A friend of mine can’t have penetrative sex with her partner, due to pain. This has been going on for over a year. She’s seen multiple medical practitioners, who have left her questions unanswered. I’ve watched her shed tears of frustration, and fall into this haunting belief that she’s broken somehow. I began to provide her resources and homeplay, only recently recognizing that the issue isn’t simply her pain (although it should be acknowledged and addressed properly), but also what this pain represents.
We live in a society that values the penis. Sexual education has revolved around reproduction, which inadvertently puts more emphasis on male pleasure (ergo, male ejaculation), as it is required for conception. As well, men tend to receive a more sex-positive reaction when it comes to masturbation, and therefore women don’t experience the same type of self-exploration as early on (if ever). This results in women knowing less about their desires, arousal and anatomy; not knowing how to ask for specific types of pleasure during partnered interactions. In combination with the narrow definition of sex (penis-centric), people – especially heterosexual, cis gender couples/partnerships – are dumbfounded when their relationships become sexless. Although there are multiple scenarios and circumstances that can cause a decrease in sexual activity within partnership(s) (for example, life changes such as moving into parenthood, interpersonal issues within the relationship, medical issues), too often do I see emotional and physical dissatisfaction; in other words: the orgasm gap.
What is the orgasm gap? An article by Laurie Mintz, PhD on Psychology Today refers to the orgasm gap as “the fact that in heterosexual sexual encounters, men have more orgasms than women.” According to this article, one study shows that 39% of women, compared to a whopping 91% of men, usually or always experience orgasm during partnered sex!
If you aren’t gasping at that quick statistic, read it again!
So, what’s causing this orgasm gap, and how is it related to the pain my friend is experiencing? Well, for one, as I mentioned, sex ed tends to be penis-centric. The issue with this is women aren’t being taught about their anatomy; you know, that incredible thing called the clitoris? Most people think it’s the external bead atop the vaginal opening, where the labia minora come together. In fact, that is just the glans clitoris: the tip of the pleasure-iceberg!
The full anatomy of the clitoris is actually an incredible nerve network, and was only discovered in 1998! (Again, if you aren’t gasping, read that again!). As depicted in the image below, the entire clitoris runs approximately 4 inches deep into the body, and extends (internally) from the glans clitoris down and around the entire vaginal opening. The glans clitoris contains approximately 8,000 nerve endings, compared to the penis, which has about half of that.
According to Sheri Winston, a wholistic sexuality teacher (and female anatomy/arousal expert), women have the same amount of erectile tissue as men, but it takes approximately 30-45 minutes for this tissue (the clitoris) to become completely engorged with blood. It isn’t until this moment that penetration should take place, as it could cause discomfort in the female.
Let’s put that into terms we can all understand. If the female erectile tissue is not completely engorged prior to penetration, it is the equivalent of a penis attempting to fuck someone with a semi-hard-on (or less). In other words, and again, in the wise words of Sheri Winston, we are experiencing an epidemic of premature penetration!
How would any vagina-possessing human be interested in sexual intercourse (aka penetration) when, not only are they not getting anything out of it, it’s actually painful? In addition, only 20-25% of women can orgasm through penetration alone. Expecting someone with a vulva to orgasm just through penetration, is like asking a person with a penis to ejaculate without having that penis stimulated.
For the sake of this article, however, let’s stay on the path of penetration. Of course, there are circumstances, such as my friend’s, whereby no amount of outercourse or lube can eliminate the pain that occurs once something enters her vagina. There are medical conditions, such as vaginismus, that make penetration of any sort (be it with a toy, finger, penis, etc.) painful, if not, impossible. Vaginismus is the painful spasmodic contractions of the vagina. In other words, when my friend has something inserted inside of her, her vaginal muscles begin to convulse and tighten, causing a restriction around the item, if not completely closing her pussy up. The cause? It could have psychological or physiological roots. If you are experiencing this, please speak to your gynecologist, perhaps a sex therapist (psychological), and/or get a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist (physiological). There is NOTHING wrong with you – you are not broken!
In saying all of this…
Sex should not be painful! Sex should not be one-sided, nor should it be penis-centric. Sex is an umbrella term that includes any and all activities you find erotic, arousing and pleasing. There is no template for sex! In fact, when two or more people come together to form a partnership (be it long-term or casual), learning and defining what sex means to you – to all the people involved – can be a very exciting and thrilling process.
I recently sent this message to my friend. It’s something that I think everyone should hear, think about, and apply. If everyone subscribed to this method, the orgasm gap would close. If everyone subscribed to this method, much of the discomfort could be eliminated. If everyone subscribed to this method, perhaps more relationships would keep the spark, because all parties would be feeling emotionally and physically satisfied. And that message is:
“…It’s super important to understand that penetrative sex is not the only kind of sex, AND it shouldn’t be obligatory. Maybe, at least for now, while you deal with your pain [get the answers and treatment you require], penetrative sex should be off the table. I think that would take so much pressure off of you, and make intimacy with [your partner] much more enjoyable, let alone more frequent. You may find you get your desire back because the fear of pain will be lifted. It is definitely a conversation worth having with him. I love you, and you deserve pleasure! And because we live in a world that values the penis, people are taught that penetration is the end-all-be-all; that if you can’t perform/receive this, that means something is wrong with you, when in fact, it isn’t even necessary. Like, there are SO many other ways to enjoy each other and to reach orgasm (if that’s what you want the goal to be….but even that is up to YOU!). It’s just critical that people begin creating their own template, their own play book, for what sex looks like in their relationship(s). And since you’ve been dealing with so much medical crap and discomfort, I really believe that defining your own pleasure is critical, AND it’ll be so empowering. Like I said, you deserve pleasure, whatever that looks like to you.”
To keep with tradition, I will share a few ways Master J and I have defined our sex life. In other words, how we approach sex depending on our life circumstances, moods, and seasons. Even as people who enjoy hardcore sex, a large part of our sexual relationship doesn’t include penetration, let alone BDSM dynamics.
PLAYBOOK OF MASTER J & QUEAN MO
I’ll be straight up, Master J doesn’t like blood and it has nothing to do with the fact that it comes from my uterus. We could be in the middle of sex, and my nose could start bleeding, and he’d have to stop. It simply makes him queasy. So, what do we do then when I’m horny af, but he can’t promise he won’t pass out mid-session?
Simple. Depending on how heavy my period is, he will use his hands. But, more than not, I will masturbate while he plays with my chest. I am very dependent on breast-stimulation for an orgasm anyway, so it allows him to provide mono-focussed sensation on that part of my body.
For him, I tend to perform oral. I am someone who deeply enjoys giving this type of pleasure, so it’s usually an option for him during my period. In fact, we participated in a D/s scene (at my request), whereby the only thing he could penetrate was my mouth. It was a sexy twist to our regular D/s scenes, and it allowed him to focus on his fetish of mouth play.
Let’s be real, there are moments where one of us just wants to please the other. Sometimes it’s because only one of us are in the mood, or we simply connect the deepest when we bring the other to orgasm. Of course, if one of us is horny, we never put pressure on the unaroused partner. In saying that, one thing I’ve recognized about our relationship is, even if we don’t necessarily want to be stimulated ourselves, we are quite happy pleasing the other.
What does this look like for us? Usually exploration of the body through touch, leading into oral or manual stimulation.
Then, of course, you have those moments that you’re super horny, but also incredibly tired. This has been happening a lot for us lately, as we finish the season in the mountains. What usually takes place is a combination of easy sexual positions for low-exertion penetration (missionary, or variations of – for example, I’m on my stomach instead of my back – or spooning). We may also engage in mutual masturbation, or very light, genital centric touching.
If we’re feeling a bit curious, we will purchase or download a game that will introduce us to new activities, positions or stimulation. We will at times incorporate new toys, equipment, kink wear, or create an entirely new scenario/character. We will also explore different ways of experiencing sex, such as through Tantric practices. We are both very good at remaining open, and welcoming any new sexual adventure that comes our way, so long as it stays within the boundaries and agreements of our relationship.
The Full Shabang
When Master J and I are feeling on top of our game – energetic, horny, connected – and we have the proper environment, we will participate in a variety of D/s scenes. For us, this type of sex takes the most time, is the most exerting, and requires the most amount of prep.
Usually, one of us will decide on 5-10 items we wish to use in the scene, and set them up accordingly. I will put myself in a sub mindset, for example, the slave or whore. Master J will take time to tie me up, and before getting into physically intense play (example, impact play, active humiliation, such as crawling on hands and knees while wearing a collar and leash, or performing sexual acts on him, such as oral), he will spend time warming my body up, while using verbal humiliation. This usually takes the form of name calling, tantalizing non-genital body touch, and the eventual switch between oral/manual/penetrative sex, in a variety of positions.
No matter what you decide sex means to you, always remember that you are responsible for your own orgasm and pleasure, regardless where your anatomy sits on the spectrum of vulva to penis. This means understanding what your body enjoys, as well as being selective about partners. You should value your pleasure enough to choose someone who cares as much about your satisfaction as they do their own. It’s important to be vocal about your needs! If someone doesn’t receive this information with grace, step out of the bed (or, you know, wherever you’re doing it), and create space for someone who will.
Until next time,
Fuck well, friends!