Wildflowers

Perfect Buds

The If-Busters

Late Bloomers

Early Bloomers

Living-Togethers

Sexual Explorers

Sexually Dissatisfied Wives

Overcoming Rejection

Why Sacrifice Pleasure?

A Way of Classifying Sexual Identity

How Pleasure-Claimers Get Better Orgasms

Some Observations from the Survey

A way of Classifying Several identity

"Most men desire and experience sexual intercourse within a caring relationship. Most women, however enjoy sexual intercourse only when there is a greater level of commitment within the relationship."

-From "Desired and Experienced Levels of Premarital Affection
 and Sexual Intercourse During Dating," Published by
The Journal of Sex Research, Vol.23, February 1987.

            The young woman, who is or appears to be no older than twenty-five, is the American media's epitome of the sexually desirable woman. In spite of the attention paid to supermodels over thirty, hers is the face still gracing most magazine covers. And, hers is the body most avidly sought by men of all ages. Her sexual attitude is actually a larger part of the alluring package. Sexually, she is orgasmic or soon will be, but she isn't knowing, experienced, demanding. Her desire to please is the strongest it will ever be. Love is more important to her than sex; or, if it isn't, she pretends it is. A man can look at her and see a sexual potential he fantasizes he alone can help her realize.

            Some women remain in this state of suspended sexual animation no matter their chronological age. A woman friend, age thirty-eight, recently told me with pride that a man, of the kind we now describe as a Casanova, had been drawn to her in a crowded room because of her "innocent mouth." That the world "innocent" is unseemly when applied to a woman of her age and sexual experience never occurred to her. That by "innocent" he surely meant "naive and likely to play into his game" also eluded her until after she'd lost another round.

            What we think we know about women and sex is really what we know about this idealized woman who is young or at least young in sexual attitude, the sexual ingenue. She is the woman about whom you are reading when a research study on sexual behavior or attitudes says "women" do, feel, experience, think, or whatever. The majority of the studies-nearly 85 percent of the studies on women reported in past two years in the respected The Journal of Sex Research-are conducted by psychologist, psychiatrists, or sociologists on faculty at colleges and universities and are based on questionnaires distributed to the most readily available population: students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. The gist of these studies is: Women can't separate love and sex.

            Their results are extrapolated and applied to the female population at large. The product of the analysis of limited data is a pseudoscientific profile of woman as sexual being that corresponds to the model of female sexual behavior found socially acceptable in most areas of society. Either she behaves as Mom, peers, and church think she should, or she doesn't and feels guilty and/or otherwise suffers for breaking the big rule linking sex and love. Though the woman of twenty is not expected to speak for women of thirty, forty, fifty, and beyond on any other subject, she is our sexual spokesperson.

            Women, we are told, either can't or won't have sex without love.

            But, what if you are different? Many of the women in my observation from survey differ in this and in many other ways from the stereotypical sexual behavior profile of woman. In the personal sexual histories of the 871 women in my survey, I identified five stages of female sexual evolution and many different categories of respondents, defined by shared sexual behavior characteristics. No narrow study of college women purporting to speck for "women" could really speak for all of them.

            The four major categories representing female sexual identities, determined primarily of the by the point in her sexual evolution when a woman becomes orgasmic, are:

Early Bloomers: 34.4 percent of the survey. Women who first masturbated before age twelve and were orgasmic with partners by age nineteen. They a re comfortable with masturbation and the touching themselves during intercourse-and report the fewest problems with reaching orgasm. While social prohibitions against sexual behaviors don't stop them from getting their needs met, they do often feel guilty in guilty, uncomfortable, or ashamed about their sexuality.
           
Perfect Buds: 23.3 percent of the survey. They have masturbated by age sixteen and have had their first orgasm, usually via masturbation, by age twenty-one. These women appear to develop according to the prevailing theory of female sexuality. Their high degree of satisfaction with their relationships may be due in part to their ease in conforming to the norm. As young women, many of us envy them.

Late Bloomers: 23.2 percent of the survey. They masturbate after age twenty-one, if at all, and they are not orgasmic until their late twenties or beyond. This group reported more problems reaching orgasm than did the others. They also seem to make poor partner choices more often. But, when late bloomers overcome the obstacles in their paths, they can experience deep sexual joy.

Wildflowers: 19.1 percent of the survey. They report greater participation in sexual variations and more partners-but not necessarily more pleasure. Some of them "act out" via sex and make bad partner choices. (Other women, the Sexual Explorers, who will be discussed in Sexual Explorers, exuberantly embrace their sexuality. Sexual explorers are covered more fully in later chapter because women from all four major categories can become explorers in later life.)

The stages of female sexual evolutions are:

Discovering pleasure: The discovery phase is largely about becoming orgasmic, both alone and with a partner.

Denying pleasure: The denial phase is marked by a conscious choice to put something else, usually "The relationship," ahead of the pursuit of deeper sexual pleasure. Women in this phase use sex to get a man, hold a man, force a commitment, or they are focused on conception rather than pleasure.

Claiming pleasure: Women who truly claim pleasure-in a fuller sense than they had it in the discovery phase-have learned to be assertive about their sexual need and desires. They actively seek, rather than passively wait for, pleasure. Some women never get to this stage, while others never lose it.

Losing pleasure: Women who have lost the capacity for sexual pleasure include victims of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual abuse; victims of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), particularly herpes, women who have suffered repeated pregnancies, miscarriages, difficult births; wives who have been sexually discarded by husbands; wives and lovers who have suffered long-term sexual repression by their partners.

Reclaiming pleasure: It is difficult, but certainly possible, for women who have lost it to rediscover their capacity for pleasure. Many women have, and their stories offer encouragement for all women.

            While the stages can be clearly identified, they aren't as inevitable as birthdays. A woman's sexual development is simply not as easily charted by her age as I initially believed it would be. When the "bloomed" is far more relevant in charting her future course than is her chronological age. A late bloomer, for example, seems to have a more difficult time overcoming the religious, family, social, and other pressures negatively affecting her sex life than other women do-but that doesn't mean she can't and won't, overcome them.

            I also discovered that women who have claimed pleasure, at whatever age they did so, share certain behaviors. One of the most surprising is their ability to fantasize a love relationship while making love, yet let go of that pheromones and fantasy when the sex is over. This is the way many women are able to have sex without love. We use these love fantasies in the same way many men use erotica-as arousal aides.

            These sexual categories are meant to help women understand their sexual histories, not trap them in yet one more bubble of modern psychobabble. Sometimes the categories overlap. Some women fit neatly into one or several, while other women seem to have the proverbial foot in two camps. Identifying yourself in these categories will help you see where you are and perhaps why you're at that point-and what other women in the same place are doing, or have done, to change or enhance their sex lives.

            Not surprisingly given our societal attitudes about women, love, and sex, a woman's discovery of pleasure through sex therapy  is often conducted as a side trip on her real journey, the quest for love. She is bombarded with messages guiding her on the love quest and warning her off expressing too much interest in pleasure not directly tied into a relationship. This book is less concerned with relationships than sexual pleasure, but it is my belief, supported by the survey findings, that women who have claimed pleasure do have better relationships with men.

            In the traditional view of female sexuality, all young women are perfect buds , tightly closed, slow to open. Some actually are, but others burst open. You are going to find yourself in one of the four major categories above; and no one of them is the "right" place to be. Together, they create the gorgeous bouquet of female sexuality, in which every bloom is a beautiful one.

Sexual Victims

Discarded Women

The Clock Women

Independent Women

Revirginized Women

Monogamous Women

Second-Chance Women

Surviving the Droughts

Wives Who Have Affairs

The Saboteurs of Pleasure

Conclusion: Your Sexual Turning Point?

The Women Who Doesn't "Need" an Orgasm

What Does She Know About Sex that You Don't?