Rythm is the trusted destination for nontoxic essentials that enhance your sexual well-being. We are on a mission to strengthen your vagina-mind-spirit connection. For our blog series “Humans of Rythm”, we interview founders, thoughts leaders, and experts in the sexual wellness space and share their responses with you.
Jackie Giannelli, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, NCMP is a board-certified family nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health with a special focus on menopause, urogynecology, and sexual health. Jackie is a North American Menopause Society-certified practitioner and on the founding clinical team of Elektra Health, an innovative women’s health company on a mission to smash the menopause taboo. Jackie earned her nursing degrees at NYU and San Francisco State University, and a BA from Georgetown University. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, and pup. She enjoys dancing, cooking, playing tennis, and hunting for treasures in New York City.
Read below to learn more about an awesome Aquarius, Jackie Giannelli. We admire her rythm and we think you will too!
Where were you born, where did you grow up, and how was sex (the act) perceived in your culture/household?
I grew up in a suburb of New York City in Westchester County, New York. My dad, at a young age, was an immigrant from Italy, and my mom is also Italian, so we were a 100% Italian New York family and grew up in the Catholic faith. As you would imagine, sex was not something we talked very openly about, though I don’t remember it feeling necessarily super taboo – I just don’t remember it being brought up. I look back and think that the sex talk came at the usual time, around age 11 or 12, and it was very brief. I was told that sex is for procreation: you marry somebody you love, you have sex, and you have kids. There was no discussion of pleasure, it was just “don’t get pregnant.”
What is your profession and why did you choose to pursue it?
I knew I wanted to be in healthcare and actually started out in healthcare public relations. Quickly, I realized that I needed to be with patients, learning from the source and I knew that being a nurse or nurse practitioner was the way to do that because we’re trained in a philosophy of care that is rooted in the whole person, that listens to patients, advocates for patients and that’s served me well as a sexual medicine nurse practitioner.
I lived and worked in California in pediatrics and other areas before moving back east and into women’s health – I worked with a urogynecologist. I saw many women who were not well-served by conventional medicine and what it had to offer. Luckily, I was able to receive training in a dedicated, sexual medicine boutique practice which was unique in that there were therapists integrated in the care model. I have been successful in treating women’s sexual health issues such as libido, arousal, orgasm, and pain with this integrative approach.
An integrative approach to women’s healthcare includes not only a medical history but a depression and anxiety screening and therapeutic intake with a therapist or coach. We look at the behavioral, biopsychosocial, and emotional components of a patient’s sexual wellness, and the therapist and clinician collaborate on care appropriate/necessary. The mind and body are inextricably linked.
What about your industry surprised you when you were first getting started? What is something about your industry that might surprise those who are not in your line of work?
It shocked me when I worked in urogynecology that nobody took the time to fully examine the female anatomy, especially the vulva. They treat UTIs, they treat bladder issues, and no almost nobody, unless it’s a female urogynecologist, is actually examining a women’s vulva and/or vagina to look for a root cause of her problems; rather, they just write a prescription for an antibiotic and send her on her way. GYNs are taught to look for cancer, they’re taught to go right for that cervix and that uterus, so they stick a speculum in. So much of the female anatomy is ignored and not talked about. That’s not serving women at all.
What do you wish your caregiver(s) or guardian(s) had told you about pleasure, relationships, and the female body when you were growing up?
I feel like it’s so important to talk about sex with your kids, and not in some private conversation in a hushed corner. I talk about parts, sex, pleasure, etc. with my kids together (I have a boy and a girl) to normalize learning about bodies. Of course, they live a life, they go to school, and they’re outside of the house, so I do have to tell them that not every family is as open as we are – but I want them to know they can always talk about this at home and they can ask me anything.
I feel like we should stop making sex such a taboo thing among families.
What was something you were surprised to learn about your body, relationship with self, and relationship with your vulva in the past decade? How has it changed?
Starting out, I didn’t know I had permission to have pleasure with sex. I always thought that sex was like a means to an end, for some other gain, whether it was to get a boyfriend or to make someone else happy. The idea that I could have sex just for my own pleasure was not something I had ever learned or was taught. When someone doesn’t hear this at a younger age and then we ask women to embrace pleasure later on in life, they’re very uncomfortable — I see that in myself and my patients all the time. You develop your erotic road map when you are younger; your mind is open, it’s this blank slate, and your testosterone levels are at their highest, and this developed erotic road map is critical to your sexual functioning later in life.
When do you feel the most empowered and alive?
I feel the most empowered when I am with a group of women who are speaking up and out about something, women who are not afraid to make noise, and women who are smart and wield their knowledge in a way that affects change in the world. Women need communities of women around them to buoy them and that just feels like true magic.
What was your idea of ‘play’ when you were eight years old? What about now? How do you ‘play’ as an adult?
I wish I played more as an adult. When I was young it was imaginative play, my mom was a kindergarten teacher and I loved being outside, getting creative, playing with dolls… I wasn’t really into sports, but I was a cheerleader and a dancer and my interests tended to be what’s considered feminine. I loved dancing at an early age – even now I miss dancing just for fun or pleasure – that brings such joy.
It’s hard now. Carving out time for play needs to be so intentional, it doesn’t just happen… you will automatically often fill the void in your schedule with anything that’s productive to get stuff done. I feel like the only time that’s carved out for me is when I’m on an airplane and don’t have Wi-Fi access. One of my personal goals is to carve out time for nothing so I can decide at the moment what I want to do.
What is something non-sexual that brings you immense pleasure?
Dancing in my kitchen while I’m cooking dinner.
What is your favorite quote for ‘finding your rythm’ or ‘living in rythm’?
“Following your passion is a luxury. Following your values is a necessity. Passion is a fickle magnet: it pulls you toward your current interests. Values are a steady compass: they point you toward a future purpose. Passion brings immediate joy. Values provide lasting meaning.” – Adam Grant
What is your favorite song you are jamming out to these days?
I have Taylor Swift’s newest album on repeat.
What’s your go-to song to get in the mood? Or, what song helps you find your ‘sensual rythm’?
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) by Eurythmics.
What is your favorite sexual wellness product that you can’t live without?
Edited by: Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH
Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist