Like many young women, my adolescence was inspired by a hearty dose of magazines I stole from my older sister. I pored through sections with titles like “For His Thighs Only” and took mental notes about weird things I could do with ice. As a result, I developed a better knowledge of male sexuality than my own.
The University of Minnesota’s April event, The Female Orgasm: A Program About Sexual Health and Women’s Empowerment, is a much-needed challenge to the general absence of attention to empowered female sexuality. In a patriarchal culture, certain ideals pervade all levels of society — including the bedroom. Standards of male dominance and female submissiveness shape our history and continue to problematically dictate expectations of gender roles. Women are socialized not to speak up and to place others’ needs above their own.
Furthermore, we are a society that both objectifies the female body and commodifies sex, breeding the tendency to forget that sex involves cooperation between two people, not a “thing” that men “get” from women. Women are forced into a space that not only necessitates a keen talent for satisfying men, but simultaneously informs us that our own sexual pleasure is our responsibility. This is something we must figure out ourselves and then teach to our partners. We are to become every man’s sex goddess and consider the capacity to please our partner as reward enough, unless we rely on ourselves to dictate our own enjoyment.
With today’s women challenging the traditional gender power relationship in many ways, the eradication of the “gender gap” is a constant hot topic. But among talk of income disparity and workplace discrimination, let’s not forget about the discrepancy between orgasm rates. Research says that in sex with a partner, we’re getting our rocks off less than half the time as guys — and my girlfriends’ accounts make that number look generous. Nothing anatomical says that females can’t get their casbah rocked as often as guys can, but the way society “educates” us about sex is riddled with patriarchal stereotypes and misinformation (thanks, porn!), shaming women about what should be “normal.” Resolving these issues and focusing on equal consideration for men’s and women’s needs should be a clear priority in the fight for gender parity.
The University’s decision to host the April event as a way to educate all genders certainly acknowledges the importance of abolishing the “orgasm gap.” Sadly, the intense ridicule the University has received for this event serves to illustrate that we have a long way to go before we will reach sexual justice. So ludicrous was the idea of the event to Rush Limbaugh that he sincerely supposed whether it was a prank or satire, while an outraged U.S. News editor dubbed it a “blatant appeal to hedonism.” Calling education on female sexual health “hedonistic” affirms the oppressive dialogues that females receive throughout our entire lives. We live in a time in which male sexuality is so accepted that Cialis is advertised during primetime television — but women are still forced to feel guilty about our sexuality.
I encourage all students to save the date for the April event, especially males. Attending this event grants men the opportunity to display their respect and support for female sexual health, as well as — dare I say it — learn something. Within a sexist discourse that too often leaves it up to women to educate men on their sexual pleasure, the prospect of a man who just knows what he is doing is tantalizing — ask anyone reading “50 Shades of Grey.” So mark your calendars, and in the meantime, for god’s sake, use the Internet.
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