What do we mean when we say ‘female sexual empowerment’?
Being female presenting can be a whirlwind when it comes to sex. If you want too much you’re a slut, if you don’t want it enough then you’ll be called a prude. We just can’t win. Sadly, this kind of judgment has led to many of us to not live our best sexual lives.
Traditionally, those who identify as female may have taken a submissive role in the bedroom, they may have prioritised their partner’s pleasure above their own, or been made to feel ashamed for what they like sexually. But, with the view of feminine sexuality evolving, female presenting people have begun to speak up and found empowerment in enjoying their bodies sexually.
When we hear the words female sexual empowerment, we tend to picture a whole lot of leather, a few whips and even a dominatrix or two, but this is not what we mean. While taking a more dominant role in the bedroom may be just up your alley, feeling sexually empowered is about valuing your own pleasure as much as your partner’s, letting go of shame and embracing your unique sexual tastes.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve asked some of our inspirational female Lovehoney sexperts to share their views on feminine sexuality and how you can feel more empowered to get what you want in the bedroom.
Chantelle Otten is a psycho-sexologist who is passionate about empowering people to feel great about their sexual health and sexual self-esteem. Here she discusses the importance of vulva education.
When it comes to your vulva, knowledge is power. But, there is a lack of education about what’s going on ‘down there’, information that should have been taught at school.
If I was to ask most people what’s going on ‘down there’ for a woman, they would say ‘vagina’. But, unfortunately these people have not passed the test. I don’t know how we got to a place where we started naming these things wrong, but the vagina is just one part of the vulva owner’s anatomy and definitely not the whole area.
It just goes to show that most people don’t know much about female genitalia or the anatomical structure. Maybe it’s because those who have a penis have genitals which are external and are easily seen when naked but for those who have vulvas, these genitals are more hidden and difficult to see, and not encouraged to be explored.
This absolutely has to change and we deserve to have basic body knowledge. You need to know these areas to be able to know where and how you like to be touched, where to hold your vibrator and where to tell your sexual partner to touch you.
The correct name for outer genitals is the vulva, which is the skin that touches your underwear.
All the external parts of your genitals, including the clitoris (which is your pleasure centre), the labia minora (which is your small flaps), the labia majora (which is the skin between the minora and your legs), the urethra (which is the pee hole) and your vaginal opening make up the vulva.
The vulva comes in all shapes and sizes, no vulva is the same – it’s kind of like a snowflake. Many people have never looked at theirs, so I encourage you to get out a mirror, have a look and try to label your bits.
Get to know your bits. Love your bits. They are the key to your sexual pleasure.
Tracey Cox is a best-selling author and sex columnist. Here she writes an open letter to heterosexual men (on behalf of all vulva owners) on the eight things they need to know to become better lovers.
About Our Libido
There are three myths about women and sex that the majority of people – and especially men – think are true. The first is that men have a higher sex drive than women. The second is that monogamy is harder for men than it is for women and the third is that men get bored with routine sex quicker than women do.
All of these statements are false.
Recent research suggests female desire is completely different to what we once thought. It doesn’t like tame, it likes risk. It doesn’t want romance, it wants lust. Female desire is primal. Way, way more primal than society believes.
We do say no to sex more often than you do, but it’s not because our libidos are low. It’s because we’re not given permission to explore our ‘dirty’ side, like you are. Take away the cultural restraints, it turns out, and women would be at it like rabbits.
With one proviso. The sex has to be erotic and it has to be exciting.
Give us boring, dull, repetitive sex and you bet we’ll turn to face to wall. Give us interesting, edgy, erotic sex, however, and we’ll be well up for it.
Research by Lovehoney found a third of women have broken up with a lover to improve their sexual happiness, compared to just a fifth of men.
So, contrary to popular belief, being good in bed is more important to women than men, not less.
About Our Orgasms
We talk a lot about how difficult it is for women to orgasm. But the fact is, most women can orgasm in five minutes or less given the right technique, lover or tool (namely one that vibrates).
With skill, sensitivity and practice, female orgasm can be as easy to achieve as yours is.
What doesn’t work to make women orgasm is the bog-standard thrusting technique nearly all men use during intercourse. All orgasms originate from the clitoris and that does nothing to stimulate it.
The hidden parts of the clitoris can be stimulated by keeping your pelvis close to ours, maintaining pressure, and using a circular grinding motion against the pelvis.
This vulva-friendly manoeuvre is far more effective at taking us through to orgasm. Even better, though, is using your tongue or fingers or a vibrator, before, during or after penetrative sex.
About Faking It
Yes, one of your previous partners (if not most) have done it and no, you couldn’t and can’t tell. Recent research has proven, yet again, that it is impossible to definitely know if a woman has had an orgasm.
There are some clues: a flushed face, a red rash that can appear and disappear quickly on the chest or neck, vaginal contractions, a rapid heart rate and a clitoris that’s sensitive to touch directly afterward are some of the signs.
But, they’re not reliable.
The only way to guarantee she’s having a real orgasm and not faking one is to make it abundantly clear it won’t be an issue if she doesn’t orgasm.
Not in a ‘I know it’s really difficult for women’ way – you already know that isn’t true. But an acknowledgment that you are aware women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm.
To make it happen, give us lots of (good) oral sex that lasts a while. Touch us expertly with (lubed up) fingers. Show just how comfortable you are with yourself by being the one to suggest using a vibrator during intercourse.
Read the rest of Tracey’s blog here.
Dr Megan Fleming
World-renowned speaker and Clinician, Dr Megan Fleming, specializes in sex and relationships. Here she discusses the women who have paved the way for sexual happiness.
Women pioneers in sexuality have changed the zeitgeist for all of us. So today we are finally having conversations about the orgasm gap and how to close it.
One inspiring pioneer who taught women to own their pleasure sadly passed this year, Betty Dodson.
Affectionately known as the Mother of Masturbation single handedly launched the hitachi magic wand to its status as the Queen of vibrators.
She wrote Sex For One and promoted knowing and owning your own pleasure teaching women to masturbate over 5 decades.
Quoted this past May, in the New York Times (because of course Betty even at 90 she was weighing in on current events) as saying: “You are your safest sex partner in this pandemic.”
Women like Betty, paved the way for women to proudly discover their turn-ons and all of the amazing ways sex toys and tech can increase our pleasure. She taught us that sex is the place for adults to play.
Another powerful female voice for female sexuality is the Canadian researcher Rosemary Basson. She found that women’s sexual response cycle isn’t linear and that there are two equally valid ways to experience desire; spontaneous and responsive.
This finding is huge as it empowers women to know that even if they aren’t feeling it, or in the mood, if they create the right conditions and have a sense of willingness, being open and receptive to pleasure, arousal kicks in and then to sexual desire.
I have my clients ask themselves, what’s one small thing you can say yes to? Often desire starts from just one yes.
Shamyra Howard is an award winning, internationally renowned sexologist. Here she discusses the importance of female voices in the sexual wellness industry.
When it comes to female empowerment, no other industry has showed up in the way our industry has.
In a world where women aren’t always acknowledged as human and important, it is validating that these spaces are affirming.
Female empowerment has shown us how transformative it is when women share their stories, especially the stories that highlight pleasure. Pleasure is an act of resistance and this industry has provided the space to help us to increase our pleasure.
Many vulva owners have been conditioned that their body is for their partner’s consumption, or something is wrong with them if they have to use toys to orgasm.
Educational empowerment has positioned us to teach better practices, and to unlearn all of the mis-information that we align with. It’s even better that the information is for us, by us.
One of the main reasons why female empowerment is crucial to the advancement and development of our society is because of the historical psychological damage that’s plagued communities for so long.
Just talking about sex is often taboo. Just think of how it feels to be told and showed that because of your assigned sex, that your body is only worthy to be studied and utilized for reproductive purposes only. Add in race, and you’ve got an even bigger recipe for psychological distress.
Sex therapists are often the ones doing the work of helping people manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sexual issues due to antiquated, patriarchal, misogynistic messages. We can’t promote mental health without understanding how sexual health intersects with it.
Our industry is breaking barriers, showing everyone that female empowerment comes in various forms. It is crucial to our social, educational, and psychological development to highlight female voices, promote female pleasure, and dismantle practices and policies that de-center female voices.
Author and sex and relationship counsellor, Annabelle Knight discusses how the sexual wellness industry have responded to sexual empowerment movements.
What is sexual wellness?
Sexual wellness is a state of emotional and physical well-being surrounding sex and sexuality. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin and promotes sexual happiness and contentment.
The primary aims of the sexual wellness industry is to promote self-acceptance, increase awareness about the importance of sexual health and to promote the importance of pleasure.
The evolution of the sexual wellness industry
Sex tech within the sexual wellness industry has grown exponentially in recent years – this is part of the reason that the sexual wellness industry is set to be worth $122 billion dollars by 2024.
Globally sex toys are becoming more and more popular – this is a direct effect of the sexual wellness industry gaining momentum. Women are taking control of their pleasure and not feeling shame in doing so.
More and more products are in development where their goal is your sexual satisfaction, they also provide safe sex and help enhance sexual pleasure.
The importance of diversity in the sexual wellness industry
The more women, of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ethnicities join the conversation, the better.
The sexual wellness industry is a diverse one, and it is this diversity that helps all women to feel included, welcomed and wanted. Women have become more vocal about what they want, and the sexual wellness industry has listened.
Sexual wellness at your fingertips
Retailers have responded by creating a more seamless shopping experience by having a range of products under one roof. Boots now stocks a range of Lovehoney products, meaning you can now add a vibrator, shampoo, blusher and some serum to your basket without having to visit several stores or sites.
The inclusive shopping experience has also helped women to feel more comfortable with exploring their pleasure potential. It demystifies the idea of toys simply by placing them on the shelf next to magazines and beauty products.
There’s a certain circular idea to the sexual wellness industry in the fact that it promotes sexual confidence in women, women speak out about what they want, the sexual wellness industry responds by aiming to meet these needs, women feel listened to and more powerful, then speak out again!
It’s a beautiful, beneficial relationship between everyday women and an industry that tries so hard to help them.
BBC presenter Oloni is described as the ‘loudest megaphone for women’s sexual rights’. Here she shares her findings on how women have become more sexually empowered during lockdown.
We’re having more adventurous sex
A Lovehoney survey of 2,000 people found that 52% of women were experimenting with new sexual techniques and routines. 57% have been sharing sex texts and a third have enjoyed video sex. Other popular activities including role play, car sex and writing erotic notes.
We are using sex to improve mental health
According to Lovehoney research, 87% of women say that sex is a stress-buster. The study found that 71% of women say sex makes them feel better mentally and 66% agreed that sex plays an important role in overall happiness.
The pandemic will improve sexual empowerment going forward
71% of women said they would carry on with their new sex routines once the crisis is over, improving sexual confidence and overall fulfilment.
Women have been using technology to increase empowerment
This could be through enjoying sex sessions when apart from their partner via Zoom or Facetime.
App-controlled sex toys have never been more popular, as they allow couples to connect when they are hundreds of miles apart.
We are using sex to communicate better with their partners
62% of those asked say sex has improved intimacy with their partners. 63% of women said they were enjoying good levels of sexual satisfaction.
Women are using sex toys to improve their overall wellbeing
63% of women regularly use sex toys as part of their sexual routine. Research by one of the world’s leading neuroscientists Dr Nicole Prause, found that women enjoyed orgasms that were 17% longer when using a Lovehoney Happy Rabbit sex toy.
We are learning to focus on quality rather than quantity
Inevitably sexual activity has declined slightly during lockdown because so many couples have been forced apart by the restrictions. However, 38% of women said that lockdown had improved the quality of the sex they have enjoyed.
Masturbation has helped women find new ways to gain sexual fulfilment
44% have been masturbating more during the crisis. Women are using masturbation to know what gives pleasure and sharing this knowledge with their partners.
Self-confidence in on the up
24% of those asked say that regular sex had boosted their overall levels of sex esteem and made them feel better about themselves.