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Have You Had An Orgasm?

“A woman’s orgasm is such a fragile thing, dependant as much upon her mind as on her clitoris.”
― Megan Hart

Ladies, have you ever had an orgasm?

I had a conversation over the weekend with a bunch of women in their mid thirties. Almost half of them had never had an orgasm.

Most of them weren’t bothered.

Either they had bought into the idea that women don’t really enjoy having sex, it’s just something that they do to keep their partners happy, or, they were too uncomfortable with their own bodies to want to focus on them for long enough to learn how.

In some cases both.

Some of them genuinely believed that other women who told them that they do have orgasms were lying due to societal pressure.

This has made me want to go around asking all the women I know, in fact all the women I meet, whether they’ve ever had an orgasm.

As this isn’t socially acceptable in real life I asked Twitter instead – #haveyouhadanorgasm?

The exchange that followed has inspired me to write a series of posts about women and sex to hopefully start a conversation about orgasms, and failing that at least I’ll have satisfied the overwhelming need that I feel to do something about this.

I’ve been thinking and reading about sex and sexuality a lot recently anyway – I’m going to review some of the best books I’ve come across so far – as I’ve been reconsidering a whole lot of things, trying to reestablish what I think and feel outside of the knots in my poorly brain. And it seems for many women that would be a pretty good place for them to start as well.

Not because they’re necessarily unwell but because they don’t know what they want to start with.

As teenagers we’re taught how to avoid pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections, if we’re lucky we might receive some education around what a respectful and healthy relationship looks like; but aside from that it’s quite easy to take away the impression that when it comes down to the action itself there isn’t much too it – just get on with it and everything will naturally happen as it should.

And if that isn’t particularly pleasurable then either that’s just the way it’s supposed to be or there’s something wrong with you.

But it doesn’t really work like that.

To have a healthy and satisfying sex life, just like any other aspect of a healthy lifestyle, you need knowledge – about yourself and your partner – effort, and practice.

But as your mother always used to tell you – if a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing well.

And sexual activity, either with yourself or with someone(s) else, that brings you pleasure is something definitely worth doing.

There seem to be a number of, sometimes conflicting, obstacles to this which I’ll look at in more detail over the next few weeks.

As we all know many women are uncomfortable with their bodies and the way that they look. This means that they don’t want to concentrate on them too much and they don’t want anyone else to either.

But unless someone does it’s nigh on impossible to work out the best way to bring you to orgasm.

It’s not the same for everybody, nor is it something that anyone else knows instinctively how to do for you.

Then on top of this we’re bombarded all over the place with contradictory messages about women’s sexuality.

With conservatives and traditionalists on the one had trying to teach us that sex isn’t something to be particularly enjoyed by anybody, especially not by women who are supposed to remain ‘pure’ and unsullied by thinking of such things. And possibly not all by anyone who isn’t a heterosexual.

And on the other we have the more liberal attitude that women should have sex with whoever they want, whenever they want, as this represents liberation and empowerment.

As well-meaning as it may be this message is also problematic as it sets up an opposing ideal that some women then feel pressured to live up to – as an independent modern woman I must be having lots of sex, ideally with lots of different partners. And once again there is no suggestion that women do this because it gives them pleasure.

Conversely, and this is the contradictory part, we also, as a culture, have a very goal oriented attitude towards sex. Particularly heterosexual sex. The goal of sex is orgasm, for two heterosexual partners the goal is specifically to achieve orgasm through penetrative sex. This usually works well enough for him, less often for her.

This very narrow definition of what constitutes ‘having sex’ unhelpfully leaves out most of the things which might result in reliable orgasms for women – as most women need direct clitoral stimulation to climax.

It also puts a lot of pressure on to this having of orgasms business. For women and for men as well. After all, if the point of having sex is to have an orgasm, and you ‘fail’ to have one, what does that say about you? And yet that expectation to ‘perform’ to a climax makes it less likely that either party will be able to, as to be able have an orgasm you first need to be able to switch off and relax.

On top of which none of it makes any sense. Especially the male-centric version.

Does it mean that if nobody has an orgasm that it isn’t sex? If a penis doesn’t ejaculate into a vagina it isn’t sex? So a cis-man has to be involved for it to count as ‘sex’? If orgasms and penetration are what make it ‘having sex’ what does that say about foreplay? That it’s dispensable? That it isn’t ‘real sex’? That it isn’t supposed to be enjoyed?

And is getting your rocks off all that ‘having sex’ is about? What about romance? Or intimacy? Or connection? Or just plain fun?

I think it’s worth considering why we do the things we do in a sexual context and what we mean when we talk about having sex.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts on the subject, as I said at the beginning I’ll be elaborating on them over the next few weeks. So now it’s your turn. What do you think? Can you relate to any of this or do you have no idea what I’m talking about?

And most importantly, have you had an orgasm?



Consent: Also For Women

“So what’s the best way, in day-to-day life, to establish what someone likes? Well, we fucking ask them.” ~ Cordelia Fine

So, following a discussion I recently had on Facebook, prompted by this Ravishly article around practicing consent as a heterosexual woman, I agreed to write my thoughts on the subject of women and consent. While I liked the article I’ve linked to and thought the author, Suzannah Weiss, made her points well, everyone else involved with the discussion tended to disagree with me.

I had originally linked to the article because I felt that; in the context of a movement where we’re trying to teach young men that wearing a woman down until she stops saying no – or getting her so drunk she doesn’t think to say no – doesn’t mean that you can pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you’ve got this whole consent thing covered, it’s worth pointing out to women that while they might not be going around raping men in large numbers that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of using shady or disrespectful methods to obtain consent.

Boundaries are for everybody; and we should all be taking care to ensure that we respect each other’s.

It’s out of order for any of us to manipulate, coerce, or otherwise try to ‘persuade’ someone to have sex if they’ve already made it clear that they don’t want to. Pressurising people into sex is bad, folks.

And yet, society feeds us a couple of gender stereotypical messages that can make it difficult to recognise without careful examination that this is what we are doing.

The first of these messages is that men are up for sex whenever, wherever, with whoever.

This isn’t the case and it’s an unhelpful idea all round.

It’s unhelpful for anyone who wants to have sex with a man because it suggests that if he doesn’t immediately start ripping your clothes off at the merest suggestion of the idea you just need to carry on ‘seducing’ him and eventually he’ll be turned on and ready to go. And if that doesn’t work you must be inherently undesirable.

It’s unhelpful to the man himself because it suggests to him that if he isn’t always up for it for whatever reason there must be something wrong with him, because every other guys is. And it can prompt him to ‘perform’ when he doesn’t particularly want to, out of a sense of guilt or obligation – well this is what I should want to be doing – or because he fears that otherwise his partner will feel rejected or unattractive.

The second problematic but prevalent idea is that men are inherently stronger than women.

In the context of sexual relationships this is a problem for women – as we’re taught that because we’re supposedly physically weaker than men we can’t coerce them, or each other, into doing anything. Which is unhelpful because for a lot of women it has meant that they haven’t felt the need to examine whether their own behaviour is out of line. If you’re under the impression that you can’t make someone do anything that don’t want to do you’re unlikely to stop to consider whether they’re only going to bed with you because they felt like they had to.

It’s an issue for men because it can result in their boundaries being pushed or ignored to the point where they end up engaging in sex that they’d rather not have.

Now I’m not suggesting that this is the same as a lack of consent; but if, for example, I want to have sex with my boyfriend and he says he’s really tired, he’s just come off nights, work was really draining, and he just wants to go to sleep, I should just let him go to sleep. I should not sulk, or guilt him into doing something he’s just said he doesn’t want to do.

Otherwise he might consent, but he’d be consenting because it was the easiest way to deal with me being a dick.

And that really isn’t okay.

Reluctant consent isn’t good enough; we should all be aiming for sexual relationships in which we and our partners feel comfortable declining sex and knowing that their wishes will then be respected.

And as a bonus, hopefully by paying closer attention to how we treat our sexual partners’ boundaries we’ll more easily able to recognise if their behaviour towards us crosses the line. And feel more confident in asserting ourselves and saying, actually, no means no, this isn’t okay.

conflicted couple

If You Need Relationship Advice You’re Probably In the Wrong Relationship

(Image Credit)

“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you really need relationship advice I tend to think that’s probably a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship.

Says the woman who spends about a third of her blog pontificating about ways to have better relationships.

But most of the relationship advice I’ve ever received or read hasn’t been even remotely relevent to my life. Heck, most of it barely even makes sense.

Like how there seems to be this received wisdom that if you’re dating a man you need to ‘take control of the situation’, ‘make him work for it’ and ‘make him come to you’.

I don’t understand how ‘making him come to me’, leaving the ball in his court and the whole situation festering in the background is ‘taking control of the situation’. I couldn’t do that if I tried. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a terrible control freak, the waiting to see if I was actually waiting for anything would just about drive me out of my mind.

In terms of how much it annoys me this is closely followed by ‘you need space’.

If one or both of you needs to calm down then sure, take the time to do that, but beyond that space is the enemy of intimacy.

Absence seldom makes the heart grow fonder, it more often hardens the heart due to the fear of getting hurt that stems from not having a frikkin clue what’s going on. So your partner removes themselves from the situation entirely and leaves you deal with the mess by yourself.

And what’s with the umpteen articles I see on a daily basis telling me ‘how to get my partner to do x, y and z’?

Why is anybody reading those things?

I’m not interested in emotionally manipulating anyone. I want to create a connection that’s real. I want to know that I really see my partner and that they see me. That we’re both present in the relationship and that we’re doing the things that we do because that’s us and that’s how we want it. Not because we’re playing by someone else’s lousy rules; doing an impression of a real relationship.

You need to treat him this way because he’s ‘A Man’. You need to treat her this way because she’s ‘A Woman’.

They’re also individual human beings.

And I’m going to find a way to treat my partner that works for them. And for me. And if that doesn’t work out and I end up getting hurt then so be it, because that’s so much better than getting into that box all this so called advice is trying to fit us into. It’s just too cold and detached in there for me.

I think part of my aversion to relationship advice is that control freak thing kicking in again. If something is really important to me I don’t want other people who don’t truly understand it barging in and messing it up for me. If I’m going to screw it up I at least want to know that I did it on my own terms.

Partly it’s because the picture the advice is based on of what a relationship is supposed to look like just isn’t something I aspire to. It assumes that all successful relationships look the same, based on the assumption that everyone defines success in terms of their relationship in the same way. It also tends to assign either party a role within the relationship and then expects them to proceed within the confines of that role.

I know who I am; and I know what I need from a partner and want out of a relationship. I don’t need to play a part; and I don’t feel like my relationship needs to look like everyone else’s in order to be healthy.

But mostly it’s because I really think that if anyone else knows more about your relationship, or has a better idea how best for you to negotiate, improve, or mend it than you, you probably shouldn’t be in it.

Honestly, if you can’t ask the person you’re with “why did you do this?”; or say to them “you hurt me”, or “I don’t understand why you are doing this”, or “I need blah blah”. You probably shouldn’t be with them. You’d be better of just ending it and finding someone who you feel like you can be yourself with.

Communication is the only way to build a relationship and to create and sustain any level of intimacy. If you have intimacy you shouldn’t really need to seek guidance from anyone but your partner on what’s best for you relationship.

If you don’t have intimacy I don’t really see the point of being a relationship.

sunset over the flord

Everyone You Ever Love Is Going To Hurt You

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Everyone you ever love will hurt you.

And you have to decide that you’re going to be okay with that.

A good friend recently asked me how he was supposed to get over his fear of falling in love again. His last relationship ended very painfully and he wanted me to tell him how to stop believing that he would get hurt if he let someone else in.

While it’s perfectly natural and understandable that he’s scared, the truth is that if you decide you’re going to love someone you have to accept that at some point that love is going to be a source of pain. Because anyone you get close to, however much they mean to avoid it, is going to hurt you at some point.

They’re going to screw up. They’re going to let you down. They’re going to do things that you don’t like.

They’re going to say something hurtful in the heat of an argument. They’re going to happen upon a raw nerve. There’s going to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. There will be issues with conflicting loyalties – maybe between you and their family. They’re going to forget something important. There will be times when they aren’t there for you or they make you feel neglected. They’ll get scared and lash out. They’ll do or say things that will make you feel scared and insecure.

They might leave you.

You might leave them.

And even if by some miracle they manage to avoid all those things eventually they’re going to die.

And, y’know what, you’re going to be responsible for a few of these things as well and you’re going to hurt them in your turn.

This isn’t just true of romantic relationships. The same goes for family, friends, neighbours, co-workers – anyone who plays any significant role in your life is going to be in a position to hurt you. And they will. 

Whether they mean to or not.

And you must accept it because it is the price you must pay for having those relationships.

Now I’m not suggesting that you should let people walk all over you. Or that you should tolerate people who hurt you maliciously or behave inexcusably.

But emotional pain stems from intimacy.

The things that people say and do hurt us because we care deeply about them, and they for us, and this makes us vulnerable. And so when someone hurts you, you must consider whether the pain and the damage that has been done to your relationship negates all the positive feelings and experiences that led to you becoming close enough to hurt one another in the first place.

Because the pain will pass. Almost always. No matter how much it hurts in the moment, and however much that scares you, it will get better. But in that moment when we’re hurt and scared it’s easy to lose sight of that, and to make decisions – either to end relationships or to avoid new ones – based on our pain and fear.

And as someone wise one said, a life lived in fear is a life half lived. We need to have relationships, we need intimacy, we need to feel connected to other people. Isolation and detachment are, in the long-term, far more painful and damaging than any pain that we can expect to be caused by our caring but fallible loved ones.

So you will forgive people. You will accept that their clumsy humanity is a part and parcel of their love. Or you will find that you can’t forgive them and you will move on. You will take solace in the rest of the people in your life who you have previously managed to forgive until you feel brave enough to forge a new relationship with the attendant risk of new hurt.

But the only way to inure yourself to the pain is to accept that it is an inevitable part of life and of love, to know that you will survive it when it happens, and to decide to be okay with it.

Once you have achieved acceptance you won’t be so afraid; you can put the risk of getting hurt into its proper perspective against how much you stand to gain through loving someone and allowing them to love you in return.

And that’s how you find the courage to fall in love again.


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