Orgasm Equality

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A picture of Sophia Wallace’s art, taken from her website.

By Olivia Comstock

In this essay I am going to be talking about orgasms specific to people who have a vagina and clitoris, there are people who do not identify as female who experience these kind of orgasms from this anatomy, so I am going to refrain from using gendered terms as much as possible. Instead, I will just be referring to the orgasm produced from this kind of anatomy as simply an orgasm.

A majority of current media surrounding sex focuses on how to maximize male pleasure, while almost entirely ignoring estrogen-bodied pleasure. Porn primarily serves a male audience and includes acts, such as blowjobs, oriented towards male pleasure while rarely featuring female pleasure or female-centered acts, such as cunnilingus. Advice columns and magazines write about how to be good in bed, how to look good in bed, and how to pleasure your partner. These are instructing the women what to do and alienating themselves from their own body by sending the message that all of their efforts are to increase male pleasure. Popular culture sexualizes and infantilizes women for the pleasure of men.

The whole vocabulary around sex is male-centered. The acts that primarily produce male pleasure are defined and named, while clitoris-centered acts remain mysterious and often unnamed. The vaginal orgasm requires a penis in order to be induced, a phallocentric view. It emphasizes penetrative sex as the main and ultimate act of sexual pleasure and disregards foreplay, oral sex, fingering, mutual masturbation, and the whole gambit of non-penetrative acts that are more suited for incorporating clitoral pleasure. However, these acts are less mainstream, more socially taboo, and many men refuse to perform acts such as oral sex, or complain when asked. Additionally, much of the research done to defend the vaginal orgasm has been conducted with the intention of keeping the penis as a primary part of sex.

The orgasm is a highly elusive, slippery little phenomenon to unpack. Common knowledge and media propagation suggest there are multiple types – mainly the clitoral and the vaginal, or g-spot, orgasm. The clitoral orgasm occurs through stimulation of the clitoris. The supposed vaginal orgasm occurs through penetrative sex or fingering, but is said to not involve the clitoris. This is where the controversy begins. For centuries, many have thought that the vaginal orgasm is possible and that it occurs completely absent clitoral stimulation. However, most people find orgasm through clitoral stimulation achievable, while only a small fraction report vaginal orgasms. Further, the vagina is incredibly insensitive inside and is only sensitive in the first two inches.

Freud was one of the main contributors to this myth, stating that younger women experienced clitoral orgasms and vaginal orgasms were for fully matured women. Lack of ability to have a vaginal orgasm was referred to as “frigidity” and was associated with inability to come into one’s full mature womanly state. Another large contributor to this myth is the lack of scientific understanding of the clitoral anatomy. The clitoris was not fully mapped or scientifically understood until the late 1990s. This led to confusion about what was actually causing the orgasm. Seeing the full anatomy of the clitoris, however, has shown that it is a much larger organ than originally thought. The anatomy of the clitoris suggests that what appear to be vaginal orgasms are ultimately just the result of indirect clitoral stimulation and mental arousal.

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An anatomically correct mapping of the clitoris organ.

The penis-centered rhetoric and way of defining orgasms during sex is also very heteronormative, excluding sexual experiences outside of male and female. This is important because women having sexual experiences with other women orgasm about 80% of the time during sexual encounters while women having sexual experiences with men have one orgasm for every three orgasms that the man has. Additionally, women orgasm from penetrative sex alone only one-quarter to one-third of the time, while the man orgasms 95% of the time. Because penetrative sex is seen as the final sex act, women are often left still aroused after their partner has orgasmed. The same-sex sexual situation is clitoris focused, as there is no penis to please, creating a far greater number of orgasms and greater orgasm equality. Perhaps the lack of research on clitoris orgasms and the focus on penetrative sex stems from a subconscious fear that women will no longer need the penis if too much is found out.

The solution to this great orgasm problem? A personal solution is to request orgasm equality from your partner. If you have a clitoris and a vagina, then you can educate your partners on how to best please you. Perhaps if they understand the anatomy and context surrounding clitoris orgasms, then they will be more willing to help pleasure you. I know that talking to your partner about intimate, vulnerable sex-things is hard, especially if your partner is a dude-bro male type who is perpetuating these problems, but by having these conversations it allows the two of you to become more connected and have more mutual sexual relations. It also informs you and your partner for any future sexual encounters you will have with other people. If your partner is unwilling to honor your request, then there are deeper problems in your situation that will probably negatively affect you in more ways than just orgasms. Another solution is to spread the word, such as artist Sophia Wallace’s “cliteracy” project on increasing clitoral literacy. Her art is the picture at the beginning of this post. She makes art focused on clitoris anatomy and empowers those with clitorises. Perhaps a grassroots movement of orgasm equality could begin through a word of mouth grapevine of partner-to-partner and through the spread of art! Good luck with your conversations and endeavors!

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