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Want to explore your sexual fantasies?
Tired of having sex without an orgasm?
Searching for the perfect vibrator?
YES, YES, and YES. Enter The Hot Woman's Handbook, the ultimate sexuality primer for a new generation of young women who are turned on and getting off. Written by expert authors Melinda Gallagher and Emily Scarlet Kramer — founders of CAKE, a women's sexuality enterprise with locations in New York,...
Want to explore your sexual fantasies?
Tired of having sex without an orgasm?
Searching for the perfect vibrator?
YES, YES, and YES. Enter The Hot Woman's Handbook, the ultimate sexuality primer for a new generation of young women who are turned on and getting off. Written by expert authors Melinda Gallagher and Emily Scarlet Kramer — founders of CAKE, a women's sexuality enterprise with locations in New York, London, and San Francisco — The Hot Woman's Handbook is the first of its kind to provide the why-to along with the how-to. Through extensive research and interviews, Gallagher and Kramer have uncovered a world of female sexual pleasure that's accessible to us all. Alongside inspirational and instructional material are the detailed biology and history lessons never quite covered in high school. Steamy fantasies and anecdotes from real women help put readers in the mood to try out stimulating scenarios and tantalizing tips. Praised as the "authoritative voice on modern female sexuality" (Kirkus Reviews), The Hot Woman's Handbook encourages today's woman to speak up and ask for what she wants, increasing her overall confidence and pleasure as a result.
The World According to Cake
Women today are leading vibrant and diverse sexual lives. We are evolving in our relationships and our careers, entertaining a never-ending variety of fantasies and realizing pleasure-filled adventures. A distinct and powerful female sexual culture is emerging, wherein women are more satisfied and in control than ever before.
Despite this progress, many age-old myths and misconceptions about women and sex still abound. Female pleasure is discussed in antiquated terms, when it's discussed at all. We are supposedly less sexual than men, labeled either "bad girls" or "good girls," sexy babes or sexless mothers, sluts or virgins. Moreover, we're expected to just "look good" rather than "feel good," encouraged to fake it if we can't "make it," and generally discouraged from getting off.
There is a huge disconnect between how women are portrayed and how women really live, fantasize, think, and act. In 2000, we created CAKE to set the record straight. We began producing events in New York City and later expanded to London. We launched the CAKE website — www.cakenyc.com — and asked women from around the world to share their sexual experiences with us. Our goal was to create a forum, to begin a dialogue, and to allow women to integrate sexuality into all aspects of their lives. From our first CAKE event, where naughty excerpts from 100 of the best erotic films were projected on 40-foot screens, we knew we were on to something! We watched as the floodgates opened and women started talking...dirty!
Over the past five years we have talked to, worked with, and entertained thousands of women, in person and online. We created the CAKE Report, an online sex survey that included demographics, personal sexual histories, body image, masturbation habits, orgasm techniques, fantasy lives, partner explorations, contraception preferences, and sexual health practices. Slowly but surely, a fresh vision of female sexuality emerged.
Many of the women we interviewed live in New York City. Others are scattered throughout the United States, and the rest hail from the UK and abroad. Some are married, and some are single. They come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds. A majority have college or graduate degrees, some have children, and most identify as "straight," though they are not always fond of labels.
What follows is a profile of a new generation of women, and the birth of the CAKE philosophy of female sexuality.
Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure
We have chosen to highlight positive ways that women seek and find sexual pleasure. We do not claim that all women have experienced or must explore sexuality in every way we suggest. Our agenda is to provide more options for women and to show the many ways that women get turned on and get off.
Let's get started. Here are recipes for you to expand your repertoire. Female sexuality is about to come out of the closet.
The CAKE Philosophy
- Women like to initiate sex.
- We get turned on every day of the week.
- We are visual.
- We fantasize.
- We know how to get ourselves off.
- We like sex (better than shopping!).
- We know how our bodies work.
- Sex isn't over with until we orgasm.
Copyright © 2005 by Melinda Gallagher and Emily Kramer
From Birth to Babe
It was the summer between 6th and 7th grade when I read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Margaret always talked about finding her "special spot," and I read the book, like, twice, trying to figure out where the hell that was. Finally I just started exploring my own body and found my clitoris right away. We've been best friends ever since!
— Elizabeth, 22
We start our journey with the origins of women's sexual lives — our childhood years. This time is all about self-discovery; as kids, we dream, feel, touch, and explore. Long before your "first time," you had a first fantasy. Indeed, your first kiss may have come after your first orgasm. There were movies that made you hot (remember Grease?) before you even knew about real turn-on material. These were the moments when we first encountered sexual pleasure. And then there was light. . . .
But it wasn't all good. Just as our curiosity compelled us to explore, we learned that our role was to be sexually passive, ultimately monogamous, and more emotional than sexual. Now, that's no fun! Despite these messages, we forged on in secret, when no one was watching. We searched, scrounged, and sometimes begged for more information about what was going on with our bodies. With determination and luck, we found our own paths to pleasure, and our sexual evolution began.
Looking back on these primitive times, we find it's quite clear that our capacity to be sexual doesn't just pop into the picture when we are adults. We've been sexual all along. Let's go back behind the scenes and take a brief look at how our first experiences with sexuality affect who we are today. Join us for a trip down memory lane — from birth to babe.
GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS
You're no more than eleven years old, in bed with your silky "My Pretty Pony" comforter snuggled around you. The pillow is between your legs and you curiously start rubbing rhythmically up against it. The sensation is like an itch that feels better the more you scratch it; you rock against the soft fluffiness, faster and harder, until you explode. You are shocked and amazed, but you don't tell anyone about your new favorite bedtime routine. Not long after, you decide to touch yourself with your fingers to see how that feels, and you find your sensitive clitoris. Your nightly ritual evolves, and you learn that you love your smell, that your nipples like to be squeezed, and that the air from the ceiling fan feels good blowing across your body — the same things you love to this very day.
Oh, the places we'll go! Renee (27) wishes she had been taught that her first sexual feelings (and she had a lot of them) were natural. Little did she know, at age 7, that she wasn't the only girl who loved to climb the rope in gym class! No one, not even her friends, had ever talked to her about sex, let alone masturbation, so she tried to stop her hands from heading south of the border. In junior high, she heard about a "nasty" thing called jerking off that only boys did, but since what she did felt so good, she figured that must be something else entirely.
The female body is obviously not so difficult if a six-year-old can work it out sans instructions. Roberta (23) found her clitoris when she was wiping herself after she peed. Going about her business, she felt something that was different than usual. She repeated the motion and discovered her clitoris, and moments later she had her first orgasm. All of this occurred before she even knew what was happening to her; all she cared about was that it felt great! Once we experience arousal, the natural next steps are masturbation and hopefully orgasm — and that's exactly the path many girls take, like ducks to water.
Sure, it's not always so easy. Maggie (35) tried touching herself early on. It felt really nice, but the magic never happened. When she was 14, her boyfriend convinced her to try it out again. So one day she kept rubbing, determined to figure out what he was so excited about. During an after-school nap, she alternated between her left index finger and her middle finger and her left index finger, because each one kept getting tired, until after over an hour her right middle finger did the job. She remembers thinking, "My head is exploding, I am going to die here, and this is how they are going to find me, with my hand down my pants!"
It's cause for celebration when women learn to masturbate early, and masturbate often. After our first orgasm, there's just no turning back. In one moment, we truly begin to understand the relationship between sexual thoughts, that feeling "down there," our body's capability to experience pleasure, and the positive power of it all. We may not know what it all means, but we're sure we want to do it again . . . and again . . .
Pleasure Tip: Remember one technique you discovered on your own that felt good when you were a kid (maybe that time in your basement, springing up and down on the bouncy ball . . . ) and try it again now.
You're taking your time in the tub when your mom barges in and yells, "Stop touching yourself! Get out of that tub and stop thinking naughty thoughts!" You knew it! You're going straight to hell for your evil ways. But instead of atoning for your sins, you simply learn to be more secretive.
When masturbation is forced to hide out at home, it's easy to feel ashamed of our sexual development. Even when we're not explicitly discouraged, we still know that our habit is considered "bad." If we have little outside encouragement, we go off on our own lonesome journeys toward figuring out how to actively experience pleasure. But with just a shove in the right direction, we're off to the races. Yeehaw!
When Melissa was thirteen, her mother had the unusual foresight to give her daughter her first vibrator! Her mom instructed her to "go to it, and figure out what makes you feel good before you share yourself with another person." This motherly deed made Melissa (now 31) feel that her body and her pleasure were hers to own and that it was up to her to decide how and when she would share them with someone else. Many years, and thousands of orgasms later, Melissa's mom's advice has worked extremely well.
Melissa, consider yourself a lucky, lucky girl! Many of us don't get such positive direction from our families and are, instead, sent directly on a road devoid of sexual fulfillment, or left to discover a path on our own. We heard all about the birds and the bees, but we weren't looking for an explanation on how the animal kingdom procreates! We wanted someone to clue us in on the human orgasm and why we just couldn't keep our hands out of our Underoos.
Lula (35) recalls that her mother made one valiant attempt to teach her about sex, but promptly got embarrassed. Her mother brought home a book one day to read to her and her sister, but when she got to the first page, they all started laughing, and that was that. Lula's mom slammed the book shut and said, "All right, damn it, figure it out for yourselves!" And that is exactly what Lula did.
Both girls and boys experience arousal at a very young age; it is purely a physical reaction. There does not have to be shame attached to early exploration, or fear that these feelings may immediately lead to relationships and intercourse. When we are young, sexual pleasure is not compartmentalized or taboo — it just is.
Pleasure Tip: Tell your partner or a girlfriend one fun thing about your sexual development that you think he or she would never guess about you — like, yes, you masturbated every afternoon after getting home from high school.
SEX NOT SO ED
Remember those fun sex-ed classes we all were required to attend — the girls in one class, the boys in the other? While we are not exactly sure what happened in the boys' room, for us girls the entire world of female sexuality was contained in menstrual kits. So you mean to tell us that we are going to bleed soon, have to stick some weird cotton thing up there, and pray we don't die from toxic shock? Puberty sucks!
Two-dimensional pictures of the uterus look more like a cow's head with fallopian tubes for ears and horns than a part of our bodies. Boring at best, scary at worst. Pretty pink pads in Ziploc bags, and off we go to recess. Later, we learn that getting it on with the boys is something to fear.
Our gym teacher instructs the high school sex-ed class, which is kind of strange. Wearing her purple terry-cloth warm-up suit, she tells us all about the horrors of teen pregnancy and shows us positively frightening pictures of every STD under the sun. This is what happens to girls who give it up too early. You bad, bad girl, you. Of course, there is no mention of masturbation, of how sex can be fun, or of orgasm. In fact, there's no reference to pleasure at all.
INPUT -> OUTPUT
Back in your bedroom, you plaster your walls with boy band pinups and press your lips against the cool, glossy paper. Mmm . . . hmm. Then you close your eyes, roll your head back and forth, and wrap your arms around your body as if Simon LeBon were right there in the room with you. What . . . exactly . . . are you doing? As creative as we may be, we don't just come up with these moves on our own. When we're young, we're little information suckers, taking in everything around us and running it through our bodies to see how it feels. We can respond to overtly sexual images or ideas before we have any idea what we are looking at or reading.
A remarkable number of women first experience sexual thoughts upon finding our father's Playboy and Penthouse magazines, hidden in the depths of underwear drawers, the backs of closets, or down in the basement. Just as common is inadvertently catching a peek of racy late-night cable television or our brother's stash of porn videos. When we stumble upon this "adult" entertainment, we are hit by a sense of wonder, awe, titillation, and unparalleled curiosity. We learn immediately that sex is, among other things, a visually exciting experience.
Rose (34) was dislodging a tennis ball from the rafters of her parents' garage when her dad's entire collection of Penthouse came crashing down upon her, leaving her in a virtual pile of porn. She went through at least six issues that afternoon, sitting on the cold cement floor, mesmerized by the photos of nude women. They seemed powerful and confident to her, like superheroes or goddesses, looking happy and satisfied and even dominant. She learned from the juicy pages that you could have sex in costume, and as a 12-year-old, dressing up was appealing! The possibilities seemed endless; you could apparently get it on in a dentist's chair with the hygienist watching, over the hood of the car when you take it in for a tune-up, or on a haystack during horseback riding lessons . . . all of which looked great to her.
As girls, we're too young to make judgments on the politics of porn. These images are simply an open window revealing a part of sexuality that would otherwise remain hidden. They were sexual, powerful, forbidden, and — butt naked! One might assume that we'd be negatively impressed by mock poses and airbrushed "beauties." But our first reaction to these images was to be more intrigued than intimidated.
Bright and dramatic, with barely clad women front and center, a whole new world unfolds within these inviting pages. The experience of opening up a magazine and seeing women or couples in a sexual situation for the first time sparks an instantaneous physical reaction. Judi (39) first felt that tingle between her legs at her sister and brother-in-law's house. She went down to the game room, which was built like a bar complete with "Gentlemen's" and "Ladies'" bathrooms. She opened the door to the men's room and found walls filled with dirty posters, and magazines that made her feel light-headed. Her hand naturally traveled down her pants, and she orgasmed quickly. You can bet that she returned to that bathroom many times throughout those young years.
After discovering the idealized curves of breasts and hips in Penthouse, Violet (26) was caught creating her own pictures of enormous rainbow-colored penises and breasts outlined in red Crayola. "I don't remember why I'd done it as much as the embarrassment I felt when my friend's sister snatched the ingenuous renderings off the table. 'I'm telling Mom!' she chanted as she skipped down the hall. I knew I was in trouble, that what I'd done was wrong. Her mother immediately drove me home and made me agree that I would tell my mom what I had done. I never did tell her, though, and I remember thinking how thankful I was that my 'mischief' would go unpunished; I would never, my adolescent mind decided, draw another picture of a naked person again! The lesson was so warped for me. I feared I'd be punished by my parents for imitating the very images that my father so relished in secret."
In the 1980s, "video killed the radio star," and our sexual learning curve changed forever. We all want our MTV. The cable guy comes to the house and installs the magic box. Suddenly we no longer need the bunny rabbit ears or the bent wire hanger looming large in the living room. The possibilities are endless. Good Lord, there are almost sixty channels!
Wait, what's this one? You can't see anything but wavy lines, and colors, and blips of . . . entangled naked bodies. There's something that sounds like elevator music, but cooler, and there are vague intimations of moaning, squealing — "Oh, God. Oh, yeah, baby. Give it to me." What is going on? Wait, is that real? What are they doing? And why is it making my crotch tingle?
Bianca (21) always loved to watch sex scenes on late-night TV when her parents were asleep, and she had her first orgasm when she was fifteen while watching a girl masturbate on the Playboy Channel. She watched in awe as the female star moaned and groaned solo style, and she reached down between her own legs to imitate the motions.
As exciting as your new discovery is, you know that you have to keep it hidden. You develop techniques for quickly changing the channel, or you keep the volume low in case your parents come home sooner than expected. This only adds to the fun! Suzie (32) was always sort of excited by the idea of getting caught masturbating to forbidden images — a fantasy that gets her hot even still.
The search for more material has begun. You get your hands on trashy romance paperbacks whose heroines are taken by force by mad and dangerous men, and you imagine being literally swept off your feet by your hero on a horse. Inspired by Indiana Jones, Rebecca's (20) first sexual thoughts were about being tied up and helpless on a wheel-like contraption. Vivianna (32) imagined all sorts of action-movie scenarios, like being tied up on a ship, or having to hide and sleep in fields in attempts to rescue her hero from the forest. Alexandra (28) read a lot of Anne Rice and dreamed about being seduced by a vampire in her sleep.
When Jennifer (32) was eight or nine, she was obsessed with Chip 'n' Dale, Rescue Rangers, and she used to fantasize about Chip — who, we might add, is a cartoon chipmunk. She imagined that he was hurt and that she'd have to take care of him, taking off his little bomber jacket and tucking him into her bed. Rachel (24) and a friend found a fan dancers segment of a documentary about Japanese culture so erotic, they rushed out to their tree house to reenact what they had seen. So even if you were allowed to watch only PBS, you were still in for some fun!
The images Betsy (28) found by sneaking peeks at her parents' video collection led to thoughts with a naughty edge: Spankings, pink bottoms, and glorious submission took her to the point of climax at an early age. As an adult, she's explored those turn-ons and has sought out partners who enjoy these same fantasies.
Pleasure Tip: Go find that movie, book, or magazine that made you tingle for the first time, and experience that lovin' feelin' all over again. For inspiration, check out Child's Play for our all-time faves.
KIDS R US
"I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us Kid. . . . More bikes, more trains, more video games!" And why would anyone, really? Childhood is the time when the whole world seems like one big adventure to explore. There is a joyous, almost sticky, pleasurable sense of just about everything. While the range of experience is virtually endless, it would be hard to find a woman who didn't undress Barbie and Ken and tuck them in under the covers. Most of us had intentional exploration during basement Truth or Dare, Spin the Bottle, Five Minutes in the Closet, and slumber parties. Playing doctor and patient comes as natural as cutting the crusts off PB and J — why would you want to play with clothes on?
Some of the "facts of life" are introduced through juvenile jokes that can be very revealing. In seventh grade math class, Terri (34) learned about what boys had "down there" from a dirty joke — you know, the one about Daddy putting his "car" into Mommy's "garage." She suddenly realized that all the boys sitting in class possessed a penis . . . making each and every one of them a potential sex partner. She just couldn't get over all those penises hiding behind all those zippers!
Of course, this type of experience makes the imagination run wild at that age. Terri started wondering how she could make out with the boys, masturbating to these thoughts with a round toothbrush travel case. In high school, she fell for Andre, whose moves on the half-pike, sinewy skater looks, and beautiful penis turned her on. He was her first blow job, and later on she lost it to him on a couch at his father's house. Years later, his is still her favorite penis! What started as a joke became late-night exploration, and the male member was a hot commodity from then on.
Innocent games go along with innocent jokes, and even just the utterance of an adult word sends us into fits of laughter. Who needs Candyland when you've got Sexland, a game invented by Jesse (22) and her kindergarten friends involving the act of sneaking into bathroom stalls, kissing and giggling? They were vaguely aware of the idea of sex, but they didn't connect it to their physical feelings.
The playground is fertile ground for hating boys and loving them at the same time. Your crush dashes around as you run away, excited by the thought of him catching up to you. The first sexual thoughts Julie (33) had were during games of Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers with the other kids in her neighborhood. As an adult, she looks back and sees that she was always the one who loved getting caught and tied to a tree, or handcuffed and dragged away to jail! And, yes, she still loves to be tied up — just not to a tree.
Even if you grow up being interested only in men, you might begin your exploration with girls. Although Pam (21) has been with men for most of her life, her first sexual thoughts were about her girlfriends, at around the fifth grade. Boys were mean, gross, and ugly, so it seemed natural to be physical with the nice, loving girls she spent all her time with.
You trade newfound sexual knowledge with friends the way you trade baseball cards or bubble gum. You put what you've got out on the table to see who's got something new to share with you. At 9 years old, Margaret (28) discussed sex with her girlfriends, and sometimes they imitated sex or foreplay with one another. They'd take turns playing the part of the man and the woman and hold and caress each other, soaking up all the stimulation. Margaret's first sexual thoughts were inspired by a group tutorial of the uninformed.
Buried deep in your sexual past may be memories of really going for it before you knew exactly what you were going for. Karena (19) had a friend named Jodi, who was a tomboy with two older brothers. She smelled like Hot Pockets and she seemed to know a lot about sex. One night when they were playing, Jodi gently laid Karena down on the floor behind her bed and got on top of her, touching her in ways she had never imagined. They are still friends now, though they have never talked about how they used to play when they were young.
For girls who like boys, the opposite sex doesn't stay out of the picture for long. Sports may be segregated, but nothing stops you from checking out the boys on the opposite field, sweating it up in uniform. Every Saturday, Missi (24) would watch from her bedroom window as her neighbor mowed the lawn, and she would feel warm and cold all over. He would get all sweaty in the sun as he made his way from his house to under her window. She'd never tried masturbating before, but the day she watched him pour the remainder of his glass of water over his face and chest, she just had to touch herself.
Your adolescent attractions have a clear link to the tingling between your legs. Dating and more intense sexual relationships begin and deepen; you move from thinking about and discussing romance to dating, kissing, and sexual petting. What started as purely a tingling feeling is now imbued with social meaning and expectation. It's all very daunting and confusing: a time filled with good, wholesome teenage angst. No one understands you. Much to the dismay of your parents, the phone is your new best friend. Hours are spent twirling the cord around your fingers, telling your girlfriends about your latest crush. A boy signs the sixteenth page of your yearbook, you start wearing lipstick, and a rebel is born.
With no one around to teach us the goods, we reach out to the one reliable source we know must have the answer — 1-900-HOT-SEXX. Julie (25) and her girlfriend decided to secretly call the hotline to try dirty talk for the first time when they were 14 years old. Little did Julie know that her father was standing by her bedroom door, listening to his adorable young daughter deliver a litany of sexual innuendo to the stranger on the other end of the line. He marched over, took the receiver out of her hands, hung up the phone, and said, "Julie, I need to speak with you, now."
As soon as you start getting physical, the questions of who with, when, where, and how you are going to lose your virginity begin. There are some major conflicting social messages: sexual innocence, inexperience, and ignorance are culturally valuable qualities for girls. We are instructed to hold our virginity close to our hearts, as if we were saving up money in a piggy bank, and we realize that our "innocence" is the ultimate value. When the right man (that's our husband) comes along with the promise of financial stability, love, and happiness, and literally sweeps us off our feet, then we can open our legs.
At the same time, you're faced with peer pressure, both good and bad. Everyone around you is either doing it or not doing it, and suffering the social consequences either way. You want to keep it because it's yours, because you're supposed to wait, because it's scary, but you want to lose it to be cool, to enjoy it, and to just get it over with already!
When guys lose their virginity, they get the big high five and the "Way to go!" For women, losing our virginity is introduced with a grin-and-bear-it attitude. Listen, girl, it's going to hurt, so just buck up and take it. For guys, the theory is, the earlier the better; but the first girl to lose it is labeled a slut. On average, sexual relationships and intercourse begin for both men and women around "the edge of seventeen," to quote Stevie Nicks. But almost no women have an orgasm during their first time.
"Okay . . . owww . . . Stop . . . All right, a little more. Ow! Okay, go ahead . . . Slowly!"
Sound familiar? Susan (26) describes her first time as ending with "Sorry, I came. You're too damn tight!" Now, that's hardly the fantasy we were prepared for! Three minutes to some guys is hitting big numbers the first time, and we all know how much pleasure that leaves the girls. What an underwhelming, pointless operation!
To be fair, the first time can just be hard and awkward. Nerves take hold, technique eludes you, he slips out as easily as he slips in . . . how is that thing supposed to work, anyway? Of course there are some physical challenges. It can hurt. You can bleed. The hymen's a reality, and if you didn't ride enough horses or bikes, yours may well have been intact. But enjoyable, pleasurable, positive first times are totally possible and, with the right attitude and armed with knowledge, are becoming all the rage.
Monique's (23) fairy-tale first time was when she was 17, with her long-term boyfriend while his parents were out of town. She was comfortable with her body and had been having orgasms since she started masturbating at 11. Monique's mother talked to her about sex when she was 8 years old by reading her a book on the subject. Instead of leaving Monique to figure out everything on her own, she answered questions like "Mom, what is a penis?," while advising Monique to wait to have sex with someone until she knew she cared about him and knew that it would be right for her. Interestingly, despite hearing that every girl's first time was awful, Monique had an orgasm the first time she had sex, and even felt ready to try positions other than the good ol' missionary. Monique's comfort level and knowledge of her own body made her first sexual experience a positive and enjoyable one — all because of Mom! That's more than beginner's luck.
Pleasure Tip: Get a group together at your home for a fun night of Spin the Bottle to relive those wild younger years.
Copyright © 2005 by Melinda Gallagher and Emily Kramer
The CAKE Philosophy:
The World According to Cake
PART I On Your Own
PART II Let's Get It On
PART III On the Road
Posted December 10, 2009
No text was provided for this review.