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What Can We Learn About Sex And Pleasure From 5 Different Generations Of Women?

We asked five generations of women the same five questions about sex and orgasms

This week a very, very important day may have passed you by. No, it wasn’t your mother-in-law’s birthday, or a second Brexit referendum, it was the beauty that is National Orgasm Day. Essentially, the day upon which we are virtually obliged to pick up our favourite vibrators, stretch our best non-cramping hand and give our favourite ex-lovers a ring.

And National Orgasm Day or not, it's always a good time to have an open dialogue about sex, not just with our friends and peers of our own age, but with every single generation of women. Because, let's face it, when was the last time you had an honest conversation with a woman 20 or 30 years your senior about sex?

Having these honest conversations matter. 68% of straight women state they have faked an orgasm, according to a 2017 survey by Dr. Ed, with 67% of bisexual women and 59% of gay women also admitting to faking it at least once. According to the research, women were more likely to fake an orgasm with a partner because they didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Essentially, when it comes down to the crux of it, we’re all still just too uncomfortable to openly talk about sex, even with our partners, so much so that our sex lives suffer for it. And when you think about it, it’s not surprising. It’s 2018, and the majority of sex that we’re exposed to publicly, either through porn, film or TV, shows sex ending when a male partner orgasms. In heterosexual depictions of sex, it’s ALL about serving male pleasure, with female pleasure simply a by-product of that. It would be naïve to think that this unfair approach to pleasure hasn’t impacted our sex lives in real life.

But as we get older, have more sex and realise all of these inequalities, do our attitudes to sex change? Surely, one would hope, by the time we’re 50 or 60, having had more sex than ever, we have had enough of this unfair standard and demand more from our sex lives. With that being said, we’ve decided to investigate this very issue, and find out just how our attitudes to sex change over time by asking women from every generation the same five questions about sex…

Eve* 23, currently in a monogamous relationship…

Have you ever had difficulty reaching orgasm, if so, how did you tackle it?

When it comes to my solo sex life, I have never had difficulty reaching orgasm as I have always been quite in touch with my body and what feels good, which for a long time was just clitoral stimulation. So, when I started having sex with partners that involved penetration, although the new sensation was enjoyable, I found it difficult to orgasm as I wasn’t used to it at all. My tip for all young women who are experiencing the same thing is to practice! I think we probably find masturbation and solo sex so pleasurable as we are able to control it and many of us have been doing it for years by the time we have sex with a partner, so don’t expect them to be able to learn your body and what you like overnight. Spend time enjoying new sensations without the goal of orgasm and let your body get used to enjoying new types of pleasure and keep enjoying sex with yourself!

Can you describe your best orgasm and how it happened?

My best ever orgasm, which I remember well and think of often, happened about 5 years into me having partnered sex. The man it was with has had multiple partners and sexual experiences which I think was a key factor. He really took his time to focus on and respond to my body and what was feeling good for me. It didn't just focus on my vagina but involved my whole body so my arousal level was far higher than usual as different parts of my body were being stimulated during sex. I was so into the moment I stopped trying to ‘look sexy’ and just focused on the pleasure which resulted in the most intense and longest orgasm I’d ever had.

Has your attitude to sex changed over time?

As a teenager, I bought into society’s sexphobic and misogynistic ideas about women and their sexuality – I thought that my sexuality was okay because it was only ever geared towards one person at a time. I thought that just because I liked to use sex to build intimacy and a deeper connection with other people, that everyone was the same and those who had multiple overlapping partners lacked emotional depth or acted from places of insecurity. I realise now, having had more experience and educating myself on women’s sexual liberation, that while sex can be a great way to connect with others, anonymous or casual hook ups aren’t any less valid or less pleasurable, and perhaps more importantly, people who enjoy casual sex aren’t shallow or unfulfilled!

When does sex end for you and what happens afterwards?

Sex for me ends when both myself and my partner are satisfied and ready to stop. This doesn’t always have to mean orgasm! Working a high-pressure job with long hours means I don’t always have the time and energy that I used to be able to give to sex as a student, and I’ve done a lot of work on myself to understand that if my partner doesn’t finish or isn’t in the mood it is Not About Me (this took me a long time to realise and probably involved me sex shaming previous partners). I’ve been in a relationship for a while now, and as I mentioned I like to use sex as a way to connect, so it is usually followed by staying close and cozying up in bed together to talk, watch a film or sleep.

What advice would you give to your younger self about orgasm?

I would tell my younger self two things. Firstly, it’s not a race! Relax and enjoy everything that happens before and after, stop caring what you look like and don’t worry about things like ‘if I take too long he will judge me’. Thinking like that just reinforces the idea that male pleasure is more important and it’s only going to make you anxious and unable to get there anyway. Secondly, my orgasm is just as important as my partner’s! While I would never fake it now, I have lost count of the times I did this when I was younger, and for what purpose? To nurse the fragile ego of an inexperienced boy? Tragic. Put your pleasure first!

Vicky, 30, currently in a monogamous relationship…

Have you ever had difficulty reaching orgasm, if so, how did you tackle it?

Yes! Sadly. For years I found it really hard to orgasm, but I never said anything. Then, I entered into a long-term relationship where I finally felt comfortable enough to be completely myself and spoke openly about it. I think this is the key - honesty and communication. If you're with someone who doesn't initiate this conversation and make your pleasure a priority...run for the hills.

Can you describe your best orgasm and how it happened?

That's tough one. I'm not sure I can remember one specific orgasm to be honest, but I remember a few which have all fuzzed together - all multiple orgasms that went on for what felt like hours and were so intense that I literally could not think about anything else - which is a blessing if you're worrier like me. I can say for sure that they would have come about because of oral sex and almost definitely have occurred while I was on holiday.

Has your attitude to sex changed over time?

Yes, hold tight, this is really boring…I don't obsess over how much I'm getting. I don't have as much sex as I did 5 years ago in my mid-twenties. For a while I was really annoyed by this and felt like life was short changing me. Now, I'm more chilled about because life is busy and you can't turn sex into another thing to tick off your to do list. I tried this, it wasn't fun.

When does sex end for you and what happens afterwards?

Sex ends when you've both orgasmed and/or run out of time and have to go to the lunch or dinner or a meeting that you're late for. What happens afterwards really depends on how late I'm running but, ideally, nothing happens afterwards except...maybe...more sex.

What advice would you give to your younger self about orgasm?

Expect better.

Lauren*, 46, married with two children…

Have you ever had difficulty reaching orgasm, if so, how did you tackle it?

Actually no, I’ve never had any difficulty!

Can you describe your best orgasm and how it happened?

This is a hard one. Probably when I’ve had multiple orgasms in a variety of positions. I like to change things around, however that doesn’t mean I prefer quantity over quality…

Has your attitude to sex changed over time?

Yes, I am much more open minded now. When you’re young it’s easy to judge other people’s sex lives, but now I wouldn’t do that. Each to their own as they say…

When does sex end for you and what happens afterwards?

I think sex ends when the man is satisfied, then I'll have a wash or shower. I’m not a cuddler afterwards…

What advice would you give to your younger self about orgasm?

I’d tell myself not to be ashamed or embarrassed about sex or orgasms as they are completely natural. At first, I thought what I was doing was dirty and wrong, and that I was the only one doing it.

Karen, 53, single with four children…

Have you ever had difficulty reaching orgasm, if so, how did you tackle it?

Yes, and I divorced it, and got a battery-operated friend…

Can you describe your best orgasm and how it happened?

All of my best ones are when me and my battery-operated friend have the house to ourselves!

Has your attitude to sex changed over time?

Attitude wise, I used to think it was a substantial part of a loving relationship. Now I feel more that's it's the icing on the cake.

When does sex end for you and what happens afterwards?

This depends on time of day, (and children) during the day it would be to hang around naked, cuddling and chatting. The same for evenings, but at night I'm more of a quick cuddle the go asleep.

What advice would you give to your younger self about orgasm?

I would tell my younger self to buy a vibrator and have fun, because then at least you know how to please you!

Claudia*, 60, married with two children…

Have you ever had difficulty reaching orgasm, if so, how did you tackle it?

When I first tried to masturbate in my very late teens, I thought it was maybe a bit dirty and it may be the start of me slipping down a slippery slope of promiscuity, so that affected by ability to orgasm a lot. I’ve never had issue in long term relationships where I totally trusted the guy was emotionally attached to me and really into me but I have had trouble when I had suspicion that the guy was not as emotionally involved.

Can you describe your best orgasm and how it happened?

It’s hard to say best ever, but I’ve had the best strongest orgasms in my mid 30s when I was more liberated about sex for pure pleasure.

Has your attitude to sex changed over time?

Yes, in my 20s I was very restrained and was very concerned about looking like I was enjoying sex too much in case I was thought of as a bit easy, or had too much experience, if that makes sense.

When does sex end for you and what happens afterwards?

I’m quite selfish really, I like it to end as soon as possible when I’ve had my orgasm! I do like to cuddle afterwards though.

What advice would you give to your younger self about orgasm?

That sex is a natural act and we are programmed to enjoy it. I guess to be a bit less uptight about sex in general!

The conclusion...

The most common theme amongst women of all ages then? That we all need to relax when it comes to sex, whether it's stressing about how we look, how much we're having or what people think of us because of it. Essentially, we're put under a lot of pressure when it comes to sex. To put on a performance and to have enough of it yet not enough for people to think we somehow don't respect ourselves. As we get older, we seemingly realise that caring about all of those things is a waste of time, and a massive barrier to the best thing about sex: orgasms (or kids, should I say kids? It's not really kids though is it).

The most surprising outcome of these answers - well to my mind at least - is actually that women demand orgasms from their partners (or battery-operated friends) regardless of age. Ok, maybe as a woman it's actually not that surprising, but if we were to consider public depictions of sex as reality, that would be one shocking revelation. It seems that porn, TV and films have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to showing what sex is really like...

*names have been changed

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