For many people who grew up socialized as girls and women, sexual pleasure and exploration were considered taboo. Many of us knew that boys masturbated and some of us even had an idea of how masturbating a penis worked from hallway jokes and gestures. What most of us didn’t hear discussed was masturbating as young people with clitorises and vaginas – even if that’s what we had! There was greater mystery — and shame — around how to navigate our own genitalia.
Silence can be deafening and the general silence around pleasure for those socialized as girls can greatly effect the sex lives of the adults we become. As we become sexually active, if we are having sex with men, it’s not unusual to buy into the penis-centric expectations around sex which leads to further silence around our own bodies. Even if we have a good partner who sexually pleases us, until we recognize our pleasure as equally important and worth prioritizing, we tend to minimize it and become complacent. Our sexual pleasure should not be a ‘sometimes’ thing or something that makes us feel grateful for the attention. Sex should be about pleasure and satisfaction, whatever that means for you, for all those involved and all the time because WE MATTER.
If your pleasure matters — which it does — how do you prioritize it and recognize it for its grand place in your life? First, take control of your sexual energy and activities. Find out what you enjoy, what you want to do, what you’re eh about, and what you don’t want to do. For the hands on types, get hands on! Set up the mood that’s right for you (candles & bubble bath? quiet time in your bed? rock music? porn playing loudly? Whatever works) and start playing with yourself. Don’t go straight to your clitoris or vaginal opening, really explore your body. Start with your limbs or core, play with your nipples, the ridges on your body, stroke, pinch, excite different potential sensitive zones. Once you move towards the clitoris, try different strokes and directions to see how they each make you feel (check out OMGYes to learn about some popular strokes). This time is all about you — your sensations, your pleasure, your body — so take your time. Don’t worry if you don’t orgasm, you’re working on exploring yourself free of expectations or goals.
Next, think about what you’d want to do with a partner(s). Yes/No/Maybe* sheets, which are basically lists of possible sex and sex related acts, are great for this. Think about what you have done, whether or not you enjoyed those things and would want to do it again, and about things you are interested in trying. Research your maybe’s and see what you can discover. You can use books, internet searches, erotica, webinars, workshops, conversations with friends, and more to learn about specific acts that intrigue you.
Once you have your list of maybe’s and yeses, along with knowledge about how you like to be touched, you’ve created a personal guide for fun and stimulating sexual encounters as they arise. You can always revisit list ideas as you become more comfortable and confident with new sensations and experiences to see if you are willing to try acts that previously felt scary or taboo.
Your sexual pleasure is in your hands and you have the power to decide how your sexual experiences occur, regardless of who your partner is. Of course, everything that occurs must be consensual. Regardless of gender, forcing or coercing someone into an act is sexual assault. However, if you are partnered and not enjoying your sex life, requesting what you want and need is an opportunity to discover if you can grow together or if the relationship is not right for those involved.
Your pleasure isn’t secondary, it isn’t a nuisance, it matters.
*I also always recommend adding a “fantasy” option which is for acts that sound sexy in your head but you don’t want to actually happen. These might be acts you think about, or even role play, during solo or partnered sex, but don’t actually do.