It's Time We Woke Sleeping Beauty From her Sexual Coma

Sun, 02/06/2011 - 10:12
Submitted by Anonymous

If you read enough self-help manuals or online sex tutorials, you could easily come to the conclusion that the female orgasm is as "elusive" as Bigfoot.

And like the camera-shy mammoth, it only shows up when it damn well feels like it. As a graduate student who does spend most of her time reading about the female orgasm, I have encountered this perspective over and over again.

I think many people have the impression that this is just the way things are - a fact of nature. That somehow, we females, because our orgasms are supposedly not needed for reproduction just got the short end of the stick. According to this view, we're just lucky we get off at all since the female orgasm is an evolutionary bonus point (kind of like men's nipples).

This, incidentally, is a debatable idea. Some scientists believe that men's orgasms are not really needed for reproduction either. All that is really necessary is ejaculation, which as any tantric practitioner can tell you can be separated from orgasm. Our species just hit the orgasmic jackpot.

Let's put the "elusive female orgasm" in perspective for a moment. Yes, it is true that many women don't come. There are women, sad to say, who have spent their entire lives living in "frigid darkness" as Pulitzer Prize winning writer Natalie Angier once put it. Her own mother was one of them until the age of 30 when she discovered the "sacred herb" (i.e., marijuana). Yeah, Mary Jane brought the "lights of Broadway" to her mother's "frigid darkness".

At least she found something that works, there are women who never do. Some studies have found that as many as 60% of women are not thrilled by how often the earth moves. So what gives here?

Well, it is important to realize that much of the time this problem is limited to partner sex, usually with a male partner (lesbians have a higher rate of orgasm).  Women are twice as likely to climax during masturbation than partnered sex. And women who masturbate more often are orgasmic from 80 to 96% of the time - depending on who you read (statistics are like assholes every one's got one). The ones I just quoted are from National Health and Social Life Study and The Hite Report respectively.

Masturbation Style

There are two reasons for this problem. One is the fact that we continue to define sex by an act (intercourse) that women don't usually come from. Most women need some form of direct clitoral stimulation to climax. Only about 15 to 35% of women orgasm from intercourse alone, according to Elizabeth Lloyd author of the The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution.

The fact that a lot of women need clitoral stimulation is fairly well known. However, then there is the kicker that isn't as well understood. That even with clitoral stimulation from a partner, some women still have problems.

A Dutch researcher found in one study that masturbation style was one reason for the difference between women's rate of orgasm during solo and partner sex. She said that women could be lumped  into one of two masturbation styles: pelvic active or pelvic passive.

Pelvic passive masturbators (the most common group) stimulate themselves by rubbing something against their clitoris- their hand, a vibrator, the family dog. Whatever. They generally don't move very much. Pelvic active masturbators come in a totally different fashion. They rub their pelvises against something like a pillow, a stuffed toy, a Kenmore on spin cycle, etc. The point is, they orgasm by moving the entire body and especially the pelvis.

Once pelvic active masturbators are in the bedroom with a typical male they run into some real problems. Namely, the idea that they are supposed to be "given" an orgasm by the man. That a woman's role is to lie back and be pleasured into oblivion by an all-knowing male sexpert. I call this idea the sleeping Beauty ideal, and it is a big part of heterosexual sex.

I also believe it is one of the major roadblocks to female fulfillment - and one that men don't have to contend with. Most men orgasm during sex from their own movements. Their partners don't "give" them anything, other than consent. But women are supposed to be passive recipients.

Women are more orgasmic alone because they have some control of the sexual stimulation. And they can use what works best for them. Even pelvic passive masturbators don't always climax easily from someone else's stimulation.

One major difference between men and women is that women are more likely to develop certain routine habits that become a part of how they experience orgasm, and without these habits orgasm may not occur. Shere Hite found that some women in her study were unable to orgasm unless they were in a certain position with their arms or legs arranged a certain way.

This isn't exactly the same thing as having a hard time coming. A woman who never comes alone from a partner's novel stimulation might climax in 3 minutes and keep climaxing for 3 hours when she follows her own routine.

Needless to say, that's not an elusive orgasm.

So, the question then becomes: Are women more likely to develop orgasm habits that are harder to change than men? Do we not do as well as men with novel stimulation? Frankly, I don't know the answer. I don't if anyone else does either. But they are interesting ideas. And they make evolutionary sense. Women are usually more orgasmic with certain partners. Usually, men who are better genetic material and who make "fitter" offspring.

And research has found that if a woman climaxes immediately after her partner, her orgasmic contractions suck more of his semen into her uterus, and she is more likely to get pregnant. This has been called the "upsuck effect", a controversial theory.

So, if it is to women's evolutionary advantage to be picker than men, it would make sense that we would be more orgasmic under certain conditions, and that we might have evolved more stringent requirements for sexual stimulation than men.

For most women incorporating how they masturbate is a key component to being orgasmic with a partner. Unless, you are that rare creature who is vaginally orgasmic - we're talking the clitoris here. I also believe that this doesn't just mean "asking" for what you want but actively stimulating your own clitoris during partner sex. Something that has traditionally not been socially acceptable for women. Though the same can't be said for men. Intercourse could be defined as socially sanctioned male masturbation in a female's vagina. 

Women need to take responsible for their own satisfaction. I think the Dutch study makes it clear that Sleeping Beauty ain't getting off, folks. Waiting around hoping the Prince hits the right spot isn't working.  Being dependent on a partner's stimulation for an orgasm puts a woman in a one down situation where her satisfaction is contingent on her partner's good will and sexual skills. Something she has no control over. It adds an extra roadblock that doesn't need to be there. And stops some women, like the pelvic active masturbators, dead in their tracks.

The tragedy of heterosexual sex is that our social rules set women up for sexual failure. We expect women to be passive in bed with male partners who know little to nothing about how to please them (and who are reluctant to ask because they might appear less studly) and then we wonder why women don't come like gangbusters. So, we decide that women aren't very sexual or are dysfunctional when in reality our sexual model just doesn't work very well.

Plus, talking abut what you want doesn't always work. Let's not ignore the fact that the Sleeping Beauties these guys are in bed with can't really provide much guidance because they either don't know what works for them, or they don't feel comfortable saying (admitting that the only thing that has ever gotten you off  is your favorite stuffed toy you've had since you were five isn't that easy to do).

Women don't come very often because our sexual model is too limited. Women have a far greater repertoire of masturbation techniques than men, but this fact is seldom incorporated into sex with a partner.

Its time we expanded the menu beyond the hand, the mouth, or the dick. There is no reason why a woman who masturbates by squeezing her inner thigh muscles together can't do that with a partner. It just means thinking outside the box and getting rid of the idea that sex has to be a certain way. Whatever works for you - use - without apology. There is no right way to experience pleasure.

It's time we woke Sleeping Beauty from her sexual coma.

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Lilith you thrilled me with

Betty Dodson's picture
Sun, 02/06/2011 - 11:29
Betty Dodson

Lilith you thrilled me with your recent post on waking up Sleeping Beauty! After 40 some years of hammering these same ideas into our sexual awareness, I can rest assured you will continue the work along with the rest of the Orgasmic Sisterhood.

The fact that our clitoris reigned supreme was beginning to be accepted in the seventies and then came the next two decades when the vaginal orgasm made a comeback! Similar to the GOP. I trace this to the introduction of the G spot that isn't a spot but more accurately a sensation from an area. . .the urethral sponge that surrounds a woman's urinary tract. Now we not only had to come but we were also expected to squirt or ejaculate with our orgasms.What's next? Farting god bless America? Again, thanks for your thoughtful and accurate post. We agree: There is no right way to experience pleasure.

Not a Rubic's Cube

Sun, 02/06/2011 - 16:59
The Nerd (not verified)

Thank you!  I am so tired of listening to people talk about women's anatomy like it were a Rubic's Cube, a puzzle that they'll be lucky to figure out; when in the same breath they talk about men's anatomy like it's some sort of Easy Button.  All that does is reinforce the idea that women are "difficult", it's a "chore" to "work" on her orgasm.
It's only difficult because we're trained to think that way.  I was giving myself orgasms at age 5.  When I started having partner sex, it took me months before I had an orgasm.  Penis went in and out, hips rocked and rolled, nothing happened.  Then I decided I'd had enough.  I started masturbating and invited him to work his penis into the situation however he felt happiest (and happy he was indeed).  I've never gone without an orgasm since, and I'll never go back.

Thank you, Dr. Betty. Yeah, I

Mon, 02/07/2011 - 02:54
LilithLand (not verified)

Thank you, Dr. Betty. Yeah, I wouldn't be in the least surprised to see millions of women farting God Bless America if it was the culturally correct thing to do. After all, we're now cutting off our own labia. I think many sexually literate people now have a clue that the clit is the way to go for most women. But we still have a very limited view of sex. I think one of the biggest problems for women after the neglect of the clitoris is the idea that clit stimulation consists of manual or oral stimulation by a partner. God forbid, you do it yourself. The fact that a lot of women don't masturbate by using their hands and can't come that way, or can't come from their partner's touch is totally ignored. And this leaves so many women out in the cold as you know from your clients.

Hi The Nerd, I get so annoyed

Mon, 02/07/2011 - 02:59
LilithLand (not verified)

Hi The Nerd, I get so annoyed by magazine articles and sex ed tutorials that act as if the female orgasm is as rare as Bigfoot. Like it is some kind of aberration of nature. I know men and women aren't identical sexually, but our parts develop out of the same embryonic tissue. I really don't believe that the female orgasm is intrinsically "elusive". I think if men had to go through what women do their orgasms might not be so reliable either. Especially, if sex consisted of a guy having his balls played with while he was totally passive.

I agree with what you said

Mon, 02/07/2011 - 08:28
Q (not verified)

I agree with what you said about intercourse, it's so overrated. What if the norm of heterosexual sex was for the woman to rub her clit against man's erect penis? :D

Great post!

Mon, 02/07/2011 - 17:10
WildOrchid (not verified)

I think I've read it on your off-site blog and I was amazed then. I'm still now. It gave me a lot to think about.
I'd like to ask that women from masturbation study if they had more luck getting off in certain positions with their partners. I assume that those from pelvic-active grup would get off easier in positions like cowgirl (plus additional clit stim) and pelvic-passive would prefer male-superior positions (plus additional clit stim). Wonder if that's right.
I'm mostly pelvic-passive. I use pelvic movement when I'm alone and I want to really make myself feel good. I still rub the vibe against my clit and use a thrusting motion with my dildo.

Hi Wild Orchid, I think that

Tue, 02/08/2011 - 21:38
LilithLand (not verified)

Hi Wild Orchid, I think that for some women with a pelvic active masturbation style there is a slight increase in orgasm during intercourse during woman on top sex. But I don't think that it's huge. Many women with this style tend to utilize a lot of pressure when they come. And some from, what I have read, really like to grind against hard objects like a door frame, the corner of something, the floor etc. They don't get this during intercourse; unfortunately they can't use their hands either in many cases. I have noticed some of the questions posted here to Dr. Betty seem to come from these women. It seems to me that women like this need to accept and find some way to utilize how they masturbate with a partner even if it is kind of weird. That isn't to say that they can't try to broaden their technique. Just that there isn't a wrong way to come.

Thank you!

Mon, 09/12/2011 - 17:20
Anonymous0420 (not verified)

Thank you so much for this! I stumbled across this post randonly and you have put me in ease about my situation. There are not enough thanks I can give!

great post!

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 11:31
little jo (not verified)

How liberating and empowering to read we're 'only' brainwashed again, this time about the way it is politically correct to have intercourse - the penis-vagina type of sex that satisfies both men and churches. Now that we know there's nothing wrong with being different and not follow the flock, we can decide for ourselves if we're going to shut up and act as if we don't know only to be 'nice' or let our 'Inner Bitch' express her true needs and go for pleasure. Which means as you're pointing out, integrate our masturbation patterns into intercourse and I would add learn some empowered masturbation techniques in order to cum in different positions. This is where I get what Carlin means by 'the brilliance' of Betty's Rock 'n' Roll technique: it even fits most lovers' favorite position, facing one another for more intimacy.

Now I don't totally agree with you when you're saying men expect women to be passive in bed: I still do remember my very first lover telling me to move my hips while I was lying flat, holding my breath with my legs wide spread and my eyes goggled, waiting for the 'miracle' to happen... Sleeping Beauties fans are probably circumcised which stops men from performing the love dance with shallow thrusting that is grinding the pelvic area for more pleasure. Both partners have to rock their pelvises in order to execute that love dance so at the end I think the pelvic active masturbators are in a better situation to get some genuine satisfying sex than the passive ones, especially since moving is making the energy flow and rocking the pelvis is generating good sexual feelings boosting the arousal, or is it just happening to me?