There have been a lot of taboos around female pleasure throughout history. Scientists, predominantly male, were not really interested in understanding how exactly female body works. Clitoris was a complete unknown. We might even say that today, women’s sexuality stays an enigma, a conversation that we do not easily bring up even when we are simply among friends. Even though we have made a huge progress with the menstruation cycle, female pleasure stays a conversational no no.
That is why we are bringing you today the Ted Talks that move the boundaries around female sexuality and female pleasure.
The uncomplicated truth about women’s sexuality
In this brilliant Ted Talk Sarah Barmak, a journalism professor and a writer about women’s health and sexuality, gender and sexual consent wonders if women’s sexuality and female pleasure are more complicated than men’s.
The author Barmak reveals that the knowledge, or more precisely said, lack of it on the female bodies has shaped the discussion around it for centuries. Unfortunately, medical ignorance on the female bodies continues even today. But why? Mainly because throughout history doctors were predominantly men, interested principally in their bodies. Men looked at the female pleasure and women’s bodies through their own lenses.
Do women feel less pleasure than man?
We tend to think that men feel more pleasure than women, that they might be more easily aroused. It is estimated that less than 60% of women has an orgasm during an intercourse whilst 90% of men. Female pleasure is still an unknown, something we still need to understand better. Is simply an understanding and knowledge around it the key to more pleasure?
Because, when you think about it, it is no wonder that women’s pleasure is still a taboo. Until recently, scientists did not know that clitoris had anything to do with female pleasure. How could people think that clitoris did not serve any purpose?
We found out that clitoris existed in 2009, and as Sarah Barmak says: ‘’After we finished mapping the entire human genome!’’ The audience laughs, but I am not sure if they are actually crying from the inside. This is particularly shocking because serious anatomy books still omit the clitoris.
Some recent anatomy textbooks omit a description of the clitoris… The clitoris is a structure about which few diagrams and minimal description are provided, potentially impacting its preservation during surgery.
Dr. Helen O’Connell
The most important point that Barmak makes is that consent is deeply connected to female sexuality. We need to know it first in order to understand what feels good and what doesn’t. If we, as society, do not take seriously female pleasure, how will we, women, know what feels good and what doesn’t? We need to understand our bodies first in order to love them, cherish them and then share that love with a partner. This ignorance connected to our bodies and here in particular to female pleasure, has been a way of men to oppress women. If you do not know if a certain touch is acceptable or pleasurable, you will not know how to react when you are in a situation where the consent is the key.
What young women believe about their own sexual pleasure
What does female pleasure mean
Peggy Orenstein is a journalist and an author of a groundbreaking book called Girls&Sex where she explores the changing landscapes of modern sexual expectations and its troubling impact on adolescents and young women.
Orenstein believes that the only way the change can happen is if we spoke more about sexual pleasure. She speaks about it in general, but I would most certainly put it more precisely – if we spoke more about female pleasure. Additionally, she says that sexual education in schools and everyday life is also crucial for children’s understanding of their bodies. And I cannot agree more!
American parents were not necessarily uncomfortable talking about sex, but they tend to frame those conversations entirely in terms of rick and danger. Whereas Dutch parents talk about balancing responsibility and joy.
She basis this hypothesis on the survey done in the USA and in the Netherlands where 300 randomly chosen girls were under a survey. They were asked about their early experiences with sex. ‘’Dutch girls embodied everything we say we want from girls, because, yes, there is certain pressure. They had fewer negative consequences like disease, pregnancy, regret. More positive outcomes such as: being able to communicate with their partner who they said they knew very well, preparing for the experience responsibly, they even said they enjoyed themselves. The Dutch girls said that their doctors, teachers and parents talked to them candidly about sex, pleasure and the importance of mutual trust.’’, Orenstein explains.
Women’s sexuality as a source of self-knowledge
This feminist author explains her wishes for our daughters. She says that speaking about disease, consent and protection is not enough. Sexuality is a source of self-knowledge, creativity and communication despite its risks. Orenstein wants girls to be safe from unwanted pregnancy, disease, cruelty, dehumanization, sexual violence and violence in general.
‘’If they are assaulted, I want them to have recourse from their schools, their employers, the courts. It’s a lot to ask but it’s not too much.’’
She goes right to the point and speaks that girls need to know what they want to get in bad. But first, that knowledge needs to go through a prism of self-love and self-acceptance in order to get to a satisfying female pleasure. Peggy Orenstein does not omit our, societies responsibility in all of this:
As parents, teachers, advocates and activists, we have raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment at home, in the classroom, at work. Now it’s time to demand that intimate justice in their personal lives as well.
A case for cliteracy
Her project 100 Laws of Cliteracy, an educational art about clitoris was excellently received. She wanted to play with words and make knowledge about clitoris more accessible. Wallace understood the power of language and this way of expression in our everyday lives. The audience responded really well, probably because this type of work was much needed.
Give the clitoris the right to exist!
At the time when she spoke for Ted Talks, she said that there were over 140 million women that had their clitoris cut off. Clitoris, not only that it has the right to exist because it is an organ, just like any other, but also because we need to claim the female pleasure through it.
Many might think that clitoris is like a button, but it is actually like an iceberg. We can feel only the top of it. The biggest difference between clitoris and penis is that clitoris is internal and penis external. You can read more about their similarities in the article Everything you wanted to know about clitoris.
This conceptual artist and photographer also speaks about misuse of naming our female genitals. Vagina is widely used; however, vagina is not the same as vulva. By saying vagina, we reduce what vulva actually means and what englobes. If we say only vagina, we speak only about the internal part and we exclude the clitoris. It is rather important to use vulva because it addresses all female genitals, both reproductive and those responsible for female pleasure. Because female pleasure goes mainly through internal and external clitoris stimulation since clitoris contains most of the nerve endings.
This information shocked me most. Freud spoke about void in the female bodies, because of their visible anatomy. That is why there is that notion of lacking something. Since boys have erection and they ejaculate, we think their sexuality and their pleasure is therefore more important than ours. On the other hand, we are thought that girls menstruate, bleed and hurt. Semen is there to fertilize the egg. That thought puts once again women in a position of a passive receiver instead of an active participant. That is why also girls are called accountable when something happens.
Knowledge about female pleasure failed us
History and lack of knowledge on female bodies and female pleasure today shows us that men were not particularly interested in understanding it. They ignored the fact that clitoris existed and even found it important to remove it. They basically canceled female pleasure.
Women were not allowed to feel and own they sexual pleasure, which is still the case today. What we, women, need to understand today is that sexual pleasure is ours and only ours and it is up to us to find ways to enjoy ourselves.
Nowadays, we use sex to sell everything and anything, we tell women that they need to be sexy and sexual, but we do not educate anyone about it. Neither men nor women, neither girls nor boys.
As Sarah Barmak said. It is not only about orgasm, but also about defining pleasure and knowing what is good for us. For me it is about the confidence, self-worth and knowing my own body. Sexual pleasure is something that connects us not only to our partner but primarily to ourselves.