Women who masturbate themselves to orgasm are called pre-orgasmic. Rather than celebrate the fact that they experience orgasm, the implication is that women are inadequate because (regardless of any scientific facts or logic) they cannot please a man by having their orgasms during intercourse. Men’s sex drive makes intercourse an obligatory activity for heterosexuals. If a woman cannot or will not offer intercourse, a man naturally assumes that there must be something badly wrong with her or that she must be a lesbian.
Female sexual dysfunction is defined according to this male point of view. Even though women themselves rarely refer to masturbation, it is assumed that most women masturbate. However, a woman is not considered to be dysfunctional if she doesn’t masturbate. Most men masturbate. But female masturbation is much less common. Masturbation is an indication of sexual responsiveness. Men’s main interest in female sexuality focuses on the orgasms they want women to have from the stimulation that they provide.
Men assume that engaging in intercourse is a natural and regular part of women’s biological function. Men are meant to penetrate. Women are meant to be penetrated. A man enjoys penetrating a woman, so he assumes she should enjoy being penetrated just as much. Unfortunately, these conclusions do not follow. The carnivore is obliged to prey on herbivores because otherwise it will die. Even though it is the herbivore’s destiny to be eaten, the victim does not actively seek out the situation. Many women want to have a family but they do not tend to offer intercourse nearly as often as men would like. Reproduction relies on a woman’s willingness to let a man ejaculate into her vagina but not every day, every week or even every month.
Male sex drive naturally focuses men on the female anatomy involved in intercourse. In the most basic terms, a woman’s sexual role involves providing an orifice (the vagina) for a man to ejaculate into. A man cannot understand why a woman would orgasm at any time other than when he is stimulating her. What would be the point? The point of female orgasm is a woman’s own sexual pleasure. A woman orgasms alone because she can focus on her own arousal rather than assisting with a man’s need for release.
Vaginismus is a reproductive issue because intercourse leads to pregnancy. The sexual issue arises because of a man’s sex drive. This male need means a man feels rejected when a woman cannot provide him with an opportunity for intercourse even if she has a good reason. A man assumes that if a woman loves him that she will always be amenable to sex. So consent within a loving relationship has little meaning to men. Yet ironically men themselves cannot be persuaded to engage in sex unless they are aroused and have an erection.
Men may be satisfied at least in part with being masturbated by a lover or by receiving oral sex (fellatio). Most women do not want to offer these more explicit forms of genital stimulation. Ultimately men want the optimal sexual release through intercourse. This is the biological drive. Women accept intercourse because it involves them in very little explicit erotic engagement.
Women accept painful sex because it is often implied that a woman is being selfish if she deprives a male lover of his sexual outlet. A woman assumes that it is her personal failing that she does not enjoy sex as a man does. Even during pregnancy or after childbirth it is difficult to persuade a male lover than penetrative sex may be uncomfortable or even painful for a woman.
Women feel guilty because they think it’s their fault that they don’t orgasm with a lover. They don’t realise that every woman is the same. Women are told that they should orgasm naturally through intercourse. This is like telling a blind man that he should be able to see. It doesn’t help him to be told what is possible for others (only men). No one can explain why one woman can apparently experience what others cannot. Male fantasies about multiple or easy orgasms intimidate women into silence by implying sexual inadequacy.
The sexual revolution was not about new knowledge. It was about women’s new freedom as a result of the contraceptive pill. Also society condoned the promotion of female nudity in public as a result of more reliable policing. But false expectations were set. By suggesting that sex provides women with the same erotic rewards as men, men came to expect the emotional reward of pleasuring a lover. Men and women receive different but complementary rewards from sex. Men’s need for sexual release through intercourse, provides women with the emotional reward of being needed by a partner.
Men assume that vaginal stimulation should cause female orgasm. So, of course, some women assume they orgasm during intercourse. Not knowing what orgasm feels like, they mistake sensual pleasures for orgasm. Sex information, that promotes the many ways in which women are supposed to orgasm, causes people to feel inadequate. These fantasies create demand for sex therapy because people want to be reassured that they can experience these feats. A key objective of sex research should be to provide explanations for the behaviours of real men and women. Yet there are no real women (in the general population or even sexologists) who can talk explicitly about these supposed orgasms. This is one of the key failings of sex research today, which ignores the accumulated findings that clearly indicate that female orgasm is experienced by women who are able to masturbate to orgasm.
One of the diagnostic criteria for FSD (female sexual dysfunction) is feeling distressed. But what causes the distress? Is it the condition itself, or is it what you think is expected of you and in turn, what you start expecting of yourself? (Andrea Burri)