We’re resurrecting our What’s In Your Nightstand? series! We’ll be talking to friends of Swell across the globe about their sex essentials, their new projects, and what harmful sexual messages they’re railing against.
Dr. Holly Richmond is a somatic psychologist, certified sex therapist, and licensed marriage and family therapist. This unique combo of credentials enables her to focus on clients’ cognitive processes as well as mind-body health. (Including in workshops with Dame!)
Swell: What are your top 5 bedside essentials (i.e. lube, vibes, sleeping mask, books)?
HR: A fan. This one cannot be overstated. I have slept with a fan since I was ten years old and it is a big-time necessity. I literally travel with one wherever I go. It’s a combination of fresh air (I sleep hot) and background noise. If you’re going to sleep with me, you’ve got to consent to the fan!
Water. I drink ALL THE TIME (and not just rose). People tell me I have glowy skin. It’s probably not from all the Cheetos or cupcakes I eat, so I’m thinking it might be the water.
Clicker. I know, I know, not a healthy way to fall asleep but watching a documentary or something on the History Channel is my favorite way to drift off. I wake up just enough to click “off.”
Walter the Farting Dog, Dragons Love Tacos, etc. There is always a kid’s book on my nightstand. I have four- and six-year-old boys, and my husband and I read to them most nights. They like falling asleep in our bed, so that’s where we keep their nightly book choice. PSA to parents to be–do not do this! The kids either end up sleeping in your bed, which is not great for sex and intimacy with your partner or yourself, or like us, you have to carry them to their beds once they are asleep. My almost seven-year-old is over 50 pounds–not great for our backs!
Cockring. Speaking of kids, my four-year-old opened my nightstand recently and found a very simple, black cockring. He asked me what it was. I told him it was a hairband, which he easily took as fact. I was proud of my quick-thinking parenting skills! I am a HUGE proponent of sex-positive parenting and all for early sex education, but thought that was a bit much to explain to a four-year-old.
Swell: If you could tell your teenage self one thing about sex, what would you say?
HR: Sex is a horrible form of validation. I equated someone desiring me sexually with self-worth, and I was entirely wrong. Self-worth is an inside job. It took me years to understand that I didn’t have to do anything to be worthy of love, attention or pleasure.
Swell: What question about sex and intimacy keeps coming up from your patients in your practice or work?
HR: “Am I weird?” Full stop. I can’t even guess how many times I have heard some iteration of this question. People have so much shame about what or who turns them on or gets them off, that it seems most of the planet walks around thinking they are strange, alone and no one could possibly understand. There is no “normal” sex so there can’t be “weird” sex. All sex is good sex as long as it’s consensual and pleasurable.
Swell: What does “self-care” mean to you?
HR: It’s about having time to do what I want to do without distraction. It isn’t about massages or facials or exercise, it’s about having guilt-free choices for how to spend my time. Sometimes my self-care time might be spending four hours working on my book, or it might be reading or doing a barre class or spending time with my husband. Again, it’s literally just about having the choice to do something or do nothing without obligations tugging at me. As a working parent, this isn’t something I get enough of, but when I do, I luxuriate in it!
Swell: What harmful or useless sexual script have you learned to dismantle in your own life?
HR: I was definitely a girl raised to be nice. Now, I’m 100% for being kind and respectful when other people deserve it, but I’m over being nice just to avoid conflict. I can’t tell you how many times I adhered to the idea of “go along to get along.” My voice and opinion got lost far too often in sex and relationships early on in life. I didn’t prioritize my own pleasure because I didn’t speak up! I let my partners put themselves first. When I read the meme, “I owe myself an apology for all of the shit I let slide,” I thought, “Hell yes!” Being nice held me back not just from experiencing pleasure, but from feeling sexually empowered.