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How Do You Like It? This Is the Age of Sexual Exploration

A group of NextTribers gathered to discuss a book about female pleasure and orgasms. Here are some of the ways we were shocked and liberated.

There is an apocryphal story about Empress Wu, from the Tang Dynasty in China, who, after she came to power, would order visiting dignitaries to perform oral sex on her. While there is much to unpack about how history treats women who seize power, when I read this in the book, She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner, all I could think was that getting oral sex is so rare that you basically have to be the Empress of China to make it happen.

Some women felt shocked about the amount of detailed information available but unknown to them.

One of the most-read stories on NextTribe is called Help, I Don’t Want to Have Sex with My Husband,” so when a friend at NextTribe mentioned that her new, talented lover had learned his technique from She Comes First, we knew we wanted to gather and talk about sex. One of the things I treasure about the NextTribe community is that we are all ready to be real and open with each other, knowing that by sharing our truths, we become smarter and stronger in the world.

Women in our online gathering reported feeling both sad and angry after reading the book. Some felt shocked about the amount of detailed information available but unknown to them. I didn’t know the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis, or that the entire clitoral structure encompasses so much more than just the little “button” that most people think about.

One woman noted that the book was written in 2004 and has sold millions and millions of copies, wondering, “Who’s reading this? And why hadn’t I met any of these people?”

Others focused on the degree to which a standard version of sex is dictated by the patriarchy. So, if the male definition of sex looks like easy to arouse, quick to come, and then fall asleep, then that’s the correct version of sex, leaving women to worry about what was wrong with them that they didn’t have orgasms based solely on penetration, or why the so-called “classic” oral sex position of 69 seemed like an uncomfortable and inefficient way for us to orgasm.

Read More: Your Vagina: An Oral History

They Wrote the Books on Female Sexual Pleasure

The book itself is written directly to men, coming across as factual and to some degree mechanical. The author explains the female genitalia and provides very specific How To practices (e.g., lick upwards three times and then press . ..), which left me feeling like that was an incomplete guide to women’s sexuality because it seems so focused on the physical aspect, not what women are thinking and feeling.

He says that men need to actively reassure you they enjoy the oral sex as much as you do.

I don’t care if you have got a great cunnilingus strategy on a 3 x 5 card in your back pocket if you don’t pay any attention to how I am feeling, to whether there are dirty dishes strewn about, or if you left the toilet seat up again. The closest that author Kerner comes to that recognition are his three affirmations. He says that men need to actively reassure you they enjoy the oral sex as much as you do, you can take as much time as you need (often, between 15–45 minutes), and your taste and smell are provocative and powerful, a key piece of your beautiful essence.

When I finished the book, I was left with the question of how I would get some man in my life to read the book and put it into practice. It felt like I had no agency or power in that equation, waiting for some lover to implement the knowledge. I sought out some different resources and found the book Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure by Sheri Winston. Winston covers much of the same “technical” material as Kerner but approaches it from a wholistic sexuality perspective in which it is first and foremost about your connection with yourself, encouraging women to explore their anatomy and sexuality directly.

Her book reminded me of a sexual wellness class I once took where the RN cheerfully advised us to “use it or lose it” and that we should “have sex by ourselves or with a friend at least twice a week.”

The Age of Exploration

As we age, and menopausal issues and erectile disfunction start to impact the ability to engage in that traditional, penetrative sex act, instead of seeing ourselves and our lovers as “broken,” maybe this stage of life enables us to challenge our long-held beliefs, freeing us up to request and even demand focused attention from our lovers.

Instead of seeing ourselves and our lovers as “broken,” maybe this stage of life can free us.

A happily married NextTriber suggested exploring the topic with your lover, saying that given that we’re changing, maybe this is something we can explore because we don’t have to give up on sex. We can think of it in a different way, where it becomes more clearly about being attuned to each other. And if we allow ourselves the time and freedom to become “masters of our own domain,” then perhaps we can eliminate some of the shame and fear attached to the topic.

While some of our group have been sexually assertive for decades (one noted that she’d had more tongues in her than penises!), some felt shame or sadness about being older and not knowing more or experiencing more.

I want us to reframe that: seeing sexual experiences as comparable to travel. Just because you haven’t yet been to Paris or Machu Picchu doesn’t mean you should stop yourself. Let’s open up the world for ourselves, starting with being our own best lovers, and then sharing that with attuned, respectful lovers—with some well-read books and toys by our side.

Read More: When One Wants Sex and the Other Doesn’t: How to Save a Lustless Marriage

By Michele Martell


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