Maybe you’ve never heard the underrated 1985 funk rock bop about feminism and female masturbation “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by Aretha Franklin and Eurythmics, but it’s outstanding. Take six minutes and listen to it. Female sexual pleasure and independence have rarely been so well-celebrated. Apart from the 1980s-level heteronormativity in the song, it’s a tour de force down to Aretha’s closing mic-drop line, “Thank you, I’ll get it myself.”
Despite the pulsating optimism of “Sisters Are Doin’ It,” the reality is anticlimactic: Women report having far fewer, less frequent orgasms than men — a tragic injustice that’s persisted for generations. Our generation, however, can finally satisfy our moral obligation and attempt some sexual reparations. Women are entitled to sexual pleasure. So it’s our job to make sure a solution comes together #InThisGen.
To some people, female masturbation and female orgasms are the stuff of myth and misconception. They may also sound like “women’s issues” and not the sort of thing male readers need to worry about — that couldn’t be more wrong.
Orgasms can boost the immune system, improve mood, increase pain tolerance and possibly even extend your life (not to mention regularize menstruation). Women deserve all these things. And we all benefit when women are happier, healthier and more resilient, so promoting female sexual satisfaction should be as talked about as curing cancer.
But (spoiler alert) men aren’t pulling their weight here. Sometimes it’s good when things are hard, but this is not one of those things. So, gentlemen, here’s a crash course on making women come. Take notes; sweat the details. I expect your best work.
Science may not fully understand the ins and outs of the female orgasm, but some facts are clear. While the male orgasm is simple — men often orgasm quickly after straightforward stimulation — the female orgasm contains multitudes. Not only do women require a few more factors for success, they also face more challenges.
First, both clitoral and vaginal stimulation are usually essential for the female orgasm. But to each their own, as those with female genitals report widely varied secrets for success, indicating that female orgasms need to be tailored and personalized. For beginners, I recommend spelling the alphabet with your tongue. She can tell you which letters she prefers.
Second, sex hurts for many women, especially with penetration. Partners need to be ready to experiment and adapt, finding whatever hits the spot. Key factors include proper physical stimulation and emotional relaxation before sex (pro tip: Stress is bad for sex).
Third, although partners can help with female orgasms, things are a whole lot easier if masturbation happens first. Women are much more likely to achieve orgasms with others — and generally better sex — when they regularly masturbate and orgasm on their own. Every climax needs some rising action.
Female masturbation, similar to most female sexual satisfaction, is usually stigmatized (if it gets discussed at all). Ladies, you don’t have to masturbate, but frankly it helps. Give it a shot. Even if you’re cynical about it or have tried before with little success, masturbation is key to most sexual pleasure. Meet your clitoris. Maybe even consider finding toys to make things more fun. You deserve it.
Finally, a note to men: Women with male partners report far less frequent orgasms. In contrast, lesbians in committed relationships report notably higher rates of orgasms and sexual satisfaction; women with male partners deserve nothing less.
Some might argue that “Men are just ignorant — vaginas are complicated” or that “Women don’t necessarily ask for what they want.” And yes, most men are certainly ignorant when it comes to female anatomy, and women should certainly feel empowered to request that their sexual desires be satisfied.
But the obvious backdrop here is that men are often willing to stay ignorant about female pleasure, accepting the climaxes women fake as real. No less than 50 percent of women report feigning orgasms. Gentlemen, that’s a failing grade. Female orgasms take as much work as Computer Science 61A; it’s time to start doing your homework. I would be mortified if someone faked an orgasm for me, wouldn’t you?
So to cisgender men with female partners, I say to become students of female sexual anatomy, learn the nuts and bolts, and ask your partner whether you’re serving their needs. A woman’s orgasm shouldn’t be rare and mystifying, and men should refuse to make excuses for themselves. Research suggests some women truly cannot have orgasms — and their partners should creatively consider how to compensate. But the vast majority of women can achieve orgasm, and they are likely to appreciate a partner willing to make that happen.
Friends and girlfriends of mine have suffered from everything from endometriosis to UTIs, which can make vaginal penetration quite painful for them. Men, even if you can’t relate to this pain, the main thing is to be accommodating, to learn other skills and try other techniques. Ensure that you satisfy your partner however they need you to, not just however is easiest.
Women can lay the groundwork through their own sexual self-exploration and regular masturbation, but straight, bisexual and pansexual women have the right to expect real attention and effort from their male partners. Since sex can be painful for so many women, straight, bisexual and pansexual men need to see their female partners as opportunities for education, generosity, personal growth and the devotion of proper energy.
But men, the female orgasm isn’t about you. Satisfying female partners should be about them, about being a giving partner and about repairing possibly the most taboo form of inequality. Contributing to a woman’s orgasm is a righteous act, and you should be proud of doing good. But let’s be clear: Achieving the female orgasm should just earn “meets expectations” — don’t expect extra credit.
Sisters may be doing it for themselves, but their partners need to be ready and willing to lend a helping hand.
Aidan Bassett writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact him at [email protected].