New York writer Rebecca Traister made a really good point in her recent feature for the magazine’s Sex On Campus issue: Consensual sex can be bad too, but feminism often fails to address that point. It’s not that feminist ladies aren’t discussing sex outside of the realm of consent or rape culture, but it does seem that the overall discourse tends to be focused around those subjects, perhaps because they are a matter of safety and personal autonomy. That is great, and we certainly need those conversations. However, we also need to discuss consensual sex that is just straight up BAD.
Sex, especially intercourse, between men and women can often leave women feeling shortchanged — regardless of the circumstances of the act. In other words, even when a woman says “yes” to a man and agrees to a sexual interaction, that doesn’t necessarily mean that men and women are agreeing to the same terms. Much of that has to do with simple biological differences that are further complicated by today’s Western culture.
Biologically, cismen and women are different. This basic fact is evident in anatomical differences that simply cannot be denied, nor should they be if we are to have an honest conversation. Those differences mean the way that each sex responds not only to arousal but also to sexual stimulation differs. Men, on average, tend towards easier arousal and climax. Women, on the other hand, require more stimulation for both. Many studies point to a reality where the average man not only needs less foreplay but also climaxes far easier and in less time during intercourse than his female counterpart. The differences are pretty astounding and also have huge implications: men climax within 5-10 minutes during intercourse, while the average woman needs 3-4 times that much. Men also typically need up to an hour to get hard again after the initial orgasm.
We know these facts. They have been outlined one too many times, even by myself in various pieces of writing.
Where the conversation diverges, however, is at the point where we decide what should be done to mitigate these differences. If women and men are biologically hardwired to respond differently to sexual arousal and stimulation, how precisely can they begin having “good” sex that accounts for these differences?
Well, most certainly not by employing a culture that puts a premium on instant gratification while reducing male sexual responsibility and also policing the sexual liberty of women. In fact, this combination of social, cultural and physiological factors can only result in the least desirable sex imaginable. To elaborate, here’s an example…
I have a friend who we will call “Lucy” whose story mirrors the experiences of many women. Lucy first encountered sex at the age of 17 with her high school sweetheart. They got right to the banging, and he orgasmed in 5-10 minutes, as most men do. She did not climax. They continued this sexual relationship, where he orgasmed in 5-10 minutes and she seldom climaxed, for two years. She enjoyed the sexual interaction, but there was no “big O” to be found. Eventually, their relationship dissolved and she found a new partner. Her new partner climaxed in 5-10 minutes and she seldom climaxed. The cycle continued. Lucy even went to college, where “hookup culture” resulted in her having five more partners who all came in 5-10 minutes. All of those sexual experiences led Lucy to believe a few things:
She either could not climax at all, or it was too difficult or hard to figure out how to and
Sex ended when her male partner finished.
Of course, Lucy could have suggested having three men in bed with her at one time, so perhaps she could have 30 minutes worth of sex in total — but then she would have been a whore, per society’s standards. Lucy could have asked for more foreplay or maybe even cunnilingus from her partner, but she felt awkward and was concerned that expressing feelings of dissatisfaction would make her partner feel terrible, since, all men have to sit around believing they have the magic stick. So she said nothing and settled for whatever she got.
This demonstrates where feminism has kind of fallen off, or at least where it’s fallen short in empowering us to clearly express our sexual desires. Us ladies know we should be having good sex and as much of it as we would like, but asking for it, especially when your male partner seems unconcerned, can be difficult. And besides that, the problem in this equation is not us ladies alone, nor can it be remedied solely by women.
What is required here is for male sexuality to be liberated and dissected as much as female sexuality has been thanks to feminism. A good place to start? Perhaps, men should train themselves to last longer than 5-10 minutes so their female partners can actually get off during intercourse? Or maybe they should spend less time viewing intercourse and orgasm as the epitome of sex and instead focused more effort on romance, foreplay and oral sex (I’m sure some dudes do, but in casual sexual relationships, this happens less often)? Typically, intercourse is rushed into and considered a prize, then men can’t last long enough during for women to enjoy themselves!
To top it all off, male self-control actually stands in opposition to everything Western society currently stands for. Today’s men are told they should run through as many women as possible to gain notches on their belt. And our culture in general is all about fast results and instant gratification. Want to lose weight? Well, there’s a pill to help you do that in one week! Horny? There are millions of videos, of every body type and turn-on, streamed right to your lap to whack off! Want to fuck someone IRL? There are dozens of people to potentially hook up with via some app or another within moments.
Want to get a woman off? Well, sorry folks, there’s no damn quick fix.
For men, learning to delay climax or focus on elements of sex other than intercourse, and even caring to learn how to, requires effort. An effort that many will seldom make in a world of gimme-gimme-right-now.
My vagina is a delicate flower. It takes time and patience in you want to be the one to watch it blossom and bloom. When you man-handle it, it withers and dies. Simple.
What’s not simple, however, is reconciling this male biological come-quickness, instant gratification culture and the needs of women. Where do women’s sexual needs — which require patience and men’s delay of gratification — fit into a society structured precisely around impatience and instant gratification? And how does feminism begin to address a large scale culture that is obviously at odds with everything women’s bodies need? Those questions may intimidate, but until we begin to address them, you can most certainly count on many more ladies having plenty of bad consensual sex.