What Mainstream Culture Hides About Sex, Women and Orgasms
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This originally appeared on Everyday Feminism. Republished here with permission.
Sexual pleasure is not a one-way street.
If you are a woman who has had one, two, or any number of sexual partners, you may know that sex should always feel good for both partners.
If you are a woman who has not yet had sex, you probably hope that your first time, and times subsequent, will be equally pleasurable for everyone involved.
After all, our sexual relationships are outlets for pleasure.
I mean, who doesn’t have a Kama Sutra app on their iPhone? Who hasn’t read “10 Ways to Please Your Man With an Ice Cube” in a Cosmopolitan magazine?
OK, maybe we’re all not all as guilty as I am, but the truth is that seeking sexual pleasure is normal and healthy—yes, even for you.
In a healthy sexual relationship, partners should discuss what turns them on and what boundaries they are willing to push. They learn about one another’s bodies and maybe with time, develop synchronicity.
And foremost, they understand that enjoying the moment is what makes it special, whether both reach orgasm or not.
Surely, we all love orgasms. But our media and cultural perceptions would have us believe that heterosexual men are more deserving of orgasms.
In an article I recently read, for instance, the writer unashamedly wrote:
“It is no secret that both men and women alike have sexual urges. Men, however, feel the need to get off more often than most women.”
But there really is a tendency to believe that men desire sexual pleasure more than women.
I can’t think of one big blockbuster movie where a couple is having sex and the man doesn’t reach orgasm to signify the end of the sex scene. Can you?
And don’t even get me started on the fact that movies showing sex scenes where a woman is receiving pleasure are often marked as inappropriate and given higher ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
In 2010, the indie film Blue Valentine initially received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA for showing a brief (and non-nude, might I add) scene where actress Michelle Williams is receiving oral sex from her movie boyfriend, actor Ryan Gosling. The rating stands for “No One 17 and Under Admitted” and is reserved for movies with pornographic sex scenes.
Similarly, the movie Monster’s Ball also faced an uphill battle with the MPAA when they originally gave the movie an NC-17 rating for showing a scene where the actress Halle Berry is receiving oral sex from actor Billy Bob Thorton.
The MPAA’s reluctance to label movies that show more realistic examples of sex between couples as inappropriate is a very telling sign of how our society views female pleasure.
Even Ryan Gosling himself (hey, girl) had something to say about the Blue Valentine rating: “The MPAA is OK supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario which is both complicit and complex.”
Even our beloved romantic comedies are steeped in stereotypes of sex.
I love the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I could watch it 10 times in one day and still laugh. But when I see the movie through my lens as a sexual woman and a feminist, I notice a lot of scenes that play up stereotypes about heterosexual sex.
In one scene the character played by Jason Segel, Peter, is trying to have sex with his movie ex-girlfriend Sarah, played by Kristen Bell. The key word is trying, because he is unsuccessful in getting an erection, and the moment is ruined. The scene is a pivotal moment to show that Peter is indeed over Sarah: His penis didn’t even want her.