Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Bit on Pleasure

DISCLAIMER: this post includes the use of words that may disturb. But they only disturb sissies.

We live in a society obsessed with instant gratification from diet pills to cell phones, infatuated with numbness, and fixated on pleasure. Despite phrases like "no pain no gain," or "beauty is pain," we are a culture that intentionally avoids real pain like the plague, preferring instead to constantly seek new ways of fulfilling a shallow yet unquenchable ideal of gratification. We'd rather text all day than spend a single moment alone, we'd rather have 700 "friends" on facebook to keep from feeling lonely (or admitting it), we'd rather spend our mental energy on physical appearance, worrying about how tan you are, what brand shoes you have and how thin you are, instead of facing our own internal demons.
Paired with this addiction to pleasure and fear of pain, there's this undeniable hypersexualization of women as a way of trying to quench that thirst for satisfaction. Because we live in a heterosexual male dominated society (though the waves of the Feminist movement have made leaps and bounds over the past century), the desires and pleasures of heterosexual men are the primary concern. Thus, we've come to accept billboards of nearly nude women in advertisements for everything from cars to cigarettes to sandwiches; everyone knows, "sex sells."

As it stands now, this hypersexualization is almost background noise; we've gotten so accustomed to the constant inundation of images of greased-up, nearly-naked women on the verge of orgasm convincing you to buy those sunglasses, we hardly stop to notice it, nevermind to question it.

But it hasn't always been this way. If we go back, say 50 years, just as the Pill was just being introduced into mainstream society with relative safety and married women were just being granted the right to use oral contraception (as protected under the Constitution as a "right to privacy")- sexualization of women in public spaces and advertisements was not nearly to the same extreme as it is today. Granted, the exploitation of women has always been a strongly used tool in nearly every industry, but the public's level of tolerance has grown significantly over the years.
"We grew up in a time in which sex itself was largely taboo. When I was a kid, young people didn't even know where babies came from." Hugh Heffner in the documentary, Inside Deep Throat.
The introduction of the Pill was a huge turning point in the world of Feminism; it signified the beginning of a recognition of a woman's sexuality, her right to choose how her body is treated and her right to privacy. There is still widespread ignorance and denial about women's ownership over their own bodies, their own vaginas (I choose to spell it wrong because vaginae just sounds awful), their own sexuality and capacity for pleasure.

In 1972, the film, "Deep Throat" premiered in Times Square; the first pornographic film to feature a plot, and the first to introduce fellatio as a heterosexual activity, thus deeming oral sex (fellatio in particular, cunnilingus remains, if you ask me, taboo) a "legitimate" sexual act. The plot of the film is this:
An unsatisfied woman wants more from sex (gasp! can you imagine?!) and so she calls a doctor. The doctor diagnoses that the woman's clitoris is actually buried deep inside her throat. His prescription? Deep throat.

Okay, so the film had some good qualities: acknowledging women's sexuality, capacity, desire, and if I may add, the necessity of pleasure for women. Further, because the focus was on giving this woman a clitoral orgasm, the film thereby protested the proclamation that the only "legitimate" orgasm for women is a vaginal orgasm. This claim comes from the fact that in order to give a woman a vaginal orgasm there must be something inside the vagina, preferably a penis. A clitoral orgasm, on the other hand, can be stimulated without said parts and is a viable orgasm for those sinful lesbians (full on sarcasm, fyi). Plus, it humorously addressed the age-old issue of finding a woman's clitoris. The film also was part of a revolution to mainstream the discussion of sex, sexuality and to de-taboo-ize pornography (the New York Times called the film "Porno Chic" as high society (Jackie Kennedy!) adventured to the slums to see it). Deep Throat was on the front line as the first mainstream, widely advertised hardcore porn film that liberated terms like "fuck," "suck cock," "eat cunt," etc. In response to it's premiere in NYC, Nixon allotted money for research on the effects of pornography on the adult brain- the final report determined that there were virtually zero harmful effects on an adult exposed to pornography. "Sex was in movies, sex was on t.v. Sex came out of the closet." Yay Deep Throat!

Except, hold on. A woman's clitoris is NOT hidden deep inside her throat! And for the most part, women do NOT get a great deal of pleasure from performing fellatio. The idea that giving head, not to mention deep-throating, is as pleasurable for a woman as it is for a man is nothing more than a wet-dream. Perhaps unintentionally, the movie propagated the dangerous fantasy that women get off from giving blow-jobs. I know I'm not the only woman who's had to face this fantasy head-on (excuse the pun) nearly 40 years later. The film also, as was the goal, opened the door for the porno industry, as we know it today. Porno is no longer a revolution of discovery and rebellion. When the original pornography premiered in NYC, people saw the title and thought, "What could deep throat mean, certainly not what I'm thinking..." Whereas, these days, most sexually active young people don't consider it sex. (Inside Deep Throat)
"Sex is a force, it's a force like lava and there haven't been too many successful engineering projects in diverting the flow of lava."
So now there is this type of sexual discrimination- with a few exceptions, most men are ignorant (or pretend to be ignorant) to women's pleasure. It is far more socially accepted to discuss male pleasure. Every issue of nearly every popular women's magazine has some newly discovered tactic to "please your man," yet its far more common for men to orgasm than it is for women- as so aptly illustrated by Deep Throat the lack of men's knowledge of where the clitoris even is.
The sad part, though, is that there are a huge number of WOMEN who don't know where their own clitoris is, who have never experienced an orgasm, who are afraid that they physically can't, or are so ashamed of their sexuality that they don't want to find out that they can.

And when the topic of masturbation comes up, chances are we're talking about male masturbation. Many women don't know that they can masturbate (or how); they don't know that they don't need to wait for a man (or woman) to come and give them an orgasm. In fact, if you Google "how to masturbate" the first hit you'll come across is geared towards women and the topic of the first episode of the Midwest Teen Sex Show ( is female masturbation- precisely because men don't need to be told how- it is popularly discussed casually in movies, on television, between father and son- and yet us women are left in the dark, waiting, hoping, praying for someone to deliver us to our own orgasm. Why not take the driver's seat?

Besides the lack of women's popular knowledge of how to give ourselves our own pleasure, there is also widespread self-hate. From general and postpartum depression to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders; women's statistics are rising. Maybe if we learned to love our woman-selves, in the most literal sense of the word, we could also be a little happier. Maybe learning to love ourselves would also lead us in the direction of facing those internal demons and bring us a little closer to reality instead of hiding behind text messages and facebook status updates.

So here's to the female orgasm- vaginal or clitoral- from yourself, from a female or male lover- who cares?

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