If I shed a tear every time I heard about a woman or teenage girl thinking it was OK for a man to get his pleasure when she didn’t, I’d be able to fill at least a lake, if not an ocean. And while sometimes that happens because the guys they’re sleeping with are jerks, all too often the real culprit is a culture that teaches women that a man’s sexual pleasure is more important than her own. That same culture that creates men who don’t care about or know to push for their female partner’s pleasure creates women who don’t know how to advocate for their own sexual pleasure and orgasm. And that, to me, is devastating.
You’d hope that this was a generational thing; that this new crop of young people who are embracing gender and sexuality diversity would also understand the importance of female pleasure but, unfortunately, it would seem that’s not the case. For her new book Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, author Peggy Orenstein did in-depth interviews with teenagers and found that while the boys defined a successful sexual encounter as being one where they orgasmed, the girls didn’t. Instead, they felt that if their male partner was satisfied, they were satisfied. Oh. Hell. No.
It’s immensely disheartening and frustrating to me that this is the narrative that teenage girls are still following — but I don’t blame them for it. I was lucky to be raised in a sex-positive household and was taught from a young age to advocate for my own pleasure. In fact, while I was sexually active starting in my early teens, I was fine with boys giving me pleasure but I didn’t touch any penises until my mid teens, when I felt like I was ready. However, most Millennial women and teenage girls have come of age in a time where parents expect sex ed to happen in school, but sex ed that doesn’t focus on abstinence still doesn’t talk about pleasure.
So how, exactly, do you advocate for your own pleasure and orgasm, no matter how old you are? Here are six tips. But first, check out the latest episode of Bustle's Sex and Relationships podcast "I Want It That Way":
1. Figure Out What Gets You Off
It’s really hard to advocate for your pleasure when you don’t even know what it looks like, right?
I spent a lot of time reading erotica when I was a teenager and it quickly became clear which things turned me on. Erotica is a great resource for figuring out your turn ons because it allows you to explore the realm of what’s physically possible. Masturbate while you explore different stories (or visual images) and pay attention to how your body responds.
One of the reasons there’s such a pleasure gap for teenagers when they start having sex is the fact that boys are masturbating and figuring out what turns them on from a very young age — but girls aren’t. We can remedy that situation by teaching young women about their bodies, about pleasure, about how to masturbate, and pointing them toward sources of great erotica.
And for those of you who aren’t teens anymore but are still struggling with this? It’s never too late to do you.
2. Practice On Your Own!
Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate! Try out different toys or different fingers or different positions. (Yup, you can masturbate in different positions.) Figure out what your bodies needs to reach orgasm and get good at it! It’s like, the most fun you’ll ever have forming a habit.
3. Ask For What You Need
I tend to see the good in most people, which I know some think is naive, but I really do believe that most people want their partners to have a good time during sex. Keep that in mind when you’re at the point of your partner getting their pleasure, but you’re left hanging. A simple, “OK, my turn,” and a smile can be enough to remind them that sex doesn’t end with one orgasm.
4. …Except When You Don’t Have To Ask
But one thing you never have to ask for is the right to touch yourself during sex. Considering the fact that most women need direct clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm — even during intercourse — it’s totally legit for your hand to get in on the action. Don’t ask; just do it! One of the great things about masturbating and figuring out what turns you on is the fact that you know what it takes to push yourself over the edge.
Another thing you don’t need to ask before doing? Fantasizing during sex. A lot of people feel guilty about having a show running in their minds during partnered sex but think of this way: Your partner likes it when you enjoy yourself. Your partner wants you to get off. If fantasizing helps you get there or get there stronger, aren’t you doing your partner a favor by fantasizing?
5. Dump Partners Who Don’t Care About Your Pleasure
Obviously give them a try or two to get it right but if your partner is consistently getting off on or in you and then rolling over and going to sleep, it’s time to say goodbye. Sex is the main way we differentiate between our friends and our romantic partners, so it's essential to romantic relationships. If your romantic partner isn’t caring about your pleasure and orgasm, it’s time to peace out.
Also, someone who doesn’t care about your pleasure is showing you that they don’t really care about you. Why would you continue to care about (and for) someone who shows you that kind of disregard?
6. Remind Yourself — Regularly — That Your Pleasure Is Important
When you start to think thoughts like, “Well, they really enjoyed it…” stop yourself. Replace them with self-empowering thoughts like “I am worth it,” or whatever it is that makes you feel good and powerful. Don’t justify a partner’s disregard for your pleasure, ever, even in your own mind.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (4)