The Sexist

Female Orgasms, Skinny Girls, and Feminist Cognitive Dissonance

Lately, I've written a bit on how feminist women are forced to engage in some cognitive dissonance in order to satisfy two conflicting parts of ourselves: The part that wants to dismantle the patriarchy, and the part that must live in it. This weekend, I read pieces by two feminist writers that shed some light on how that kind of cognitive dissonance functions, and how it complicates the work of feminism.

As it turns out, a lot of women are well aware that the cultural expectations placed on our bodies can be absurd, unhealthy, and largely impossible for us to fulfill. But awareness alone won't necessarily curb our attempts to satisfy the feminine ideal anyway.

First: Sex educator Emily Nagoski, who blogs as Sex Nerd, writes about the difficulty of dispensing good sex advice. Why? Because Nagoski's dual roles as responsible sex educator and helpful sex therapist are in constant conflict. Nagoski offers up a typical exchange between herself and a sex-advice seeker:

STUDENT: I don’t have orgasms from penetration. What’s wrong with me?

ME:
Nuthin’! Sounds to me like you’re in the 70% majority of women who aren’t generally orgasmic from intercourse. You’re completely normal.

STUDENT: …Oh.

ME: But you still feel like you ought to be having orgasms from penetration, huh?

STUDENT: Well my partner wants me to be able to, and I want my partner to be satisfied. And anyway, that’s, like, what everyone says is normal.

ME: Yeah. I know. But everyone is wrong. I wish the media and the culture and everyone hadn’t lied to you and your partner and made you feel broken. But they did and you do, even though you’re not. So what could I say that would help?

STUDENT: Well, you could tell me how to have orgasms from penetration.

ME: *sigh* …Okay.

Nagoski notes that "most of the time it takes more than normalizing statistics to liberate someone from the burden of fear." In other words, simple awareness that our cultural ideal has been hoodwinking women into hating ourselves isn't enough to make us stop. "What can an educator provide? Sadly, most often it’s advice about how to conform more to the cultural lie. Which makes me feel like a fraud," she writes. "It’s like trying to send the message that weight doesn’t matter, and then giving dieting tips."

Which brings us to Chloe Angyal's recent piece on the Huffington Post. Angyal examines a Girls Scouts Research Institute study that examines how 1,000 teenage girls think about body image. Angyal writes:

of the young women surveyed, 65% think that the female bodies they see walking the runways and gracing the pages of fashion magazines are "too skinny" and 63% think that such a body shape is "unrealistic." Forty-seven percent say that "the fashion industry body image looks unhealthy" and 28% say it looks "sick." Fashion models, these girls believe, are too skinny, unrealistic, and look unhealthy and sick. And yet 48% wish they could look just like them.

There is a strong awareness among girls that the beauty ideal—the race to look younger, thinner, whiter—is not only unattainable for most women, but actually an offensive and unpleasant expectation to lay on women of all ages, sizes, races, and gender presentations. But girls are still struggling to attain the ideal. Angyal writes:

It's one thing to want to be beautiful for beauty's sake. It's quite another to want to be unhealthy for beauty's sake. Sadly, it's a desire that many young women are acting on, at great risk to their own health. The new findings indicate that about a third of young women have starved themselves in an attempt to lose weight. Compared the findings from other studies on the subject, that number is quite low: One study found that more than half of adolescent girls had "engaged in unhealthy weight control behaviours such as fasting, skipping meals, vomiting or smoking" in the past year. That's half of the adolescent female population, high school and middle school girls who are obsessing over their weight, going deliberately hungry, stunting their own growth, skipping class to throw up in secret, hurting themselves in the pursuit of an ideal that is simply unattainable for 98% of the population.

A simple awareness of feminist issues can't magically negate the power of the culture in which we live. Here, validation is still dispensed based on how well you conform to the ideal. As Angyal writes, "What's fascinating about the new findings is that they seem to indicate an increased awareness in young women that the ideal presented by the fashion industry and by the media is unrealistic and unhealthy. . . And yet, they still think those women are beautiful, and they still want to look like them."

Why do women who know that many women can't orgasm from intercourse still attempt to orgasm from intercourse—or give up and fake it? And why do girls who know that the body image being sold to them is an unhealthy one still skip meals and stick their fingers down their throats? After all, speaking up for some clitoral stimulation and eating what you feel like is, in theory, a lot easier than the alternative. I think part of the reason it's so difficult to translate feminist awareness into our lives is the particular cultural belief that being a "good" person—and a good woman—does require a lot of work. Girls today don't just earn social validation by being skinny—they establish their spot in the pecking order by unearthing how much work they spend trying to get there, obsessively discussing how fat they are, and publicly flogging themselves when they fail to live up to perfection—even if they are still very, very skinny.

Embracing feminist cognitive dissonance can be a helpful tactic for continuing our theoretical work while still allowing ourselves to live normal lives. And a big part of living our lives includes working to receive the validation that comes with being a "good woman," even when we know the idea of being a good woman is some fucked up shit. Hopefully, the theoretical work we do will help to contribute to the much more difficult task of changing our cultural values, even as we capitulate to them in our personal lives. But admitting that this stuff is fucked up—and then doing it anyway—also gives an added little boost to the cultural ideal. We know that it's bad for us (and for other women), but we still want it—and by wanting it even though it's bad for us (and for other women), we reveal ourselves to be even better women in our culture's eyes, because we've demonstrated just how deep our allegiance is to its ideals.

  • Rudedogg

    This is a key topic for helping feminism move forward.
    Not to hijack this post and make it about men, but - i'm dealing with THREE sources of cognitive dissonance: The part of myself that wants to dismantle the patriarchy, the part that must live in it, and the part that DOESN'T want to dismantle the patriarchy because it benefits me. I think a lot of these male studies guys are trying to reinforce male privilege because, for a lot of poor young men like myself, its the only privilege we have!

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Rudedogg,

    Thank you for leaving a comment about how this shit effects men that is respectful, insightful, and relevant. Seriously. THANK YOU.

    Women experience that third part, too---the part that DOESN’T want to dismantle the patriarchy because it benefits me. Take the beauty ideal stuff. I mean, I'm a fairly young (for now), REALLY white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, overall small woman. I'm no model (on this blog I am sometimes informed that I am an ugly cunt who houses sand in her vagina), but as far as American beauty standards go, the ideal favors women like me in many ways. So there are attributes that I have (whiteness being a notable one) that take absolutely NO work on my part to maintain; I was born with this cultural validation.

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  • kza

    You should have titled this post "Eating your way to clitoral stimulation" if you wanted more page views.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com/ Toysoldier

    Why do women who know that many women can’t orgasm from intercourse still attempt to orgasm from intercourse—or give up and fake it?

    When I was a child, my aunt had me perform sex acts on her. I learned very quickly that vaginal penetration did not seem to please her. I was about three. If I could figure that out as a toddler doing something I found disgusting, I fail to understand how teenage girls and adult women interested in such acts cannot figure out how to give themselves orgasms.

    I do not think it is society or culture prompting women to keep doing something that does not work. I think that in many instances those women believe they are the exception. That, or they have failed to discover self-gratification.

  • Saurs

    "I do not think it is society or culture prompting women to keep doing something that does not work. I think that in many instances those women believe they are the exception."

    The exception to what? If you disbelieve in socialization and cultural conditioning, how could women know that penis-in-vagina sex is "supposed" to elicit orgasms? How could they conceive of themselves as exceptions to a "rule" you claim they don't know?

    And what, precisely, do you think you're accomplishing by continuing to remind us that a woman sexually abused you as a child, except to try to derail a topic that has nothing explicitly to do with sexual abuse?

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    The exception to what? If you disbelieve in socialization and cultural conditioning, how could women know that penis-in-vagina sex is “supposed” to elicit orgasms? How could they conceive of themselves as exceptions to a “rule” you claim they don’t know?

    I made no such claims. I only stated that I fail to understand how teenage girls and adult women interested in sex cannot figure out how to give themselves orgasms, unless they failed to discover masturbation.

    And what, precisely, do you think you’re accomplishing by continuing to remind us that a woman sexually abused you as a child, except to try to derail a topic that has nothing explicitly to do with sexual abuse?

    I never stated that I was sexually abused; I stated that my aunt had me perform sex acts on her when I was a child. As a feminist you should appreciate the difference, since so many of you are apt to point it out.

    To address your question, if I could figure out how to give a woman an orgasm when I could barely string together sentences five words long, surely teenage girls and adult women can figure it out as well, unless we are to believe that girls and women, who have vaginas their entire lives, do not know how their vaginas work, or are so oppressed by "teh menz" that females must be taught how to masturbate and have orgasms.

    Perhaps I have a higher opinion of women than you do.

  • http://bikegroggery.blogspot.com groggette

    Toysoldier,
    I didn't have my first orgasm until I was 24 years old, and it wasn't because I didn't know how my vagina worked, but thanks for the condesension.
    Why did it take me so long? First I had to overcome the years of religious based guilt I was taught for being both female and sexual (Hey look! oppression by men!). Also, I'm one of the majority of women who can't orgasm from penetration. Not only that, but fingering, or even oral sex, doesn't cut it either so when I was finally able to be sex positive without guilt I couldn't just have fun with my body and get the results I wanted.

  • Saurs

    What you're describing about your experiences as a child, Toysoldier, is plainly sexual abuse. You seem fond of mentioning it for reasons that are palpably clear to me, but yes, please continue to act bewildered and naive. It suits your purposes.

    What we're discussing has nothing to do with masturbation. Hess posed a question: why do women continue to try to achieve orgasm during intercourse when their experiences teach them that they tend not to orgasm during intercourse? Hess is not suggesting that the same women can't have an orgasm when they masturbate, but that they can't have an orgasm when they have sex with someone else. You answered with an incomprehensible non-sequitur about socialization having nothing to do with it, while at the same time suggesting women believe themselves to be "exceptions" to something. I'll ask you again: how can someone conceive of herself as an exception to a rule you suggest she doesn't know?

  • Emily H.

    "I think part of the reason it’s so difficult to translate feminist awareness into our lives is the particular cultural belief that being a “good” person—and a good woman—does require a lot of work. Girls today don’t just earn social validation by being skinny—they establish their spot in the pecking order by unearthing how much work they spend trying to get there." I agree with this but I think there's an opposite tendency in the way women are viewed/validated -- the idea of "effortless beauty," that it's more admirable for a woman to be skinny & perfect without doing any work to get that way (or without appearing to). Many men think it's lame for women to diet, and that it's vain and shallow to put effort into your appearance -- but of course they don't want a fat, uglygirl. I would venture to guess that "working" to be attractive is more valued in all-female social spaces (where it's part of normal conversation to validate others by talking about things you need to "fix" about yourself), but effortless perfection is often more valued in other contexts.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Great points Emily H.

  • TJ

    I just have to get this out.

    @Toysoldier, what you described was sexual abuse. You were abused, and what your aunt did to you was disgusting.

    Now that I've gotten that out of my system, Amanda, your second to last paragraph spoke to me directly. I am one of those women who is thin, and I don't work really hard on this "positive trait." Do you know how many comments I get on how much folks hate me because of how small I am and questions on how I did it? The first thing I say is that "stress is a good diet" (which is how I got as small as I am) and then go on this monologue about how I was 25 pounds heavier and I was happier, blah blah blah (I really was happier at 145-150... I'm a black woman who liked the fact that I had a nice ass). Why do I feel the need to make these other women comfortable with themselves by degrading myself? Why do we live in a society where the skinny chick feels the need to go on and on about when she was heavier? This makes no sense to me and it is a frustrating existence.

    I couldn't be the only woman out there that feels like this.

  • TJ

    I must have been writing slowly, because I didn't see Emily H's comment.

    @Emily H, I agree with you partially. I may be wrong, but I got the impression that Amanda was limiting the scope of the audience to women. But besides that, with regard to how men think of this "effortless beauty," it really is a situation of perception = reality. They believe, when they see a woman who has on minimal or no make up, looks fit and isn't eating salads all day long as someone whose beauty is effortless. To me, that just means that they didn't see the five hours spent at the hair salon, or the half hour it took to put on make up that makes her look so "effortlessly beautiful." Or, in my case, the stress that took my 25 pounds away.

    But I wholeheartedly agree with you when you talk about how working to look good is more valued than just being naturally skinny and beautiful. I deal with that stigma almost everyday.

  • LeftSidePositive

    TJ, I always find it interesting how thin women find Audrey Hepburn so "refreshing" after the buxom and unattainable beauty of Marilyn Monroe, and how curvy women find Marilyn Monroe so much more "affirming" compared to the skinny starlets like Audrey Hepburn.

    (Full disclosure, I'm 41-27.5-40, so I'm most definitely in the curvy camp!)

    I think there's a lot to be said for encouraging diversity in standards of beauty, so no one of a particular body type needs to feel shut out or resented.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    groggette: Why did it take me so long? First I had to overcome the years of religious based guilt I was taught for being both female and sexual (Hey look! oppression by men!).

    Religious-based guilt is not targeted only at females and it certainly is not done only by men. That said, are you saying that religious-based guilt prevented you from ever exploring your body? I do not intend to condescend. This is the first time I ever heard that, despite two of my closest friends being very religious.

    Saurs: You seem fond of mentioning it for reasons that are palpably clear to me, but yes, please continue to act bewildered and naive.

    I mentioned it only to demonstrate that even a toddler could understand what does or does not give a person pleasure. If I wanted feminist input regarding the nature of my experiences, I would talk to my aunt. Please stay on topic.

    What we’re discussing has nothing to do with masturbation.

    Actually, it does as that is one of the best methods of determining does or does not cause one to have an orgasm. Absent any information about the difficulty of achieving a vaginal orgasm, many women would likely continue to try without socialization or culture impacting their efforts, for obvious reasons.

    I’ll ask you again: how can someone conceive of herself as an exception to a rule you suggest she doesn’t know?

    You misunderstand. I responded to the question about women who knew about the difficulty of achieving orgasms via intercourse. Some women may think they are the exception, i.e. they can achieve orgasms via intercourse, hence the reason they continue to try.

    I am curious, however, as to what social and cultural norms force women to continue to attempt to orgasm from intercourse.

  • TJ

    @Leftsidepositive, that lack of realization of different types of beauty is what irritates me about having to console these women. Having been fairly thick (I can appreciate your measurements since mine was 34-26-39.5. You got me on the boobs) and now thin, I can appreciate and see the beauty in both. Yes, I can get away with a few more outfits than I could at 145, but hell, can I repeat how I appreciated my ass when I had one, too?

    Excuse if this is not coherent. I'm writing this standing up on the train trying not to touch anything or anyone but my phone. Pretty difficult task...

  • Saurs

    "If I wanted feminist input regarding the nature of my experiences, I would talk to my aunt. Please stay on topic."

    I'm not in the least bit interested in offering you input or advice. Your experience as a child is irrelevant to the matter at hand. If you want to stay on topic, stop committing non-sequiturs to derail a discussion.

    "Actually, it [masturbation] does as that is one of the best methods of determining does or does not cause one to have an orgasm. Absent any information about the difficulty of achieving a vaginal orgasm, many women would likely continue to try without socialization or culture impacting their efforts, for obvious reasons."

    The cognitive dissonance to which Hess is referring has nowt to do with ignorance about orgasms and how to achieve them by oneself, "vaginal" or otherwise. Hess didn't write or imply that women who have difficulty achieving orgasm from penis-in-vagina / penetrative sex cannot or do not achieve orgasm when masturbating, or that such women never masturbate or play with their own clitorides or use sex-toys or receive oral sex. She asked, again, why women who've never achieved orgasm through penetrative vaginal sex and who are given to understand that its difficult for most women to do so continue such sexual practices with the expectation that they ought to achieve orgasm at some point. Why are you feigning ignorance about this?

    "I responded to the question about women who knew about the difficulty of achieving orgasms via intercourse. Some women may think they are the exception, i.e. they can achieve orgasms via intercourse, hence the reason they continue to try.

    I am curious, however, as to what social and cultural norms force women to continue to attempt to orgasm from intercourse."

    Nagoski and Hess provided an answer in their discussion above -- the young woman Nagoski was advising stated that her boyfriend expects her to come when they have penetrative sex, that her peers also believe female orgasms are generally achieved through penetrative sex, and that, basically, that's what she was brought up believing.

    It's not very difficult to see why its a potent lie, however. Both men and women want to achieve the most satisfaction when they have sex. Penetrative, penis-in-vagina missionary sex is the least controversial, the most heteronormative, and therefore, probably the most practiced kind and position. That it really isn't conducive to women coming isn't really important, since most men can, and in this culture the pursuit of male sexual satisfaction is probably our number one hobby. Hence, the cognitive dissonance: women want to come using a method that they know doesn't promote results, but it's the norm, it's the standard, dudes like it and get off on it, so they try, sometimes in vain, anyway. And then when they can't, because it's kind of physically difficult sometimes, they're diagnosed as frigid by handsome television doctors and are encouraged to take medication for a problem they don't actually have. And then they're probably goaded into anal sex, which definitely doesn't cause a female orgasm, but boy howdy is it fun for the dudes! And, really, when you think about it? Getting a dude off is reward enough, isn't it, ladies?

    How do you suggest women (and men! hence the "hilarious" and dismally ignorant "vaginal" versus clitoral orgasm motif littering hackneyed '90s stand-up comedy!) know "about the difficult of achieving [female] orgasms via intercourse" unless they've absorbed some amount of cultural conditioning? I'm sure you have a fascinating explanation either culled from biology or exhorting "personal responsibility." That's the MRA way, innit?

  • Saurs

    I'm going to paraphrase Anne Koedt's famous essay on the subject, 'cos she answers the whole shebang very elegantly, but it is a tad long:

    When sex and its parameters are limited to the male experience, is it no wonder both men and women are ignorant about "where" the female orgasm is achieved? Apart from that, penetration is fun and pleasurable for dudes. It can be fun and pleasurable for women, as well, but it sure as fuck isn't absolutely going to result in an orgasm for her, whereas it invariably will for him. And if the clitoris only requires a willing hand (or tongue) and if women can get off without men, well, fucking hell. Isn't that emasculating, that dudes aren't, like, necessary sometimes? Better to keep the whole thing a secret, then: "women who can't orgasm from a dick have a psychological problem, end of."

  • Athenia

    While I appreciate the knowledge that most women can't orgasm by PIV, I find that knowledge unhelpful because the majority of women do not masturbate---so how is that 70% supposed to be comforting?

  • Ellie

    My theory is that the idea that "normal" women can orgasm via penetration comes from the idea that the penis is a pleasure tool (All you have to do is touch it and you'll orgasm!), perhaps inadvertently perpetrated by the pornography industry. It also gives men the idea that any man can be a sex god if they have a penis, of course, this does have the consequence of giving some men body image complexes re: their penile size. Women who need more than penetration are thought of as "abnormal" because they are defeating the ideology that penises are God's gift to women and that men need to work a little harder to be sex gods. Women don't want to be "abnormal," condemned by societal judgments and their lovers, so they fake it. (Can you tell that I've been studying Marxism recently?)
    I was reading something interesting on this topic recently, though I forget the source, (it may have been from this very blog!) but it basically said that the vagina was designed to stimulate the penis, but the penis was not designed to stimulate the vagina, the clitoris was. I think that's an interesting tautology, and one that we should keep in mind in our sex lives.

  • Eo

    Rather than telling women that they are "part of the 70% arent generally orgasmic from intercourse" she should have them get smartballs or a simialr product, show them the breathing exercises and put them on a kegel workout routine.

  • Eleanor

    Amanda,
    Thanks so much for this post. It's a conundrum I obsess about more than I'd like to, and it's reassuring to see it discussed somewhere other than in my own head.

  • Eo

    As for the cognitive dissonance, I believe that its self perpetuating, I'll demonstrate what I mean by that..

    “In terms of fundraising and vote totals, the consensus among researchers is the complete absence of gender bias.”
    http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/womeninoffice.pdf

    The main reason there is a gender disparity in politics is that men and women chose to go into it in differeing numbers. By teaching women to believe that they live is a patriarchy and that there is a glass celing in politics you are discouracing them from even trying and building a self imposed patriarchy and glass celing not only into the mind set of women but into your own government.

    This self perpetuating situation is empowering to feminism though, the more women that believe that they are systamatically discriminated against in politics the fewer female politicians there will be the more feminism can point to glass celings, systemic bias and patriarchy.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    Nagoski and Hess provided an answer in their discussion above — the young woman Nagoski was advising stated that her boyfriend expects her to come when they have penetrative sex, that her peers also believe female orgasms are generally achieved through penetrative sex, and that, basically, that’s what she was brought up believing.

    That does not answer my question. Let me phrase it a different way: is this belief based purely on assumptions? Is it based on some explicit narrative? Is it based cultural reinforcement?

    How do you suggest women [...] know “about the difficult of achieving [female] orgasms via intercourse” unless they’ve absorbed some amount of cultural conditioning?

    The same way men know about the difficulty of controlling erections or achieving orgasms while wearing condoms: actual experience.

    Unless we assume that society conditioned women not to achieve orgasms via penetration, we could fairly assume that women experiment with their bodies and learn that clitoral simulation achieves an orgasm while vaginal penetration may not. Perhaps women should inform their partners about what stimulates them. Contrary to what you stated, most men do want their partners to feel pleasure and achieve orgasms, so informing those men about what works would help.

  • Saurs

    I'm not under any misapprehension about your argument, Toysoldier. I simply object to you adopting a deliberately obtuse attitude about the subject because you're loath to admit socialization.

    "That does not answer my question. Let me phrase it a different way: is this belief based purely on assumptions? Is it based on some explicit narrative? Is it based cultural reinforcement?"

    To be effectively socialized in the culture in which one has been brought up, one learns, exhibits, reinforces, and teaches one's culture. All these things happen.

    "The same way men know about the difficulty of controlling erections or achieving orgasms while wearing condoms: actual experience."

    No. Nagoski's clients come to her because they're given to understand that other women have difficulty achieving orgasm from penetration and they want to know how to overcome what has been framed a common, but solvable, "female" "problem." Rather than accepting her advice that vaginal penetration is not normally a means of achieving female orgasm, they want her to "show" them "how," like a parlor trick only an expert would know.

    As clitoral stimulation is generally the only way women have ever been able to orgasm, each and every sexually active woman in the history of the world has come to realization that penetration doesn't result in female orgasm.

    You seem to believe that people don't talk about sex, and that the only information about sex individuals know must be limited to their own experiences. You seem not to know that sex manuals have been written since the beginning of recorded history to teach men how to orgasm and to teach women how to gratify men and induce male orgasm. You seem not to know that rape as a punishment is a common literary and artistic theme throughout the ancient and modern world, doled out by men to women, sometimes to boys, sometimes humorously (in invective, for example) to adult men whom the rapists deem to be a political or social enemy. It may be true that every generation believes it discovered sex, but there is no new sexual position under the sun: red-figure Attic poetry shows men gagging prostitutes with their dicks, men shoving women's faces into other men's groins, women crying while being raped, and, in a famous example, a man bent over a woman penetrating her from behind, while telling her to "keep quiet" (for commenters interested in Greek and Roman examples, cf Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome, ed. Amy Richlin). The only difference between the "menus" featured on the walls of recovered Mediterranean brothels and modern hardcore pornography is that ancient dudes weren't as preoccupied with (heterosexual) anal sex and rarely distinguished between anal and vaginal sex in their drawn and sculpted figures.

    Our received wisdom, like theirs, is that sex should be orgasmic, and that penetrative sex is orgasmic sex. Of course, that wisdom fails to take into account that women enjoy sex with other people and also would like to achieve orgasm.

    "Contrary to what you stated, most men do want their partners to feel pleasure and achieve orgasms, so informing those men about what works would help."

    The reality seems otherwise. If, as you stated, men need to be taught that women enjoy clitoral stimulation, how and why do women and men seem to instinctively know men enjoy penetrative sex? The simple answer is because we are all, men and women, recipients of the dominant narrative that limits the definition of heterosexual intercourse to forms of penetration (mouth, anus, vagina) and its sole outcome to male orgasm.

  • anon

    How does anyone, including women, not masturbate? This always baffles me (a woman).

  • jimi

    TJ,
    Hallelujah! I was beginning to become deeply disturbed, almost to the point of avoiding social situations comprised mainly of women all together, because I could barely stand the awkwardness of constantly having to reassure my friends about their weight and physical traits. The pressure of ceaslessly offering positive observations about their apperances combined with the expected voicing of complaints about my own (which I can't bring myself to care enough about to convincingly participate in) often made me very anxious and incrediblly uncomfortable. My normal methods of handling this reoccuring situation involves offering up admirations of more important aspects of of said so friends, say personality-wise for instance, but more often than not these affirmative comments are not as readily accepted as the less heart-felt superficial physical ones. Sigh. Luckily though, I became pregnant and can ease away my tenseness by lightheartedly exclaiming, "MY NIPPLES ARE THE SIZE AND COLOR OF PANCAKES! MY STRETCH MARKS RESEMBLE THE MARIANA TRENCH!" and have plenty of time to enjoy the lack of, "you lucky skinny bitch!" I don't know how I escaped the evil clamps of societal standards, but it still makes me very very sad for those that haven't.

  • TJ

    @jimi, unfortunately I don't have the option of talking about large nipples (I can talk about the stretch marks, though... I developed and grew VERY quickly when I was younger... I don't know what happened since then) since I'm NEVER having children, but I can't avoid the public and social settings either. I like looking at preeeeettttty gurls... :)

    It's amazing the societal garbage that's out there. And what's more amazing is that some women, who know that it's garbage, have to conform to make other women -- who don't even know they are swallowing garbage everyday -- feel more comfortable with themselves.

  • S

    @Saurs

    "The reality seems otherwise. If, as you stated, men need to be taught that women enjoy clitoral stimulation, how and why do women and men seem to instinctively know men enjoy penetrative sex? The simple answer is because we are all, men and women, recipients of the dominant narrative that limits the definition of heterosexual intercourse to forms of penetration (mouth, anus, vagina) and its sole outcome to male orgasm."

    Really?

    How could you miss the fact that if the male does not orgasm we would not exist. It is a case of the evolutionary mandate framing the cultural narrative. The theory that female orgasm is a biological echo of the male has significant support, the male orgasm is necessary while much like male nipples the female orgasm is not.

    To suggest that we are recipients of a so called dominant narrative when clearly this narrative is an effect of inherent biology rather than a artificial/cultural cause. It almost seems like you imply that mens desire to penetrate is a product of socialization which is absurd.
    Forget evolution why don't you ask some men about their sexuality? I'm sure you'll learn a few things.

  • Saurs

    S, unless you've missed the bus: sex is no longer just for reproduction! Surprise! We're talking about sex for recreation, pleasure, fun! And the ancient dudes who were raping prostitutes back in the so-called day? They didn't want to impregnate them!

    Also, female parts and experiences aren't the "biological" "echo" of anything! The dong is just a enlarged clitoris! We all start off as sexually female! Men are not the default anything!

  • S

    @Saurs

    You asked "how and why do women and men seem to instinctively know men enjoy penetrative sex?" In which you assert the "dominant narrative" is the cause, this is absurd. We instinctively know because it is inherent in our biology because it is essential for procreation. This "dominant narrative" you speak of is an expression of our biology. It is an effect not the cause of the sexual dynamic. These notions still exist today not because of the persistence of "patriarchal" cultural norms but because we are still human. Just because we use sex as a tool for pleasure does not mean the nature of human sexuality is not defined by an evolutionary model which revolves around procreation.

    The existence of the female orgasm is a side effect of the necessity for the male orgasm to exist, much like male nipples. Male nipples are evolutionary dead weight, female orgasms are evolutionary dead weight.

    Do you think the ancients gave a dam whether these women got pregnant, bastard children until recently have never been the fathers responsibility not to mention establishing paternity was impossible.

  • Saurs

    "This “dominant narrative” you speak of is an expression of our biology. It is an effect not the cause of the sexual dynamic."

    That remains to be seen. Simply writing so doesn't make it so, S.

  • Saurs

    "We instinctively know because it is inherent in our biology because it is essential for procreation."

    And we're discussing sex that is explicitly not for procreation (i.e. the vast majority of sexual intercourse practiced, and not at all a recent invention), so if, as Toysoldier suggests, heterosexual men for time immemorial have been seriously invested in female sexual pleasure, procreative sex would not be the predominant method of intercourse.

    "Do you think the ancients gave a dam whether these women got pregnant, bastard children until recently have never been the fathers responsibility not to mention establishing paternity was impossible."

    Erm, abortifacients and other means of birth control have existed for thousands of years for just such a purpose. Besides which, elite Roman women pre-Augustus, like many others, were incredibly fond of hiring surrogates, in which cases paternity wouldn't be in question.

  • Saurs

    "The existence of the female orgasm is a side effect of the necessity for the male orgasm to exist, much like male nipples."

    And, as I say, the site at which the female orgasm takes place -- the clitoris -- is a default sexual organ. The penis is an off-shoot.

  • S

    That statement is not isolated. Why do you refuse to see that penetration and male orgasm in the context of being essential for reproduction? It is obvious.

    Besides, I understand my own sexuality and my own sexual development. At the base level it simply is not cultural and yet the narrative is still applicable to me.

  • Saurs

    Not. talking. about. reproduction.

  • M

    Although you're handling this really well, Saurs, I just want to add one thing...

    S is talking about the fact that male orgasm is necessary for reproduction, which is not actually true. Ejaculation and orgasm? Not the same thing.

  • Saurs

    Agreed!

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