Shop
+
All products
Vibrators
Supplements
Intimate care
Bundles
Extras

Your cart is currently empty.

Close

Account

loading...

Yes to sexual pleasure as a human right, no to orgasm as an injunction!

  Who doesn’t love an orgasm? Sometimes, it’s the women who think about it the most who end up enjoying it the least. In our result-driven, orgasm-obsessed times, have we somewhat lost track of what actually matters the most?   Sexual pleasure is an actual human right. How do global institutions define pleasure? Sex is […]

By Aurelie | 9 May 2020
Illustration of a girl using a flower as a megaphone

  Who doesn’t love an orgasm? Sometimes, it’s the women who think about it the most who end up enjoying it the least. In our result-driven, orgasm-obsessed times, have we somewhat lost track of what actually matters the most?  

Sexual pleasure is an actual human right.

How do global institutions define pleasure?

Sex is power, sex is a currency, and as such, sex is political. Beyond the individual sphere, sex is an institutional matter.  The World Health Organisation defines sexuality as “…a central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.” (WHO, 2006a) Beyond such crucial aspects as orientation, identity, integrity and consent, further notions are thus introduced. While some are a matter of life and death, others are a matter of quality of life. And if we are lucky enough not to have to worry about the former, then the latter is of primary relevance. The last but perhaps most progressive of the sexual rights listed by the WHO is in fact the right to “pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sex life”.   

Why female pleasure is a revolution in itself.

We sure have come a long way since the sexual revolution that put female pleasure on the agenda, and yet it has taken a while longer for women to truly be heard.  By adopting a gender-neutral definition of pleasure, some have feared that men’s right to sexual pleasure would invariably be exercised by oppressing some women, especially the most vulnerable. As a result, feminist scholars and female activists have suggested we adopt a gender-specific definition that reflects the dynamics of masculine dominance and prevents male pleasure from expressing itself through sexual violence against women. At a more individual and intimate level, we need to keep bringing female pleasure into the spotlight and voice our needs and expectations. It can be as simple as telling a partner exactly what works for us; it can be as advanced as using digital platforms to share, inform, speak up and contribute to the contemporary dialogue. Some of our favourite Instagram accounts have been doing just that. (Drop us a DM @y__spot if you fancy a few suggestions!)   

Our bodies, our orgasm? Deconstructing the representation of orgasm in the heteronormative sphere.

The female orgasm: from taboo to injunction.

Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s were the reports that launched a thousand (or more likely a million) conversations about sex, masturbation and, consequently, the female orgasm. Published in 1947 and 1953, they chronicled the sex lives of modern America like no one had had the vision to do so before. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female surveyed the sex lives of over 6,000 women and introduced women as sexual beings to the public opinion while also rejecting the notion that female orgasm was either clitoral or vaginal, with the former considered a lesser or more “immature” form.  From there to The Joy of Sex via Masters and Johnson, female pleasure became a key aspect of sexual emancipation until the orgasm came to dominate mainstream media’s sexual discourse.  Women’s magazines are in fact a major offender and perpetrator of the orgasm injunction. Hannah Frith’s “Sexercising to orgasm: Embodied pedagogy and labour in women’s magazines” approaches the orgasm imperative from a popular culture standpoint; with orgasm widely considered as the “goal of sex”, women who do not experience it during intercourse de facto have an “orgasm problem”. Where efficiency and optimisation are the rule, as per the neoliberal treatment of sex with a managerial mindset, orgasm deficiency is a dysfunction to target at all costs.  What is quite insidious is how the idea that “strong, modern women” have “great sex” mostly serves to reinforce a patriarchal narrative. Women must develop the right skillset to please men while mastering the tools of their own pleasure with the relentless ambition of the career-driven. More than a pleasurable experience in itself, orgasm becomes the apex of the song and dance women are expected to perform as part of intercourse with men. As Frith’s research points out, “orgasm tips” invariably teach women to position themselves around men’s bodies. In a postfeminist world, the orgasm imperative reinforces the notion that women’s bodies are a thing to be trained, taught and ultimately controlled.  

The female orgasm as a measure of masculinity.

While female magazines’ orgasm obsession may somewhat stem from honourable intentions, the same cannot exactly be said for the way men’s publications approach the topic. Here, more often than not, the female orgasm is treated as a currency, a mere stepping stone towards getting what they want and achieving orgasms of their own; in the rather predictable heteronormative course of action, intercourse does after all end with male ejaculation. Beyond the transactional aspect, a paper by Porter, Douglas and Collumbien points out how “the orgasm imperative and orgasm gap have constructed an understanding of female pleasure dependent on men’s work and skill – creating an obligation for men to ‘give’ orgasms to women, and creating an obligation for women to deliver an orgasm (fake or real) in exchange to reward the man’s work and affirm his status as a lover”.  In The Journal of Sex Research, Sara B. Chadwick and Sari M. van Anders conduct a study into orgasm as a measure of masculinity. Rather unsurprisingly, they come to the conclusion that “men felt more masculine and reported higher sexual esteem when they imagined that a woman orgasmed during sexual encounters with them”; the absence of orgasm in their female partner leaves men feeling “disappointed”. So engrossed are they in the performance narrative that “they would be reluctant to induce a woman’s orgasm with a vibrator because of worries of their own personal inadequacy“. Their work further highlights the pressure to orgasm as “heterosexual women have stated that, while they enjoy orgasms, their desire to experience orgasm mainly rests on a concern for their male partner’s feelings and perceptions as a good lover”.   

Beyond orgasm: reconquering pleasure.

So does this all mean orgasms are to be dismissed as a tool of patriarchal domination women willingly inflict upon themselves as part of the postfeminist narrative? Not quite. Orgasms are quite magical (for lack of a more academic adjective) and we are strong advocates for the closing of the orgasm gap. We are also likely to share information that may assist women in trying to understand and master the dynamics of their orgasm. Empowering women by facilitating access to the tools and knowledge they need to master their pleasure rests on their graduating from passive objects to active subjects. That means reclaiming their orgasms and finally separating it from the heteronormative ideal; to put it bluntly, women’s orgasms are not about men. What we want to stand up against isn’t orgasm, obviously, but the orgasm imperative. The less we tie “great sex” to the orgasm imperative, the more we can actually encourage the pursuit of pleasure.  The mechanics are really quite simple and stem from a mere shift in discourse: from “orgasm” to “pleasure”. Orgasms are a goal with a limited lifespan; pleasure on the other hand doesn’t come with a timeline. Pleasure isn’t the kind of achievement one can tick off a list of what constitutes “good intercourse”. Pleasure and orgasm shouldn’t be treated as antagonists as the latter is a possible manifestation of the former; however, the pressure put on women to orgasm stands in the way of pleasure as “performance anxiety” creeps in. Even outside the heterosexual realm, we as women put all kinds of pressure on ourselves to transform our me-time into an orgasm fest. Masturbation itself becomes another vehicle for optimisation and efficiency; if we don’t orgasm, preferably multiple times, at the end, is there even a point? And so by focusing so intently on the destination, aren’t we completely missing out on the journey? 
Related articles