I can remember the first time I ever felt arousal, what that was like—something better than a sneeze.
I was fairly young, and ever since then, sex was this sort of confusing thing that was never really talked about. I’m sure many could say the same.
And okay, I may be wound pretty tight these days. I’ve been reading too much fantasy romance book smut and watching season two of Bridgerton and the topic of sex has definitely been on my mind. But I swear I have a point here.
Sex both fascinates and mystifies me.
Until I turned 25, I didn’t really understand my body or what I needed to feel pleasure. Not until I spent a year being celibate.
As I get deeper into my 30s, I know I should understand what sex is, how it really works, how it affects my body, and what I need to learn to feel pleasure. But in a lot of ways, I am still figuring out and learning many things.
When I’m alone, I understand much better what makes me tick. But with my male partners, it’s a different story. I’ve been shamed for not being able to reach a climax with a partner—
“You’re one of those girls,” one had said. “You can do it on your own but not with a partner.”
—as if that means something is inherently wrong with me.
I’ve had partners get mad at me for not responding to them at all, realizing much later how little I was mentally stimulated by them—and mental stimulation is scientifically proven to aid in arousal, especially for women.
Let’s just say, I’ve faced a bit of sexual trauma on a minor level. A reason why sex can be such a mystery to me sometimes.
I’ve been sexually coerced, made to feel like my body was nothing more than an object, and shamed for not being able to get there for my partner.
Because of these situations, I have sexual anxiety that I’m working through. I am healing and understanding how I can be a better advocate for my own pleasures.
I consider myself bisexual (with no deep experience with dating women), so most of my sexual experiences have happened with men. And in honesty, I can only count on one hand how many times I’ve felt true arousal with a male partner that led to an actual orgasm.
This is not to say a woman’s ability to feel pleasure is a fault on men’s part. This is to say that there are multiple factors at work with why women specifically do not feel as much pleasure as men do.
And really, the reason we don’t know is we have not been adequately educated since our youth. But we can still learn now.
We can start with “The Principles of Pleasure” mini-series on Netflix.
To preface, this docuseries tackles pleasure and sex outside of the male, cisgender, and heteronormative. In a few short episodes, I understood more about pleasure in regard to myself and my relationships.
They start the series by educating on the very basic anatomy of a vulva—which is the entire female package, for those of you who mistook it for just a vagina. They talk about the brain and how it acts as the command center for pleasure. They even talk about how relationships influence our sexual pleasure.
It’s no secret that men tend to experience more orgasms, 95 percent of men in fact. For women, however, only 66 percent of women have had an orgasm, and that’s just heterosexual women—the percentage is much higher for same-sex relationships between women.
But there are reasons orgasms happen so easily for men and not for women.
Not all men have a deep understanding of the female anatomy nor do they understand the myths behind vaginal orgasms or the basic functions of a clitoris. At the same time, research and acknowledgment of a woman’s sex have been suppressed for several millennia.
Sexual pleasure in women has gone unnoticed since the 1600s; Sigmund Freud even condemned the pleasure of women, and it wasn’t until the late 1960s that women started feeling more empowered around their reproductive parts.
Because of this, women are just as in the dark about their own pleasure as men who have female partners. Sex research for women is still relatively new. As a result, women haven’t been encouraged to embrace their sexuality, unlike men who are almost expected to have countless partners in their lifetime.
Even with their great efforts to give women’s sex research the time it deserves, scientists still look down on people trying to understand the inner workings of female reproductive parts and a woman’s ability to feel pleasure.
Because there is no research, women’s health continues to suffer. Women visit doctors who don’t understand or lack education about women’s health so much so that women find discomfort in seeking medical care.
I am one of those women.
Female bodies deserve to experience pleasure and have a safe space to express their sexuality.
There is so much to be gained from watching this series and too much for me to cover here. But some of my favorite takeaways from “The Principles of Pleasure” are:
Pleasure doesn’t come from vaginal penetration, and if it does, it’s clitoral stimulation triggered vaginally—you read that right. Work the clitoris.
To add to the last note, the g-spot does not exist.
And while we’re on the topic of things that don’t exist—taking someone’s virginity or breaking the hymen also doesn’t exist. Likely a male construct.
A woman’s pleasure is greatest when the mind is stimulated.
Pleasure happens when the clitoris is cared for.
And while we’re on the topic of the clitoris, it’s a bundle of nerve endings, which means it’s sensitive—that means be gentle. It’s not a game controller and this isn’t Mario Party.
If you have a female partner who isn’t experiencing pleasure, instead of shaming them for being unresponsive to you, try having a conversation with them about how to find that pleasure. Far too much shame exists around sex and just creates more anxiety.
Sexual pleasure can be an aid for anxiety and depression.
Porn is not an accurate representation of sex at all.
Women respond more to context while men respond more to physical sensation.
A body can respond to sex-related acts but not feel aroused at all.
Communication is and always will be a key factor in great sex.
Mental stimulation can be a great motivator for excellent sex.
Consent, consent, consent. What worked one day, may not work the next.
The “Principles of Pleasure” tackles the subjects of female pleasure, what it means to embrace our sexuality, what it means to have the proper education surrounding sex, and how to avoid the shame and sin that have been placed on women for several millennia.
This powerful series is something I believe everyone should watch, whether men or women. Making leaps and bounds toward better understandings of pleasure for men and women starts with the right education.