ColumnAre you getting in the way of your own pleasure?
Men often take pleasure for granted. Boys are taught that masturbation is an important, healthy part of puberty. They may hide in the bathroom, but society generally accepts that “boys will be boys.” For girls, self-pleasure is still a big no-no — a cause for shame and titillation. Think of our nicknames for masturbation — jacking off is the most common, for which there was no equivalent until “Jilling off” until was added to the lexicon about 10 years ago. There’s still a “good girls don’t” myth making the rounds when it comes to self-pleasure.
The vast majority of straight porn scenes center on a woman providing pleasure for a man. (Note: the women in those scenes look like they’re getting an equal amount of pleasure, though they’re not actually being pleasured. The message is that women get enough out of giving — so maybe they don’t need to get theirs too). For the purposes of this post, let’s focus on what goes on between men and women in bed– and more importantly, in women’s minds.
Think about your last relationship, or your last casual affair — even your last one-night stand. Was it a given that your partner would have an orgasm? Unless you’re practicing tantra, it’s pretty much established practice that the man will get off. But not necessarily so for the woman.
The theory is that women’s orgasms are rare, like unicorns, so men should be proud when they’re able to provide them. Women sometimes fake orgasms because they want the proceedings to finish up, but even more often, because a man’s ego is at stake. Have you ever been in a situation in which you were more worried about your partner’s feelings than your own pleasure? Once again, the established narrative is about how the dude feels — not you. See where I’m going with this?
This isn’t about men being selfish in bed. There are enough enlightened, generous men out there who’d be happy to service you, all night long if that’s what you want. There’s practically an industry devoted to men trying to understand the perceived complexities of women’s bodies. Whether your guy genuinely wants you to have pleasure, because he wants you to be happy, or he’s a “bro” that wants to put a notch on his bedpost — many men are willing to do the work.
But the question is this — are YOU open to receiving the benefits of those labors? That’s what it comes down to, no matter who your partner is. (Here’s hoping he’s not that proverbial “bro”.) We’ve talked about how body image issues come to bed with us, and how detrimental they can be. Equally important is how much you believe you deserve pleasure. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Do you feel comfortable asking for what you want in bed?
- Do you feel comfortable initiating sex?
- Do you feel relaxed in bed?
- Do you think about how your body looks, if you’re “doing it right”, or wonder whether or not your partner is having a good time?
If you answered no to the first three questions, but a definite yes to the third, you’re not allowing yourself pleasure — you’re cutting it off at the pass, and probably having sex for the wrong reasons.
Next time you find yourself between the sheets, start with your breath. Just like in meditation and yoga, this can be an excellent anchor for coming back to the present moment, relaxing and allowing yourself to connect to how your body feels. But don’t be a fascist about it — if you trail away from awareness of breath — you’re not doing it wrong. Just gently go back to breathing long and deep.
Another way to address this issue is to simply close your eyes, and get lost in fantasy. Those who don’t feel deserving of pleasure often have trouble allowing themselves to fantasize — but it’s worth trying. It should be said that this can all be linked to more serious issues — a history of sexual abuse or deeper problems with self-esteem. But commonly, it’s just the result of living in a world where women are only now learning how to let themselves enjoy their own bodies, bit by bit. After all, for most of recorded history we were considered property. Contemporary culture — art, fashion, music, movies and TV — they’re still figuring out how feminism works. But you can take the cause into your own hands (literally!) and insist that pleasure be a part of your life — every single day.
Got a question for Stefanie? Email email@example.com and she’ll answer it in the next Sexual Healing column.
Keep in touch with Stefanie on Twitter: @ecosexuality
Related on EcoSalon:
Slow Sex: Spring is for Shedding (Layers and Baggage)
Part 1: Monogamy is a Patriarchal Myth (& Other Things Your Parents Probably Never Taught You)
Image: Crysco Photography