C/O Ainsley Thurgood

Reclaiming female pleasure through conversation and community 

By: Amelia King, contributor 

The word “sex” has seen the peak of its use in the English language within the past few years. Yet, for many, our relationship with this word is one that often evokes feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment among other negative or confusing emotions as we dance around many important topics still considered to be somewhat taboo, including female sexuality and pleasure.  

There is a double standard that exists between men and women with regards to sexual intimacy, influenced by several factors. More recently, many women have begun to push back against these standards, finding community in breaking the stigma against female pleasure. 

Some studies have shown women’s attitudes towards sex tend to be more susceptible to social, cultural and educational influences, adding a layer of complexity to understanding female sexuality. Namely, the widely pronounced double standard that encourages men to seek out sexual partners more often and discourages women from seeking sexual pleasure exists cross-culturally. This pervasive double standard instills more fear, shame and hesitancy into many women about sexual intimacy compared to men.  

From an evolutionary perspective, it was beneficial for males to copulate with multiple partners for the sake of contributing more of their genes to the human population, whereas it was more beneficial for a woman to seek one long-term partner who would stay to help raise their offspring. Today, sex is commonly thought of more as an intimate act than merely a reproductive function. 

Along with our evolutionary history, social challenges may explain why women may be more susceptible to scrutiny and feelings of shame on the basis of their sexual choices, partners and desires, although further research is needed. Both women and men tend to value emotional connection when it comes to sex. However, the role of sex in a relationship can be perceived differently between women and men. In addition, popular media including film and television tends to project an oversimplified and unrealistic portrayal of female pleasure and orgasm rates. 

There is a key knowledge gap that exists as well. Studies have found both men and women struggle to accurately label the female reproductive anatomy, with this knowledge gap being more prominent in men. Moreover, while a complex interplay of physiological and psychological stimuli is responsible for both female and male arousal, various studies and female opinions attribute more weight to psychological factors in determining women’s chances and levels of arousal.  

In addition to this, with a greater average length of time needed for women to reach orgasm relative to men, it is evident women have a different pathway to satisfaction compared to men.  

On a positive note, in recent years, many women have found community in breaking the stigma against female pleasure, namely female self-pleasure. For many years, religion, double standards and social and cultural influences have led women to associate more feelings of guilt and shame with sex and their own pleasure than are observed in men.  

Since the gap in knowledge surrounding female anatomy exists in both men and women, acts of self-pleasure allow women to explore their own bodies with less risks as well as many physical and mental health benefits relative to sex with a partner. While pleasurable intimacy in a relationship is important, learning about our own bodies both intellectually and physically is highly beneficial in determining our own pleasure stimuli and our comfort levels and boundaries surrounding intimacy.  

By encouraging dialogue on sex positivity, a shift towards reclaiming femininity in sexual intimacy has emerged. It has started with breaking the stigma surrounding women discussing their pleasure in the same way men often do. Another key element here has been the increase in support of female-focused pleasure both with a partner and solo, as women increasingly value the importance of receiving equal pleasure.  

While there is a long way to go, this shift has created more space for women to explore and develop a healthy understanding of their own bodies. Female pleasure is not something to be hidden, ashamed of or ignored, but rather something that should be celebrated and prioritized. It’s about time women become enabled to uncover a wealth of health benefits in taking care of their sexual health as they take a radical step towards reclaiming femininity and their own pleasure.  

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