’ ability to assist you with the main jobs of the pelvic floor.
The Pelvic Floor “Check-In”
How can you check-in with your muscles’ ability to move fully? Start by being in a relaxed place (both physically and mentally) where you can have a few minutes to dedicate to focusing on your body. Try to imagine the 4 bony landmarks that we discussed earlier moving together and then lifting towards your heart. Then feel them relax apart from one another and then down towards your feet. I invite you to be curious as you do this check-in. My first question is 1) Did you find it easier to do the Kegel or the reverse Kegel more? You might need to try it a few times to be able to answer the question.
My second question for you is 2) Do you feel the lift and release more in one part of your body (such as your glutes or your clitoris)? Ideally, a balanced pelvic floor is one where you can feel the muscles moving equally from pubic bone/clitoris to tailbone/rectum. You may need to do it a few times before you can answer this question. Remember that curiosity is the key to being the detective of your body – which is a powerful place to be!
If you need more help, reach out to your local pelvic floor therapist. We love to help people better understand their own bodies!
Lindsey Vestel owns The Functional Pelvis, a private practice specializing in pelvic floor therapy “house calls” for pre and postnatal women. As an Occupational Therapist, she is a passionate promoter of bridging pelvic floor rehabilitation with lifestyle modifications while addressing the psychological impact that pelvic floor issues have on our everyday lives.To learn more, visit her site or follow her on Instagram.