But first, let me pose two questions I often ask clients:
What is your experience of sex? What does fulfilling sex mean to you?
I ask these questions, one after the other. One word is different, but I get two completely different responses. For the first, what is your experience of sex, I hear words like obligation, awkwardness, disappointment, not-quite there, anticlimactic, confusing, stressful. But when I ask what does fulfilling sex mean to you, I see the person’s physicality change, they embody the person who has fulfilling sex, and I hear words like connection, mind-blowing, orgasmic, goals, excitement, desire, love.
I frame these at a time that we are speaking about sex more than ever before, and as a result expecting more from it. Amidst this current sexual revolution, it’s time to address a topic that’s been missing from our conversations around sex: pleasure. I’ll share three ‘uh ha!’ moments I hear regularly from people who identify as women, and provide insights as to how you can come to these revelations or at the very least invite pleasure into your life.
Uh ha! Moment #1: “Oh so that’s where the clitoris is”
When I challenge workshop participants to point to the clitoris in the diagram, more than ¾ of the room can’t find it, they usually label it in the vaginal canal, and sometimes near the anus. Why is this? That more than 75% of us can’t point out the only organ in the human body that is specifically designed for pleasure. I repeat, the clitoris has only one function: pleasure.
This lack of awareness isn’t just on the individual, it’s fuelled by our sex ed system. Best-selling author Peggy Orenstein pointed out that sex education ignores the clitoris, teaching only about women’s internal, reproductive organs. So we essentially say there is a blurred space from belly-button down and in this censored area are some pretty important organs. Did you know that we’ve been naming these organs wrong? What we commonly refer to as the vagina, the correct term is vulva for all of the external organs, pubic mound, the inner and outer labia the clitoris, the external opening of the urethra and the vaginal opening. The vagina is a muscular canal that connects the uterus to the vulva. It’s where fingers, a dildo, a penis, a tampon or moon cup can go.
Does it matter? By all means call your genitals what you want, but in naming all of a woman’s anatomy the ‘vagina,’ we’re referring to organs by the part that gives heterosexual men the most pleasure during penetrative sex. Research has shown that most women need some kind of clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, and far too many aren’t getting the stimulation they want. At an even more fundamental level, knowing the specific and correct terms for body parts empowers people to take full ownership of them. Knowledge of the clitoris increases orgasm rate during masturbation but not during partnered sex.
Which leads me to the next revelation…
Uh ha! Moment #2. “Sex is about pleasure not just penetration”
The narrative of sex begins with erection and ends in ejaculation and many believe that women climax from penetration alone. But most women need clitoral stimulation. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found 95 percent of women reach orgasm easily and within four minutes during masturbation. Orgasm is possible when women are alone.
Another study found that when women masturbate, almost 99 percent stimulate their clitoris. Why do we still associate sex with penetration? If sex is penetration that excludes a whole group of people who don’t have sex in that way or dont want to have sex in that way. What if you could say you’ve had sex when you’ve had an enthusiastically consensual, highly pleasurable, desired experience, that may or may not involve penetration or end in climax.
Which leads me to the next revelation… (there’s often a flow with these revelations)
Uh ha! Moment #3. “I desire pleasure”
This final one seems so simple, but I see it changing people when it’s truly believed and embodied. Study after study show: sexual pleasure, self-esteem and satisfaction have profound impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing. It is a natural and vital part of our health and happiness. Open conversations and useful information will support you in learning about your body, your pleasure potential and allow you to experience sexual satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing throughout your life. Sexuality is a source of self knowledge and having open, real conversations about pleasure, will be a driving force in this sexual revolution.
The revelations go full circle, beginning and ending with pleasure. But of course, this is not everything you need to know about female pleasure. We are all uniquely different so you need to discover your own pleasure. Start exploring.