Giving head doesn’t mean getting it, and that’s gotta change.
ATTENTION: This is not a drill. Your vagina is not getting as much love as it deserves, and it’s time to do something about that.
Most of the young women Peggy Orenstein interviewed for her new book Girls & Sex believe giving oral sex to guys without ever receiving it in return is normal.
“I began asking the girls I interviewed how they’d feel if a guy kept asking them to get him a glass of water every time they hung out, but never offered to get them one,” says Orenstein. Once she phrased it like that, the girls realized how insulting it was for dudes to take oral without returning the favor.
Unfortunately, evidence suggests this phenomenon is widespread.
The Vagina Hate Epidemic
Recent research suggests that young women are now twice as likely to give oral without ever getting it in return. Worse yet: Only 28 percent of women said they actually enjoyed doing it. Yeah, that sucks (in more ways than one).
Earlier this month, a study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that when it comes to oral sex, both sexes consider going down on a woman to be a “bigger deal” and “more distasteful” than a BJ. A majority of the men said they believed most guys dislike giving oral, and that the ones that didn’t were “weird,” or “different.” Clearly, there’s a problem here.
“I began asking the girls I interviewed how they’d feel if a guy kept asking them to get him a glass of water every time they hung out, but never offered to get them one.”
But it gets even crueler: Both young men and women expressed negative views of clit-licking and vaginas in general, referring to them as “nasty” and “stinking.”
Orenstein says that she was shocked to learn that this hate was so normal among young women. In her book, she points out that when Robert Pattinson told Details magazine that he “really hates vaginas” and is “allergic to vagina,” barely anyone blinked. And since this guy’s success rests almost entirely on women’s fantasies (Twilight, baby), this is definitely a blow to vaginas everywhere.
Despite the fact that women are advancing in many areas (what’s up, Hillary!), we seem to be regressing when it comes to female sexuality, Orenstein says. “I think, to a large degree, it’s because our culture is silent about women’s sexual satisfaction,” she says.
In her book, Orenstein makes it clear that sexuality is not the same as sexiness. From a young age, girls learn the importance of being perceived as “sexy” by others, but sexuality is something that girls have to define themselves. Unfortunately, the latter is kept on the DL by most parents and educators. It’s possible these role models are worried that if girls know sex is supposed to be fun, they’ll want it more. But that fear is having devastating consequences, she says.
Health Class #Fails
In school, kids generally learn that puberty means boys get erections, ejaculations, and wet dreams, whereas girls have to worry about periods and unwanted pregnancy. How’s that for a buzz kill?
She also points out that many curriculums only explain the interior female anatomy, so many students never learn about the existence of the clitoris and the vulva—or how to make them feel good.
“It’s possible these role models are worried that if girls know sex is supposed to be fun, they’ll want to have it more.”
Research shows that more than half of girls ages 14 to 17 have never masturbated, says Orenstein. And without a good understanding of what turns them on, young women hook up with partners without the ability to tell them what they want and how they want it, she says.
Since kids aren’t learning how sex is actually supposed to work in sex education class, they’re increasingly turning to porn as a source of info, she says.
“Tons of girls told me they consulted porn to learn how sex works,” says Orenstein. And the problem with using porn as sex ed is that girls learn that they need to look “hot” and perform for others, and it doesn’t even occur to them to think about how their bodies feel.
If we want women to begin having mutually satisfying sexual experiences, we need to educate young people about female pleasure, and broaden our idea of what constitutes sex, she says. The notion that penis-in-vagina intercourse is the line between innocence and experience keeps young women from seeking real pleasure.
“Imagine how much sex would change for young people if we considered our first orgasm as losing our virginity,” says Orenstein. Think about it: Is someone who spends hours touching their partner and having lots of orgasms less experienced than someone who has only had vaginal intercourse without an orgasm?
Additionally, designating vaginal intercourse as “real sex” blurs the lines of what requires consent and what doesn’t, says Orenstein. “Boys may think the rules of consent don’t apply if it’s ‘not really sex,’” she says. In fact, many of the girls she spoke with reported that boys had repeatedly used verbal coercion, or physically pushed their shoulders downwards during a makeout sesh, to coerce them into oral.
“I think boys learn that girls’ limits are a challenge for them to overcome,” says Orenstein. “And if we want that to change, we have to get boys to start thinking of girls as partners in sex, not adversaries.”