When you consider the many sexual myths and misconceptions our culture embraces, there are few of greater magnitude than the notion that men are responsible for women’s pleasure during sex. It’s an idea that, although supported by many men and women, is its own worst enemy, keeping men and women trapped in a pattern of behavior with a known, unfavorable outcome – where men and women will continue to be disappointed by unreasonable expectations.
There are many who would disagree with this basic premise, and you don’t have to look very far to find them. Simply read what various online PhDs, sex therapists, coaches and such have to say on the subject, and you are likely to find one of three basic opinions: It’s the man’s job to please his woman, it’s the woman’s job to please herself, or women should learn to accept fewer orgasms.
From sheer volume and tone alone, the most highly favored and emotionally fought argument seems to be that men are responsible for the quality of sex in a heterosexual relationship; whether for short-term hookups or long-term committed relationships. Men are expected to know what to do and when to do it or at least be open to suggestions and requests. Anna Breslaw does a great job advancing this argument in Lazy Men Are Responsible for the Great Orgasm Deficit, adding to the mix that if he fails to meet his responsibilities, it may be due to laziness. She also draws special attention to what many believe is the crux of the problem or the difference in orgasm frequency between men and women, dubbing it the “Great Orgasm Deficit”. Taking a slightly different twist is Karen Brody and her piece on How to “Train” Your Man In Bed. According to Ms. Brody, you can “train” an otherwise worthy man into being the assertive, dominant, masculine lover every woman wants.
There are countless other examples, many that allude to the “secret” cravings and desires women possess, all inferring that women will be waiting until their men deliver what “every woman wants”. The lists end up being anything but “secret”, generally including everything from be more aggressive to slow down and be more gentle, or the more mundane suggestions like, be sure to shower first. While these lists may be informative and useful, they do nothing to address the root problem, leaving even the most ardent student of popular opinion and surveys with no better chance guessing what a woman may want at a particular moment than anyone else.
The “learn to accept fewer orgasms” camp is more subtle than the other two, with messages aimed at “normalizing” expectations based surveys and studies – as in, why should a single woman feel poorly about not having an orgasm during a hookup, when only 40% do, and so on. Studies such as, Indiana University’s, Variation in Orgasm Occurrence by Sexual Orientation in a Sample of U.S. Singles are often engaged in an effort to understand what constitutes “normal” behavior, and hence, establish baselines for diagnosing sexual dysfunction. But while the value of studies in human behavior is undeniable, determining medians and averages can also have the unintended consequence of marginalizing statistically low people; a one-two punch for women waiting to be pleased.
Our third most commonly expressed opinion is that women should be responsible for their own pleasure and satisfaction during sex; an opinion that is supported by the simple fact that the current model, the one that puts the onus on men, is not working very well for women and never has. It is the primary reason why only 64% of women experience orgasm during sex with a familiar partner as opposed to 85% of men. At the same time, women are not only demanding equality in every other facet of society but are putting in the effort to make that goal a reality, now earning 141 college degrees for every 100 earned by men. So why are so many otherwise powerful, capable, problem-solving women, seemingly unable to transfer this prowess to the bedroom too? In a word, the answer is our culture. It’s a message I repeat often, along with the phrase:
Without strong lessons to the contrary, we succumb to the influences of our culture.
Simply stated, women have been taught that to be feminine is to be passive in bed and that women are expected to be feminine. Men are expected to be just the opposite. This “natural” order can be satisfying, but it represents only a portion of the possibilities, leaving women’s satisfaction in the hands of men who are all too often unable or unwilling to deliver.
By learning to go beyond this conditioning, women can be free to express themselves along the entire spectrum of masculine to feminine sexual energies. From the most passive side, where a woman becomes an instrument of her man’s pleasure, accepting the chance that what he is doing for himself is also good for her; to the most aggressive side where she can ‘use’ her man for her pleasure, guaranteeing satisfaction.
It is difficult to imagine the time when women were content to sit idly by when their men were left to more “important matters” like politics and business. And yet, is this thinking so different from women who remain content to entrust their sexual satisfaction to their men? Women have made considerable strides toward equality in the boardroom. Now is the time to break tradition once again, and establish equality in the bedroom.