“The idea of a woman knowing and pleasuring herself has not been in vogue for thousands of years…We’re taught to sit back and let someone else drive. The truth is, when you think someone outside you controls your pleasure, you feel out of control.” Regena Thomashauer, Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts
Think about your adolescent sexuality training. Gotcha! You’re thinking: “What adolescent sexuality training??” Exactly my point!
Growing up, most of us received little information about our sexual selves and what we did hear ran along the lines of: 1) don’t touch it—it is bad, dirty and wrong; 2) if you’re a girl, boys just want what’s between your legs, and you can’t let them have it; 3) once you’re married, it’s all good—as long as it is your husband doing the touching—and/or the touching is for procreation. Does anyone even in our times—teach girls about the pleasure their bodies are capable of feeling—and that it is not just alright to feel pleasure, it is a glorious gift?
Women are endowed with the only organ known to exist for the sole purpose of pleasure, the clitoris. With over 8000 nerve endings, the clitoris extends internally, encircling the vulva and affecting an estimated 15,000 additional nerve endings throughout the pelvic region. For many women, her breasts are an additional pleasure zone; for most of us, areas of the skin—when stroked tenderly—evoke tremendous pleasure sensations. My point is this: our bodies are equipped to experience vast amounts of sensory pleasure, and nobody teaches us about it. Instead, generation after generation at least indirectly teaches girls that sexual gratification—pleasure—is fine for men—but shameful and wicked for women.
Is it any wonder that many women feel so inhibited—that so many women can’t possibly answer the question: “What do you want?” in a sexual context—because they can’t possibly know based on what they’ve been taught…and on what they’ve never learned? For the sex abuse survivor, this question is even more challenging, because being touched sexually during abuse is never about her wants—it is about violation.
Beginning to get an idea of what you want sexually is an important first step toward personal empowerment and satisfaction. Given our cultural messaging backed by generations of influence, turning inward for answers can be difficult, especially if we have internalized the cultural belief that “good” women have sex for their husbands (or boyfriends)—not for their pleasure.
What if you were to allow for the possibility that you are permitted to feel sexual pleasure—for you? That you are permitted to get to know your own pleasure responses intimately—for you? That how you experience pleasure—on your skin, your nipples, clitoris, vulva—and heaven forbid, your G-Spot, or anus—is a gift—and yours to delight in. Could you begin to let this belief sink in a bit? What if you had been taught this as a young girl, by a trusted older female relative—instead of the shame-based beliefs so prevalent in our culture?
This week, I invite you to think about this question: “What do you want?” And as important, “Can I give myself permission to begin exploring how I feel pleasure—sexual and otherwise—in my body?” Notice what this brings up for you, negative or positive. And remember this: it is your body, your life and your pleasure to either experience or forego. What do you want?
Next week: More on reclaiming pleasure!