The feminist waves of the past 100 years has seen the liberation of female suffrage, stringent gender roles, and reproductive freedom (despite recent attempts and success at repealing such rights). Whilst we have gained certain legal liberties; the right to vote, work, and control our money and bodies, social restrictions surrounding female pleasure still exist, normalising a culture of unreasonable sexual standards.
For one, female pleasure is often depicted in the media through the lens of male pleasure, or rather what men enjoy sexually. Scenes of women reaching orgasms moments after penetration or with no foreplay have long been criticised for their unrealistic portrayal of sex and the expectations it sets for both men and women in the bedroom. Many figures and studies on the “orgasm gap” between men and women found that few women find orgasms as easy to reach as their male counterparts. Sex toy brand Lelo (upscale but highly recommended) surveyed 4,400 heterosexual couples on their sex lives, finding that women were significantly less likely to reach orgasm during sex than men, and a sizable number of those surveyed had never orgasmed with a partner. Despite these figures and the unspoken knowledge most of us have that sex is not as simple as tab A inserts into slot B, schools continue to educate kids with the rudimentary basics, and the media continues to portray fast, and at times aggressive, sex as the go-to pleasure point for men and women. The censorship of the pleasure derived from sex and the feelings and emotions it brings about has left generations unsure of how to effectively communicate their sexual needs and reinforced the lack of focus on female pleasure. Sex is so personal and with two (or more) parties involved, getting to know each other’s body and what derives pleasure requires a solid understanding of pleasure itself.
In ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’, the phenomenal Emma Thompson plays a widow who, after never orgasming with her husband in their repressed sex life, hires a sex worker for a night of pleasure. No spoilers, but I’d like to both recommend the watch and highlight the discovery she makes about herself and the importance of knowing and loving her body. Likening her character’s rediscovery of her body to Eve in the Garden of Eden, Thompson emphasised that it was not nudity that liberated her character but rather the innocence and lack of judgement with which her character began to look at her body and consider its pleasure. In promotional interviews, Thompson discusses the taboos surrounding female bodily functions, from periods and menopause, to the sought-after orgasm, a source of shame and discomfort for women whose understanding of their bodies can be inhibited by societal restrictions discouraging discussions about our bodies and sexual lives. Whilst this movie emphasises the patience with which we should approach understanding our bodies, Thompson highlights the pleasure centres within each of us that goes beyond simple penetration to an intimacy derived from the mind, the body, and the heart. Media portrayal of sexual relationships is shifting from a purely physical lens to a more encompassing intellectual and social perspective, yet the ever-popular “sex sells” does not entirely account for the deeper sides of sex. Getting to know our bodies, whilst acknowledging that pleasure can be found from a multitude of acts, is the first step in opening up our forum of conversations on uncensoring our lives.
On that note, here are some questions to consider:
How often do you orgasm?
Do you notice a significant gap between the frequency with which you cum vs your partner?
What turns you on?
What gets you off?
Ultimately sexual censorship must be addressed in the media, and this can come about only through a very frank and honest conversation between both men and women about pleasure, intimacy, and changing stereotypes. We want to keep talking and shine a much-needed light on the importance of prioritising your sexual pleasure. Share your thoughts on sexual censorship and your own sex life in the comments (anonymised, discreetly or with your name in big glaring capitals) or on Instagram using the to contribute to the conversation. We want to give a voice to anyone willing to share their experiences and consider with our community how we can best support the women in our society.