The clitoris is just the beginning, my friends.
“Now remember, boys: Michael Jordan always dribbles before he shoots.” That was my introduction to sex.
It was 2003 and I was sitting in a basement classroom in the north suburbs of Chicago. I was 16 years old and a man whose title was not “Dr.” or even “Mr.,” but “Coach,” was teaching that quarter’s curriculum on sexual education. He was talking about precum and its ability to get women pregnant. Not only is the precum myth by-and-large false, but Coach’s basketball metaphor was a fucking pathetic way to describe sex.
To be fair, I can’t blame the guy; he was after all, the assistant varsity basketball coach. He just wanted to coach basketball—but at our school, in order to coach a sport, you had to be a teacher at the school. So Coach taught “Kinetic Wellness,” a trumped-up term for gym. As a portion of the curriculum, once a year he had to spend two months teaching sex ed to teenagers.
The miseducation of sex educators
Why in God’s name was the man who spent his nights pounding the floor of a gym, screaming at teenage boys to grab rebounds, ushering a group of malleable minds into the world of sexual education? Could we at least have gotten the head coach to teach us about sex? Maybe he’d have known a little bit more.
In the US, only 24 of the 50 states require high school students to receive some sort of sex education, and of those 24 states, only 13 require that the information be medically accurate.
I blame the establishment that put him there—and it seems not much has changed since I was a teenager. In the US, only 24 of the 50 states require high school students to receive some sort of sex education. Of those 24 states, only 13 require that the information be medically accurate.
WHAT?! How is that possible?! Geography teachers don’t get to just make up where Italy is. There has to be a set of checks and balances in our sexual education courses, otherwise we’re going to end up with sex ed courses that are a lot like mine was: disproportionately skewed toward STDs, pregnancy prevention, abstinence and just general biology.
And while it’s extremely important to understand biology and practice safe sex, these topics look at sex through only one lens: a highly-gendered, puritanical one in which sex is something to be feared, and women’s pleasure is of no concern at all.
Hollywood deserves its share of the blame
At New Trier High School, Coach never discussed the idiosyncrasies of women, let alone the female orgasm. The male orgasm was covered with due diligence—after all, babies were the very by-product of that orgasm.
Up until my mid-20s, I equated women moaning and breathing heavily with a complete and satisfying climax. Yes, that’s embarrassing, but really, how can you blame me? Look at my education, both inside the classroom and outside of it.
“American Pie” was a huge movie then, and although in retrospect it was very problematic, it had quite the formative influence on my sexual education. Jason Biggs’s character is caught prematurely ejaculating and the entire school watches live via webcam. It is deemed the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to a young man. So even after college, all I was looking for from sex was for me to DEAR GOD LAST FOR AS LONG AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. I was led to believe that if it lasted for a while, it must be good and no one could make fun of me. Yes, you heard that right: My primary motivation during and after sex was not to be made fun of.
In Coach’s class, we breezed right over the clitoris. The main takeaway was that ladies have vaginas and they get pleasure through penetration. And the R-rated movies I saw confirmed this. Hey, I knew how sex went! Tom Cruise rolls around with you on a bed, you both moan a lot and when he’s finished, oh baby, so are you.
Up until my mid-20s, I equated women moaning and breathing heavily with a complete and satisfying climax.
The almighty clitoris
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that literally everything I’d been taught was, at best, totally sexist and concerned only with men’s pleasure; and at worst, completely false. In Shere Hite’s book “The Shere Hite Reader: New and Selected Writings on Sex, Globalism, and Private Life,” she makes it clear that, “Sex provides efficiently for male orgasm, and inefficiently for female orgasm.”
You see, the clitoris is complex: It has 18 different parts with over 8,000 nerve endings (EIGHT THOUSAND!!!), each with varying levels of sensitivity. Even the most deft of penises is unable to provide everything a woman requires in order to reach orgasm.
In Ian Kerner’s book “She Comes First,” he writes, “Making love with one’s penis is like trying to write calligraphy with a thick Magic Marker. The tongue, on the other hand, is under our direct control, no time constraints, and can be manipulated with expert precision.”
Imagine my surprise! For 25 years I walked the Earth thinking that what I had between my legs was what straight women wanted. Suddenly it dawned on me that the most embarrassing thing Jason Biggs’ character did in “American Pie” wasn’t prematurely ejaculating—it was thinking his penis would have ever made any woman cum.
Phone a (lady) friend
Men, the moment you can come to terms with the idea that you did not receive a proper sexual education, the better your sex life will become. Look, I get it—guys in general tend to not ask questions for fear of looking unintelligent. But guess who knows the best way to make herself reach climax? The woman in front of you!
I wish I could say I asked a question, that I got over my own ego and said, “Hey, how do you like to be touched?” But the truth is, I was fortunate enough to be with someone who said, “No, do it like this. Ya dum-dum.”
So if we’re going to talk about female sexual pleasure, let’s talk about it. Here are some pointers compiled from Dr. Kerner’s book and OMGYes, which is an interactive subscription service which aims to “…lift the veil and take an honest look at the specific ways women actually find pleasure.”
Become familiar with the vulva.
Understanding the many different parts of the vulva will help you navigate her desires. Know the internal (clitoral cluster, clitoral shaft) and the external parts (mons pubis, front commissure, frenulum, glans, fourchette, labia minora, vaginal entrance, perineum). As you familiarize yourself with the best ways to interact with each area, you will become more adept at bringing her to climax.
Form follows function.
While sexy positions like standing up against a wall or 69-ing seem like good ideas, novelty positions are actually not ideal for stimulation. In Kerner’s book, he states that the best way to go about cunnilingus is when “…she’s able to comfortably look down the length of her body and watch you work, and you’re able to look up, without breaking the flow of action, and make eye contact with her.” Kerner also states that lying beside, rather than in front or on top, when using your fingers is the best technique.
Build your tool bag of techniques.
OMGYes details 12 different techniques of female stimulation, with each of these techniques being broken down into variations. Edging, for example, is a method where orgasm is nearly brought on multiple times before retreating away, only to come back and begin again. This roller coaster ride builds anticipation and ultimately a bigger orgasm.
In the rhythm technique, the pattern of touching varies from “raindrops” (irregular pattern with different time lapses between each motion) to constant pulsing (motions that are so fast, you are basically a human vibrator). As you begin to learn more techniques that meet your partner’s preferences, you can build your arsenal to suit her mood.
It’s called “giving head” for a reason.
According to Kerner, “…you should be completely involved with her vulva; on top of it, buried in it: face, mouth, nose, gums, teeth, and tongue?—?all of which will be employed one way or another.” Don’t be shy when you’re down there. Give into the power of making another person feel this good. Remember, the clitoris is a network of hot spots, so don’t just focus on the head of the clitoris. Actually, many women find the head of the clitoris to be far too sensitive and prefer methods such as accenting, where certain areas not directly on the clitoral head are stimulated. So don’t be afraid to venture outside—she may even prefer it.
Further (pleasure) reading
If you think I’m insane for suggesting we teach high school students about the female orgasm and the power of the clitoris, you should take a trip across the pond. In France, they’ve developed a 3D clitoris to teach students about sex. The model was created to teach students that the clitoris is made up of the same tissue as the penis, as well as to combat traditionally male-centric sex education.
And we wonder why the French are known for their sweet, sweet lovemaking? It’s because they give themselves permission to talk about it. They aren’t afraid of their children’s “purity”—what they actually fear is children growing up with misconceptions about gender and sex.
Unfortunately for Americans, sex education reform and overhaul might be a ways away, but we can still give our children a realistic sexual education through the use of outside sources. For those of us who refuse to have our sexploration limited by a guy who wears a whistle around his neck, these resources will help to further our learning. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and play ball!
Sorry—that was Coach talking.
Important to note: These recommendations provide a fuller picture of female sexuality and are predicated upon the assumption that you’ve already received a basic education in anatomy, contraception and STDs.
In partnership with the Kinsey Institute, OMGYes compiled thousands of experiences and perspectives from women about how they reach climax. The site features women detailing their sexual experiences, then demonstrating on themselves how they prefer to be touched.
There’s also a “touchable video” that allows users to practice the instructed technique with a click of their mouse. Well, it might take more than a click to get these women going, but you get the idea. The touchable video provides real-time feedback, letting the user know if they are touching the right way. I’ve become a member and I could not recommend this site more highly for anyone who is interested in furthering their understanding of the female orgasm.
“She Comes First” by Ian Kerner, PhD
According to Ian Kerner, men have been going about pleasing women incorrectly for hundreds of years. Kerner breaks down the myth of the vaginal orgasm and discusses the differences between foreplay and coreplay, intercourse vs. outercourse, and walks readers through the many stages before, during and after orgasm.
Dan Savage is one of America’s foremost relationship and sex experts. His podcast “Savage Lovecast” features honest, in-depth and unabashed conversations about real-world relationships and sex. He speaks with doctors and sex therapists, answers anonymous questions and has fostered a blunt and much-needed conversation about what it means to be sex-positive.