A diligent and good friend sent me a link yesterday to an article called "A woman's right to say 'meh': being sex positive won't guarantee you an orgasm," and I'll be goddamned if this article didn't knock my socks off. Alana Massey (and please do go check out some her other writing HERE. I was thoroughly enthralled with them yesterday) cut through the status quo bullshit by being honest, and it was revolutionary. So much so that I couldn't stop myself from immediately adding her to my ever growing list of people saying shit that will help start the next sexual revolution. Please go check her out on the Orgasm Equality Allies megalist.
Let me be clear. Women speaking honestly about the blah, meh, annoying, embarrassing (truly embarrassing - not like 'I totally farted once while we were having sex' embarrassing), sad disappointing, and unfair aspects of our sexual feelings and experiences is revolutionary. It's revolutionary because what we usually hear is:
- how AMAZING sex is
- how bad sexual assault is, or
- how we can spice up our sex lives, get over those inhibitions, balance out those pesky hormones, and finally tell our partner what we really wants so we can be having AMAZING sex too! By golly!
Alana, however, cuts through the standard talking points and speaks impactful truth here: As a whole, women are not having great sex.
The bad-ass article
Using an anecdote from a dating app interaction as a jumping off point, she describes the frustration with navigating a sexual culture that is quite simply, pretty shitty for us ladies. She gives a nod to the often discussed (although still quite harsh) damned if you do damned if you don't, slut vs. prude situation, but then she digs deeper into some real revolutionary shit. The truth is, whether you do or you don't, on a whole it's mediocre sex anyway.
The kicker? It is more emotionally laborious for a lot of women to explain why they don’t want to have mediocre sex than to simply have the mediocre sex. It’s just that the sex does approximately as much for us as making a cupping motion over our elbow over and over again. It doesn’t hurt, but why would we?I know, right? Can we at least get some orgasms up in here? No? Okay, I guess I'll just live with it.
For the most part, we’re comfortable with perpetuating the myth that it is easier to fit a camel through a needle’s eye (thanks for the metaphor, Jesus) than to give a woman an orgasm, instead of admitting that we’ve never prioritized teaching men how to give them.She is spot on with this. Women aren't orgasming, and we just brush this huge problem under the rug. Alana don't brush nothin' under the rug though, and that's why she's a badass Orgasm Equality Hero.
So...I read some of the comments on this post, (just some, cause there was over 1200), and they reminded me that even if one speaks these truths, the #1 reaction is still to swiftly and confidently tell everyone that the author is wrong. There is no problem...except with the author.
Granted, there were lots of comments from women who related deeply to this and defended these truths, but these ladies can only do so much given that there seems to be little interest in entertaining even the mere possibility that our culture holds deep rooted orgasm, pleasure and sex inequalities. So, inevitably, the negative posts on this outweighed the positive, and they looked almost exactly like comments I get on posts about orgasm equality. Outside of just plain nasty ones with little content, I'd say they mostly boil down to this:
1. This writer is dumb/an anomaly/whiny because her problems with sex actually come down to her not communicating her needs and/or choosing bad men and/or being too emotionally unattached. There is no problem.
2. I am a man that is really good at sex and really amazing to the women I have sex with. I care about women and sex, I mean, I don't even enjoy it AT ALL unless she comes. Therefore there is no problem.
3. I am a woman that has AMAZING sex All. The. Time. because I have a great man and/or because I am really great at all things sex. Therefore there is no problem.
4. It's undeniably true that women's sexual organs are like snowflakes. None are like another. There is absolutely NO way of telling what might make a woman come unless she tells you. I just wanted to say that and remind everyone that it is no one's or nothing's fault ever that women don't orgasm. Hell, some women absolutely hate orgasms and prefer to just enjoy the sensual and emotional parts of sex. So, there really is no problem at all. Just communicate with your partners and everything will be fine, k?
5. Well, evolution. So, ya know...men...spreading seed and all that. There's no problem here. It's just biology, sorry to tell ya.
6. Uh, proven fact: Actually women don't know how to please men either (teethy blowjobs, am I right?!) - so, your assertion that there is a problem with gender inequality in regards to orgasm/pleasure is utterly baseless and/or sexist.
I wanted to bring up the comments (and seriously, they really do pretty much land in those categories) because I think it's useful to note how hard people push against really hearing that there is orgasm inequality between the sexes. It's either sloughed off as just biology, dismissed as nothing really, or there is a simple refusal to see it as something larger than personal or relationship communication issues.
Cause ain't nobody wanting to hear this
These comments exemplify how quickly and confidently women's explorations of orgasm, pleasure, and sexual inequalities are marginalized, and not just by men. There is a wide cultural stronghold against talking honestly about this shit - about even insinuating there is a larger problem with inequality. Because when we say this, we are also saying that consensual, well intentioned sex acts between a man and a woman who are good, smart, thoughtful, even lovingly married people are still tarnished to some degree, and that is not a can of worms people are ready to open.
But I feel like I'm seeing more and more people exploring anyway; laying down truth like Alana did - even while knowing 300 or more commentors will close their ears and accuse her in a variety of creative ways of being stupid about sex on a personal level; assuring all the other readers that there is no 'problem' here. There is only this writer and people like her who are silly, bad communicators, too frigid, too eager to jump into bed with bad men, too focused on the 'physical,' and generally just bad at sex.
It's such a beautifully effective way to shame and silence authentic female frustration about sex, and honestly, I don't even think most of the commentors mean to do it. They are just framing the discussion in the way discussions of sex are always framed, and they think they are helping by using their experience to tell you what your problem is.
It is a cruel tool in a culture that was infiltrated by a certain brand of blasé sex positivity long before achieving true gender equality and, by extension, before we’ve decentralized men’s orgasms as the ultimate purpose of sex between a man and a woman.Alana was specifically talking above about how easily men shame women who are not "immediately open and enthusiastic about sex," but I think her point about there being a brand of sex positivity that is enthusiastically embraced but not actually built on a proper foundation is integral to this problem of orgasm/pleasure/sexual inequality. However, as she later points out, that orgasm/pleasure/sexual part never seems to enter serious discussion on gender inequality, and I think she's, again, spot on about why.
But the absence of sexual satisfaction from these discussions is also due to the belief that, for the most part, sexual inequality was resolved by the sexual revolution, women’s lib and the widespread adoption of birth control. The legacy of these movements is a mountain of unfinished business which gave birth to a half-formed sex positivity lovechild now wrecking havoc on anyone who isn’t down to fuck.
In practice, sex positivism is an ideology that says, “What’s the big deal?” about sex, countering a narrative which sees it as inherently negative and shameful. But it dismisses our reply..."And that's just it isn't it? Our replies about the blah, meh, annoying, sad, disappointing, and unfair aspects of sex keep getting blindly dismissed.
I'll leave you with one of Alana's final paragraphs. It is honest and bold and needed, and I respect the hell out of her. Keep your revolution spinning, Ms. Alana! Also, please, please go read this full article HERE.
That all this happens while, for women who have sex with men, some of the most disappointing experiences in life are sex with men. We tell women to have sex with as many partners as they like, but then don’t vigorously encourage those partners to be any good at sex. Women who opt out of frequent sex or sex entirely are considered repressed, and women who opt in are considered worthy of disrespect. That many of us have developed a politics of ambivalence toward sex in a society that can’t make up its mind should be no surprise. “Blah” is not just a reaction to these tiring conversations, it is a description of most of the sex itself.