Men’s sexuality is straightforward. They see an attractive woman, they get an erection and they are enthusiastic about engaging in sexual activity that leads to reproduction. Orgasm is the physiological event that causes (rewards) the male for the reproductive act of ejaculation. Women’s sexuality is much less intuitive and cannot be rationally explained as long as we insist on ascribing an unrealistic responsiveness to women.
When it comes to understanding women, men assume that although their own responses can be explained logically, women’s are emotional and mystical. Women themselves don’t offer any logical explanations to correct this conclusion. Only women’s ignorance of how orgasm is achieved and men’s determination to believe any hint of female arousal leads to the misinformation we have today.
The concept that women can (or should) enjoy sexual pleasuring in much the same way as men do, was a common belief that existed even before the existence of any sex research. But this belief was always a male view. It is also a view that is prevalent in the sex industry because that industry makes money out of selling a fantasy view of women’s sexuality to heterosexual men.
The views of the average couple in the general population were always quite different. Up until the 1950s society believed that women had sex only for the purposes of procreation or to satisfy their partner. Alfred Kinsey’s report in 1953 highlighted that women were capable of orgasm. But he emphasised that women have a much lower sexual responsiveness (as measured by the incidence of orgasm). This finding was hugely unpopular and was simply ignored.
From before the 1950s (up until the present day) every generation of men assumes that sex (intercourse in particular) must surely be as wildly pleasurable for women as it is for them. Women are pressured by the inference that every ‘normal’ and ‘uninhibited’ adult must enjoy sex (which is generally equated with intercourse). Many women today simply assume that they experience orgasm automatically through intercourse because they are told they should.
But in societies where female orgasm is unheard of couples are genuinely amazed when told that women orgasm just as men do. Kinsey commented on this fact in 1950s and it is also true of couples today who live in parts of the world where people are unaware of the pressure on women in the West to ‘respond’ like porn actresses.
If we want to understand how women experience something similar to what men call ‘orgasm’ then we must ask women about experiences that have something in common with the male experience. Male orgasm consistently involves an appreciation of erotic turn-ons and stimulation of their sex organ. As long as we describe female orgasm in emotional terms that is exactly what we will be talking about: an emotional experience.
Researchers approach women in the general public. But how do researchers expect to discover something from the public that they themselves do not know? When you orgasm, not only do you know for sure but you also know how you got there! This is because orgasm occurs as a result of erotic stimuli of a psychological nature. Neither do researchers try to validate women’s claims. Women who are clearly shocked (and even disgusted) by any hint of eroticism are assumed to achieve orgasm just because they engage in intercourse.
It is worth considering why we need to research female sexuality. Why don’t we just ask women what turn-ons they use for orgasm. We could just as easily ask heterosexual men, or lesbians, who should know what turn-ons their lovers use for orgasm. A woman cannot tell a man (or anyone else) what turns her on and what motivates her to want sex because she doesn’t know. Even a woman who masturbates to orgasm assumes that something will magically arouse her with a lover, even though she knows that she has to use fantasy when she masturbates alone.
Fictional accounts of female orgasm are based on how men would like to think women should ideally respond. Men hope that women can respond to the point of orgasm in a way that complements their sexuality. So women are assumed to experience orgasm in exactly the same circumstances that men do. Men discount the hundreds of thousands of years of evolution (before the advent of reliable contraception) that has inevitably lead to women’s emotional responses being different to men’s.
Few people have any interest in appreciating how women achieve orgasm for themselves. Men want to define female responsiveness in terms of women’s willingness to engage in sexual activities with a lover. So men ignore the biological precedents for female orgasm, which indicate that orgasm is achieved through anatomy that parallels the male (the clitoris) rather than anatomy that complements it (the vagina).
Let us ponder Beyoncé’s anthem “Single Ladies” with its ass-slapping, butt-chugging choreography. It basically says that if men want to keep hitting it, tapping it, or otherwise jumpin’ on it, they had better put a ring on it. (Joan Sewell 2010)