Great Britain

We’ll never have equality until we can talk more openly about orgasms and masturbation

What do your orgasms smell of? Gwyneth Paltrow’s smell of “tart grapefruit, neroli and ripe cassis berries”, apparently.

But aside from the marketing behind Goop’s new This Smells Like My Orgasm candle, it is at least making female arousal a talking point.

A study found that only 65% of heterosexual women are regularly orgasming, compared with 95% of men.* Could the “orgasm gap” be the next frontier of feminism?

It took me a long time to realise my own orgasmic potential. Like many women of a certain age, I got most of my sex education from watching Sex And The City.

Although I wasn’t a Samantha, who climaxes every time she has sex (“When I RSVP to a party, I make it my business to come”), there were times when sex felt more amazing and also not so amazing, even if I didn’t really understand why.

It didn’t help that TV and films (not to mention porn) give the impression that it takes women only a few thrusts before they’re writhing around in ecstasy, leaving most of us in the When Harry Met Sally camp, ie. really good at faking it.

But a few years ago I was invited to an orgasm workshop in London. Although I went along feeling cynical, I came out enlightened. We did breathing exercises and visualisations.

We shared our stories – from the woman who had been married 40 years and had never had an orgasm, to the lady who didn’t like her “come face”. I learned there are many types of orgasm – clitoral, vaginal and anal to name a few – and that I actually knew very little about my own anatomy.

I discovered that the male arousal cycle typically takes three minutes, whereas for women it’s anything between 30 minutes to an hour and a half. 

After that day I realised that, rather than waiting for my partners to step up, I needed to take responsibility for my own sexual pleasure. Thankfully, there’s never been a better time as a woman to explore your own body.

Gone are the days of rabbit-shaped sex toys in lurid pink packaging – today’s stylishly designed “sex tech” uses the latest innovation and look more like luxury beauty products. Lelo, Smile Makers and Dame are a few companies to check out.

There’s also a wealth of sex-positive, female-focused pornography, erotic podcasts and websites such as available, which have instructional videos featuring real women.

Given all the health benefits of orgasms – they’re said to boost your immune system, improve skin, help you sleep and activate dopamine (the motivating hormone) – we need to view sexual wellbeing as something we do for ourselves, rather than just within the context of hooking up or when we’re in relationships.

I’ve been thrilled to find out that many of my female friends have been using lockdown and the extra time on their hands (so to speak) to explore their bodies – and that sex toy sales are reflecting this.

But it’s baffling to me that when a new curriculum for sex education is introduced to schools in September, pleasure will remain off the agenda. Until we can talk more openly about orgasms, we’ll never have equality.

So maybe it’s time to build masturbation into your regular self-care routine, too. We all wanted to come out of lockdown having learned a new skill. Feeling sexually fulfilled? Infinitely more satisfying than gardening. 

Gwyneth Paltrow now selling 'sexy' $75 candle that smells like her orgasm after controversial vagina edition

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