September 7, 2011

Closing the Orgasm Achievement Gap

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So I was sitting around a table with some guy friends, grabbing an afternoon snack, when the conversation turned to the usual topic of discussion: their penises. After that went on for a while, I threw back a few goldfish and with an air of sophistication, added my two cents: “Well, (I paused for dramatic effect) … I have a bah-gina.” I chose not to elaborate. That shut the boys up fast, and they peered at each other silently to see if any of them had any clue what I was talking about. This gem was probably the only successful one-liner I have ever pulled off, and I was in preschool. I said it so self-assuredly that they stopped the all-consuming pee-pee discussion and pondered the existence of this mysterious “bah-gina” counterpart.Sadly this line doesn’t receive the same stunned-to-silence effect anymore, because, let’s face it, most college men know about vaginas, and some know much, much more. They have figured out, for example, the puzzle and the pleasure of how the parts fit together and the basic correlation of the presence of boobs with the presence of the sought-after vag.While little Lucas H. and Lucas N. and Taylor (two of them went to my high school — one I went on my first ever date with — and the third I really creeped out by recognizing him years later and promptly telling him we had gotten engaged way back in the day) knew about their penises, they didn’t know about vaginas. And while I knew about vaginas, I didn’t know about clitorises. They had a head start, or more appropriately, a dick start. Little boys know about their dongs because they see them everyday, and if nothing else touch them every time they pee.When I was in fifth grade, we had our first ever health class — where we were handed baggies of sample deodorants (scaring us all with the proclamation that thanks to imminent puberty we would smell bad in the near future) and learned about the female anatomy (my friends and I had a few “aha!” moments).  Informed that women have three holes “down there,” the most pressing question on my mind to ask the rickety school nurse Mrs. Fink was: how would we know which hole was which??? I knew at that point that one involved insertion of tampons and (probably larger?) penises, and that the mundane yet filthy bathroom processes came out the other two. I was very concerned about how to tell them all apart.Looking back and imagining the room somewhere on the other side of the school library containing all the guys in my fifth grade class, I’m pretty sure they too were all extremely worried about where their penises were and how to tell their balls apart. Just kidding — that seems ridiculous, right? It would be a rare 10-year-old boy who hadn’t peeked into his tighty-whities and felt around. Yet as a woman, after 10 years living in my body, I had no clue about where some parts of it even were.Let’s rewind a bit back to first grade recess, and zoom in on the back corner of the rambling wooden playground where, drum roll, I felt the first stirrings of sexual pleasure. I was sitting on the banana yellow stretch of monkey bars having just raced a friend across the top of the bars, progressively straddling one bar, then the next. I quite liked this game, for I got this intense and oddly delicious pressure feeling every time I swung onto a bar. I enjoyed that game, but I didn’t put two and two together to connect the source of that awesome feeling with my lady parts.The middle school years went by and I was still light-years away from introducing myself to my clitoris. During sleepovers my friends and I would giggle and gush about which boy we danced with at the last dance, but the only remotely sexual topic we touched on was whether or not we’d gotten our periods yet. What were the boys who we had awkwardly slow-danced with doing? They were doing the usual and talking about their penises amongst themselves. But this time around, the guys in the know brought the penis talk to a new level: they spread the news that touching their dicks in certain ways felt really, really good.  Did Mrs. Fink talk about those awesome feelings and where they came from? Nope. And since no one had told me much more about sex than “the-penis-goes-in-the-vagina” and that when I was (much) older it would feel good, I was very, very far away from connecting the dots of my anatomy to the game on the monkey bars to the knowledge of sexual pleasure to the fact that I could recreate that feeling. In the path toward bodily self-knowledge, the dick start had put many miles between the guys and me.I understand the trepidation that every adult feels when discussing sex with youngsters, but I for one wish someone had pointed out to me that women have clitorises, as well as vaginas, and perhaps a little bit later taken it one step further, explaining that the clitoris is where women derive the most intense sexual pleasure (orgasm!).We’re all sponges for information in our pre-pubescent years, but I think no other piece of info would have had as huge an impact on my high school and early college life as knowing about the wonderful existence of that little nub of nerve endings. Yeah, I propped up a mirror and felt around, stuck a finger or two in my vag on occasion to see how it would feel, but honestly it was pretty boring. I didn’t pursue masturbation because I didn’t know what masturbation could be or what feelings it could produce. This led to a few first sexual encounters where I (not to mention my partner) had no clue how to make good lovin’ because I didn’t even know what I liked or what felt good.Many years and bodily revelations after that preschool snack-time conversation I found myself having an oddly similar talk with my second college boyfriend. You have a penis? Well, I have a clitoris. Most importantly, the second time around I chose to (and could!) elaborate, “and this is how you make magic with it” — which, I might add, paid off in many orgasms.So kids, please please please, work with me to close the orgasm-achievement gap so you can make a wonderful difference in your sex life. You don’t even have to join a national organization to do it. Ladies, just pay a daily fee of half an hour of your time (or, guys, get your girl a book or a toy), and spend it with you, yourself and your hands getting to know your body and your clit.Lauren C. is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at laurenc@cornellsun.com. Below the Bellybutton appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Lauren C.