Not an Odalisque

Myth Number Six: Women’s orgasms are difficult and elusive

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They’re really not. I can understand why men struggle. Women’s bodies are indeed different to theirs. Now and again men say things about their willies that make me say “what?!” But lack of understanding doesn’t imply mystery, it implies ignorance.

A few hundred years ago it was thought that a woman couldn’t conceive unless she’d come. Presumably at that time, women’s orgasms were an integral part of sex. I’m not saying that this belief was necessarily a good thing; I can only imagine how it must have screwed up rape trials. Over time, women’s orgasms somehow sank into darkness. By the end of the Victorian era they had all but disappeared. A man I was sleeping with once said to me “You can’t expect to come every time we have sex, women’s bodies are different.” It is interesting how men seem to think that they know more about women’s bodies than we do.

The G-spot has been in the news recently. It’s a part of the female body supposedly ‘discovered’ by a man. I think this is the case in roughly the same way that Columbus discovered America. Yes, it was new to him, but it really wasn’t so much of a discovery for the people who were already there. Mr. Graftenburg told the scientific community about a magical place which creates pleasure when you touch it. The really shocking thing is that men need a scientist to tell them that. Then there was the revelation that the g-spot may not exist. And a French counter-conference to argue that it does. The whole time, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a very masculine approach. Do women have this: yes or no? Can you draw me a map or write me a manual? Isn’t it more likely that women vary, both physically and in their tastes?

Whether and how women orgasm is political. The most extreme expression of its control is probably the female genital mutilation which is (hopefully now less) common in some parts of Africa. But preventing sexual pleasure isn’t the only sort of control. The fantasy that some women (porn stars, for example) come more easily than others, and that this is desirable, is a type of control, too. Who wants to be “frigid”? Who wants to be “loose”?

The primary mistake seems to be trying to create a feminine sexuality based on men’s. In the Victorian era of repression, the white, colonising man needed to be seen as the epitome of activeness. Women, therefore, had to take a passive role. Freud distinguished between two types of orgasm: the vaginal and clitoral. The latter, he said, was pathological, well-adjusted women responded to vaginal stimulation. Why? Because they reduced the penis to a fleshier version of the turkey-baster, and women to passive recipients of male sexual activity. You can’t have women running around rubbing their clitorises all over the place! Where will it end? Masturbation? Lesbianism? Men will be redundant!

I would like to think that we have moved on since Freud. I’ll put to one side my frustration with the biologists who say that the clitoris is an evolutionary anomaly, placed where it isn’t going to receive stimulation (I feel sorry for their wives), and consider men’s actual behaviour. I’ll even put to one side the men who ignore women’s sexual pleasure. Most of the men I have slept with are desperate to make you come, not only because it turns them on, but because it appears to be an important indicator of their masculinity, a trophy of sexual prowess. That’s got to be a good starting point.

Sex is a bit like cooking. If you don’t know how to do it, following Delia’s instructions is a good idea. If you can memorise a few recipes so that you don’t have to keep checking back, that’s even better, but it isn’t knowing how to cook. It isn’t equivalent to the creativity and sensitivity of tasting it, hearing it sizzle, making subtle modulations and serving something beautiful, in the knowledge that tomorrow you can use your skills to create something entirely different.

I don’t want to be given the “how to make a woman come” treatment, there’s no heat in it, no excitement, no personality. So even though the easiest way to prove that women’s orgasms are not difficult and elusive would be to give you the simple instructions, I’m not going to do it. Instead, let me simply reassure you: I can do it to myself; I can do it to other women. So can you. It isn’t difficult, but it is more of an art than a science.

Written by Not an Odalisque

February 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

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