Saying hello to the orgasm, and goodbye to the pleasure gap
Maisie asks why society never seems to centre an important subject – female sexual pleasure
In the weeks before I left for University, the image of unpacking in my new room with my parents to find my dad holding my vibrator haunted me. It came to University with me still in the box, a quiet little taboo which no one else knew about. After tearful goodbyes and swift departures on my first day, I was suddenly home alone. In the back of my mind lingered the thought of the little black bullet in the bottom of my bag, thankfully passed over by my dad. But now new worries emerged. What if my housemates heard it? Would they care? Would I have to explain myself over an awkward kitchen exchange all because I wanted a bowl of Coco Pops after?
But at least I was having orgasms. Because for the first two years that I was sexually active, it never even crossed my mind to expect one, or even to ask for one.
But at least I was having orgasms. Because for the first two years that I was sexually active, it never even crossed my mind to expect one, or even to ask for one. I felt like I was on the outside of this amazing thing everyone else knew about and I just wasn’t getting it. What was so great about sex? I felt caught in a cycle of pressure to learn what men liked, reading countless articles of ‘10 things your man will love in the bedroom.’ Even Snapchat Discover offered me articles on ‘how to give a blowjob.’
The first time a man ever made me orgasm I felt confused. I enjoyed it of course, but what I hadn’t anticipated was how vulnerable it made me feel. I felt the pressure now to do the same to him, as if I owed him. I sometimes wonder looking back if the men I’d slept with before ever felt like that. Like they owed me one, or at least to try. I doubt it. I felt like I hadn’t been doing it right, that I’d wasted two years of my life on men that didn’t even think about my pleasure, and didn’t ask what I needed or what I wanted.
Now at the age of twenty-one, I find myself caught between who I want to be and what society will allow me to express. I’m quickly outgrowing the idea that sex should only be a private conversation – why can’t I tell my friends about the earth-shattering sex I just had? Why can’t we share different positions and collapse on our living room floor in fits of laughter after trying (and failing) to figure out their logistics? And would I have had a lot more pleasurable sex if I had known more about it in the first place?
Modern media seems stuck between praising sex and shaming it. One minute I’m reading an article obsessing over the steamy Duke and Daphne in Bridgerton, and the next, I’m reading one shaming Zoella for talking about sex toys. How absurd it seems to me that a thirty-year-old adult woman is shamed for recommending her favourite toys. “But what about her young audience?!” I can almost hear the outraged parents of the world shout. Don’t worry – Zoella’s actual demographics suggest her usual audience in fact is 17–19-year-old single women – exactly the people who should be learning about sex toys and female pleasure. If I had learned a bit more about it as a teenager myself, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time with selfish men. So why are we still maintaining this out-of-date idea that sex is taboo?
Modern media seems stuck between praising sex and shaming it. One minute I’m reading an article obsessing over the steamy Duke and Daphne in Bridgerton, and the next, I’m reading one shaming Zoella for talking about sex toys.
In an age of being stuck between ultimate female empowerment and gate-kept female pleasure, women continue to be in limbo. We’re caught between OnlyFans and the body positivity movement which has brought with it female-aimed porn sites and sex toys – but then being slut-shamed when we’re open about our experiences of sexual empowerment or enjoyment. Why is my male counterpart still more deserving of an orgasm than me?
This idea that men can talk about sex and women can’t is upheld in almost all of the media we consume. If you go on Pornhub you’ll find a category for ‘women,’ as if all we want to consume is gentle, loving porn and men don’t. We also see it littered through the music industry. At the age of nine I could sing every lyric of Lil Wayne’s Lollipop, which contains lines like “she licked me like a lollipop” and even “That pussy in my mouth had me lost for words.” But heaven forbid children hear Cardi B singing about her body. Sex is everywhere, even in our perfume ads. We’re force fed the glamourous and mysterious woman, who oozes so much lust we want to bottle it up and sell it. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that women no longer want to consume sex and the patriarchal ideas around sex from just men. Let’s face it, men don’t have a clue what we want, because nobody is telling them. We should be encouraging a diverse range of people to educate us on sex because sex isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we don’t want it to.
We should be encouraging a diverse range of people to educate us on sex because sex isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we don’t want it to.
In Julie Compton’s article, she discusses the result of this silence around women’s pleasure with Dr. Laurie Mintz. Dr. Mintz’s research on the Orgasm Gap in a 2016 study from the Archives of Sexual Behaviour showed in a study of 52,500 adults in America that “95 percent of heterosexual men reported they usually or always orgasmed during sex, compared to 65 percent of heterosexual women, who were the least likely.” What’s more interesting about Mintz’s research is that it showed that men truly are the problem. Mintz found that homosexual women were more likely to orgasm than heterosexual women, with 99% of their sexual experiences being based around clitoral stimulation. What this shows us is that porn may be one of the few ways men are consuming female pleasure, outside of their own experiences. With the BBFC making female ejaculation illegal to film, it’s clear that men don’t have the information about pleasure they desperately need.
So, let’s start an open dialogue around sex and pleasure – starting with Zoella’s sex toys.
What do you think? Do we need to be more open about female sexual pleasure? Let us know in the comments.
All photos by Maisie Williams
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