Sexual self-esteem

By Anna Potter

I'm about to let you in on a secret about women that we've been keeping for a long time: For many of us, it's much easier to give pleasure than it is to receive.

There are few things that can make a woman feel as powerful in the bedroom as turning a partner on and bringing him to the brink of ecstasy. But receiving pleasure and opening ourselves up to genuine intimacy and pleasure require a certain nakedness that goes well beyond whatever clothes we're stripping off. Pleasuring makes us feel fearless and in control, but being pleasured often renders us positively panicked. Hence, it's often easier to put on a show and fake our way through, regardless of a guy's skills and attentiveness as a lover.

The truth is, women grow up in a world that teaches us from an early age about the rules of sex with men. How many times have you seen magazine headlines that say things like, "Secret sex moves that will drive him wild!" and "The positions he wishes you'd try!"? Women see those headlines, and after years of this sort of thing, we come to accept that sex must be about his pleasure, and that our pleasure comes from pleasing our partners. Not that any of this is our partners' fault, but after years of relegating our pleasure to an after-thought, for many of us it becomes a "never-thought." 

Hence, it becomes much easier to give pleasure than it is to receive.

This is one of the reasons why women reach their sexual peak so much later in life. It has little to do with biology, and a lot to do with psychology. For many women it can take years to figure out what feels good and recognize our bodies as capable of amazing pleasure, and even longer to build up the confidence to communicate this to our partners.

Imagine, if you will, your sex life as a baseball game. Some of you guys come up to bat with years of experience in the bedroom under your belt. You're on top of your game, and you've got high hopes for a home run. There's just one thing: sometimes women are so worried about our performance that we practically take the nosebleed seats in our own sexual engagements.

"Spectatoring" is the fine art of worrying about sex while you're having it. We're criticizing our actions, wondering why we aren't on our A-game and, of course, heckling ourselves. In the end, we may end up just faking it. You may be the best player on the field, but we get so worried about bruising your ego and asking for what we want that it seems easier to just throw the game.

So where do we go from here? First of all, keep in mind that, as Emily Nagoski says in the Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms:

A woman is less likely to have orgasms early in a relationship. 

Her body needs time to adapt to a new partner, to learn to trust him or her, and to relax into the knowledge that her partner accepts and appreciates her body ... Ideal partners recognize that a woman's ... intense pleasure, even in the absence of orgasm, isn't a sign of failure but an encouraging sign that things are moving in the right direction.

It's important for anyone who wants to give a woman pleasure to let the lady in question know just how much you enjoy her body. Let her know that you love the way she smells, feels and looks. Let her know that there's no pressure.

To demonstrate these dynamics, let's talk for a minute about oral pleasuring. We know that a lot of women need more than intercourse alone to have an orgasm. In fact, manual and oral stimulation are often better suited to do the job. So, you would think that many women would be more forthright about communicating this to our partners. But the opposite is often true. 

Sometimes women are really hesitant because we think you really don't like doing it, even if you say you do, and if you don't offer, we're not likely to ask. 

Says Ian Kerner, who wrote She Comes First and edited the Good in Bed Guide to Orally Pleasuring a Woman:

I can honestly say that the vast majority of men that I've spoken with (and I've had the chance to speak to thousands of 'em) have a gung-ho "viva la vulva" attitude when it comes to (pleasuring) their female partners. Guys love to see their partners get turned on and to know that they're the source of the pleasure. In fact, many men complain that they're not the ones with the issue. 

As it turns out, many women worry that guys don't really enjoy oral pleasuring, or women worry that they're taking too long, or that their scent might be unappealing. Many women also have a low sense of genital self-esteem, and feel like their vulvas are not necessarily their most attractive feature.

Help her go from being a spectator to a true participant. With a little love and a lot of support, she can step down from the nosebleed section, and really take time to enjoy being in the game.

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