Perhaps you’ve heard that an orgasm depends as much on what’s going on in your head as between your legs. It’s true that reveling in sexual sensations requires rejecting pleasure-draining thoughts that our sex-negative culture instills.

Amy Schumer pinpointed two such mind-sets when she told Glamour Magazine: Do what you feel you want to do while also considering how you’ll feel the next day. Don’t not have an orgasm. . . .make sure he knows that you’re entitled to an orgasm. . . .I’ll be like, “Oh my God, have you met my clit?”

Let’s break these attitudes down, and help you embrace them in your own life.

 

Equally Entitled to Orgasm:

Feeling entitled to orgasm means believing it’s essential a partner considers your orgasm as important as theirs. In heterosexual sex, it means that you consider—and expect your penis-owning partner—your sexual stimulation equal to theirs. While this sounds like basic sexual courtesy, there’s good evidence that it’s not occurring during heterosexual sex. People with vulvas are having far fewer orgasms than those with penises because our culture considers penis-in-vagina thrusting to be the central sex act. But here’s the rub down (pun intended): 95% of people with vulvas don’t orgasm from thrusting alone, and instead need clitoral stimulation, by itself or paired with penetration. Yet, our culture considers clitoral stimulation a prelude to the main act (“foreplay”) or a superfluous add-on (aka, “extra clitoral stimulation”). This attitude is so deeply entrenched in our culture that it often subconsciously affects even those who consciously reject it. Let’s see if this is true for you.

Have you ever had a sexual encounter with a person with a penis where they orgasmed but you didn’t? If you’re like most vulva-owners, you’ll be able to recall several such incidents. Replay one. Recall how you felt. Now reverse the scenario, even in your imagination, and examine your reaction. If you felt more negative about the first scenario, you’re at least somewhat buying into the insidious cultural message about penis-owner’s orgasms reigning supreme.

So what’s the solution? Like Amy said, it means feeling entitled to pleasure. Tell yourself, “I deserve pleasure!” or something that gives this same message. Think this thought several times a day. Abundant research shows self-talk changes attitudes.

Research shows the attitude of feeling entitled to pleasure relates to having more orgasms, higher self-esteem, and even being happier overall! Research also finds that feeling entitled to pleasure helps one reject the sexual double standard, the second sex-negative attitude we’ll attack.

 

Double Versus Equal Standards.

Recall Amy advising to “Do what you feel you want to do while also considering how you’ll feel the next day.” While great advice, it’s tricky for people with vulvas to separate how they “feel the next day” from the slut shaming that’s ingrained in our culture. It’s another instance when you can reject an idea yet still have it mess with you personally. You can think that the sexual double standard is sexist crap, yet still have messages like “Don’t be a slut” subconsciously interfere with your enjoyment of sex, especially casual sex.

If you find yourself feeling ashamed or guilty after casual sex, you’ll need to detangle these feelings from the sexual double standard. This detangling may involve trial and error. As one of my students said, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with casual sex, but I feel bad after anyway. It took me a long time to figure out casual sex isn’t for me.” Conversely, another said, “I used to feel guilty about casual sex, because of stuff I’d learned about good girls and such. But the more casual sex I had, the less guilty I felt. It was a process I had to go through.” Part of this student’s process was giving herself the approval that society had denied her. She stopped stop slut shaming others—and herself. 

You can do this too. Talk to yourself, saying “I approve of my sexuality!” or something along these lines that resonates for you. Research shows the more approving you feel of your own sexuality, the more likely you’ll orgasm. Sex-positive thinking leads to better sex.

We just attacked two clear sex-negative attitudes, but others are more indirect (e.g., uncomfortable silence during sex scenes during family TV viewing). You can still counteract this with global, sex­-positive messages (e.g., “Sex is a wonderful part of life I deserve to enjoy!”).

Practicing sex­-positive thinking when you aren’t having sex will enhance your enjoyment when you are having sex! Changing what you think inside your head will make what’s happening between your legs more fun!

Note: Above adapted and excerpted from Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It by Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.

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