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

The Tyranny of the "Ifs"

Almost two years ago I was listening to a group of my women friend talk about sex during lunch. These women were comparing the size and stamina of men they had known. (Yes, we're talking penis size and duration of erection of victims, subjects men secretly fear we discuss. We do.) And, they were exchanging "most embarrassing sex stories," for example, the time one woman's period started during the initial encounter with a married lover in an expensive hotel room. Afterward, she told us, he pulled away from her, each of them streaked, smeared, and splotched with her menstrual blood, surveyed the damage to sheets, spread, and pillows, and said, "It looks like we've been sacrificing small animals in here," whereupon she began stripping the bed in preparation for soaking everything in tubful of cold water to spare the maid the slight.

            Can you imagine the man involved ever sharing that story with a group of his men friends over lunch?

            Women talk more openly about sex to each other than men do, but there is still much we rarely share. I could tell you whose lover within that group has the biggest penis (assuming, of course, the data shared is reliable), or how many times a week each woman typically has sexual relations or when, where, and how each lost her virginity-but, I don't know how long it take them to reach orgasm or if, like the majority of women, they need oral or manual stimulation to do so, or if in fact they often have trouble reaching orgasm or maybe never do. The subject of endless discussion, written and verbal, the orgasm still remains shrouded in secrecy. Modern women may brag about having multiple orgasms-which perhaps they have never even had but claim to have experienced because their competitive machisma side demands the boast-yet be too embarrassed to admit they need to stroke the clitoris during intercourse to come at all.

            The wall of silence we build around certain essential sexual truths exacerbates our vulnerability to the myths about how a woman "should" behave sexually. The less we know about the reality of female sexuality-other women's and our own-the more readily we accept fantasy as a form of sexual theology. I call a group of those myths under which we have lived together too much of our lives the "ifs." The ifs are found in the clause following, "It's okay to enjoy sex if..." and they include:... he loves me; he might marry me; he's a suitable partner in the eyes of the world; we're going to make a baby. But the primary if, which cuts across all lines is, if I'm swept away by romantic feeling.

            That big if excuses us from accepting full responsibility for our own sexual behavior, which is exactly why it appeals to us. We don't have to admit to choosing sex, if by choosing we violate the teachings of church and mother or ignore the social prohibitions against certain kinds of sexual behavior. Like a romance novel heroine, we can claim we were carried beyond our boundaries by a force we couldn't control-an acceptable explanation for female passion, which, too many of us still believe, shouldn't be under our control.

            Unfortunately, those who do not choose wait to be chosen-and wait to have their needs acknowledged and magically met by the ones who do choose. Men.

            I wanted to write this book to carry the sexual conversation women have with each other deeper and further than it ever goes inside the padded booths of restaurants. Also, on a personal level, I wanted to make sense of my own sexual past, to put into perspective a history that has never quite been in sync with the behavioral "norms" of the day. And, I wanted to reach truth, not only my truth, but your truth and every woman's truth, the bedrock of sexual reality where what actually happens is more beautiful than the fantasy of what seldom, if ever, does. In finding that truth, we can help dispel the ifs busters, the prettily wrapped package of romantic nonsense that has led us all, men and women, to put too much pressures on the penis and on "love." These pressures keep intercourse from working for women as it does for men: as the primary method of achieving orgasm.

            I started with the idea of tracing woman's sexual evolution, through the histories of many women, to find a pattern that would help all of us understand our own sexual cycle. When I began talking to women about their sex lives, I envisioned writing a book that was a version of Passages, as applied to female sexuality. I thought the stages of woman's sexual evolution would follow a predictable pattern, roughly corresponding to the decades of her life, from the sexual awakening of her late teens through the post-menopause years. I also thought younger women in their twenties would be sexually freer than their mothers had been at their ages.

            The 871 women I surveyed left me with a different picture of that evolution-and certainly of the reality behind the so-called sexual liberation of women.

            Yes, there are stages. But, many women don't experience all of them. One woman may never evolve past stage one, while another may have run the gamut by age thirty. For men, becoming sexually active and reaching orgasm are virtually always synonymous, but not for women. A woman may have sexual relations with one or many men for five, ten, twenty, or more years without ever reaching orgams-leaving her rooted in stage one, no matter her age or number of partners.

            I found the women in this book by placing ads in city magazines nationwide, through friends who distributed questionnaires among their friends and professional associates, and within the International Women's Writing Guild, of which I am a member. Therefore my survey respondents, while they represent all parts of the country and also include some women from Canada and American expatriates living in Europe and South America, are:

  • More likely to live in major metropolitan areas than in small towns or rural areas-57 percent are urbanites-particularly in the cities of the Northeast (31 percent).
  • More affluent and better educated than the general populace-70 percent have personal or family incomes in excess of $25,000 and 62 percent are college graduates.
  • More likely than not to have white collar jobs when employed-slightly over two-thirds hold management level positions or members of professions such as law; medicine, including nursing; or teaching. There are also more writers, journalists, editors, and other communications specialists (a total of 19 percent) than the respondents of purely random surveys (which, by the way, are such cost-prohibitive undertakings that even the Kinsey Institute can't afford to do them any more).
  • Predominantly thirty something: While the ages of survey respondents ranged from eighteen to eighty-nine, the majority were in their twenties (26.6 percent), thirties (39.6 percent), or forties (19.3 percent).
  • More familiar with the married state than not: 34.2 percent married, 18.9 percent divorced, 32.5 percent single, and 14.4 percent living with a man.

            The survey results included many surprises. For example, while there have been enormous social changes affecting female sexual behavior in the past thirty years, young women are perhaps no more free sexually than were their mothers. There language of constraint may be different, but the message is the same: Hold out for love.

            On the other hand, the participants reported a wide range of sexual behaviors and, in many cases, a great variety of partners, with the numbers ranging from one to four thousand. More than one third have experienced anal sex, bondage, or S & M activities. And, while the women identified themselves as predominantly heterosexual, 31.3 percent have had at least one lesbian encounter.

            Through the women's responses to my five-page survey about their sexual behavior and attitudes, I hoped to gather information's that would:

  • Give women a vehicle for sexual self-discovery-and a means of sex identifying themselves by sexual behavior characteristics.
  • Show women where they are on scales of pleasure Elaine evolution-and give them encouragement and support for moving forward.
  • Help them understand their own sexual pattern-and learn how to change it, as other women have done, if they so desire.
  • And, especially help them fully claim their own sexual pleasure from within themselves.

            We, as women, do claim our sexual pleasure from inside ourselves.

            It doesn't come from the outside. Female sexuality, fully realized and freely enjoyed, is not a gift bestowed by men. Nor is it something a woman may have only when Mother, church, female's peers, or men decide she may. Some women have never claimed pleasure. Others, like some victims of rape, have claimed and lost it, and then perhaps somehow reclaimed it, often against great odds.

            The overwhelming majority of the women who participated in my research have claimed, or reclaimed, pleasure.

            But, that is no surprise. It is the nature of such studies that people who are for the most part comfortable and positive about sex fill out lengthy questionnaires and consent to talk about their sex therapy for publication; those who are unhappy or uncomfortable tend not to be so open. Therefore the women represented here probably have richer and more varied sex lives than any 871 women assembled at random. And, that's good news for the reader.

            They have shared their secrets; and their secrets and their secrets can set you free.

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?