Home Social aspects of sexuality Difficulties in assessing women’s sexuality

Difficulties in assessing women’s sexuality

Women represent an educational challenge because they are not nearly as curious as most men are about sexual phenomena. Female arousal is not a conscious phenomenon so women lack the experience of what a response to erotic stimuli feels like. Mental arousal motivates us to stimulate the phallus instinctively in a way that causes orgasm. Women who claim that orgasm is easy are clearly talking about sensual experiences within a loving relationship. They assume that romantic and emotional interpretations of sexual activity can substitute for a knowledge of the physiological facts.

Yet researchers ask women in the general public about the stimulation they use to achieve orgasm. How do they expect to discover something from the public that they do not know themselves? If female orgasm occurred routinely with a lover, all heterosexuals, both male and female, would know not only the anatomy but also the erotic turn-ons required. The problem with researching female orgasm is that women cannot provide information that they do not know themselves. Rather than conclude the obvious (that women have no experience of arousal), men assume that women are too timid or embarrassed to reveal details of the erotic turn-ons that they use.

Most women have no idea how orgasm is achieved. So when researchers ask women about arousal and orgasm they get confusion not science. The more women are told that they should orgasm the more confusion there is. Women are asked simple yes-no questions such as “Do you orgasm?”. Due to ignorance of what orgasm feels like, women can ascribe the word orgasm to almost any sensation, emotional or sensual, that they experience with a lover. Anyone who can orgasm knows what kind of stimulation and what erotic turn-ons they need to use. Women who are shocked or disgusted by eroticism are assumed to orgasm simply because they engage in intercourse.

Men’s sexuality is straightforward in the sense that men naturally focus on the mating act. Men are motivated to engage in intercourse because of the pleasures of thrusting, the release of orgasm and the satisfaction of ejaculation (which is the reproductive event). It has been assumed that women should orgasm from intercourse because of men’s drive to engage in penetrative sex. Most women never stimulate themselves. So the only time that their genitals are stimulated is when they are with a male lover.

Any research that focuses on responsiveness is likely to conclude that female sexuality is inferior to male. But the behaviours some women employ makes their sexuality much more flexible than male sexuality. Men engage in sexual activity with the simple goal of enjoying their own pleasure and sexual release. Women can be much more generous as lovers. They offer a lover an opportunity for sexual release through penetration. Due to a lack of arousal, women can continue sexual activity for longer and with many consecutive lovers (e.g. in prostitution). Some women enjoy providing erotic turn-ons and they use conscious behaviours to facilitate male orgasm.

Images and stories of women apparently enjoying sex abound in fictional media. Even a responsive woman, who has the experience of orgasm through masturbation doubts the inevitable conclusion from her own experience. But it is much more difficult for women who never experience orgasm. They have nothing to replace the fiction with. Most women conclude that these fictional experiences must be true for some undefined other women. At the same time, all the ego and bravado causes others to conclude that it is all a hoax. But this private conclusion is never promoted.

Men need genital stimulation and a mental focus on eroticism to achieve orgasm. Most women never experience orgasm so they don’t understand this. This ignorance over female orgasm is compounded by men who believe anything just so they can convince themselves that women want sex. Women claim to orgasm from nipple stimulation, belly-button stimulation and even brushing their hair. Inadvertently, Kinsey’s research fuelled the popular belief that women were capable of orgasm from breast stimulation and multiple orgasms simply because a few women reported them. Men are naturally inclined to accept all and every account of female orgasm.

Researchers focus on the key anatomy involved in orgasm but they don’t specify the kind of stimulation involved. What is not appreciated is that the stimulation that women need is very similar to the stimulation men use. Our fingers massage the blood flow within the corpora cavernosa. Simultaneously we thrust with our hips and clench our buttock muscles. This combined rhythmic motion (squeeze technique) massages the whole organ from outside (fingers massaging) as well as inside (pelvic muscles).

Our definition of female sexuality needs to reflect what real women are physically and emotionally capable of. There are certain limits to how and when orgasm can be achieved by anyone. If a man can’t do it then a woman can’t either. We need the right kind of stimulation to continue up until orgasm. We are limited by the responsiveness with which we are endowed. The advantage of a more realistic approach is that couples can build on what is practically achievable rather than hanker after an impossible fantasy.

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)