By Sophie Wroblewski
Historically sex was meant for procreation and male pleasure; women were meant to be nothing more than passive agents in the process. Though this has changed in the last few centuries, it is still not at the stage we would hope.
Sex can still be painful and uncomfortable, especially if it is someone’s first time or they are feeling anxious. Pain during or after sex is very common, but one of the main conditions affecting women that can make sex painful is endometriosis. Painful sex for women is not treated as a medical priority: it takes on average 7.5 years for a woman with endometriosis to get diagnosed. In comparison men, following just a brief health assessment, can purchase Viagra from Boots. Is this not evidence that sexual pleasure is considered to be more important for men than it is for women? This is not to mention that women’s pain is often caused by a serious medical condition, whereas male pain or discomfort only impairs their sexual experience, and is not present throughout their daily life.
Painful sex for women is not a medical priority
Women are taught from an early age that sex may hurt and that they may not enjoy it but should just bear it. This is not okay. In what other situations are people told to just accept pain and discomfort? Women are entitled to pleasure and their sexuality just as much as men, and it is time their desires were satisfied. Men and women need to be equal in the sexual arena. Women need to be taught that, despite what they may be told otherwise, they do not need to accept discomfort during sex. Society is currently experiencing a powerful women’s movement, which aims to give power to victims of sexual assault and demonstrate that women have a voice equal to men’s. This shift in attitude also needs to be applied to women’s experiences with sexual pleasure and sexuality.
These issues are important when considering the controversy surrounding Babe‘s coverage of Aziz Ansari’s ‘bad date’. ‘Grace’, not her real name, told the publication that she found the whole experience extremely uncomfortable, and felt that she had been taken advantage of. Ansari later apologised, saying he misread the situation. The piece provoked a lot of debate, as many were not pleased with Ansari being put in the same category as rapists and sexual predators. Uncomfortable dates and sexual assault are obviously not analogous, but they are both rooted in the same problem. It is lack of education regarding sexual consent that creates these situations. This, combined with society’s reluctance to allow women to be openly sexual, has created a warped sense of what sex and relationships should be like. For men, it is just bad sex; for women, it is a truly painful experience.
‘Bad’ dates and sexual assault both stem from issues relating to consent
You will probably be familiar with the scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally fakes an orgasm in the middle of a restaurant. Though it is entertaining to see how awkward this makes Harry, it also speaks to the bitter truth that ‘faking it’ is a reality for many women. There are many reasons women may fake an orgasm, including to please their partner, to encourage their partner to finish, or to end their discomfort. Women spend time and money making themselves look good so that they feel more confident and relaxed when looking for a sexual partner, but then there is a high chance that they will get no satisfaction in return. It is not a fair exchange. This is also evident in the popularity of high heels and Spanx, which are sold to women as a way of making oneself more sexually appealing, but in actuality these products can often cause pain for women.
There needs to be an open discussion about female sexuality and sexual pleasure, as well as greater education on consent and the importance of communicating effectively with your sexual partner. Women’s sexual partners also need to take responsibility and endeavour to reduce pain and discomfort during sexual encounters. Women need to better know that they are entitled to sexual satisfaction as much as men, and do not need to conform to the desires of their sexual partners. Now is the time for change: women are done with unpleasant sexual encounters, and men need to accept and accommodate for this.
Photograph: woepies via Flickr