4 Myths About Sex That Are Disempowering Women

June 24th 2016

While some people think the biggest battle women fight is in the workplace, others say it may be in the bedroom.

As many women struggle to demand respect in public and assert themselves in the workplace, the bedroom is one of the places where gender norms and stereotypes remain heavily intact, Chris Donaghue, Ph.D. sex therapist and author of "Sex Outside The Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture," told ATTN:.

When it comes to physical sex, society places expectations on both genders. But the sex expectations for women in particular can have a negative impact on women's sexuality and sexual experiences. ATTN: talked to Donaghue about what these stereotypes can look like in heterosexual relationships.

1. If you don't receive an orgasm through vaginal penetration, something is wrong.

The truth is that as many as 80 percent of women don't orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. But despite this truth, both men and women often chase after the difficult to achieve orgasm as the mark of a successful sexual experience. The reason for this could be traced back to a theory from famed psychologist Sigmund Freud. Freud proposed that the vaginal orgasm was the maturest form of a woman's orgasm and that if women failed to achieve this, something was fundamentally wrong with their sexuality, according to The Seattle Times. But Freud's theory was later debunked, and researchers found that clitoral stimulation was the primary source of a woman's sexual pleasure and orgasm.

Yet, women and men still rely on penal-vaginal penetration as the go-to method for sex. There is nothing wrong with this kind of sex by any means — it is natural and totally fun. But ultimately, we have a pretty narrow-minded definition of sex, according to Donaghue.

"We still promote the idea that sex is based on our primary sexual genitals or anatomy and we ignore that our entire bodies are erotic and can be eroticized … you do not need to focus on penal-vaginal penetration," Donaghue said.

Also, a woman's orgasm is a lot of harder to achieve and more complicated than men's are due to the complex nature of reproductive female anatomy.

“Most men have a harder time figuring out a woman’s body because it’s more complicated, than they do their own, so now not only does a woman not know a lot about herself, but the guy she’s hoping will give her pleasure, doesn’t either,” April Masini, relationship expert and author of "Think & Date Like A Man: (Be the woman who gets the man she wants...and keeps him!)," told Medical Daily.

2. Giving your male partner an orgasm is successful sex.

This is where gender norms and gender stereotypes really come into play.

Men are often portrayed in society and media as the ones with the insatiable sexual appetites. But women aren't usually seen this way. Society often expects and even rewards women for being sexually conservative. As a result, women often hesitate to communicate their sexual prowess in the bedroom out of fear of being judged or slut-shamed. Thus, many women end up prioritizing men's sexual pleasure and downplaying their own, according to Donaghue.

The lack of attention to women's sexual pleasure could also be attributed to the way that society teaches men and women about sex. According to Donaghue, sex isn't taught in regard to pleasure but in regard to procreation.

"All sex education is centered around procreation and anatomy specific to that," Donaghue told ATTN:. "The body is treated like it’s a machine and biological, and so I think it’s understandable that one hasn’t been taught or trained to see that sex can be a resource for nourishment, closeness after a stressful day, as a way to enhance body image and self-esteem and all these different capacities. It’s understandable that, culturally, women aren’t aware that they can [have] sex for other reasons."

Americans are really uptight when it comes to talking about sex. In fact, only 24 states mandate sex education in public schools and four states require parental consent before a child can receive sexual education. But this timid attitude about sex limits men and women's understanding of sex and discourages them from exploring their sexuality.

Furthermore, think about how society views the subject of female masturbation. While male masturbation is seen as normal, the subject of female pleasure still makes people uncomfortable.

In a piece for The Cut, Ann Friedman talked about how society is slow to entertain the idea of overt female sexual pleasure.

"The notion that women enjoy sex has not yet achieved scientific or cultural acceptance. To social conservatives, it seems downright dangerous. What’s left to hold our society and nuclear family structure together if even women like sex more than they like babies? There’s no purer example of this than a woman enjoying the pleasure of her own company. And so it remains taboo."

3. Tight vaginas are better.


As ATTN: previously reported, people often assume that having a "loose vagina" is associated with promiscuity and thus is less desirable. But having multiple sexual partners cannot stretch a woman's vagina. In reality, age and childbirth are some of the only factors that affects the elasticity. Even after childbirth, a woman's vagina tends to return to its original state.

That said, the assumption that a woman's vagina is somehow "ruined" because she had many sexual partners is ultimately the problem with this sex expectation. It places limits on a woman's sexuality and unfairly shames women for having "too much" sex.

4. Telling your partner what you like is unattractive.

Sex should be a pleasurable experience for both parties involved. But often, women are afraid to communicate what pleasures them. Many women unknowingly accept the submissive role in the bedroom and thus feel uncomfortable communicating their sexual prowess and desires to their partner. Donaghue told ATTN: that society reinforcing the idea that a man is supposed to be dominant affects a woman's ability to be confident and speak up.

"The assumption is that masculinity is strong or supposed to be strong and dominant, femininity and females are supposed to be quieter and more submissive, and what that does is that damages women’s self confidence and sexual confidence," he said. "So these women have to water themselves down and diminish themselves, and often, if they enter that way relationally and sexually, then they feel they have to maintain that relationally and sexually to stay with this person. So there’s this complete loss of confidence and feeling of strength."

When a woman doesn't speak up, she often empowers a man's sense of dominance.

In a piece for Everyday Feminism, Ginny Brown talked about how women may feel compelled to sexually please a man in order to feed his sense of masculinity.

"For the female partner, this can turn into yet another way she has to perform emotional labor. When her experience of pleasure becomes tied to his ego, then she often feels pressure to have a big, showy orgasm for him… even if that’s not how her body works.

Instead of genuinely connecting with her body and experiencing the pleasure that’s there for her in the moment, she can become anxious about whether she’s satisfying him with her show of pleasure."

It's true. Sixty-seven percent of women said they have faked an orgasm, according to a survey reported by The Huffington Post. When asked why, 27 percent of women said they did so "to end sex quickly" because they knew they were not going to have an orgasm. Twenty-eight percent said they did so to make their partner feel good and to spare their partner's feelings of inadequacy.

Share your opinion

Do you think that society limits women's sexuality?

No 11%Yes 89%