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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

I’d been told sex would hurt the first time. Somewhere between the pages of teenage magazines, sex education class and sleepovers I’d come to expect losing my virginity would be painful. And it was. I didn’t expect this pain to continue and I couldn’t tell if it hurt because I wasn’t turned on enough or I wasn’t turned on because I was expecting it to hurt.

My brain still wanted to have sex, so I became an expert in ‘faking it’, providing perfectly observed unattractive-come-face orgasms studied from Leonardo Dicaprio movies. I tried telling partners but they would say “What about that time surely?”, “Did that special move work?”, or “This always worked on my ex”. Doctors told me to have more sex or to stop having sex completely. The internet offered frightening looking injections into your G-spot and something called a clitoral hoodectomy. I felt broken.

14 years after losing my virginity I found myself at Sex Camp.

Sex Camp was a two week program of workshops designed to reconnect you with your sexual core. I was there to fix sex.

A lot happens at Sex Camp. I was shocked to find penetration was banned, we are there to create intimacy, not shag. I try hard not to think about fluids on the soft furnishings and wonder how often the upholstery is steam cleaned. On one side of Sex Camp is a caravan called The Cock Inn with thin mattresses on the floor, for those who simply cannot resist penetrative sex. If we go there we are advised to bring a towel to lay down, because bedding cannot be changed fast enough for the rate of ejaculations, male and female. This makes me feel more broken than ever. How was everyone else finding sex so easy?

It is outside the sex caravans that things begin to move for me. We talk about orgasms and bodies and the admin of relationships over breakfast. We move a lot. We take naked saunas long into the night, no one caring at all about their wild free pubic hair and sweaty skin. I wonder if I’ve accidentally joined a cult.

In daily life I am a busy independent woman. I often take admin into a relaxing bath or light a tealight to provide atmosphere whilst working. Sex Camp made me stop. For two whole weeks I focused on only myself and my body. I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone, or be successful, or try hard. I moved slower, ate well and touched others often (one day I received around 45 different hugs).

I promised myself I’d hold onto this feeling, light candles to make love and never rush eating a pret-a-manger sandwich between meetings. As my train arrived into London it already began to disappear: emails arrived, I ran between wifi hotspots and rail replacement buses. Hugs were infrequent and had the same quality of touch as tapping in with your Oyster card.

I began to talk about it. To take back the voice that I so often lost in bed. I wrote my show Ad Libido and found so many women were experiencing similar worries and felt no one was speaking about it. The show is funny, uplifting and involves a Magic Penis. Sex is still challenging for me but I love sharing my story and believe in the power of talking. Sure it might have been a cult, but it was a pretty great cult.

Ad Libido is at The Wardrobe Theatre 13-15th February 7.30pm http://thewardrobetheatre.com/livetheatre/ad-libido/ @franbushe

One of The Guardian’s ‘Best shows at the Edinburgh festival 2018’ Performer of the Year at The Sexual Freedom Awards Arthur’s Seat’s ‘Fringe highlight of 2018’

★★★★The Guardian ★★★★ The Stage ★★★★★Londontheatre1 ★★★★★Arthur’s Seat ★★★★★Fringe Review

I wish I could say after all this time that I had entirely ‘fixed sex’. I have learnt a few things that have helped me along the way:

  • Anything that connects you to your body is useful: dancing, running, masturbating, trampolining, meditating, whatever works for you.
  • Know what you like and be able to communicate this. There are some days I’d much rather have my ears kissed than try penetrative sex, but I’ve only recently been brave enough to voice this. It is ok to ask for the things you enjoy and often a great turn on.
  • Relax. Easier said than done I know, but as soon as I’m worrying about sex or worrying about anything…or even just hungry, then my body gets distracted and just shuts off.
  • An understanding partner. Whether it is long term or casual someone you can talk to and trust makes talking about pain/low arousal easier in my experience.
  • Take a break from penetration. Sex is not just penetration. Most women need direct clitoral stimulation to orgasm, so don’t put all your pressure on penetration.
  • There is no such thing as normal sex (as long as it’s consensual). Try to not compare your sex life to that of your friends or the media. Explore the things you like and take them at your own pace.
  • Lube. I used to get embarrassed turning up with lube, as it felt an admission of failure before sex had even begun. Women can feel dry for all sorts of reasons, even from taking hay fever medication, so lube can just help take the pressure off.

Written by Fran Bushe