You’ve probably heard about the “orgasm gap”: Research consistently shows that straight women statistically have fewer orgasms during sex than any other demographic. That depressing fact holds true in both casual hookups and long-term relationships.
There’s blame to go around: Yes, women need to get better at advocating for themselves in bed, but too many men are comfortable deprioritizing women’s pleasure and overvaluing their own.
In fact, a study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal just last year showed that men are generally perceived as being more entitled to orgasms and sexual pleasure than women.
Much can ― and should! ― be done to improve that on a personal level, beginning with a better understanding of what your partner needs to reliably get off. If you’re a straight man, that starts with educating yourself on female pleasure.
A guy who recently wrote into an advice column tried to do exactly that, and as a result, got trashed online.
To summarize, late last week, writer Michael Harriot tweeted this (very good!) Men’s Health advice column where a man asked columnist Zachary Zane for tips on how to last longer fingering his girlfriend when his wrist starts to hurt.
Pulling from sex educator Kenneth Play’s book “Beyond Satisfied: A Sex Hacker’s Guide to Endless Orgasms, Mind-Blowing Connection, and Lasting Confidence,” Zane suggested Fingering Guy get into an “an ergonomic position” and use his whole arm “rather than using just your fingers or your wrist to create the motion.”
Harriot, a widely followed columnist at The Grio, tweeted the headline and joked, “Let’s just put the whole internet in some rice.”
Half the replies below Harriott’s tweet shamed the guy who wrote in: “I guarantee this man is all-around terrible in bed,” one woman wrote.
“If he’s having that much trouble on the written exam I’m wondering how he does on the oral,” another person asked.
“How much did his wrist and hands hurt typing this article?” one guy tweeted, misunderstanding that he had submitted a question to a sex advice columnist — not written the whole article.
A lot of people seemed to have misunderstood that part, and granted, it is kind of funny to imagine a flummoxed man writing a whole article about his fingering quandary and putting his byline on it, when he could have just looked it up online or asked about it on a sex advice subreddit.
Others applauded the guy for actively trying to get better at pleasuring his girlfriend. (After all, for many of us, fingering is in our sexual wheelhouse relatively early on, but we go in fairly unsure of ourselves.) A sampling of the retweets:
- “I don’t understand why we’re making fun of this? Haven’t we been encouraging people, especially men, to ask for sexual advice from reputable sources?”
- “I found the article headline to be super refreshing with a focus on female pleasure!”
- “I’m genuinely annoyed at the response to this. Disabled people exist. Sometimes we need a bit of help physically. Doesn’t mean we are “bad at sex.” (To clarify, Fingering Guy said nothing about a disability, but the commenter does make a good point: We don’t know the full story and it’s ableist to make those kinds of assumptions about him.)
It was a lot of hubbub over a pretty standard-issue, sex-positive advice column: A guy ― who, to his credit, wanted to learn how to last longer with his digits and not throw in the towel ― wrote in and got quality advice from an expert source, but half of the commenters acted like he should know better.
Play, the expert whose book was quoted in the column, told HuffPost he isn’t surprised by that.
“I see this a lot,” he said. “Learning about sex still makes most men feel like they’re reading ‘Sex for Dummies.’ We still believe sex is all about talent rather than skill.”
There’s a stigma around sex education in general, and a stigma around adults looking to advance themselves beyond the abysmal sex ed they received in school. That stigma is especially strong for men, Play said.
“You’re not supposed to have to educate yourself and yet, bros have no problem sharing advice about which protein powder to buy and which bench press technique they use,” he said.
As Play details in his book, there’s a common belief that sex should be instinctual; sexual connection should just “click” with a partner, rather than come as a result of communicating what’s worked in the past for each of you.
“This myth is fueled by poor sex education programs, which take for granted that age-appropriate teens can just figure out the pleasure part of sex on their own,” he writes.
Our model of sexuality is further complicated by porn, Play says. In the absence of quality, comprehensive sexual education in public schools (abstinence-only is still stressed in some states), men turn to highly exaggerated porn for an ad hoc education. Straight women suffer the sad, orgasm-less consequences.
“We leave people literally stumbling around in the dark trying to navigate their sexual connections with no social or cultural support,” he writes in the book. “It’s important to look at these cultural influences and figure out, on an individual level, how do we each manage our own sex lives?”
Culturally, we expect men to take the lead in bed, but how are they supposed to take command and deal with performance expectations when they’re thoroughly discouraged from learning?
Instead of laughing at the Fingering Guy, we should be applauding him for taking the initiative to get his girlfriend off, said Sadie Allison, a sex educator and author, and founder and CEO of sex toy boutique TickleKitty.
“I think it’s fabulous that he cares about his girlfriend’s pleasure and tries his best to please her in the way she likes,” Allison told HuffPost.
“I commend him for taking it as far as he could and even tried switching hands,” she said. “And when that didn’t solve the issue, reaching out for expert advice on how to finger longer, well, props to him I say.”
Allison had some advice for Fingering Guy, too, and anyone else wanting to improve in this department. Instead of using and bending at the wrist or elbow when fingering, she said, use the motion of your entire firm arm, with the back-and-forth movement happening at your shoulder joint.
“So basically, find the right position, with the right angle of your fingers, wrist and arm, then keep everything in place as if your entire arm is the toy, with fingers at the end being inside but again, nothing moves but your shoulder joint,” she said.