Feminism means equality not just in the office or the kitchen but also in the bedroom. But what exactly does it mean to practice
equality in your sex life? You sometimes hear about the fight for orgasm equality, but you also hear that orgasm doesn't have to be the goal of sex, so are there better ways to measure sexual equality?
"It is crucial to identify inequalities outside of the bedroom, whether that’s specific to your relationship or in society more broadly, and how they can play a role in your sex life," Stephanie Alys, co-founder and Chief Pleasure Officer of
MysteryVibe, tells Bustle. "Educating yourself on the ways in which patriarchal sex norms play out in the mainstream — for example, penetrative sex is dominant in film and TV, whereas cunnilingus is absent — can help you and your partner strive for a more equal understanding of pleasure that will ooze into your everyday life."
It's important not just for men to be considerate toward their partners but also for women and non-binary people to know their rights and advocate for their needs. However you identify, here are some ways to make sure you and your partner are equals in the bedroom, according to experts.
The foundation for any healthy, equal sex life is consent. People can't feel like equals if they're treated as objects to fulfill their partners' desires. To ensure everything you and your partners do is consensual, Alys recommends having multiple conversations about your boundaries.
"Set any boundaries or limits that are continually re-evaluated," she says. "This way, you can ensure that neither partner feels like they’re having their boundaries pushed too much."
Prioritize Each Other's Mental Health
Beyond just making sex consensual, it's important to make sure it actually feels good for both of you emotionally. Check in with each other about your mental health, not just around sex but in general. For example, if one person has a higher sex drive than the other, make sure the lower-sex-drive person doesn't feel pressured into sex. "Make mental health a non-taboo subject in your relationship," says Alys. "To make sure both partners are accommodated for, this may mean you need to redefine what sex means to both of you."
Ask Them What They Like — And Listen Without Judgment
Another aspect of equality is everyone's right to express what they desire without being judged for it. You don't have to do everything they're into, but you should be interested in learning how to satisfy them. "It is essential to create an open and non-judgmental space, where both partners feel they have the option and ability to express their fantasies and desires," Alys says. "Even if it’s not something either or both of you are comfortable acting out! As the saying goes, 'your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is OK.'"
Strive For Equal Orgasms
This doesn't have to be a goal if orgasms aren't that important to one or both people, but if they are, striving for around the same number of orgasms for each person (without actually keeping score) is one way to measure equality. "Recognize that one partner may need more time or stimulation to reach a similar level of pleasure as the other," says Alys. "It is vital to take each other’s bodies and minds into consideration — whether this means focusing more on non-penetrative sexual activity or even incorporating vibrators such as
Crescendo or Tenuto."
Discuss How You Both Feel About Your Sex Lives
"You don’t want equality to necessarily refer to sameness,"
Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly tells Bustle. For example, one person may initiate sex more often, but that could be OK because they may enjoy initiating more. Instead of concrete measures like this, make sure both people feel happy with the sex.
Some questions to ask are "How do you feel about our sex life?", "Is there anything you’d like me to do more of?", and "What would make sex more emotionally fulfilling for you?", says Dr. Jess.
Make Sure Everyone's Physically Comfortable
One in 10 women report experiencing
pain during sex, but this should not be accepted as the norm, because there are nearly always ways to prevent it. "When women are first taught about sex, they hear that it will probably hurt the first time and that they may bleed," Brianna Rader, relationship and sex educator and founder of the Juicebox Sex & Relationship App, tells Bustle. "The expectation becomes that women may not enjoy sex, much less orgasm. Sex should never be painful. If it is, consider adding more time for foreplay, using lube, or trying something other than penetration."
Expand Your Definition Of "Sex" Beyond Intercourse
We've come to define intercourse as "sex" while other acts are considered "foreplay," but some prefer "foreplay" as the main event. "Only about 20 percent of women orgasm from vaginal sex, so this may mean you need to incorporate more foreplay, oral sex, or sex toys into your sex life to reach orgasm," says Rader. "Other questions to ask yourself are whether you both are involved in deciding what kind of sex you are having regularly. For many straight couples, penis-in-vagina sex is the default. However, that may not be the preference for everyone."
In addition to practicing equality in your sex life, it's equally important to practice
equality in your relationship by splitting labor evenly, supporting each other's dreams, and listening to each other's feelings and needs. A more satisfying relationship will mean more satisfying sex, and vice versa.