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The Myth of Foreplay
It's totally understandable why heterosexual men and women want to climax from penis/vagina sex-how convenient, how easy, and how wonderful to have partnersex be consistently and mutually orgasmic. However, if Romeo's firm penis moving sweetly inside Juliet's wet vagina provides orgasms for nearly every man and a mere handful of women, what are we going to do about the majority of women who cannot climax from vaginal penetration alone? We can broaden our definition of partnersex to include some form of direct stimulation of a woman's clitoris either manually or with a vibrator during heterosexual lovemaking.
Let's start with the concept of foreplay. Women's magazines as well as many sex books emphasize the importance of "foreplay" for couples. We are told that women want more of it and men don't do enough of it. It's been my observation that a little appetizer of kissing, breast fondling, and clitoral touching before the main course of penetration is seldom enough to satisfy the sexual appetite of most red-blooded women. Just as she is getting excited from some form of direct clitoral contact, he stops and penetrates her vagina. While he is enjoying his ideal erotic sensation with his penis moving inside her, she is now struggling to get a little indirect clitoral contact, which for most women can't compare to consistent clitoral stimulation all the way to orgasm.
Imagine a man being told he can rub his penis inside a woman's vagina as foreplay, but when it's time for his orgasm, she must be sitting on his face penetrating his mouth with her clitoris. This will give him a "mature oral orgasm." He must not reach down and touch his penis while she's fucking him in the mouth or she'll think her clitoris isn't big enough to provide his orgasm. To protect her female ego, he ends up faking orgasm, but he figures it's worth it to keep the peace. Later on he can masturbate in the bathroom, or if she's a sound sleeper, he can finish himself off in bed providing he can come while holding his breath and not moving so as not to wake her.
Instead of using the word "foreplay," we need to think of a new term to use, such as "sexplay." Most women desire clitoral pleasure in the beginning of, during, and sometimes even after partnersex, if she wants to come again.
As I enter the fourth decade of teaching women how to have orgasms, I've come to the conclusion that just as a man's penis gets consistent contact during penis/vagina sex, many women also want consistent clitoral contact throughout the entire act. Any man who is considerate will add direct clitoral stimulation with his fingers or a confident woman will stimulate her own clitoris with her hand, a little battery-operated vibrator, or an electric vibrator. Once the clitoris and the head of the penis are engaged, every thrust of his penis and contraction of her vaginal muscle becomes mutually pleasurable. They can share the ecstasy of orgasm during intercourse with few exceptions.
One of my basic principles for sharing mutual orgasms is: How we make love to ourselves is what we bring to partnersex. New designs for partnersex require a man who has learned ejaculatory control through the practice of masturbation and a woman who's learned her orgasmic response the same way. If he occasionally comes before she does or she feels like having another orgasm after he's been satisfied, there is nothing to prevent her from continuing. He can add sensuous touching or slow finger or dildo penetration while she continues clitoral contact with either her finger or a vibrator.
Another creative way for couples to share orgasms during partnersex is by taking turns. If she prefers oralsex for her orgasm, then after she has her climax they can go on to intercourse for his orgasm. If he prefers oralsex, too, they can flip a coin to see who goes first. Instead of seeing penis/vagina sex as the only thing on the menu, they can treat fucking as her appetizer and his main course. After he comes, she can have her orgasm with direct clitoral stimulation from a number of ways. For variety, lovers might choose to masturbate together and give themselves their own orgasm.
Over the years, my approach to teaching sex has been criticized by some and applauded by others. Some accuse me of being too focused on the body and orgasms. They believe love and relationships are far more important than cocks, clits, and sexual technique. Others are convinced that until we deal with the cultural, social, and economic inequalities in women's lives, sexual pleasure is a luxury most of us cannot afford. Some feminists believe we must end all forms of violence against women before we will feel safe enough to enjoy sexual pleasure. I disagree. One important avenue to improve women's lives and begin to end violence would be to defuse the war between the sexes.
In my opinion, experiencing consistent orgasms is essential in developing self-esteem and sustaining a loving relationship. During the twenty-five years I ran my masturbation workshops, the opening question, "How do you feel about your body and your orgasm?" made us realize how much confusion, pain, and unnecessary suffering sexual ignorance had caused us. We all agreed that both women and men would be happier and society less violent if everyone took a course in Orgasm 101.
When I was studying at the Art Students League in New York City, both teachers and students agreed that the creative process required complete freedom to explore our deepest feelings and convictions. Now, in my second career as a clinical sexologist, I feel the same way about human sexuality. Creative lovemaking also requires the complete freedom to explore our sexual bodies and our erotic minds. No religious organization or government agency has the right to tell us with whom, or under what circumstances, we can share our sexuality with other consenting adults. In any country that upholds the ideals of the democratic process, artistic and sexual freedoms go hand in hand.
Sex and art share other commonalities. Being a world-class lover or a first-rate artist requires skills that must be learned and practiced. Unfortunately, many people continue to believe that good sex comes naturally, as a result of an emotionally sound relationship. This idea has kept heterosexuality imprisoned for hundreds of years. Yet where do we go to learn the basics of how to erotically please ourselves, let alone another person? This is the challenge facing sex educators today, especially in America, where sex is a political battlefield as the boundaries between church and state continue to blur. The question is: Who owns our bodies, minds, and sexuality? Most would answer: Each individual does.
On the one hand, America flaunts sex in the media and entertainment fields, yet on the other, our Puritan underpinnings show through when we avoid the most fundamental, real-life aspects of sexual pleasure. Congress struggles with laws to restrict adult entertainment industries and ways to censor the Internet. Religious groups impose their beliefs on all students in public schools with government-funded, abstinence-only sex education that limits sexual expression to monogamous heterosexual marriage. Our teenagers are being told that birth control usually fails and abortion and homosexuality are morally wrong, and masturbation is never mentioned as a safe alternative to penis/vagina sex. Until America accepts sexual diversity as the law of the land, to include gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, and intersexuals, we will remain in the dark ages of human sexual expression.
The religious and politically conservative people who are trying to control the dissemination of sex information claim it to be the domain of parents to teach their children. However, not all parents are in a position to teach sexual skills because many have never learned themselves. And by the time kids reach their teens, they don't want to discuss sex with their parents-it's too embarrassing. Those parents who enjoy their own sexuality will pass on positive nonverbal messages, and the clever ones will have a few good informational sex books on the family's bookshelves.
The next big chunk of sex information comes from children's peers, and it's often incorrect or distorted. I was six or seven years old the day my girlfriend Mimi told me that a baby would come out of a hole between my legs. I was horrified. No babies for me, thank you. Later, when I asked Mother if it was true, she said yes, but that having a baby was a beautiful thing. She explained that when I grew up and got married, my husband would put his penis inside my vagina and that's how a woman got pregnant and had a baby. She also said that having sex with a man I loved would be wonderful. From that day on I played with my nameless clitoris while dreaming of the moment my faceless husband would put his penis inside my vagina. What's wrong with this picture?
My first erotic drawing remains vivid in my memory. I was the best artist in school, so one afternoon at my friend Diane's house, several of my girlfriends asked me to draw a picture of sex. The image I created was a man on top of a woman. His arms were as stiff as the polelike penis disappearing between her thighs. I drew a small puddle of blood alongside her body to show she'd been a virgin. We were all heated up by my twelve-year-old rendition of sex-something we longed for and feared in equal measure. We ceremoniously shared a few puffs on a cigarette that Diane had stolen from her mom's purse while we talked about sex. Then I tore the drawing into little pieces and flushed them down the toilet.
Many people continue to believe that the man-on-top intercourse depicted in my first "dirty picture" is the preferred form of sexual expression. They say it's natural-God ordained it. But it is man, not God, who advocates the "missionary position," since it serves most men's need to control the action that leads to male ejaculation. In spite of the fact that this seldom provides orgasms for the majority of women, each new generation believes women should be able to climax from "normal" heterosexual intercourse.
I'll never forget the day, at age thirty-five, when I realized the awful truth about my own sexual ignorance. Despite all my years of childhood masturbation, teenage hand jobs, and seven years of sneaky marital masturbation, when it came to partnersex, it never dawned on me to make direct clitoral contact while having sexual intercourse. When I had an orgasm with myself I stimulated my clitoris, but when I had sex with a boyfriend, my clitoris became nonexistent. I was outraged to think it had taken so long to understand that my clitoris was my sex organ, and my vagina was the birth canal.
Now, after more than three decades of dispelling sexual myths, new ones have appeared. The Freudian vaginal orgasm goes by a new name: the G-spot orgasm. Today, sex stores all over the country sell G-spot dildos, along with books and videos that tell women how to ejaculate. Even though the vagina is not the correct term for a woman's sex organ, The Vagina Monologues made history worldwide. In our media-driven society it continues to be difficult to get an honest conversation going about the reality of female sexuality. However, in spite of all the current vaginal chic, I and many other knowledgeable people proudly wave the clitoral flag.
Women of all ages continue to show up in my office because they can't have an orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. Some have boyfriends who want them to learn how to ejaculate, but they can't find their G-spot. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record saying the same thing over and over: "It's great to have your individual preference for clitoral stimulation combined with vaginal penetration from a penis, dildo, or a finger happening all at once."
Whenever I carry on about the clitoris being our primary sex organ, someone always mentions a woman they know who has great climaxes from fucking only. Yes, I'm aware that a small percentage of women adore having orgasms with vaginal penetration and some enjoy spurting fluid during orgasm. However, I'm also aware that women have been conditioned to sexually please men for food, shelter, and protection ever since we lived in caves, so I take some of these reports with a grain of salt. How could I dare question a woman's personal testimony? Over half of the many women I've worked with admitted to faking orgasm to please their partners at one time or other. Some do it just to end partnersex.
Furthermore, we now have twelve-year-old girls giving blowjobs to boys before they reach high school just to be popular, and that's without any expectation of sexual reciprocation whatsoever. Instead of worrying about whether these children are having sex at too young an age, I worry more about the one-sided kind of sex that's taking place. Will these boys grow up expecting blowjobs without ever returning the favor? Will these young girls have enough self-esteem to feel they deserve sexual pleasure as adults? Or have they already been trained to sexually service a man in order to be loved and taken care of after marriage?
Men who are sexually skilled and love women have their own set of problems to deal with in partnersex. Besides making the date, deciding where to go, and picking up the tab, a man is also expected to initiate sex. He's usually in charge of getting her in the mood with kissing, sensual touching, and genital fondling. After figuring out a way to get both of them out of their clothes, he has to navigate his way among all the intricate folds of her labia to locate her clitoris and stimulate it with his tongue or fingers without any information about what she likes. Then he has to get and keep an erection, put on a condom, add lubrication, and find her vaginal opening. Once he penetrates he has to pay attention to the angle and the depth of his penis while holding back his orgasm.
In my youth, what made partnersex so wonderful was having passionate orgasms with a lover. What made it so difficult was my undying belief that romance, love, and sex would eventually come together and last for a lifetime. Meanwhile, society's financial and sexual double standard favors men, perpetuating an imbalance of power between the sexes. Due to religious beliefs, some women think their position in life is "naturally" subordinate to a man's, and they accept the status quo. But this inequality really pisses off the rest of us.