Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
The other night I had a fantasy that I was taking on two men at once. There was no kissing involved, no emotional connection, and in my fantasy, I couldn't even discern the men's faces. But I could taste the salt from their sweaty bodies as they clawed at me, and I could feel the hardness of their muscles, smell the musk of our cheap and torrid sex. And then, I had the most wonderful orgasm.
When Bonk author and pop scientist, March Roach delivered her TEDTalk, "10 Things You Didn't Know About Orgasm," which now has had over 3.2 million views, she broached many taboo topics -- mainly offbeat facts about orgasms. While we live in a culture that kowtows to the "sex sells" slogan, we're nowhere near comfortable talking about all things coital. But savvy Roach makes these taboo sexual topics more palatable by being funny, and inviting the audience to laugh with her. Beneath the surface, however, there are many things about sex that women in particular are taught to keep under our skirts. Steamy billboards with the latest starlet half naked vie for our attention daily. But when that same starlet takes agency of her sexuality and wears it proudly (without the "OK" of a multi-billion dollar company backing her), she might be called a slut. I'm thinking about Beyonce, who got slut-shamed for her Super Bowl performance by MSNBC commentator S.E. Cupp or Lena Dunham, who is often "questioned" for penning herself scenes to appear nude in her award-winning series Girls. What I'm saying is, it's fine for Victoria's Secret to parade a troupe of supermodels in lingerie on primetime TV, because as previously mentioned, we've all accepted that [a woman's] "sex sells," but when women themselves take that very same sex and use it to promote themselves in a sex-positive way, where they are the driving force behind the image of themselves, they become sluts. (Interestingly, SLUT is an anagram for LUST.) But I digress. Back to my fantasy. There's this catch-22, you see: Women are slut-shamed when they claim agency of their sexuality and use it to propel themselves to fame, wealth, or just for their own creative and artistic delight -- but if they are to enjoy the act of being dominated, well, that's just as taboo.
In my fantasy, I'm not quite sure who is dominating whom. Am I the driving force of the two-men-at-once experience, or am I being manhandled, not by one, but but by two gents, whose faces I can't even see? It's unclear (to me, owner of the fantasy) if I'm in charge, or being taken charge of. In either case, I'm pretty sure that mainstream culture would "tsk tsk" at my fantasy. Is that why it got me off? Is the taboo the ultimate turn on?
As a woman, a sex columnist, and someone who has just publicly confessed to being aroused by a "slut-worthy" sexual fantasy, I insist, shame has no place in the bedroom. - Jill Di Donato
It's often said that women need an emotional connection to climax. Ian Kerner, author of Good in Bed writes, "This means the #1 thing you can do to get a woman in the mood for sex is to make a strong emotional connection outside the bedroom." I can quip that I have no emotional connection to my vibrator, yet after every "encounter" with it, I orgasm without fail. But I think Kerner is talking about sex with a non-battery operated device. But what if my fantasy is more than fantasy? What if it suggests that in life, I don't need emotional connection with a partner to climax? Hmm. And if I don't, I'm sure other women don't either. But this is not the line we're fed.
By now, we've all heard of the so-called "love drug" oxytocin, which in actuality is not only a hormone released during sexual arousal, orgasm, intense bonding, and, in women, breastfeeding, but also a neurotransmitter. And we've all heard the "science" that as women, we get a surge of this "love drug" post-sex, post-orgasm, while men experience it on a much lower level. This has translated into pop-culture evidence for the "women fall in love after sex, as they are such emotional creatures" argument. I mentor teenage girls, and they often come to me with their experiences. Once, a girl in Catholic school asked me why the nuns gave her a lecture preaching abstinence and cited the oxytocin release post-sex as a reason to keep her legs (and hearts) shut to boys. But Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon interviewed the pioneer of the oxytocin study, Barry Komisaruk, a professor of psychology at Rutgers, and when he was prompted with the question, does oxytocin post-orgasm really make women fall in love, he replied: "There's really no evidence of it. Somehow it caught the imagination of the public, but it's based on rodents. It's possible, I'm not saying it's impossible, but there's no experimental evidence to support it -- in humans."
I'm not arguing that love and emotional connection cannot and do not fuel orgasms. For me, trust is the most important factor as to whether or not I will climax. But trust does not necessarily translate into emotional connection. In my fantasy (because it's a fantasy, I am completely physically safe), the trust I had was with myself. I was able to own my fantasy, to explore it without shame. And that is what I very non-scientifically believe allowed me to release those moments of pleasure and bask in complete satisfaction. I'd love for more women to trust their fantasies, trust themselves, their instincts, their desires. Let's take a cue from Roach's conversational and light-hearted approach to sexual discourse and invite others to share in our myriad experiences of sexuality. Taboos change with the times. And though they might bring excitement, they may come with shame. But not if we reclaim them. As a woman, a sex columnist, and someone who has just publicly confessed to being aroused by a "slut-worthy" sexual fantasy, I insist, shame has no place in the bedroom.
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