Female pleasure, towards a revolution in women's sexuality

Femme en sous-vêtements allongée sur un lit

It is a subject that has become central to questions of sexuality and, more generally, to current social issues. Numerous works are devoted to it; series, such as Sex Education produced by Netflix, address it and participate in its normalization process. Female satisfaction is gaining visibility because, through it, questions of gender equality arise. Indeed, in a context of patriarchal domination, the feminist struggle and the sexual emancipation of women inevitably involve the reappropriation of women of their bodies and their sexual development. But then, what precisely does the expression “ female pleasure ” cover? We talk about it in this article!

Pleasure and masturbation: reconciliation for women?

The issue of female masturbation is crucial because it perfectly illustrates the taboo surrounding female pleasure. Unlike male masturbatory practices, which are perceived as normal and whose representations are very present in society, female solitary pleasure, due to thousands of years of stigmatization, has always taken on a shameful and dirty character. Female masturbation often remains hidden: we modestly speak of “caresses”. And for good reason, historically, solitary sexuality has long been perceived by medicine and religion as a deviance, a moral vice that should be treated.

Today, masturbation and, more generally, women's pleasure are gradually coming out of the shadows, a sign of changing mentalities. According to an Ifop study published in 2019 (1), 76% of women today recognize their masturbatory practices, compared to 42% in 1992. Also, the growing popularity of sex toys , particularly that of clitoral stimulators such as the Womanizer , attests to the change in morals regarding female masturbatory practices. According to the same study, nearly one in two French women (43%) admitted in 2019 to having already used a vibrator, compared to just over one in three in 2012 (37%) and barely 9% twelve years ago. , in 2007. As Virginie Girod, doctor of history and specialist in sexualities, points out, “ sex toys like the Womanizer participate in a certain way in this conquest of the body and pleasure. » (2).

The need to deconstruct myths around female pleasure

The taboo of female masturbation is linked to different scientific beliefs of the time such as the myth of the “vaginal orgasm” theorized by Sigmund Freud at the beginning of the 20th century and whose legacy is still significant in our current society. Indeed, the latter has largely contributed to the process of male supremacy over women's sexuality by distinguishing two types of orgasm: "clitoral orgasm" which would be associated with the "immature" or "infantile" pleasure of young girls, and " vaginal orgasm” which would refer to the “real orgasm” of the so-called “mature” woman. Thus, to be sexually fulfilled, the woman would necessarily need the man's sex. The clitoris then becomes taboo because it is seen as responsible for sexual dysfunction in women. This Freudian theory was fortunately subsequently invalidated. Indeed, when there is penetration, the “vaginal orgasm” is actually a clitoral orgasm. The clitoris is not limited to its exposed part; it encircles the vagina. Thus, the sensations felt during penetration come from internal stimulation of the clitoris. The so-called “vaginal” orgasm is a myth, since in reality, all orgasms are clitoral.

Recognition of the clitoris as an issue of gender equality

According to gynecologist Odile Buisson, “ the clitoris is probably the terror of Homo sapiens, because you should know that 130 to 150 million women have been excised in appalling conditions ”. Excision is a reflection of gender inequalities because it involves controlling women's bodies by depriving them of intimate pleasure. The clitoris can then be seen as the symbol of the sexual oppression of women. For example, it has long appeared to be largely absent from female anatomy charts. And when it is represented, it often remains incomplete. The clitoris is generally represented only through its "hood" but this erectile organ actually has roots which encircle the entrance to the vagina.

It was between 1998 and 2005 that an Australian urologist, Helen E. O'Connell, looked into the question of the invisibility of the clitoris by the scientific sphere and published a compilation of her scientific articles concerning its anatomy. She publishes her results in a critical approach and denounces a biased scientific production of anatomical medical knowledge. And it was only in 2005 that the first precise image of this female organ was revealed by magnetic resonance.

The clitoris, the only organ solely dedicated to pleasure, is however still very little known. According to a report on sex education submitted in June 2016 by the High Council for Equality (3), “a quarter of 15-year-old girls do not know that they have a clitoris and 83% of them are unaware of its existence. erogenous function. It is only since 2017 that the clitoris has been correctly represented in an edition of biology textbooks.

Diagram of the anatomy of the clitoris

The norm of heterosexual relations: intimacy as a place of reproduction of relations of domination

Sexuality within heterosexual couples places little emphasis on women's pleasure. In his work entitled Beyond Penetration , Martin Page invites us to question dominant sexual habits and studies sexuality in heterosexual relationships in the light of the question of patriarchal domination. Indeed, in a heterosexual relationship, the sexual act is largely focused on the man and his pleasure, penetration is found at the center of the intimate relationship. The rest being qualified as “preliminaries”, i.e. what “precedes the main fact”. However, only 20% of women have an orgasm solely through penetration. According to the Ifop study published in 2019, 50% of women would like to give more space to other forms of sensuality.

Penetration being the climax of heterosexual intercourse, the latter often ends with ejaculation, when the man's pleasure is achieved. Penetration then appears as one form of domination among many others. According to feminist theorist Andréa Dworkin, "Coitus is usually described and understood as a form or act of possession by which, during which, because of which a man invests a woman, covering her physically and controlling her at the same time as he penetrates her (…) ” (4).

For Martin Page, the political nature of sexuality in our society is obvious: “ Our stories of penis and vagina are intimately linked to the history of the political structures in which we live and we will not change one without the other . It is time for sexuality to be the place of imagination and thought . »

At Perdième, we like to see the glass half full: a real revolution is underway to dust off and deconstruct the patterns of sexuality which for millennia has only been able to value reproduction and male pleasure. The sensual and sexual satisfaction of women, whether solo or not, is finally beginning to be heard.

Oh yesss!!!!!

Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in the movie When Harry Met Sally

Written by Inès Perrein

Sources :

  1. Ifop, 2019, Where is the sex life of French women in 2019, https://www.ifop.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/116130_Ifop_ELLE_Mag_2019.02.014.pdf
  2. Womanizer: the story of the sex toy that revolutionizes female pleasure . (2021, January 4). Madame Figaro. https://madame.lefigaro.fr/bien-etre/womanizer-histoire-du-sextoy-qui-revolutionne-le-plaisir-feminin-clitoris-311220-194296 
  3. High Council for Equality between Women and Men, June 13, 2016, Report on sexuality education, https://www.haut-conseil-egalite.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/hce_rapport_education_a_la_sexualite_2016_06_15-4 .pdf