In Defense Of My Hetero-centric Style of Female Orgasm Activism
Well, certain posts from this blog have been lucky enough to get some play on Reddit over the past few months, mostly on TwoXChromosome and SexPositive subreddits. I think they are 2 really great communities, and it's really cool to hear the comments about the ideas I'm putting forth in these posts. It allows me to better prepare for what kind of things will come at me once the movie is released. So, on that note, I want to address some criticisms that keep popping up in comments. Honestly, people are mostly supportive, but when they aren't it almost always comes in one of two forms. 1. Women telling me that the description of female orgasm I put forth doesn't describe their experience. I will write a post commenting on that in the near future, and 2. People telling me that my discussions don't properly include discussions of non hetero experiences. Usually "hetero normative" is the word put forth, and people often feel that in itself makes any argument I make a bit less valid. I will address this criticism here.
So...yes, it's true. Many of the arguments in this blog and also the movie we have made are, in fact, hetero-centric. The short answer to why? Because the societal understanding of the female orgasm is embedded deep in male, hetero-centic sexual culture, which means hetero sex is most relevant to arguing problems in our understanding of female orgasm. Also, because I'm not forming my arguments to influence progressive, sexually open folks or sexuality and gender scholars. I would much rather create arguments that speak to a somewhat conservative hetero couple that has never read a piece of progressive writing on sexuality and is a little off put when men and women seem to pop out of the gender box. These are the people we need to convince if any real change can come about in our culture.
So let me elaborate.
On one level I get it. Open, sexually thoughtful people crave a society where discussions of sex are completely inclusive and accepting; where all forms of sexual expression get equal time and respect. It's a noble hope, and I too would love to see a world where saying I "had sex" with someone could mean anything from penetration to 69ing to mutual masturbation; where the sexual interactions between any consenting adults are portrayed in our culture as legitimate "sex" and respected in the same way male-female penis in vagina sex is.
So when I frame my criticism of the state of female orgasm in terms of it's lack within regular old penis-in-vagina intercourse, then I see that it strikes a nerve in some. It seems as though I'm ignoring all the experiences related to female orgasm (or lack there of) out there that have little to nothing to do with classic, hetero intercourse. In ignoring those experience, it is assumed that my more focused argument could not possibly be the whole story, and to some that in itself is enough to disregard the whole thing. I do, I get it, kind of.
On another level, I think it is a completely bogus criticism. My blog, my movie, and my activism are focused on the specifically physiological aspects of the female orgasm. The simple truth is that discussing things other than hetero norms of sex is really just not highly relevant to my activism. The ignorance about the female orgasm was born out of a world obsessed with prizing and preserving hetero, male-centric intercourse as the most important, fulfilling and legitimate type of sexual interaction. This ignorance has persisted, because frankly, that obsession, to this day - even 40 years after the sexual revolution, has not lessened much.
So, when I critique the culture of female orgasm, I largely critique hetero culture. There's simply not a lot of reason to do otherwise. It is what needs the critiques most - way way most. Those of you out there who can see beyond the male-hetero-centric societal norms got there despite our culture, and probably incrementally. We must expect that getting anyone else to see beyond would entail first chipping away at the most normative aspects of our sexual culture.
Another reason I feel fine staying largely hetero-centric is because the larger sexual culture is so hetero centric that focusing on it alone is enough to spill into all other types of non-heterocentric sexualities. If you are a person who has a clit, a vagina, and not a penis (this includes those intersex individuals who have full or partial vaginas with a larger or more penis like clit), then as a group of physiologically similar people, our understanding of ourselves sexually is shaped in similar ways by the male-hetero-centric culture. So whether we grew to be a traditional hetero wife, a wildly sexual hetero lady, a trans individual, or a lesbian (wild or no), we still were all fed similar shit in our sexually formative years; depictions of women orgasming effortlessly from simple, hands free P in V intercourse; a sexual education that omitted information about your orgasm because it simply doesn't coincide with reproduction the way the male orgasm can; and insinuation after insinuation that made it seem intercourse in and of itself should be orgasmic for women and that we didn't have legit "sex" until penetration of our vaginas and male ejaculation occurred. Even for those of us who don't have to deal much with the orgasm perils of navigating P in V intercourse in our sex lives, we all still have to deal with the subtle male-centric hetero expectations that are tangled in our sexual upbringing. We were all still led to be confused about how, specifically, our own genitals work in relation to orgasm and how orgasms can best be facilitated with another person.
I feel like forming arguments about female orgasm in relation to the physiology of the female genitals and the actual physical connections that happen during the sex acts being discussed, allows the arguments I make, at their base, to be relatable for all people who carry around female or female-ish genitals. Even if I am discussing cis-gendered, hetero intercourse, the physical actions and the orgasmic physiology I discuss/critique would still apply to the bodies of highly male-gender-identifying lesbians or women who have never had sexual relations with any partners. This focus on the physical is where my activist interest sits; not in the emotional, relational, or spiritual aspects of a woman's orgasm. This way of discussing female orgasm is rarely undertaken, but I believe it usually yields a more functional, more focused argument that is much easier to follow for more people than a piece of activist writing that tries to discuss female orgasm in terms of spirituality, emotion, relationships, or tries to touch on every aspect of every different sex/gender/preference possibility out there.
This brings me to my other point. I don't want to scare away the status quo folks. This may seem unfortunate, but speaking about things like patriarchal society or cis-gendered or bringing up homosexuality, trans individuals, or alternative relationships can be uncomfortable, distasteful, or scary to a lot of people. Even to fairly liberal, kind heteros like many of the people I know in my family and in my workplace, it can be boring or seem unrelatable. Most people haven't put much thought or learning time into the politics, philosophy, or science of a varied human sexuality, and aren't much interested or don't have much time to do so. These people are the majority, and when they begin to call bullshit on the female-orgasm-stifling cultural standard of sex, then things will start to change. If they begin to expect more realism in the male-hetero centric media, more female orgasms in their personal hetero sexual interactions, and more factual discussion in our hetero-centric education system, then we might actually be in for the sustaining cultural shift that I, and I imagine many of you, hope for.
I not only think this "hetero normative" approach will be a benefit for all the heteros out there who will begin gaining the tools for more mutually satisfying sexual relationships, but it can also make people who don't fit the old-school gender mode seem more relatable. Once a person sees that even a normal husband and a wife could have a fulfilling, orgasmic, sexual relationship without intercourse, and that it might even be better than the old fashioned ways, then he or she is equip to better appreciate and understand how 2 men, 2 women, or an intersex person could have a fulfilling sexual relationship. It becomes more clear that we all, no matter where we fit on the gender, sex, or preference scale, have an organ of sexual pleasure, and we can all enjoy a fully legit orgasm with any other person. That idea is actually pretty radical, but it could be significantly less of a stretch for many if they take the first step of re-imagining what is "normal" for hetero couples.
So, what I'm saying here is that when someone critiques one of my posts or my movie by simply saying it is hetero-centric, or hetero normative, or however he/she choose to say it; well, I just don't think that's a very thoughtful or interesting criticism, and I don't think it has an eye to activist strategy. Please, by all means, point out a specific area where a discussion of something non-heterocentric would have strengthened the points I made, but don't just disregard this stuff because you off-handily suppose I am not discussing enough aspects of enough gender/sexuality possibilities.