Let’s start with a true story about me; (CN – teenage sexual activity)

When I was a teenager, I knew I was attracted to men and women, and to people who were androgynous, and I could not determine whether they were male or female.

I had a boyfriend for several months before I had penetrative sex with him. I was actually waiting until I was 16 and I would go on the pill. We were both good at waiting, which I think was a combination of patient and possibly scared! However, in that time, things got hotter and more adventurous, trying everything sexual we could possibly think of except his penis actually entering my vagina. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say, by time I was 16, I had experienced some extremely pleasurable states with mouths, fingers and a lot of teenaged hormones.

I had orgasms and discovered so much about my body and what it was capable of.  Must have been thinking, wow, if fingers can feel this good, I bet sex will be off the scale! Then the day came, and the moment happened. We were in missionary position. It lasted a few minutes (he timed it, I discovered afterwards), and my reaction was…underwhelmed. It felt nice, from what I remember, but compared to what I had experienced in the previous months, it was just that, underwhelming. I felt a little disappointed, as so much had been leading to this momentous occasion. And that would have been fine if from that day I had given the sexual activities an ecstatic/orgasmic score (like sexual Top Trumps);

  • Oral sex 9.5
  • Fingering 8.9
  • Oral and fingering simultaneously 10
  • Body rubbing 5.5
  • Penis in Vagina (PIV) sex 6

I could have then created a sex life that kept the most ecstatic and orgasmic activities a high priority even if it included PIV sex on a regular basis. PIV sex could have been on the menu mixed in amongst all the rest of the fun (he got plenty of pleasuring from me too)

But this is not what happened. The levels of physical pleasure I experienced in my sex life went down immediately from that day. The hierarchy of sexual activity was well and truly fixed in place and it never went back.  There was always the sense after that that pleasuring me with a hand was ‘foreplay’ for the ‘real thing’, which of course is the cultural view (the sex escalator), which I had been lucky enough to dodge for a few months. I don’t think this just came from my boyfriend; after all, I have been raised in the same cultural environment and am conditioned to think that PIV is the ultimate pinnacle of connection and pleasure between two humans. I think that perhaps some of this influence came from him, wanting to do it again, of course, but it simply was unthinkable to sit down and have this discussion:

Me: I was wondering if we could have a chat about our sex life?

BF: Ok, what’s up?

Me: Well, it has meant a lot to me to go “all the way” with you, and I liked it and know you did too . . . 

BF: I can feel a but coming . . .

Me; Haha, not really, but kind of. I wanna do it again and try different positions and stuff (and I would really like to try a vibrator on my clit at the same time). But, um, I love your hands and fingers inside me. There’s just something about the variety of sensations I get that way, and it always makes me cum. I’d really like it if sometimes we could just do that and I get you off another way, or maybe do that but for a long time before we move onto the other stuff?

BF: OK, thanks for speaking up. So, um, I read in mum’s Cosmo that a lot of women don’t get off on penetration alone. I really liked everything we did before. And I like being inside you too, but I want it to be good for you.

Me: Yeah, I don’t know about other women, but for me the intensity of pleasure with your fingers and tongue is amazing, and it’s not something I want to miss out on! Thanks for listening. Maybe you could tell me more about what you like, too?

Of course, this conversation between two 16 year old’s is a total fantasy! It would never have happened, for a multitude of reasons. The strength of the current of social and cultural conditioning is just vast, and my tiny, quiet, teenaged counter-cultural thought and voice just got washed away.

I then came out as liking women and embarked on a series of relationships with people without penises. I was instantly back to the world of pleasure pre-PIV sex. Sure, there were toys and strap-ons but they were not driven by nerve endings, or a mental map of escalator sex, entitlement, and that huge cultural pressure to centre the penis in the proceedings.

couple

Back to my work

I think of this very personal story whenever a man approaches me for help with erectile problems or ejaculation control issues. There are men who are absolutely desperate to be able to have PIV sex for hours. They are hurting because they think their female partners are going to leave them and that they are considered inadequate. They are often trapped in a cycle of anxiety which exacerbates the problem. They want to be fixed so that their penis can stay hard for ages and give pleasure to their partners, and for them, losing an erection is a scary moment, because it means…. Sex stops. They feel inadequate. They are desperate to get the erection back.

When they talk to me, I am aware of the chasm between my experience and theirs. From a woman’s (or a person with a vulva’s) perspective, a lost erection could be an opportunity to be explored in a wider variety of ways, to be fingered, fisted, licked or sucked. Why should all this be seen as ‘second-best’, or relegated to ‘foreplay’ when it can be the source of awesome pleasure for so many people with vulvas? Thanks to our media, and popular ideas, the man climbs off (because of course it’s missionary position and he’s on top), and looks disheartened and apologetic and the woman says ‘it doesn’t matter’. The message is ‘game over’. No wonder lesbian sex is assumed to be such a non-event in the mainstream imagination!

I have sex with people with penises sometimes, now as an empowered adult, I can have a conversation like the above some of the time. This is about 70% successful in getting me where I want to be in sex with penis owners. It is still constant work though, swimming against the current, resisting the pressure of defaults and sex escalators, feeling demanding, or simply doing mindful acceptance (perhaps I like the person or the situation, so having orgasmic sex is not the only important thing).

From my work over the past few years, I can see that this rigid idea of what sex is, certainly causes a lot of distress and disappointment to people of all genders. People ask me to ‘fix’ their issues with their penises and vaginas, to help them conform to this ‘hot sex’, PIV centred standard heterosexual porn model of sex. I want to tell them “I have some ideas for helping you control your ejaculation, but in the meantime, are you up for a bit of queer feminist deconstructing and dismantling of normative ideology?” Not everyone is receptive to this.

So I gently question and invite them to explore and discover what else they can enjoy with their partner/s. I ask them to experience touch on a soft cock, I teach them vulva massage with no other goal, ways to include the whole body, and some anatomical education about the ‘G-spot’.  I question whether they must do this at all, if it is making both partners miserable or dissatisfied, and other things would make them happier. I tell couples to take PIV sex off the table for a period of time.

Just like a good therapist, our role as sex educators should not be simply to help people conform to rigid social and sexual roles, even if they seem to be asking us to.  Our role can be of counter-cultural, informal education and so we do question oppressive and unhelpful ideas that are not benefiting anyone really, men or women or anyone of any gender. You could say this is ‘queering sex’. And it isn’t academic, it’s incredibly fun! How about ‘Your body is less of a machine, and more of an erotic playground!’

If any of this resonates with you, and you would like to explore how to expand your sexual possibilities, whatever your sexual orientation, gender or body type, I welcome you getting in touch on bodycurious.midlands@gmail.com

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