Written by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.
"The toe-curling, body-flailing, scream-inducing experience that the media tells us orgasm is... is that the experience we're biologically meant to have?"
Well, I mean... the short answer is no. The slightly longer answer is sort of but not really.
The real answer is: geez, what is a woman's body meant to do, sexually? Given all the possible behaviors, from hugging to fucking, all the possible consequences, good and bad, all the possible influences on a woman's arousability, all the possible goals and experiences.
The problem this student was confronting is exactly the problem I've been stewing about for a few years now. In brief: there are two streams of knowledge about sex in our culture right now. There is the stream of science, which is telling us more and more about the mechanism underlying sexual response, which allows us more thoroughly to grasp the complexity and diversity of sexual experience. And then there is the stream of mainstream media, which is taking increasing advantage of people's fears about being normal, healthy, acceptable, and adequate.
Even as the limits on "normal" slip away, as we follow Kinsey down the yellow brick road toward a sexual utopia of nearly infinite diversity and variety, the media manipulate our fears and neuroses by telling us what we ought to be.
We are told there is one body, one shape, size, and color of woman who has orgasms, and she has orgasms from penetrative intercourse. She is straight, she wants a husband; she'll be sexually ravenous once she has an emotional commitment... until she gets married and has kids, at which point she will lose, long for, and mourn the loss of her sexuality. Mothers don't fuck. Women of color may fuck, but only in a bad way, or as fetish objects for white men. Fat women DEFINITELY don't fuck, who would want to fuck a fat woman? Old women don't fuck, ditto. In a wheelchair? Missing a limb? Got cancer or cerebral palsy or Down syndrome? No sex for you.
What are are going to do about all these terrible lies?
There are lots of voices trying to shout them down. And yet.
Maybe sex researchers and sex educators should get together and start a glossy magazine dedicated to the true diversity of sexual expression. (Is there one? Someone tell me there is one and I've just been ignorant for years!) Full of stories and pictures that show readers that EVERYONE has sex, is sexual, some of that sex is burning hot and some of it is routine and dull and some of it is definitely bad.
Because the reality is that your body, everyone's body, is designed for sex of various kinds. Some people are more interested in sex than others, and you may be more interested at some times in your life than at others, but sex is in there, waiting for you, like a book of short stories you carry in your cells. You may choose to read some stories and not others. You may show some stories to your partners; others you may keep to yourself.
A human body is meant for sex, for some form of sexual expression. That's what it's meant to do. The screaming, squirming, flailing orgasm? That's a tiny fragment of the whole, a paragraph in a story, maybe from a favorite story that you read over and over, or maybe from a story you open to but rarely. Or never. But sex is everywhere and everything. Your body is meant for it. In some form.