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Sexual Pleasure: A Gendered, Embodied Affair

Sexual Pleasure: A Gendered, Embodied Affair

The preferred sexual activity with which orgasm is
experienced is subject to ideals that are unfavourable
for women’s sexual pleasure. Many heterosexual women
appear to prioritize their partner’s sexual pleasure over
their own, based on the belief that intercourse is the
most important type of sexual activity that women
should be able to ‘do’. Research clearly and consistently
shows that vaginal intercourse without additional glans
clitoris stimulation results in orgasm in only about 25
to 30% of heterosexual women. This contrasts sharply
with research suggesting that over 90% of heterosexual
men always or almost always orgasm during sexual
intercourse. Women assigning greater value to their
male partner’s sexual pleasure occurs not only in cultures
and communities in which sexual pleasure of
women is considered religiously or societally
undesirable, but also in sex-positive countries such as
Sweden and the Netherlands. In addition to sexual
pleasure being gendered, the prevalence of pain or discomfort
during intercourse is high, particularly among
young women. Characteristically, women with dyspareunia
do not cease sexual activity that is painful for
them. They ignore the primary function of pain as signalling
damage to the body. While intercourse frequency
of women with dyspareunia is lower than that
of women without sexual pain, not engaging in sexual
intercourse is, by definition, not a behavioural choice
that women with dyspareunia make. This talk addresses
possible reasons why women make such behavioural
choices and potential avenues towards greater gender
equality in sexual pleasure.
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None