The other day, my Facebook feed showed me a Women’s Health article titled "5 Sex Positions You Should Finish With For An Orgasmic Grand Finale." It reads, “You’ve probably nailed down one or two positions that work best for you to reach your peak during sex.”
Women’s Health, did you miss the memo on female anatomy? Are you unaware that the only position that reliably gives women an “orgasmic grand finale” is clitoral stimulation?
It seems you are, so let me inform you: Only a quarter of women consistently orgasm during intercourse. Even then, they’re usually orgasming only because they’re getting clitoral stimulation at the same time. Most women have not, in fact, “nailed down” any positions that make them orgasm, because they don’t predictably orgasm in any sex position at all — if, that is, you define “sex” as “penis-in-vagina intercourse.”
Which you appear to be doing.
This could have been an opportunity for you to expand your readers’ definition of sex. To suggest a “grand finale” of oral sex or fingering or vibrator play so that women could actually orgasm rather than attempting (and failing) to do so through intercourse. To let them know it’s OK to initiate sexual acts that don’t also stimulate their partners’ genitals. To let them know that not every sexual act must involve a penis — and not every partner needs to have one.
Trying to convince women — most of whom already know through experience that their clitoris is the most reliable route to orgasm — that they actually have a holy grail in their vaginas is a form of gaslighting. It teaches them that they don’t know their own bodies and instead must rely on a man to unlock their capacity for pleasure.
But your article is not the first of its kind. In 2013, you gave your readers false hope with an article titled “The 9 Best Sex Positions That Practically Guarantee an Orgasm.” Meanwhile, Cosmo is still promising its readers “11 Sex Positions Pretty Much Guaranteed to Help You Orgasm” and “8 Orgasmic Positions Guaranteed to Get You Off.”
In the meantime, men’s magazines are doing their part to ensure men are just as misinformed as women. Men’s Health has offered men “4 Sex Positions That Guarantee Her Orgasm” and “10 Sex Positions That Make Her Orgasm Hard” (and by “hard” I don’t think they mean difficult). Muscle and Fitness rounded up “26 Sex Positions That'll Get Her Off Every Time,” including missionary, doggy style, woman on top, and every other position women are having orgasmless sex in every day.
Perhaps these magazines don’t know how deeply insecure they’re making women feel. But I know firsthand.
Thanks to articles like these, I grew up expecting that one day, my vagina would develop the sensitivity to respond to a penis’s thrusting the way my clitoris responded to my hand. When that didn’t happen, I figured I needed to try a new position. And when no position worked — even the ones “guaranteed” to make women orgasm — I wondered what was wrong with me.
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“Articles on the ‘best sex positions for her orgasm’ are harmful and shaming to the vast majority of women,” says Laurie Mintz, University of Florida psychology professor and author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It. “They not only imply that intercourse is the most important part of sex, but that women should be able to orgasm from intercourse if they only do it right (aka, get themselves in the right position). This is simply not true! The vast majority of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone, no matter what position they are in! Most need more direct clitoral stimulation (e.g., with a tongue, a hand, a vibrator) than an intercourse position can provide. Articles that promise amazing orgasms from an intercourse position are misleading and result in many women thinking there is something wrong with them when those magic positions don’t lead to magic (or any) results.”
Trying to convince women — most of whom already know through experience that their clitoris is the most reliable route to orgasm — that they actually have a holy grail in their vaginas is a form of gaslighting. It teaches them that they don’t know their own bodies and instead must rely on a man to unlock their capacity for pleasure. Rather than encourage women to teach their partners what works for them (which those partners would probably love to know), sex position articles teach women to ignore their own self-knowledge and assume men know better.
Headlines like “Best Positions for Her Orgasm” are the worst offenders, but sex position articles are problematic as a whole. Nearly every women’s publication has endless lists: Sex positions for big penises. Sex positions for small penises. Sex positions for when you’re feeling tired. Sex positions for when you’re feeling adventurous. Christmas sex positions. Halloween sex positions.
How many sex positions do we actually need to know? I get the appeal of novelty in the bedroom, but there are really only about a dozen real positions. Everything else is either variations on them with silly names or just plain old acrobatics. This turns sex into more of an achievement rather than a pleasurable activity.
But more importantly, rather than teach women about a variety of sex acts — including ones they get more pleasure out of — these articles reinforce the message that the most important, valid form of sex is penis-in-vagina intercourse.
And by doing so, they erase couples that don’t include someone with a penis and someone with a vagina. This heteronormativity limits everyone. Regardless of sexual orientation, there’s much more to sex than “insert slot A into slot B and move in and out.”
We will not have achieved gender equality until half the positions in sex position articles are for oral or manual sex performed on those with vulvas and at least some are for LGBT couples. (And no, mentioning that a position could be performed with a strap-on instead of a penis doesn’t count as LGBT-inclusive.)
So, sex position articles, please stop imposing your useless advice on me. I already know about more positions than I’ll ever have the chance to try — none of which “guarantee” my orgasm. If I’m ever looking for another position to not come in, I’ll know where to find you. Until then, GTFO of my newsfeed.