As a vagipreneur, I am in the business of creating conversations about and providing solutions for female sexual satisfaction. You would think that anyone who wanted to start a conversation about female sexual satisfaction would have an easy job. Unfortunately, the conversations still only seem acceptable or worthy of coverage when highlighting antiquated definitions and role models. In a recent blog, "Women, Sex, and Storytelling: The Truth Behind Tired Mainstream Narratives," author Sarah Seltzer argues we have made relatively no progress, if any:
15 years after Sex and the City became a hit, public conversations about women and sex remain rare -- particularly those that stray from hetero, male-centered visions. Taboo and silence linger around narratives about female sexuality, except when they are sandwiched into conventional story lines. You know what those lines are: sassy starlets gone bad on one hand, and on the other, concern-trolling journalists, reporting on promiscuous teenage girls or sex workers in the developing world (paging Nick Kristof). And oh, yeah, if women do speak out -- even politically -- on matters of sexuality or even just gender, they're pilloried immediately. Look at what happened to Sandra Fluke and even poor Katherine Fenton, who dared ask a question about pay equity at the recent presidential debate.
And it isn't for lack of trying. Lots of people, some with actually good intentions, are trying to be part of the conversation -- sexual health professionals, authors, political pundits, actors, posers and hangers-on. The latest voice to join the conversation is Naomi Wolf, author of the much-discussed and controversial book, Vagina: A New Biography. Since the publication of this book, reviews and vitriol aimed at its author have been swift and heated. I have to be honest -- in my mind, it doesn't much matter to me if Vagina is a good book, a stupid book, a book based in science or a figment of the author's imagination. It is more important that a productive, respectful conversation about female sexual satisfaction is actually taking place.
In a new documentary, Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk about Sex, women are trying to find the language to describe their concerns and excitement about the topic of their sexual satisfaction. As Sarah Seltzer said, "It shouldn't have felt radical in 2012." But believe it or not, in the 21st century, there are many people who want to censor, debase or even prevent the conversation from taking place. In my experience, I have encountered countless examples of pushback, anger, inappropriate responses and lack of basic social conventions in trying to create the conversation. Over the past few years, I have been compiling a list of people/organizations who said we couldn't talk about my product, Zestra, and female sexual satisfaction: Home Shopping Network, QVC, ESPN, webmd, Facebook, TMZ, Yahoo! Health, most of the major networks and cable channels -- the list goes on. When we asked the folks at Howard Stern if we could sponsor a productive conversation on female sexual satisfaction, we were told that we could sponsor a context on winning your first "three way." Again, not that there is anything wrong with that -- except for missing the point, that is. Even the leading online e-book seller presents the name of Naomi Wolf's new book as V****a: A New Biography. Really? Put in **** as if "vagina" is a bad word?
In 2012, I don't think it is too much to ask that we make sure that people, especially women, are able to discuss, share and participate in a discussion about female sexual satisfaction in a respectful way without key letters or messages being censored.