Written by Lisa Etherson


Deleting sex messages

The myths and media portrayal of female sexual pleasure have come – and now it’s time they fucked off, says sex therapist Lisa Etherson.

bright pink flower
I read an article not so long ago in a women’s magazine well known for talking about sex.

This particular piece was giving us women tips on how to relax when receiving oral sex, and in itself, was giving pretty sound information: “You might be worrying you smell, but he won’t be;” that kind of thing. Very heteronormative, most certainly, but that wasn’t what was primarily pissing me off.

Why do we need this type of blog/article – and a quick search told me there are loads of them – telling us how to enjoy receiving sexual pleasure directly relating to our vulva? And why the hell aren’t we asking where these fucked up messages are coming from in the first place?

Obviously, there will be a lot of women out there who are comfortable with their bodies, and will have no problem getting their sexual needs met. However, those who are not so fortunate are likely to have lost their relationship with their vulva at a young age.

It is rare for young girls to be encouraged to love and appreciate their vulva. We are often scolded for exploring and talking about it, so we enter into womanhood with this idea that it’s all a bit yucky ‘down there’; a phrase which reminds me of Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter books, who is so evil that even speaking his name will bring untold terror to anyone who dares.

So just to prove that nothing will happen: VULVA!, CLITORIS!, VAGINA! There you go… not one Death Eater in sight.

The attitude towards the vulva and oral sex is a worrying combination of myth and media.

Myths such as the aforementioned: ‘I can’t let him go down on me because I smell’, or anxieties like ‘What if I take too long to come?’ and/or ‘He won’t like the look of it’, are very prevalent today, and I truly believe we would not have these worries if they were not suggested to us, however indirectly.

“We need to be talking about female sexual pleasure as a basic right, not something you get by chance if you happen to be lucky enough to have a considerate lover.”

Articles in magazines giving advice on how to relax are reinforcing the idea that we should be worried before we start. I’m a sex therapist but I’m not immune to the bombardment of false ideas. I’ve had the same anxieties about my body.

If you take a look at porn today, all of the female porn stars have tiny labia, some of which I’m sure will be natural, some maybe thanks to labiaplasty, the surgery which women can have to trim away ‘excess’ labia. There is no such thing as excess labia by the way, just the labia you were naturally supposed to have.

This new phenomenon tells both men and women that the only attractive vulva is the one that is all neatly tucked away. We are currently being conditioned to think a certain way; that the true natural beauty of the vulva is in need of repair. It’s as ridiculous as being told that you can only be attractive if you have a straight nose, or eyes of a particular colour.

We all have uniquely beautiful features, including our genitalia, but where are we championing this?

Porn is also (partly) responsible for the ridiculous viewpoint that receiving pleasure as a woman is selfish. Think about how many times you see a woman actually receiving oral sex in porn, unless you look for that specifically.

An absurd bill has recently been passed banning all UK-made porn from featuring a woman squatting over someone’s face, or female ejaculation. This means that UK porn can no longer depict certain aspects of female pleasure.

Female sexual pleasure needs to be taken more seriously. We need to be talking about this as a basic right, not something you get by chance if you happen to be lucky enough to have a considerate lover. We need to be talking to our daughters about pleasure and how to access it, whether it be on their own or with someone else.

They also need to know that all things in nature are created perfectly, the vulva included.

It may appear to be a bit twee to compare a vulva to a flower, but consider how beautiful they look: all different colours and petal sizes, glorious smells, all of which are used as a way of attracting things to them.

Would we ever consider that a flower didn’t look or smell right? I suspect not.


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Written by Lisa Etherson

Lisa is a Geordie sex therapist and soon to be author. She has at least five books floating around in her imagination but has opted to start with Sex Over 50 as she is currently hurtling towards that age and wants to know what the hell to do.