My partner likes to take photographs of my genitalia while we are having sex. Note that I have no similar desire to photograph his penis! He enjoys seeing my labia slightly swollen and the lubrication that comes from my vagina. One morning when I was busy eating breakfast, he walked up and put his phone in front of my face. It showed a closeup of my labia surrounded by pubic hair. He pointed out the glistening of the lubrication. I abruptly repulsed him saying that I did not want to see it. Despite his obvious joy and desire to share the image, I was irritated that he could be so oblivious to my dislike of genital images. I am not even conscious of any arousal with a lover. I might enjoy images of a little furry puppy but not images of my own genitalia that are non-emotive folds of pink hairy flesh.
A man must find this hard to accept because images of genitals and reminders of sexual activity are so arousing for them. [i] Men don’t appreciate that a woman cannot see her genitals easily no matter what sexual activity she is engaged in. During masturbation alone, I lie face down and typically I have my eyes closed. Often it is night-time and the room is dark. I don’t give any thought to my genitals and how they might look. My whole focus is on the fantasy in my head. The stimuli I respond to are not graphic or well-focused visual images. They are concepts that relate to penetration.
Naturally, the vagina is fascinating erotic to a heterosexual man given his drive to impregnate women. But I have never found the vagina remoting interesting. My only interaction with my vagina is when I push a tampon into it to absorb the blood flow during my period. So I fantasize about anal sex and fellatio both of which are much more erotic. I cannot feel anything from intercourse because the vagina expands easily to allow the penis to penetrate. Given many women’s dislike of explicit genital details, I have concluded that women accept intercourse because there is no sensation. Both fellatio and anal sex represent activities that are much more explicit for a woman than vaginal intercourse. For this reason I have found homosexual erotic literature to be much more interesting and useful for arousal than heterosexual literature, which focuses on women’s sexual anatomy.
But equally the attitude of the participants is different. In heterosexual erotica, the woman is often portrayed as a slut. She feels that what she is doing is whorish or obscene. Her thoughts focus on what the man is doing to her. Gay men are much more positive about the sexual pleasure they enjoy. They describe their lover’s anatomy and responses in explicit detail.
[i] The male may be continuously stimulated by seeing the female, by engaging in erotic conversation … Perhaps two-thirds of the females find little … arousal in such psychologic stimuli. (Alfred Kinsey)
Excerpt from ‘Understanding Sexual Response’ (to be published 2023)