I was faking it…

one woman’s search for orgasm

Archive for February 2009

Yes, ma’m

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Jim Carey’s latest movie, Yes Man  is about a man who stops saying no and starts saying yes to everything in life.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I liked the ‘Yes’ idea so much I decided to apply it to sex.

However, unlike the movie version, where Carey accepts an elderly woman’s offer for oral sex just because he’s committed to the vow of Yes, that doesn’t mean I’m going to start accepting intercourse offers from strange men on the street.

What I’m saying is yes to masturbation—for me and everyone else.

On the website, Christian Nymphos one advice columnist by the name of Cinnamon Sticks, lays out her view on the question of whether masturbation is a sin or not,

God has been clear about lust. In His Kingdom, lust and adultery are no different from one another. So to get aroused from pornography and then masturbate with lust in one’s heart would be sin. This would displease the Lord not because touching yourself sexually is sin, but because 1) the person being lusted after is one of His kids and it disrespects them, 2) the person being lusted after belongs to their spouse (either now or in the future) and it disrespects their relationship with one another and 3) what a person focuses on when they orgasm becomes a tie in their soul to that thing which damages the sexual relationships they might have that God established and blessed as right. (source)

Cinnamon’s explanation is like reading the Face Book Terms of Service: you can do this, but you can’t do that. Touching yourself sexually is okay, but not if you’re thinking about someone other than your partner, and not if you do it so much that you become obsessed about it and miss Sunday mass, and not if you…

is it me or does this look like an ad for prosac?

is it me or does this look like an ad for prosac?

Confused yet? I know I was. And yet, I should confess my own attitude towards masturbation, up until recently, wasn’t much more straightforward.  Sure, I knew that boys and men masturbated, but years ago, whe I discovered a bottle of baby oil next to the computer screen, a whole host of negative feelings around masturbation surfaced.

“Were you whacking off at the computer?” I accused my then-boyfriends, hands clenched against my hip.  All I needed was an apron and rolling pin to complete my ‘irate housewife’  impersonation,

“Maybe,” he said, with a look of guilt on his face.

“To porn?” I said.

“Maybe,” he said.

“That’s disgusting,” I said—just in case he didn’t already feel bad enough.

I never saw the baby oil next to the computer again

Years later, I’ve finally realized that I was mean and a bully that day. Part of me of just felt guilty that he needed to masturbate because I thought it meant our sex life wasn’t good enough, and part of me was reacting to deeply engrained views of masturbation as being wrong (see previous post).

I apologize. Sorry, Mark, for acting as though there was something disgusting or perverted about self-pleasure, self-loving, and sexual expression, and I’m sorry for every time you felt the need to hide your masturbation from me afterwards.

The great thing is, that now that I can finally see that it’s okay if my partner’s masturbate, with or without me, what Betty Dodson calls ‘self-loving’ I’ve finally allowed myself to accept it as a practice in my own life.

Like last night, when I announced to my fiancé that I was going to masturbate in the bedroom. It felt good to say that aloud.
“Cool,” he said, with a shrug. It’s true, it was that easy. No mockery, no raised eyebrow, no dry heaving, just ‘cool’. I smiled as I shut the door.

But saying ‘yes’ to masturbation isn’t just about embracing, rather than judging the act of masturbation on general terms, for me it’s also about saying yes on a very intimate level.

Describing her own struggle to sexual fulfillment, Betty Dodson writes:

Until my mid-thirties … guilt, fear, anger and self-pity, deprived me of erotic thoughts. These classical body/mind blocks impeded the flow of my sex energy…I always held back because, basically I was embarrassed about sex. All my fear and embarrassment gradually disappeared after I made a decision to embrace sexuality” (source, p. 98).

Don’t hold back. Don’t say no. Don’t judge. Just love and celebrate the erotic sensations in your body.

With that sage advice in my head as I lay on the bed last night, vibrator in hand, I decided to stop thinking about whether I was going to have an orgasm, and how would I know if it really was one, and to simply assume that every shiver of sexual pleasure radiating from my clitoris was an orgasm. No judgment.

My hips rocked, my breathing was deep, and my mouth whispered words of encouragement as I nuzzled the vibrator up to my genitals. My body said yes to orgasms.

When I finally emerged from the bedroom, my fiancé, of course, asked me the question,

“So did you orgasm?” I thought about it for a second. I might not have experienced an volcanic eruption of pleasure, but I did more fully experience the pleasure of my body–and I think if I focus on those sensations instead of always looking towards the peak I may just wind up getting there.

Why don’t girls masturbate?

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There is a woman that I see in the lobby of my workplace every morning, waiting for the elevator. She wears special stretchy pants and carries a cane in her right hand to help support her weight.

She is fat.

I don’t know anything about this woman, other than that she works somewhere in the same building as me, and yet I can’t help but make instant judgments about her.

She should take the stairs. She should cut refined sugars out of her diet. She should take aqua fit classes. She should do something about her body because it’s unhealthy and gross and totally out of control.

do you find this as jarring as I do?

sex, lies and diet yogurt?

There is nothing as unifying to the female gender (at least in Western societies) as our obsession with weight.

Even the most micro-thin women I know complain about their figures every once in a while. And then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are the thousands of women like me, who have spent years being literally obsessed with food and exercise.

We women spend a lot of time and energy focused on controlling our bodies–and I wonder why I’ve never experiment with masturbation till now?

According to sex educators Solot and Miller, the most frequently asked question that women pose to them in discussions around the use of vibrators as self-pleasuring tools, is “Can I get addicted?”(source, 174).

I almost laughed the first time I read that, imagining a business woman with blond highlights and a power suit huddled next to a dumpster in a downtown alley with a vibrator between her legs.

It’s not crack cocaine, for god’s sake, it’s just a vibrator—what are those women so afraid of?

How about you, Jaquie, what are you afraid of?

The grin dropped off my face pretty fast when I realized that I’m no different than the rest of the vibrator-phobes: for the past three years my boyfriend has been suggesting that I get a vibrator, and for the past three years I’ve been resisting doing so. I always told myself that it was because I was interested in the electronic stimulation, I wanted to do things naturally, but now I think it was fear that was stopping me.

When I was in grade ten, a friend, Michelle, and I spotted a man sitting on the hood of a blue Honda in our school parking lot. One hand was hidden beneath a blanket and his body was vibrating.

“Oh my god! He’s jacking off!” said Michelle—we instantly broke out screams and ran for the gym entrance door. Later on that afternoon, hanging out next Michelle’s locker, we curled up our lips in disgust and named him the ‘car perv’.

That was my first impression of masturbation. And as Head and Shoulder’s likes to remind us, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Though female masturbation has since my adolescent days finally made its way into popular culture, through shows like Sex and the City, back then, the practice was framed as something that only boys and dirty old men did, and as a result there has always been a part of me afraid that if I started masturbating I would lose control over my body and turn into the ‘Car Perv’. I resisted urges to explore and touch myself when I was in my teen-years and so I suppose it’s not surprising that at the age of thirty I’ve never orgasmed.

Though I eventually get past my eating disorder, I still today find myself analyzing and judging how I look and how other women look, and I still feel a tinge of embarrassment telling my boyfriend that I ‘tried out’ the vibrator while he was out.

I wonder, if I might have a different, more compassionate and confident view of the female body if, back during those early years, I focused on enjoying and exploring my body instead of trying to control it.

A fat body is, after all, just one expression of the female form, just as whacking off on top of a car is just one expression of sexuality.

taking myself for a test drive

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Masturbation is a way for all of us to learn about sexual response. It’s an opportunity to explore our bodies and minds for all those sexual secrets we’ve been taught to hide, even from ourselves.
Betty Dodson, Sex for One: the joy of self loving

So far as machines go, my vibrator looks as basic as they come (no pun intended).  I don’t need to load any programs, or plug in any cords, and there’s only one button: the on/off switch.

complicated

complicated

Naturally, I figured that learning to operate it would be easy—right?

My clitoris, which continued to twitch like a post-marathon quadriceps, for about an hour after my orientation’ session, however would probably disagree. 

Masturbating to orgasm, no matter how user-friendly your tools look, is not easy.

According to Betty Dodson, author of Sex for One: the joy of self-loving,  “Sexual skills are like any other skills; they’re not magically inherited, they have to be learned” (source, 4).

From my past few weeks of reading up on female orgasm, and doing some preliminary ‘field work’ in the area, I had learned enough to know that if I wanted to explore the full potential of my first vibrator, I’d need to take it slowly  (a month ago, on the other hand, I probably would have shoved the thing into my privates, felt no pleasure and confirmed my belief that I am incapable of orgasm).

I found a comfortable spot to lie down on my bed and started to gently rub myself in the places that I know (see previous post) feel good.  When the familiar throbbing sensations began pulsing from my pleasure zone, I flipped the switch and well, then I shoved it in.

When I was 12 years old, I tried to learn the clarinet.  Though an aesthetically beautiful instrument, with its long polished trunk and gentle curves, the sounds my clarinet made during those early practice session sounded like a combination of a circus elephant stampeding the crowd and a classroom full of primary students dragging their fingers against the chalkboard.

Not complicated

Not complicated

The sensations that rippled through my body next reminded me a lot of those shrill clarinet honks, mixed with a wonderful undercurrent velvety bliss.

It was pleasure and pain at the same time—and something I’d never known my body could do.

However, despite those similarities, there is, I quickly discovered, a big difference between learning to play the clarinet and learning to play my vibrator: consistency. With the clarinet, the sounds I made were consistently loud (and bad). With the vibrator, I never knew what was coming next.

Sometimes the volume blasted to full and I’d feel like I never wanted to do anything but lie in my bed with my little battery-operated friend, and then all of a sudden it would mute out entirely and I’d find myself checking the time on the digital clock on my bedside table to see how much time had passed.  At this point, I’d usually remember that I was supposed to be focusing on the ‘moment’, feel a wave of frustration, get angry because nothing was happening and then crank up the little round dial at the bottom of the handle to send another blast across my genitals.

It was a cycle that looked and felt nothing like the gentle, measured touch that sex therapists claim is the ‘secret’ to nurturing sexual climax in women.  Bascially, my masturbation session lacked anything resembling ‘control’.

So, I didn’t orgasm, nor did I master the vibrator, or master my clitoris.

But then, I didn’t learn to play a decent ‘c’ note the first time I picked up a clarinet either.

So, as they say, practice makes perfect–now all I need is some rechargeable batteries.

My little vibrator

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The first [vibrators] were awesomely large, with a big box attached to the mains. One imagines that they were also awesomely noisy. But then they were miniaturised (relatively speaking). Hand-cranked versions became available, which presumably must have been distressingly prone to running out of power long before satisfaction had been achieved.
                         -Vivienne Parry (source)

“Internal or external?” said the large-busted sales assistant with the lip ring as she gestured towards the display of vibrators.  With her generous thighs, dyed- black hair and plunging neckline, she was exactly the kind of person I’d expected to meet working at a women’s sex store in a part of my city known as the hippy/dyke street.

She was sensual and earthy yet tough—and so much calmer than the woman with the tense shoulders and the nervous smile standing next to her.

Though I’d often been curious about the store, the words ‘female sexual empowerment’ written in bold letters above the awning, I’d never dared to go inside until that day.  I hadn’t quite known what to expect, certainly not a rack of black leather harnesses and shelf full of small, stainless steel balls.    

Maybe I wasn’t ready for this, after all.

I remember once having a conversation with some girlfriends when I was in my mid-twenties about the weirdest places and ways we’d had sex.  The best story included a secluded grove of trees just off a busy hiking trial and a red rubber dildo.   

My contribution?  A hotel bed.  My sexual past is fairly ‘conventional’–which is why I wound up huddling near the Joy of Sex book stand  in my local sex store stand, as far away from the leather and steel as possible, for the first ten minutes of my visit.   Not only have I never done ‘it’ in any way that could be remotely considered ‘kinky’, I certainly have never discussed the possibility of doing so with a complete stranger!

hotel-room

pretty raunchy...not

And yet, there I was, standing next to this woman who was obviously an expert in these matters–and now I had not choice but answer her. 

“Huh?” I said.  Internal or external?  Oh no!  She was not going to make me say it was she?

“What variety are you looking for?” she said.  She was going to make me say it.

 “I want one for my vagina.”  Not my liver or whatever else she was referring to.

She smiled. It was the same smile my mom had given me when I’d asked her what the difference between tampons and pads were and when do I know which one to use?

The sales assistant then proceeded to give me a brief rundown on the different kinds of vibrators her store had to offer. I had the feeling this was not the first time she had done this.

“First off, external vibrators,” she said, picking up a small device that looked like a triangular ipod, “are for stimulating the clitoris, whereas internal vibrators are used to stimulate the walls of the vagina.”  This time the object in her hand looked more like a rubber banana–a long, smooth shaft.

Then she pointed to something that looked like a cactus, with two arms and soft, spiky bits sticking from all over it,

“This can be used for simultaneous internal and external stimulation,” she said.

I’ve never used, nor owned a vibrator before, but whenever I think of one, I imagine the banana-kind, or as my sexpert friend had called it, the classic ‘internal’ vibrator—a little more than an ipod but not quite desert-flora.

That, however, was not the most difficult decision I would be asked to make. Whilst there are a lot of different ‘features’ to choose from within the ‘classic’ internal vibrator category—water resistance, rechargeable, textured—the real question has nothing to do with function and is all about form.

To the left of me was a row of neon orange, green, pink creatures that looked like they had escaped from the local Toys’R’us. And to the right, a line of dark plastic penises, complete with bulging veins and foreskin.

Choosing between plug-ins and batteries was easy—this however, was ultimately a question about the nature of my sexual desire. What did I think was hotter: a grown man or children’s toys?

I went for the green glow wwormyorm with a smile on his face.

Now, before you judge me as a sexually repressed woman who’s attempting to return to that peaceful and pure time of her life, before she had never heard of words like ‘masturbation’ and ‘clitoral hood’, by surrounding herself with artifacts of her childhood, the truth of it is that the reason I chose the vibrator I did was because the other ones looked kind of scary.

I couldn’t help but imagine the massive plastic Robocop-man that those phallic-shaped vibrators had once belonged to, and who would surely come looking for his lost member at some point, banging on my door and announcing to my whole building that he was going to arrest me for…masturbating?

Interestingly, though Solot and Miller, in I Love Female Orgasm states that 44% of Canadian women, and 45% of American ones, own vibrators.  That’s a lot of ladies, yet I’ve never heard any of my girlfriends exchange stories about the weirdest place and ways that they have ever ‘self-pleasured themselves’.  And in light of my own bizarre-vibrator police fears, I think I know why: shame. 

It would seem that female masturbation is one practice that has yet to ‘come out of the closet’.

Plunging the happy hole

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“Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”
                                                    -line form the movie Annie Hall

My fiancé and I work different hours. Some mornings, as he’s getting ready to head off to his office and I’m still lounging around in my pajamas, he asks me how I’m planning to spend my day. I tell him I’m going to masturbate. It’s a bit of a joke between us because in reality we both know that’s the last thing I’d be doing.

It’s not that I think there’s anything perverted about girls touching themselves—I’ve just never found the act of self-stimulation very stimulating. And I guess, at some point, I just assumed that, like the time I tried ticking the bottoms of my own feet and was unable to induce anything close to an electrifying body-shock, heavy petting is a practice that requires more than one set of hands.

But that was before I’d committed myself to achieving sexual fulfillment through the big ‘O’.

According to Solot and Miller, authors of I Love Female Orgasm,

Masturbation is the fastest and easiest way for many women to have orgasms, and the most common way for a woman to come for the first time. In [their] survey, women who had masturbated were far more likely to be orgasmic (by themselves of with a partner) than women who had never masturbated (88 percent compared to 48 percent) (Source, p.41).

In the words of Seinfeld, in order to orgasm I need first to become the ‘master of my domain.’

Whilst phase one involved a visual exploration of my vulva (see previous post—don’t worry, I didn’t use a magnifying glass), phase two in this journey is all about touch:

You’re goal is to find out what kinds of touch feel best to you, and what places on your body are most sensitive…With each thing you do, just notice the sensations without judging yourself…You may feel very little at first, but pay attention to even the smallest sensations—they’ll grow with practice (Source, 72-74).

Interestingly, what the Solot and Miller are talking about is ‘mindfulness’—an approach to awareness and thus appreciation of life described by writers such as Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now .

When I first read Tolle’s book several years ago, I tried to be more ‘mindful’ of what I was doing while eating, or what I was seeing as I walked down the street (though judging by the number of times I’ve bitten my tongue or tripped over curbs in the past few months I’ve obviously fallen out of practice)—but never did I consider applying that same approach to touching myself.

I decided to start the experiment by running my fingers over parts of my body—my neck, inner thighs, earlobes, the small of my back—that usually explode in shivers under my fiancé’s touch.

It wasn’t unpleasant, especially with the combination of my the warm water shooting down from the nozzle overhead, and the smell of the rich clove-scented soap—but there were definetly no lightening bolts.

Though I bet if someone was in the shower with me…

my usual mode of self-stimulation

my usual mode of self-stimulation

As soon as I started wondering how to improve the experience, the rest of the voices decided to jump in: one was complaining about a cluster of pimples on my upper thigh that I’d never noticed before and another was ordering me to turn off the tap because if I was just going to stand there doing nothing I could at least stop wasting water.

What happened to focusing on the moment? Mindfulness is apparently not something that comes easy to me.

But I wasn’t ready to give up. After all, Solot and Miller suggest a goal of twenty-minutes for each self-pleasuring session and my hands hadn’t even gotten to wrinkly phase yet.

It was time to be a little more daring, and go for the breasts. There is something amazing about nipples—and not just the way the smooth pink skin hardens into fleshy thimbles when stimulated. What makes them special is that, at least in the case of my body, they have a direct link with my clitoris.

If I wake up the pink thimbles, I wake up the clit, which then demands to be touched.

My first impulse, of course, was to obey. However, on this occasion, in the interest of mindfulness, I just let myself experience the throbbing urgency. And when it started to pass, I moved on to my other breast.

By the time I finally allowed my fingers to, as the saying goes, ‘plunge the happy hole’ I am proud to say, that I was wet (and it had nothing to do with the stream of water shooting overhead).

Though I didn’t orgasm, I did take one small step in that direction. And definitely had a good time doing it.

The only real problem, I encountered was that, having worked myself up all I wanted to do at that point was hop back into bed and seduce my fiancé—but I couldn’t.

Funny how after all these years of ‘celibacy’ I finally decided to explore the art of self-arousal while still recovering from a bladder infection.