Pleasure Equality: The Revolution is now

By Jess Knapman

"Perse Phones Descent" Menstrual Blood Art by Wendy Bennett

You’re on a night out with your closest friend – the one who overshares and you love it – when she mentions her latest purchase… a rabbit.

“A what?” you ask, confused.

“A rabbit, you know, the vibrator with the rabbit for your clit.”

You look at her, still unsure. She brings up a photo on her phone.

“Oh righhttt,” now you’ve got it.

Why did you not know that before?

Since the 60s women have been said to be sexually liberated, yet within our hypersexualised society, female sexual pleasure is largely on the peripheral. Female masturbation and gyno-centric sex toys remain predominantly unexplored by mainstream culture.

Whilst the sexual revolution aimed for female sexual empowerment, it fell short in one key regard. It didn’t result in women having equally pleasurable sexual experiences, as female sexual pleasure remains a taboo.

In this post #MeToo era of disclosure and empowerment, it’s time to address the topic which has been absent far too long from our conversations around sex: female pleasure.

Throughout history, women’s exploration of sexual pleasure has been dominated by a pervasive phallocentric model. During the Spanish Inquisition, a guide to finding witches cited the clitoris as the ‘devil’s mark’ of a witch, justifying the death of 9 million women over two centuries. In the Victorian era, women who expressed unfulfilled sexual desire were diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ and treated by doctors through manual stimulation to reach a clinical orgasm which ‘cured’ the disease of desire. Throughout this history, female sexual pleasure has been positioned within a context of masculine hegemony.

Within our own milieu, a scientific and educational focus on female sexual pleasure remains largely absent as we remain positioned within an androcentric system whichnormalises male pleasure and marginalises women’s.

Only a generation ago, doctors believed women incapable of orgasm, with the clitorisbeing completely absent from anatomy books. Even now, far less research is done on female sexual pleasure, with little known of our nerves, erectile tissue, G-spots and orgasms than the equivalent is known of our male counterparts. The orgasm gap remains a fixture, with women having fewer, less predictable orgasms than men.A 2017 survey found just 65 percent of heterosexual women orgasmed during sexualintimacy whilst their male partners reached orgasm 95 percent of the time.

Our sex education remains shrouded in taboo, with discussions around sexual pleasure almost, if not exclusively, limited to the reproductive purpose of sex.

Another night out with another friend, and this time you’re talking about kegel exercises.

“Are they for your back muscles?” she asks.

“No,” you say. “They’re to strengthen the muscles in your pelvis.”

This lack of basic sex education has left many of us floundering. Shame and embarrassment around sex and our bodies has also impacted our sexual knowledgeand freedom, with a 2016 survey by Equality Rights Alliance finding three-quarters ofwomen believe sex education in Australian schools left them unprepared for sex and relationships. The idea that women are going to ‘lose something’ or are ‘giving something away’ by having sex remains pervasive, and means we are less aware of what we enjoy and how to get it.

In order to create a culture of true gender equality, we need candid conversations and accurate, sex-positive information about female pleasure. Without this, popular culture, pornography and outdated institutions will continue to perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes and unrealistic expectations that centre on male pleasure and relegate women to a secondary player within the phallocentric narrative. Through open conversations about sex and a desire to seek out empowering information, we can increase our knowledge and make more educated choices that will improve our sexual well-being.

Recognising the clitoris as an agent and object of power is one way in which women’s experiences can be transformed. Every time a woman has sex because it feels good, she is prioritising her own desire and asserting her sexual pleasure as anintegral societal norm.

Time magazine stated the #MeToo movement was fermenting for years. A related revolution for pleasure equality is also emerging as women reject the current androcentric system to assert their place within the sexual liberation movement.

It’s time for another revolution; it’s time to demand pleasure equality

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