Sex impacts everyone’s life. But many of us are hesitant to talk about what is really going on with our bodies and in our bedrooms. This is especially true during those times when individuals feel insecure about themselves sexually or when lovers drift out of sync during intimacy.
As men, women, partners and parents we all ask similar questions about human sexuality:
As a reproductive physiologist and a woman, my goal is to help you answer the questions you have about intimacy using both the science of sex and my own personal and professional experience. At Sex Science and Nature, my commitment is to help you better understand who you are sexually right now, as well to provide proven tips from science to help you find the sexual fulfillment you deserve.
Alone or in partnership, sensual self-awareness and an active sex life is important for our emotional and physical well being.
Let the research of others and the lessons I have learned, help you create the sex life you have dreamed of!
When one of my 16-year old sons started a band with five other teenaged boys called “Down Julius” they told us parents the band was named after the large, beautiful peacock on our farm. But I knew immediately what the name referred to. After all, I study male sexuality for a living.
My first thought was (correctly) that the band was named after the frequent, sudden erections these boys were having. Erections that were at times pleasurable (leading to often daily masturbation) and at times just embarrassing.
Sex Ed at our house was a pretty open, honest curriculum for our five boys, as was age appropriate. It largely came from a simple place: “What do I wish someone had taught me about the human body and sex when I was my kids’ age?”
Being a girl, I wished someone had taught me more about my own body, especially my clitoris, when I was around 12 to 13. Teaching the ways of the clitoris can help girls and women develop lifelong sexual equality with males. We can learn self-pleasure simultaneous with males during our teenaged years.
Boys inevitably learn how to touch themselves sexually, in a way where arousal leads to orgasm, early in adolescence due to natural erections. This self-awareness can critically teach us what we like, so that later we can ask for and explain how to get better sex because we have experienced pleasure in our own bodies.
But sadly many young women (and young men) know little about the clitoris.
In one study of 19n-year old men and women, surprisingly similar rates –29% of women and 25% of men– could not locate even the external clitoris on a diagram of the vulva. Few teens are taught the full breadth and depth of the whole arousal organ (the clitoris) in women. Although a lot of girls will discover that “dry humping” feels really good (because of the full clitoral contact) later with a boy.
Besides not understanding their own clitoris, many girls aren’t taught other basic facts about their bodies, such as how they lubricate for sex and what types of touch will and will not work to trigger an orgasm.
Telling our daughters about at least some of this does not make girls promiscuous. The best scientific evidence shows the contrary: by teaching girls more about who they are as women, we give them more strength to withstand sexual pressures of adolescence.
As girls learn how to experience self-pleasure, they develop an internal language for the types of activities and images that make them feel sexually responsive, and the means to clarify what they don’t want sexually.
Boys learn early on what turns them on and develop an internal language for their own developing sexual functioning through regular erections and masturbation. The same is not true for girls. In fact, many young women first learn about their sexuality through intimacy with boys where they first experience strong arousal initially in a dating experience.
Because many women don’t readily orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse, even if intercourse occurs, girls are much less likely to have early sexual experiences in which orgasm follows arousal. They come to sexual experience, quite often, far more ignorant than boys of their own bodies and of what kinds of sexual touching turns them on. But orgasms are healthy for body and brain.
As is developmentally appropriate to each adolescent, we as parents and mentors ought to encourage the kind of self-discovery that orgasm leads to rather than curtail it, especially for our girls.
Research shows that women with a history of masturbation and orgasmic response in activities other than penile-vaginal intercourse feel significantly more sexually entitled and better able to achieve sexual pleasure during their adult years. This female achievement of sexual pleasure is not somehow “selfish”—in fact, research consistently shows that sexual pleasure in both partners is a common denominator in healthy and happy marriage.
As you look at how to navigate all this with your sons and daughters, see where you yourself were during adolescence and where your adolescent children now might fit into recent research on teen sexual literacy regarding masturbation.
Generally, teens fit into one of four groups.
Group 1 doesn’t know about masturbation. One would think that, with the Internet and media so readily available, this group would become extinct. Not so, especially for girls. As a cultural indication of the hidden nature of female sexual development, think about how in movies and in conversation, men and boys will frequently and comfortably use a wide variety of terms for” jacking off.” In contrast, many women don’t talk about female masturbation even with close friends and most mothers, unfortunately, do not discuss masturbation with their daughters.
Group 2 lacks enough knowledge about their own bodies to make masturbation “work.” This group knows the words but not the correct action. I remember one of our son’s sharing with us at dinner how girls in his sophomore English class were trying to decide if they had ever orgasmed before. They asked the boys how they knew that they had. “Girl, if you are asking, you have not!” the guys thought in an embarrassed silence. Teens who fail at masturbating don’t talk to people about it and can be left feeling like something is wrong with them. If no one helps us girls figure out for ourselves who we are and how to achieve an orgasm, communicating our sexual needs to a future partner later in life can be difficult.
Group 3 view masturbation negatively. Although some boys fit in this group, especially those from more religious homes, the main group here is girls. Many of these girls know boys masturbate but find it “disgusting” or “gay” for girls to touch themselves. Interestingly (though perhaps not surprising), sexually active girls in this group more often felt disappointed and let down by sex with their partners than did girls who had masturbated successfully previous to having sex. These gals also had less effective communications with their partners about sex, such as not having sex if they didn’t want to or the need to use a condom. Simultaneously, this group described conversations with their parents as uni-directional (authoritarian not helpful), “being talked at” instead of “with” by their moms or dads
Group 4 teens have a positive view of masturbation and describe it as a source of release and reward for them. Teens in this group have more open communications with their parents about sex. Their parents gave examples from their own lives and presented sexual activities in a less hyper-moral manner than some other parents. This approach allowed the teens to talk about what was going on in their lives and they also showed a greater ability to handle disagreements about sex with their partners (including not wanting to lose their virginity yet) because they already had a language for discussing sexuality.
In all this is a subtle point: girls who don’t learn about their sexuality early in adolescence are more likely to confuse their own emotional need for intimacy with their physical sexual feelings of desire. This leads them to have earlier intercourse in order to feel emotional intimacy rather than because they felt desire and wanted sexual intimacy.
Good masturbation for our daughters can mean better relationships later and more sexual satisfaction later in married life.
In the mean time, it is also associated with higher self-esteem, better communication, and can provide an excellent way to handle feeling horny, especially for youth who choose to delay intercourse or other intimate sexual activity with a partner.
People watch pornography to feel sexual desire and arousal. The sensation of sexual desire (being turned on) is more highly rated and sought after in studies than the actual physical experiences during sex, for both men and women. We love to feel horny!
What makes men and women feel turned on differs, and in many cases remains a bit in the dark with regards to women. Partly this is because what women want is a bit…naughty, and partly because (as with many things in sexual research) male researchers have troubles leaving their own bodies and brains at the door.
I never used porn to help “the mood” until I was in my 30s. You can read more about my discovery of this art form in my book. Over the next few decades, finding adult content that was sexy and didn’t make me laugh or roll my eyes in disgust was challenging. I felt like Goldilocks. The “woman’s erotica” left me limp (so to speak). Enduring a 20-minute blowjob on the screen might start to arouse me but then more often would just get boring or stupid. And the fake whiney porn queen voice –“Oh my god….”, it drove me crazy!
Occasionally, hubby and I would find a scene that would make me hot, and when that happened we never made it very much farther into the film. For a while I thought it was certain artists or directors that had “the touch” (Asia Carrera for you older crowd). But it was never clear to me what worked: solo folks, same-sex, or mixed-sex. As a Reproductive Physiologist trying to help people spice up baby-making sex, I felt at a loss as to how to recommend “good porn.”
But recently, things have become much more clear. From the lay side Pornhub just published an analytic survey of women’s favorite porn search terms. At the top of the list were Lesbian and Gay (male) sex. The categories of porn that women view MORE than men are: For Women, Lesbian, Solo Male and Hardcore.
Women are 900% more likely than men to search for porn showing someone doing oral sex on a woman.
These finding aren’t because all women who go to porn sites are gay, but rather because women are turned on by images of people who are sexually aroused. And they are most turned on by images of more than one person engaging in sexual activity.
Two new scientific studies shed light on why these search terms are popular for women. Specifically, the researchers found that hetero-sexual men are more strongly aroused by seeing images of women, whether two gals together or a guy with a gal, or even a solo woman. And gay men like to see male images.
But for women, their sexual orientation doesn’t impact what types of images turn them on as much as being female does. Specifically, both straight and gay women respond to seeing sexually explicit images of people, in general. Pictures of single people (a man or a woman) turns the ladies on, some, especially IF the person is sexually aroused, with an erect penis or an engorged (pink) vulva.
But what really gets the gals going is multiple people having sex together, such as two guys, a mixed gender couple or a group of women. And the more explicit the sex, and physically aroused the people in the images are, the more excited the observing women become.
Women may get sort of turned on watching a nude person exercise on the beach. They will get even more aroused with images of blushing, wet vulvas or an erect penis. And for the greatest “bang for the buck,” what turns them on the most is watching people who are actually having hot sex. It really doesn’t matter who these people are.
One caveat, the people in the scene need to be, or at least appear, sexually aroused. Hint guys, abusive content is not going to work for many ladies. This kind of porn isn’t about sex, it is about power and dominance, a whole other topic. For women or couples who want to enjoy porn together to spice up their sex lives, keep the overly rough/violent stuff out. But use sexually explicit material. Finding the right material can take some time and this is where director or actor shopping can help narrow the field.
I guess in hind site I wasn’t alone in not feeling turned on by images of women with flat and un-erect nipples, pussies that were pale and dry and some gal smacking gum while looking at her manicure and saying “yeah…fuck me” in a fake Brookyln accent. Watching people who aren’t actually sexually excited during porn is a turn off…not a turn on.
Gay porn is a turn on for women because, pretty much de facto you need two aroused men to get there, with two aroused, erect penises. Good porn turns us on and helps us find better sex alone or with a partner. Bad porn belongs in the trash!
Now I understand a little better what it is my subconscious female mind was and is looking for in adult entertainment!
Why should parents teach teen girls about masturbation? Girls who don’t learn about their sexuality early in adolescence are more likely to confuse their own emotional need for intimacy with their physical sexual feelings of desire.
People watch pornography to feel sexual desire and arousal. The sensation of sexual desire (being turned on) is more highly rated and sought after in studies than the actual physical experiences during sex, for both men and women. We love to feel horny! But what makes men and women feel turned on differs.
The actual size and shape of the human clitoris burst onto cultural consciousness this week! I am celebrating the week that the true anatomy of the woman's sexual pleasure organ made mainstream news and culture! Female orgasm is possible in ALL reproductive aged women because we all have this large erectile clitoral organ.