I came across this TED talk by Peggy Orenstein this week about young women and their beliefs about sexual pleasure.
Orenstein has written several books on this subject, including and
The talk references Sara McClelland, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, whose research found that young women are more likely to use their partner’s satisfaction as a measure of pleasure, compared to young men who measure satisfaction based on their own orgasm. McClelland’s research also found that young women expect three things from sex for a satisfying experience:
– No pain
– To feel close to her partner and,
– For him to orgasm.
As Orenstein says “absence of pain — that’s a very low bar for your own sexual fulfillment.” And this is coming from smart, strong women who live full lives outside of the bedroom. Why is it so hard for ordinary women to ask for pleasure in sex?
In romance, the heroine gets to orgasm frequently. The whole premise of romance is that the heroine gets to express her wants and needs – in all parts of her life. Tessa Dare sums this up perfectly. Her latest book Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Castles Ever After) is a finalist for the Romance Writers of America 2017 RITA award in the Historical Romance: Short category.
An interesting point in this TED talk is the discussion around how a lesbian defines virginity. One person interviewed by Orenstein said that she defined it as the time she first orgasmed. Now, wouldn’t that be a great definition. This topic is covered neatly in Anne Gracie’s book The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters) (although I can’t outline this without giving away a wonderful moment of discovery in this book).
Orenstein concludes with a comment that sums up every good romance novel:
“I know what I hope for for our girls. I want them to see sexuality as a source of self-knowledge, creativity and communication, despite its potential risks. I want them to be able to revel in their bodies’ sensuality without being reduced to it. I want them to be able to ask for what they want in bed, and to get it. I want them to be safe from unwanted pregnancy, disease, cruelty, dehumanization, violence.”