Science is constantly trying to discover new ways to make a woman’s body tick. But should the bedroom be treated as a laboratory?
Does this headline sound familiar? “Science says there are actually eight different types of female orgasm.”
Or how about this one? “Study shows women have more powerful orgasms with a partner who is funny.”
Good stuff to know, and it just keeps going, as each new scientific study builds upon and/or disproves previous research. “Scientists find that that there are actually only two types of orgasm. No, wait, three if we count mind-gasms. No, wait, it’s all because of the clitoris. No, the G-spot. NO, actually it’s this totally NEW mega-pleasure-spot just DISCOVERED by scientists. Whoaa!”
Yes, there sure is a lot of scientific research constantly being done regarding the exact sexual mechanics of the female nether-regions. News outlets spew a surfeit of stories about the number and kind of orgasms a woman can have, the erogenous zones she can discover, and techniques that can be used to stimulate them. So with this massive amount of research and endless reporting, why are so many heterosexual women still having unfulfilling, flat-out bad sex?
Is it because men are just lazy and won’t put the time in to do their reading? Well, no, actually. The problem is, in part, because so many people do read these “Health and Science” section gems.
Take for example, the “skilled lover.” The skilled lover will “do” things “to” you. The skilled lover saw this thing to do to a woman where you press this one button, at this pace, at this angle. The skilled lover treats you like a machine that will produce the desired output if only given the proper input. The skilled lover is oh-so-knowledgeable and will even show you a thing or two about your own body. Rather than share in a magnificent, sometimes overwhelming experience with you, the skilled lover is “giving it” to you. You are the skilled lover’s experiment—their object.
But they’re supposed to be the good ones, because at least they’re not selfish, right? Those men are rewarded for being so “considerate,” sometimes even called “feminist” for having such “cliteracy.” They did their research. But if your encounter with the skilled lover leaves you feeling weird and still sexually unfulfilled, then what does work?
Lately, we’ve been getting some journalistic backlash from all the endless sex research telling you how your body works. The subversive conclusion these articles make is that every woman is different, thus, the fundamental nature of the subject of female sexuality, in a sense, resists scientific study. There is no one-size-fits-all guide to how things work, so we each need to figure it out for ourselves. Women like different things in the bedroom for a myriad of different reasons—whether they’re physiological, psychological, personal sexual history, fantasy, or personality. Each one of us is a special sex-snowflake.
This is all well and life-affirming, but the fundamental structure of the narrative of female sexuality stays the same. We are told that we are all different, but we still need to find the particular key to our particular pleasure: the certain technique, position, erogenous zone. It is our duty as powerful women to discover this magical formula to our sexual-self-actualization. We chase after rainbows just out of our reach. Even when we think we’ve found it, our bodies somehow change their mind. What worked before somehow doesn’t anymore.
It would seem that the skilled lover approach should still work in theory, even after taking the natural law of sex-snowflake-ism into account. If the skilled lover is very knowledgeable and experienced, he would know that all women are different. Thus, he would have a varying range of techniques, all of which he could test on his particular love-making partner to see what suits her. But alas, what does it mean when the sex laboratory still yields no eurekas? Could it be because laboratories are not sexy places? Or, could it be that what creates female sexual pleasure overflows the limits of what can be empirically observed and experimentally reproduced?
It looks like it’s back to the drawing board for unlocking the mysteries of female sexuality. When will its untold depths be brought to the light of reason? When will man finally have mastery over that dark continent of the female body? We may never know.
But, we will be there to report on it for you.
Susan Cox is a writer and academic in Philosophy specializing in questions of technology and personhood.