My first boyfriend was more than 6 years older than me. I was a virgin and he had plenty of sexual experience from one night stands and also from longer-term relationships with women. It was natural that the first time we had intercourse, he took the lead and lead the activity. I just waited for something to happen. Nothing did. I was amazed and devastated that the whole experience was totally lacking in both physical and erotic sensation.
Thereafter I was quick to show initiative and explore my lover’s body and his responsiveness. I thought that the penis was an amazing phenomenon. I certainly had nothing to compete with the attention-grabbing changes that occur when a man is sexually aroused. I was fascinated by the way in which his penis grew in my hand and then shrivelled back to its tiny size after he had ejaculated. I enjoyed kissing him and touching him because of his easy response and evident pleasure from the physical interaction. I accepted his desire to stimulate me in a similar way. But none of it worked the miracles for me that it did for him. My body seemed to be inert to all forms of stimulation, whether directly genital or general body stimulation.
Rather than switching off and losing interest in activity that did nothing for me, I decided to take a more proactive role that focused on pleasuring my partner. I felt that by doing this, I was demonstrating my lack of sexual inhibition and my enjoyment of activity focused on my lover’s arousal and orgasm. I had read a great deal of erotic literature and was familiar with the techniques for pleasuring a man. Years later, I appreciated that male orgasm is the goal of sociable sexual activity. A woman orgasms alone.
Although I assumed a proactive role, this role focused on pleasuring my lover. I had nothing to offer in terms of what he could do to pleasure me. I was open to him trying whatever he could think of. But cunnilingus did nothing for me. Manual stimulation of the clitoral glans was uncomfortable. The techniques that I used alone were not compatible with sexual activity with a lover. Not only was it impossible to achieve the mental block-out that I needed to focus on surreal fantasy but the position I needed to assume was incompatible with penetrative sex or interaction with a lover.
Responsiveness occurs subconsciously. We have no conscious choice over what arouses us. If women were aroused with a lover, then women would orgasm reliably every time, just as men do. Female orgasm would not be a mystery, or a male turn-on and no one would talk about it. The different ways in which women are observed responding with a lover are clearly a result of conscious behaviours rather than subconscious responses.
Having a man love me and want to have sex with me is necessary to my happiness. It gives me a feeling of being worthwhile if I can turn a man on. (Shere Hite)
Excerpt from ‘Understanding Sexual Response’ (to be published 2023)