An Excerpt from Dr. Nita’s Crash Course For Women by Nita Landry, MD
How I got this way and what it can do for you
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor and what I called a “TV interviewer person.” So I spent a disturbingly large portion of my childhood reading science encyclopedias and chasing my sisters around the house as I forced them to participate in fake media interviews (they were not willing participants, to say the least). And I can remember how excited I was in middle school and high school as I told people about my plan to become a doctor and work in the entertainment industry. Just about all of them felt like the doctor part would happen for me. However, some questioned, doubted, and even laughed out loud at my entertainment goals. Because of those negative reactions (along with the low self-esteem that came along with my acne, braces, and overall teenage awkwardness), I quickly learned just how much external doubt can feed self-doubt. And I got a firsthand lesson on how self-doubt could kill my dreams if I wasn’t careful. So I stopped discussing my entertainment aspirations. But I never lost sight of them. Even my closest friends and family had no clue, but I had come up with a plan and I was moving in silence. First I would focus on my medical degree. Then I would transition into entertainment — somehow.
After high school I kept my entertainment goals tucked away like a dirty little secret for more than a decade as I obtained my biology degree, went to medical school, and completed a medical residency in obstetrics and gynecology (ob-gyn).
At the end of my medical residency, the other residents were applying for “regular jobs,” but I knew that wasn’t the best choice for me. While I was excited about being an ob-gyn, I also needed to make ample room for my secret dream. Not knowing about my entertainment aspirations, my faculty adviser gave me the perfect solution. He said, “You should think about becoming a traveling doctor.” Traveling doctors are hired to fulfill a specific need for a specific period of time when a medical group is short-staffed for some reason. For example, a doctor’s office might need someone to fill in if one of their practitioners has to go on medical leave.
This career path would give me the schedule flexibility I needed. Plus, it had the added bonus of allowing me to travel across the country and work with different patient populations. So I decided to go for it. I sold my condo fully furnished and drove into my future, keeping only the things that could fit into my gray four-door sedan that I’d affectionately named Bullet. And just like that, I was officially a traveling doctor.
Over the next several years, I spent time taking care of women from different backgrounds in New York, California, Arizona, Minnesota, Texas, Alaska, and a lot of other places in between. Sometimes I was in a major city, and sometimes I was in the middle of nowhere. And when I say the middle of nowhere, I mean the middle of nowhere. On one assignment, the housing options were so limited that I was asked if I was willing to live at an animal shelter that had dogs, cats, baby goats, chickens, and just about every other type of farm animal you can think of running around. Anyone who knows me knows that my answer was a resounding no, but you can ask me more about that if we ever meet in person.
As I traveled across the country, having open and honest conversations with thousands of women from different races, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses, one thing became crystal clear to me: many of us aren’t enjoying and embracing womanhood. We are tolerating it. The scariest part? We don’t even realize how much healthier and happier we could be. I met thirty- and forty-year-old women who were peeing in their pants whenever they coughed, laughed, or sneezed. They somehow thought that having a “mommy bladder” was just an inevitable, unfortunate consequence of motherhood. (Spoiler alert: I don’t care how old you are, it’s not.) I met women who could barely function for three to seven days every month because their period cramps felt like a baby elephant was wearing high heels and tap-dancing on their uterus. I met women tolerating mediocre sex. And enduring domestic abuse. And feeling alone and scared during infertility and miscarriage struggles. The list goes on and on and on. If you can think of a women’s health issue, I probably encountered it.
But on my quest to help these women, they also helped me. For example, when I was working on a Native American reservation in New Mexico, a lot of my patients had poorly controlled diabetes with dangerously high blood glucose levels. In the midst of counseling them about simple things they could do to have a healthier lifestyle, I started thinking more about my family history and the crappy genes that put me at a higher risk for things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Ultimately, during those conversations that were intended to improve my patients’ health, I also motivated myself to improve my diet and exercise regimen. And as I spoke to women who were embarrassed or afraid to admit that they were sick and tired of bringing their partner to orgasmic bliss while their partner brought them to … boredom, it made me think more about my conservative upbringing.
Although our struggles were not always exactly the same, those reflective, aha moments made me feel more connected to my patients all across the country. We were growing into and with our womanhood together. These women were more than just patients to me. We were all part of a community with a special bond. It was a sisterhood. And I was loving every minute of it. But then, this happened …
After several years of being a traveling doctor, I found myself working in Wisconsin one winter. I really liked the patients there, but that Wisconsin winter was kicking my butt, to put it mildly. One morning when I was getting dressed for work, I heard the local weatherman say, “It’s colder here than it is in the North Pole.” As he went on to give more fun facts about the temperature, I came to the realization that my Louisiana-bred body simply was not designed for that type of extreme, wet cold. That weather report was my cue. It was time to take what I’d learned as a traveling doctor and merge medicine and entertainment. In California. Where sunshine existed. So that day, I put in my thirty-day notice at work and bought a plane ticket to Los Angeles.
When I arrived in California, my training in entertainment consisted of what I’d learned while doing plays and being a teen reporter for the news in my fabulous (but small) hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana. So basically I knew nothing. That was very different from the experience of the people I met who had dedicated years to media training. I vividly remember speaking to someone who asked me if I had a reel. I typically ask questions if I don’t know about something, but the way they said it made it clear that anyone interested in entertainment should know what a reel was. I replied, “No, I don’t have a reel, but I’m working on it!” The truth is, I didn’t even know how to correctly spell the word. After I figured out that it was a short promotional video that showcased a person’s on-camera skills, I got to work by signing up for a hosting workshop, some acting lessons, and an improv class.
After a few months of training, I picked up a microphone and went out on the streets of Hollywood, where I started asking people random questions like:
- “How many holes do women have ‘down there’ all together?” (A lot of people don’t know the answer to that question. It’s three, by the way — the urethra, the vagina, and the anus.)
- “How long is the average penis?” (Hint: Most people expect guys to be walking tripods … they are not.)
- and “What types of cancers can birth control pills help to prevent?” (A couple of them are ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.)
Using the footage from those interviews and my entertainment classes, I put together a reel, and I put it on my newly created website for the world to see. Then I waited to see if someone (anyone) would like it.
Since I had no connections, no agent, no manager, and practically no television experience, I thought I’d be waiting a long time. But I guess God had other plans, because a few weeks later I opened my email and found that my reel had gotten me an invitation to be a guest expert on a segment of the Emmy Award–winning talk show The Doctors. Once I was on set for the taping of the show, I was surprised how right it all felt and quickly realized that my limited on-camera training was not going to hold me back — the show was, after all, a medical series, and when it came to discussing the field of medicine, I was right at home. The producers must have felt the same because that guest expert appearance led to becoming a recurring cohost — meaning I got to take part in the entire show instead of just one segment. I guess you could say that first appearance worked out because I became a recurring cohost and worked with the show for the next six seasons.
Since then I’ve appeared as a medical expert on television programs such as the Today show, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Iyanla: Fix My Life, Entertainment Tonight, and CBS National News; I’ve interacted with viewers from around the world; and I’ve traveled across the country, speaking at events and colleges. So, as it turns out, my “TV interviewer” ambitions became the best-kept secret I ever shared.
That’s my story.
Now I’ve combined all my experiences to write a book that is filled with practical advice that has the power to help vulva owners around the world evolve into a healthier, happier version of themselves.
Chapter 1: Somebody lied about sex
Misconceptions about sex
I had no clue how many lies about sex women believe until I found myself at a “porn party” one night. (Sorry, Momma — yes, I willingly went to one. But let me tell you how it all started.)
Before that night, you never would’ve caught me at that type of party because I would get hella uncomfortable when anyone talked about sex. I’m talking about an armpit-sweating, zero-eye-contact, fear-of-burning-in-hell-for-eternity kind of uncomfortable. But then when I was in medical school, one phone call from my friend “Joan,” an aspiring sexologist, changed everything.
I was at home minding my own business when Joan called to invite me to her house for what she called “an intellectual debate exploring the complexities of porn.” When I asked, “What does that even mean?” she described a small gathering for a group of her female friends. There would be wine and cheese, followed by article reviews to discuss the pros, cons, misrepresentations, and social ramifications of porn. Then we would end the night with a viewing party that closely examined the subject matter.
At that point, I thought, “Is she asking me what I think she is? Because it sounds like she’s using a bunch of fancy words to ask me to go to her house to eat some cheese, drink some wine, and watch porn videos.” Well, as it turns out, that’s exactly what she was asking.
Since Joan knew I had very conservative views about sex at that time, she wasn’t surprised when I told her I was going to have to pass on her invitation. But Joan doesn’t take no for an answer. So she proceeded to explain that I would be missing out on an “anthropological experiment designed to facilitate an intellectually stimulating conversation regarding the billion-dollar porn industry’s negative impact on the sexual experiences of women.”
At first I laughed and rolled my eyes. There she goes with those academic words again. But then I thought about my patients and realized she might be on to something. As a medical student, part of my learning experience was to shadow different doctors. I would watch in awe as they performed groundbreaking surgeries, swoop in with a lifesaving diagnosis, or explain extremely complex medical conditions in easily understandable terms. They were brilliant … right up until a female patient complained about her sex life. Then a lot of them were … let’s just say, the opposite of brilliant. To be fair, I didn’t expect every specialist to address sexual complaints. A general surgeon shouldn’t be a patient’s go-to person for complaints about low sexual desire. But I was amazed that some of the internists and family-practice doctors — and even a few of the ob-gyns — seemed visibly uncomfortable when a woman wanted to talk about her sex life. Their answer to just about every sexual complaint, big and small, was a vaginal lubricant, vaginal estrogen, or my personal favorite: simply flipping over to try a new sexual position.
And in some cases, women didn’t even get offered one of those solutions. Once, while I was shadowing an ob-gyn during my training, a patient told him she had a low sex drive. The doctor smirked as he looked her dead in the eyes and said, “So do most of the other women I saw this morning. Get in line, lady.” Then he walked out of the room.
I want to stay professional, so I won’t tell you what I thought about his rude, condescending comment, but feel free to let your imagination run wild. What I thought was probably worse.
But I had to admit, despite his very inappropriate response, he wasn’t exactly wrong. Woman after woman after woman complained about her sex life that morning. And, sadly, they were all sent away with zero solutions — so there literally could have been a line of women, all desperate to get some sort of real advice on how to resuscitate their sex life.
As I thought about those experiences during my conversation with Joan, common sense told me that pornography wasn’t responsible for 100 percent of the sexual dilemmas consuming women. But I also knew Joan was right when she said it was partially to blame. So as an aspiring ob-gyn who wanted to help women who were suffering from what I call “orgasmic deprivation,” I decided that her porn party might be a great chance to get some clarity. Maybe hearing more real-world conversations would help me understand why so many patients were struggling with their sex life.
When I arrived that Friday night, the atmosphere at Joan’s house felt like a typical book club meeting. At first everyone was professional and chose their words carefully. But as we got more comfortable and emptied a “few” wine bottles, the proverbial cardigans and pearls came off. Then the discussion shifted from “Here is what the study in the article showed” to “Let me tell you what happened to me this one time.” Once the viewing party started, everybody’s verbal filter was pretty much nonexistent, and small conversations broke out all around the room. As I moved from conversation to conversation, one thing became really clear really fast: as women, we believe a lot of lies when it comes to sex.
The top three lies women believe about sex
I didn’t know it that night, but the most common lies I heard at the party would turn out to be the same ones that continue to pop up the most when I talk to my patients. Here are three of the top lies that I hear and what I’ve learned about those lies over the years.
Note: The people at this gathering were cisgender (meaning their gender identity corresponded with the sex they were assigned at birth), heterosexual women, so the views were limited. But I’ve learned that these lies are also experienced by people with various gender identities and sexual orientations.
Lie 1: Your partner isn’t enjoying your body.
Whether it was because of her thighs, abs, butt, the shape of her vulva, or some other reason, I heard woman after woman admitting she was convinced her partner didn’t find her sexy. A lot of the women even avoided sexual positions they enjoyed because they didn’t like the way their body looked from certain angles.
What I’ve learned
While you are being unfairly critical of your body, it’s very likely that at the exact same moment, your significant other is having a magnificent time enjoying the same body that you are stressing out about. This is especially true when it comes to heterosexual women. How do I know? Research! A recent study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior looked at more than 52,500 adults in the United States, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual men and women. They discovered that even though we’re the ones with the more sensitive pleasure center (shout-out to the clitoris), men are winning on the orgasmic front. Ninety-five percent of heterosexual men said they usually or always orgasmed when sexually intimate, and the numbers for gay and bisexual men were just a little lower. For women, lesbians had the highest number, with 86 percent of them saying they usually had an orgasm. Bisexual women went down to 66 percent, and heterosexual women came in last place, with the least number of orgasms at 65 percent.1
Of course, insecurities aren’t the only reason heterosexual women are 30 percent less likely to have orgasms than heterosexual men, and we’ll talk about those other reasons later. But it really bothers me that at this very moment women all around the world are in the middle of sex with a partner who is moaning and groaning and enjoying the experience, and instead of doing the same, these women are using their brainpower and energy to conduct a personal body analysis or judge their sexual performance.
Sigh. Please stop. Don’t let your insecurities get in the way of your orgasm because if you are a heterosexual woman (for example), there’s a 95 percent chance that your love handles, thighs, C-section scar, and all the other perceived flaws you’re unnecessarily fixated on aren’t getting in the way of his. You’re not perfect, that’s true. But nobody is. Including your partner(s). So relax the nitpicking about your body and enjoy the ride — pun intended.
Lie 2: If you are a woman, faking orgasms is a part of life. You should accept that fact and move on.
At one point during our porn party, Joan shouted, “Excuse me! Let me hear you clap if you’re a sexually active person who has never faked an orgasm.” At that point, the room remained totally quiet. Well, except for the voice of the woman in the porn video who apparently didn’t have any cash for the pepperoni and pineapple pizza she ordered and had something else to offer. But I digress. The point is that every woman in the room who had ever had sex was guilty of faking it. But why?
What I’ve learned
Many women fake orgasms for the same reasons. Here are three of the most common ones:
- They don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings. This can happen in any relationship, but I see it a lot with patients who have been with their partner for a while. They come to the clinic and tell me, “I have a low sex drive.” But for a lot of them, the main problem is a version of, “The sex we have is not the type of sex I want. I love my partner, but I enjoy having sex with them about as much as I enjoy standing in line at the social security office.”
- They’re looking for a way to end the festivities because they’d rather be doing something else. Some of these women have unresolved relationship issues that make it almost impossible for them to enjoy sex with their partner. And others are too stressed, overwhelmed, or tired to care that they haven’t experienced sexual pleasure in weeks or months — I know that all the mommas who are thinking about things like laundry or buying peanut butter in the middle of sex can relate to this!
- They’re afraid they’ll get dumped or cheated on if they don’t appear to enjoy the type of sex their partner wants to have. So when they want to start sex with a bubble bath, a soothing massage, and smooth R&B but he’s into whips, chains, bondage, and anal (or vice versa), she goes with what he wants. Because her main goal is his sexual satisfaction, she follows his lead — even if he’s leading her down a path with no sexual pleasure in sight. Then, when he has his happy ending, she fakes hers because she’s afraid that if she doesn’t pretend to enjoy his sexual skill set, he’ll go out and find someone who does.
But what are the ramifications of faking it over, and over, and over in a long-term relationship? It may seem convenient or even considerate to lie, but many women who are serial fakers eventually become bored and/or resentful. That’s not fair to the woman. And if she’s in a relationship with someone who actually wants to please her, it’s also not fair to her partner, who was never given a chance to learn what she desires sexually because she or he truly believed that the fake orgasms were real.
I’m not saying you should roll over, gaze into your partner’s eyes, and say, “Wow, that sex was really bad.” But instead of repeatedly faking orgasms, try to effectively communicate what would make sex great for you. If that’s difficult for you, one tip from Dr. Rachel Needle, codirector of the Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, is to take it back to the basics. When you and your partner are just hanging out and doing nonsexual stuff, ask them what they like sexually. That opens the door for a meaningful conversation that focuses on their needs. Hopefully, they’ll decide to ask you the same question, but if not, after discussing their needs for a while, you can strategically use the “compliment sandwich technique” to let them know what you like. For example, say, “I love it when you (give them a compliment about something they do sexually); I think it would be great/fun if we (insert what you’d like to do differently); it feels good when you (insert another compliment).” This conversation might be the first step toward making changes that both of you will enjoy. But in some situations, if your partner isn’t willing to have a conversation about what will please you sexually, there might be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, perhaps in therapy (if you’re in a committed relationship).
Lie 3: “Respectable women” should feel shame or guilt if they like porn, stripper poles, or anything else considered inappropriate by societal standards.
One of my favorite observations at Joan’s was the interaction between two women who we will call Alexandra and Madison. Alexandra, a middle-aged married mother of three who apparently gets the giggles when she drinks, said that she’d never watched porn because of cultural beliefs. But as I watched her smile and clap as she slowly turned her head to the side to ensure that she was watching the 0(aka MILF ) video from an optimal angle, it was obvious that she was thoroughly enjoying her introduction to adult videos. She was really rooting for those moms! And Madison, a happily single and sexually adventurous schoolteacher who kept yelling, “I’ve done that,” was the perfect person to guide her through her first porn experience.
Alexandra and Madison were from very different worlds, but they served as a reminder that some women really enjoy porn (and stripper poles and other stuff).
What I’ve learned
I understand and respect the fact that when it comes to pornography, it’s a solid yes or no for some women. But as someone who used to be a strong “hell no,” I also understand how it can be a bit of an internal struggle for some people. They’re curious about it, but their inner conservative voice tells them it’s too provocative and their inner feminist voice tells them that even female-centered “ethical porn” is exploitative and degrading. Plus, in some cases, they can hear their mom’s or grandma’s voice telling them it’s flat-out disgusting.
My opinion now that I’ve seen women across the country struggling to embrace and understand their sexuality? We need to take the sexual limitations off consenting adults. Grown women should be encouraged to unapologetically like what they like. Furthermore, the world needs to stop acting like a woman can’t like literary books, stripper poles, porn, and PTA meetings simultaneously.
So whether you decide that you’re a no-porn, no-lights, missionary-style kinda person or you find yourself enjoying flashing lights and fetish porn as you utilize the gynecology stirrups (the things you put your feet in during a Pap smear) that you purchased for your personal use at home, rest assured that there’s at least one doctor on this planet who supports your decision wholeheartedly.
Note: If you do decide to watch porn, please do some research on the platform, production company, and performers you are watching to ensure that they don’t have complaints against them for unsafe working conditions. And remember that porn is entertainment, not education.
In an unsurprising turn of events, by the end of the night I’d learned absolutely, positively nothing from the videos of the plumber, the pizza guy, or the musician and his muse. But the real-life stories I heard ignited my curiosity.
The number of women who were unhappy with their sex life that night was way too high. Even higher than I initially thought it would be. And I knew that there had to be a logical reason that so many of them seemed to feel like the odds of having a great sex life were about as high as the odds of them finding a leprechaun sitting on a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow … eating cheese. So as a budding, inspired future physician, I set off with my newfound intel determined to crack the case of lost libidos, painful sex, orgasmic deprivation, “malfunctioning G-spots” (as one woman put it), and all the other pressing issues I heard about that night.
That’s what this part of the book is about. I want to tell you about some of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned since that fateful night when a porn party changed my life. (Ha! I never thought I’d string those words together to make a sentence, but it’s true.)
Excerpted from the book Dr. Nita’s Crash Course for Women: Better Sex, Better Health, Better You ©2022 by Nita Landry. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.