NB: This article focuses on cisgender, heterosexual relationships.
A text told me I was going to lose my virginity: “Is there a place near your house where I can buy condoms tonight?” Despite the lack of romanticism I had envisioned for my ‘deflowering’, I couldn’t help but feel that excited anticipation. I was excited to finally experience what everyone was so obsessed about. I was excited to feel a part of an exclusive club, to become a ‘woman’. Yet, despite all this, the main reason for having sex was that I wanted to do it for him. My virginity was a ‘gift’ for the man to enjoy. And there began my struggle with recognising that my sexuality was not my own.
Sex, from the get go, is not designed for women. Losing your virginity is supposed to hurt – and don’t expect to enjoy it. We’re taught that our vaginas are complex and mysterious, that orgasms are difficult to achieve. It’s biological, ladies, and we’ve got to accept it. Yet, let’s look at the facts. Statistically, cis women orgasm half as much as their partners, but it takes under four minutes on average for a woman to masturbate to orgasm. Our parts can’t be that complicated then, right? So what else is going on?
The definition of sex benefits men
Sex seems to have a popular definition. When mentioned it conjures up images of heterosexual, penis-vagina intercourse, beginning from penetration and ending when the man ejaculates. When someone loses their virginity, we presume it’s the first time they’ve had sex of this definition. This is the definition we’re taught in our limited high school sex-ed classes. We put on a condom, the man finishes, we remove the condom, and bananas back to the front please.
While recognising the exclusionary effects this definition has on LGBTI people, this definition is missing another integral part: the clitoris. While women can orgasm through vaginal intercourse, clitoral stimulation can be more successful. The clitoris, ladies and gentlemen, has over 8,000 nerve endings, three times the amount of a penis. It is the only organ in the human body in which the purpose is only for pleasure. The norm, however, is that clitoris stimulation is ‘foreplay’. Looking at it in this way is putting female pleasure outside the realm of ‘sex’. As such, women’s pleasure is deprioritised.
Women’s sexuality is objectified
For the objectification of women’s bodies and sexuality, we can go no further than porn. Porn is mostly aimed at men. There’s no shortage of material of women moaning through deepthroat, making ‘sexy’ facial expressions while manipulated into various positions. Most scenes contain blowjobs, while a woman receiving head is less common. Women are mostly used as props and tools for the man.
And while it’s accepted that most men watch porn, it isn’t for women. A woman watching porn is so stigmatised that even I would blush to admit it. Our sexuality is placed on a screen to be looked at, objectified. And here’s the rub: while sexualised images of women are everywhere, is it not accepted for a woman to be sexual.
We doubt ourselves
In our heads, the focus is on the man’s pleasure. During sex, something always nags at my mind as to what my partner’s thinking. Am I satisfying him? Is he okay? Is he bored? Am I talking too much? Am I not talking enough? Do I look fat? Am I too hairy? All these thoughts culminate into raging self-evaluative, performance anxiety that ultimately prevents me from finishing. And I’m not alone in this: one Cosmo Sex Survey (I know, not exactly an academically source – but a voice of the people nonetheless), stated the 32 per cent of women fail to orgasm due to overthinking.
We become outside our bodies because our bodies are what define us as sexual beings. To understand the situation we’re in, we default to the place where sex is emphasised – as bodies to be viewed. Our bodies are therefore no longer our own. We sculpt them, tan them, shave them, wax them until they become a sexual body a man would desire. We then picture ourselves as our bodies and police our own actions. We’re anxious and aware of how we’re supposed to look, supposed to behave, what we’re supposed to say and do. And while we’re outside looking in, we can’t experience what’s happening within us.
In my opinion, women are attracted to the bondage in 50 Shades of Grey, not because they like being dominated in the literal sense, but because sex is only truly focused on them when they are strapped down. They cannot think about how they’re acting, how they’re moving and speaking if they literally can’t. It’s a relaxing experience that can lead to a higher climax. And I will not accept that situation as the only time women can relax sexually.
We’re encouraged not to ask
Women are taught many things about ourselves that affect our sexualities. Women are taught to be passive, think of others, be caring and kind. We are deemed bossy or nagging if we speak up, express our opinions or demand something. This is present is all areas of life – such as work, the classroom, meetings – and is definitely present during sex. As sex is the man’s domain, we’re given less agency and voice. Women often feel they do not have the right to ask for certain things in bed, that an orgasm is too much to demand from our partners. Women often unnecessarily apologise for taking ‘too long’, whereby ‘guilt’ is a big cause towards faking orgasms. Guilt also pushes women to return pleasure as soon as possible after receiving. And I know from experiences, be personal or from friends, that this is not reciprocated by most men. So while we must bite the bullet and ask, it is also up to wider society to accept that women have a voice on these matters, and up to our partners to hear and accommodate to our desires. We can own our sexuality only when we can ask for what we want in comfort and without fear of opposition.
Sex is, therefore, set up to be a man’s game. When we are taught that our vaginas are complex, that sex is in missionary, that our bodies are objects – we accept that sex isn’t for our enjoyment. The accepted misunderstanding that women ‘can’t orgasm’ is emblematic of how sex is dominated and controlled by men. As a culture, we need to understand that women like sex just as much as men. We need to acknowledge that women may want sex for the enjoyment alone. Until we can do that, women’s pleasure will be sidelined. If a woman wants to orgasm during sex, she has the right to demand one. She even has the right to be ‘given’ one. She has the right to her sexuality.