Author: Angel Sumka (they/them) is a sexuality educator and sex coach.
We all know that pornography teaches unrealistic views of sex, pleasure and intimacy, right? So for those of us that did not watch porn, how did we end up with the same unrealistic ideas? Ideas that view the orgasm and pleasure of the person with a uterus/clitoris as something that is performed rather than experienced; a feather in the cap of the (presumedly cis) man that ”gave” the pleasure or orgasm to his clitoris based partner. It was something he could choose to provide or not, and his partner was (and is) lucky if they experience pleasure during sex. Ideas that the orgasm of a person with a clitoris is caused by sticking something in the vagina and thrusting for a few minutes.
I was not one for watching porn, but as most of us do I enjoyed my favorite TV shows, the more than occasional movie and (back in the day) music videos. I also was one of the lucky ones that got sex education; albeit a fear infused lecture on the perils of sex, disease and the dreaded pregnancy. Even sex education focused on the pleasure of the penis and did not mention the clitoris, the pleasure or even desire for sexual contact of those who are assumed female.
As someone assigned female at birth I have been indoctrinated with the notion that those with a womb do not desire sex, but ”give” it to the man in order to secure love, safety, and home. It is a common joke to ”lay back and think of England” if you have british grandparents (like I did). Men pursue and womenfolk guard access to their vaginas to ensure they have value for some wonderful provider who will surely see them as less if their vagina has been ”used”. Sex education has certainly improved, at least these tropes are not the norm anymore; but the notion that there is a right way to orgasm still exists. If you have a vagina and do not orgasm from penetration you are ”unlucky”, and if you can squirt on command you are priceless (although not if you do so without warning, of course). We still focus on penetration as the ultimate sex act. Folk quiz gay couples to find out who is the penetrated and who is the penetrator, as we need to know which of them is the “man” in the relationship. Lesbians are viewed as something that exists for the pleausre of those with a penis, providing them porn that doesn’t include someone else’s penis.
And I want to be very clear here… It is very common for folk to fake their orgasms without even meaning to-without even knowing if it was real or not. Folk report that they felt good, and they expressed that feeling good and it was assumed they had ”cum”. For many women it is a realization they come to when they first use a toy; or have a relationship with someone else with a clitoris. For some, they are aware they are faking, and assume they can’t orgasm at all-that they are somehow orgasm deficient.
When I stopped worrying about my partner’s ego, and instead just let myself feel what I feel, express how I express, and to just be in the moment, my sex life changed. It was not easy, and it was not an instant shift. I warned my partner that I was being more present with myself. We talked about my concerns about the whole perform vs experience nature of partnered sex. I was worried that he would feel hurt by my lack of performative pleasure; that he would be less interested in sex if he did not get the hero cookies and belt notches of wild, loud orgasms; concerned that he would be so focused on ”making it happen” that he would loose sight of the journey in intimacy. He expressed his own concerns (not mine to share here) and we proceeded to re-learn partnered sex.
We each took responsibility for our own orgasm, and began the process of allowing one another that right and responsibility to be in charge of their own pleasure.
It has been a journey, and like all experiences that include learning some of it was more yummy than others… But the yummy is REALLY yummy. Being able to just be honest, to explore one another, and our selves without that pressure, that disconnect that comes with performative sex. It has been absolutely worth it.
PS. Check out omgyes.com There is a tonne of fun tips, techniques etc for folk with a vulva to explore!