You’ve probably heard of the “sexual revolution” but perhaps you don’t know precisely what spurred this revolution or what it entailed. In a nutshell, a while before the sexual revolution, people were having sexual relationships both outside of marriage and with individuals of the same sex, the sexual revolution made this both acceptable to do and to discuss. In terms of heterosexual sexual relationships before marriage, as stated by PBS.org. “The sexual revolution was about female sexual empowerment.”
From my vantage point as a sex educator currently teaching hundreds of college students a year, we still have far to go towards true female sexual empowerment. That is, while the sexual revolution focused on the acceptability to have sexual encounters—especially sexual intercourse—before marriage, it did nothing to assure that women and men are having equally pleasurable experiences with sex.
Indeed, research tells us that such pleasure equality is sorely lacking.
One study of university students found that 91 percent of men vs. 39 percent of women report always or usually experiencing an orgasm with a partner. Even more striking, in the research, I’ve conducted with my students and that I present in my latest book, 55 percent of men versus 4 percent of the women say they always orgasm during first-time hookup sex.
While there are many cultural reasons for these sad and striking statistics, a central problem is our flawed assumption that the male way of reaching orgasm (penetration) should be the way that both women and men reach orgasm—when in fact this is not the case at all. Only about 4 – 18% of women orgasm from intercourse alone. The rest—indeed the vast majority— need clitoral stimulation.
Despite this, the belief that this way that most women reach orgasm (i.e., clitoral stimulation) is just a prelude to the most important sexual act, intercourse, is deeply ingrained in our culture. Indeed, starting with the Greeks and Romans, and continuing through today’s cultural landscape, we’ve never— at any point in Western history— had a time when the majority of the population valued clitoral stimulation as equally important as penetration.
It’s time to change history. Borrowing the words of Dr. Cornel West, when talking about racial injustice:
It’s time to stop being so well adjusted to the injustice.
Being well adjusted to orgasm injustice means not knowing enough about what brings you pleasure and if you do know, believing it is “pushy” to tell a partner this. Adjusting to the injustice means going down on him and consistently getting nothing in return—something that Peggy Orenstein notes is rampant in high school hookups. Adjusting to the injustice means unthinkingly buying into the familiar cultural sexual script where everything is centered on the male orgasm (i.e., “foreplay” to get you ready for intercourse, intercourse, male orgasm, “sex” over).
Revolution comes from not wanting to be adjusted to injustice any longer. It’s time to pick up where the sexual revolution of the 1960s left off. It’s time to not only make it acceptable to have sexual encounters—but it’s time to make sure these encounters are equally pleasurable for women and men. It’s time for the new sexual revolution of pleasure equality.
The reason I wrote Becoming Cliterate was to spur just this revolution. That’s why I was especially honored when the Los Angeles Review of Books called Becoming Cliterate, “A manifesto for today’s orgasmic insurrection.” I hope you will join this revolution of pleasure equality. Go here to learn more.