I was faking it…

one woman’s search for orgasm

Posts Tagged ‘libido

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.

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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.

Have I ever what-gasmed?

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I have a friend, Laura, who I’ve known since we were 12. Laura is a intelligent woman who never appeared to struggle with school work, however at some point during our shared journeys from elementary to high school she decided that she wasn’t smart enough to go to university. I don’t know how or why she came to this conclusion, but when myself and the rest of our friends shot off for various universities, she got a job in retail and never really left it.

Of course, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this career choice, if that’s what makes you happy, but I know, from the whistful expression that appears on her face whenever the topic comes up that there’s a part of Laura that would love to get a post-secondary education.

the extent of my sex-edification

the extent of my sex-edification

Unfortunately, no matter how many times I’ve told her that half the people sleep right through lecture and if they can still manage to succeed in ‘higher learning’ than so can she–she refuses to listen.

I’ve never been able to understand why Laura just doesn’t try it—enroll in just one class, instead of giving up before she’s even started—until I realized that is exactly what I’ve been doing for the thirty years. Only for me, the problem isn’t academics: it’s sex.

I took me several years of being ‘sexual active’ before I realized that I’d never had an orgasm. After all, for a first timer, just being naked in a bed with a man was exciting enough in itself—ohmygod he’s putting his fingers in there–so that I never wondered if I was missing out on anything. 

And even if I had, it wasn’t like I would have had the confidence to do anything abou: there is no time during life when communication is more awkward and uncomfortable (including funerals and underwater diving) than during novice sex. In fact, the very first time I had intercourse I was too shy to ask my boyfriend if he was wearing a condom—which he assumed meant I was on the pill. I wasn’t, and nether was he.

It wasn’t until I was in my first long term relationship that I actually became comfortable enough to talk about sex, and what I did and didn’t like—with my girlfriends (I was still years away from the guide-his-hand stage).

It was talking to friends like Laura, who was giving hand jobs to her boyfriend and fellow barista behind the counter by this point, that I first heard about ‘female orgasms’ and realized I’d never had one. As enjoyable as sex had been up till that point, I’d certainly never experienced ‘the earth moving’ or a ‘millions stars bursting across my pelvis’. What a rip-off!

So, I did what I was always did when something happened that seemed unfair: nothing.

Based on Laura’s stories, I assumed that, like my inability to whistle and turn my tongue into a U-shape, I just wasn’t genetically able to do ‘come’. And I never tried. That was about eight years ago.

However, last night, I picked up a book called I Love/Heart Female Orgasms. According to the books authors, Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot, I gave up way too easily.

While many studies have found that 5-10% of women have never had an orgasm, this statistic is misleading. Many of these women are young and haven’t learned how to orgasm yet…The percentage of women who would like to have an orgasm but are truly physically unable to is minuscule. Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that you’re one of them (source, 66).

Ohmygod! I’m not broken! And ohmygod think of all the time and possible ecstasy that’s gone to waste because I was too timid and lazy to experiment with clitoral rubbing or nipple massage or any of the other techniques the authors suggest (but that’s for my next post).

Fortunately, it’s not too late: I’m thirty and this time, unlike that phase several years ago when I was determined to learn how to whistle—I’m going to make it happen.

And if Laura ever changes her mind and decides to take a chance, just think of all the fun she’ll have with those twenty-two year-old freshman.

Female sexual arousal: demystified at last?

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Does the image of two bonobo monkeys ‘doing it’ turn you on? Well if you’re a women then, according to the a study conducted by Meredith Chivers, it most certainly does, and if you think differently it’s because your just not paying attention to your vagina.

In Chiver’s study, (as referenced in the Jan 25 New York Times article) women’s level of arousal was measured as they viewed various images, including the bonobos. Tiny plastic probes were inserted into the subjects’ genitals, which in turn monitored genital blood flow via a machine known as a plethysmograph.  A high blood flow measure was interpreted as evidence of sexual response. In addition to the ‘scientific’ readings, the women were asked to identity which of the images did or didn’t ‘do it’ for them.

According to Chiver’s, women got this last part (yeah, the part where they actually had to make a decision) wrong:

[The women’s] blood flow rose quickly — and markedly…as they watched the apes… [However]…mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord…Whether straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while staring at the bonobos. (source)

The machine said yes, but their thumb said no. Chiver’s conclusion? Like the magician’s attractive assistant, women are ‘split’ in half-with their minds in one side of the box and their bodies in the other.

Excuse me? I checked it out on youtube just be sure—and I can confidently say, that as a woman, strawberry Jell-O is more erotic to me than Bonobo porn.

"Does this turn you on, m'am?"

"Does this turn you on, m'am?"

It shocks me that, sexologists like Chivers think can wire up a girl’s clit and claim that it gives a more accurate and authoritative assessment of her sexuality than what the girl being tested believes for herself?

Arousal is a complex interplay of emotion, experience, biology and I’m sure a lot more—and to reduce it to a Pavlovian like experiment–ring a bell and get a bone, show a penis and make her wet—seems ludicrous.

And what scares me most about Chiver’s experiment and the scientific rationale informing it, removes the agency of the person that the genitals’ belongs to—essentially undermining women’s ability to be masters (or mistresses) of their own bodies.

 As someone who’s out to do just that–take control over my sexuality–I’d like to tell her where to stick those wires.

Sex and the City and why I can’t orgasm

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Sex and the City is stealing my orgasms, and the orgasms of thousands of other members of their viewing audience.

The problem is that the women on that show are just too damn beautiful.

sex-and-the-city-movieIn The intimate history of the orgasm, Jonathan Margolis describes a 1999 poll which sampled 15, 000 sexually active adults in the US, Canada and the UK and found that “46 % per cent of anorgasmic women blamed the problem on lack of confidence in their appearance” (source, p.64).

That is to say, instead of letting ourselves be consumed by the act of love-making, we keep getting distracted by the image of Carrie Bradshaw’s sharp shoulder blades and the uncomfortable questions that they dig into our psyches: Am I too fat? Am I pretty? What does he think of how I look (especially now that I don’t have any clothes to downplay my thighs)? 

But that isn’t the only way that Sex and the City is apparently undermining the orgasmic potential of women like me.  Not only is the show’s cast of female actors totally thin and attractive but they also generally have really amazing looking sex. Particularly in the case of Samantha.

How are regular women like me supposed to be able to measure up to a woman whose sex drive,  at the age of forty, is able to consume handsome young men half her age?

In another, much smaller study quoted by Margolis, women engaged in sexual self stimulation (masturbation) were monitored in labs and then asked to report on their experience. The intriguing aspect of the experiment was that many subjects which exhibited all the physiological sensations of orgasms, climaxed they hadn’t orgasmed at all, decided instead that “what they had did not seem to feel like what it was supposed to be like it… [thus] women perfectly capable of orgasm refuse to believe that they are having a legitimate one and must instead be experiencing an inferior brand” (source, p.66).

That pleasing sensation around my pelvic region was nice, but since I didn’t scream and howl like Samantha’s did in episode four, season six, than it must not have been the real thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love Sex and the City. But perhaps, if we women are really serious about getting in touch with our own orgasmic capacity, we should start by trying not to compare ourselves to Carrie and Samantha and the rest of them. I, for one, vow not to watch any more episodes…at least till I’ve come.

female desire: oceans and ironing boards

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A woman’s desire is like an electric iron, slow to heat up and slow to cool down.  A man’s desire, on the other hand, is like a light bulb, capable of being turned on and off in a matter of seconds.

This is what, amongst my twenty and thirty-something friends, is considered common wisdom on the nature of male and female sexuality.

I’ve never felt comfortable with those two images—partly I suppose because irons make me think of ‘stay-at-moms’ from the 1950s whose only interest in sex is to please their husbands and make babies. But I’ve also resented these comparisons because they seem so flat, so functional and practical—like most things in North American society.

i have a feeling she's not 'turned on'

i have a feeling she's not 'turned on'

In Promiscuities, Naomi Wolf describes the ancient Chinese view on the nature of male and female desire:

“The male may be ‘more volatile, more active and quicker’ than the female, like fire, but, while women are superficially calmer, the force of their desire is deeper and stronger, like water” (182).

Imagining my libido fueled by the expansive and overwhelming energy of water is lot more intriguing than imagining it as a household appliance. And perhaps, even, revealing.

When I was seventeen my girlfriend, Alison, and I went on a canoe trip up the local lake. We paddled to a remote spot, beyond the reaches of the usual assortment of screaming children and partying teenagers. We didn’t need beer or pot: it was intoxicating just being two young women out alone in the big bad woods.

Sometime after the hotdog and marshmallow dinner, we decided, to go skinny dipping.

There is nothing scarier—and yet more exciting, as a young woman, than, after all the years spent making sure your shirt isn’t too tight of your skirt too short, willingly taking off your clothes.

It was a beautiful clear night, and the sound of our giggles echoed across to the other side of the pitch black shore as we paddles in circles around each other—careful never to touch one another but high on the eroticism of our own boldness and the pleasure of the caressing waters.

Afterwards, we lay next to the fire, energized (in a way that now makes me think of the female orgasm’s post-climax state which I’ve been reading about so much recently).

This wasn’t the last time I wound up skinny dipping on all-female camping trips, and I wonder now if it there isn’t something particular about the connection between women and water, as articulated in Wolf’s example, that draws us women in, giggling and bare-bottomed each time.

I like to think that night on the lake with Alison was the first time that I, as a woman, made physical contact with my own innate, sexual desire, and that the current of that power still remains in me–just below the surface.

Written by jaquieonassis

January 23, 2009 at 6:44 pm