The Best You'll Ever Have
replaced with “frigidity” (a concern that went back to the early Freud days as well), which is defined as a lack of interest in intercourse or coldness to a husband’s advances. Frigidity was treated with muscle relaxants, hypnosis, and psychotherapy. In 1910, up to 75 percent of “civilized” women were thought be frigid (see how the numbers remain creepily consistent?). Turn-of-the-century radicals spoke out and suggested that hysteria and frigidity were both due to brutish treatment by husbands. But these dissidents were thought of as a bunch of crazies. As recently as the 1960s, doctors were actively discouraging men from satisfying their wives. Dr. Alexander Lowen, author of the 1965 book Love and Orgasm, was a student of Wilhelm Reich’s, who was looking into the orgasmic response and repression of sexuality, and Dr. Lowen had been writing on it himself since the early 1940s. By 1965, he knew and was clear in his writing that women needed direct clitoral stimulation to orgasm, but he made it clear that he empathized with the men at that time who thought that there was no good time to do this. He said that most men feel that bringing a woman to “climax through direct clitoral stimulation is a burden.” Before intercourse was a bad time because the man could lose his erection doing all that hard labor, during intercourse he could use a hand on the woman but then his penetrative rhythms might be disrupted, and after intercourse he wouldn’t be able to relax and the act would “be deprived of its mutual quality.” So even with doctors who understood women’s anatomy and sexual response, the male-centric focus of sex persevered.
    The diagnosis of “frigidity” also persevered, but its definition shifted slowly in the 1970s and 1980s from the inability to have a “vaginal orgasm” to “absence or lack of sexual pleasure sometimes to the extent of lack of orgasm.” Still, there were people writing about frigidity and cures in medical literature even in the late 1970s. Frigidity: What You Should Know about Its Cure with Hypnosis is one example, published in 1979, that was aimed at doctors and that was actually all about a new hypnosis technique to cure the same old illness as described in 1909. It didn’t get a very positive review in the Journal of Sex in 1980, so times have changed, but change sure does take a long time.
    It wasn’t until the 1970s that women’s sexual health and their need for orgasms their own way were taken seriously, and it had everything to do with women speaking up for themselves. That shift took place within my lifetime—and probably yours too. Its origins go back to Margaret Sanger, who promoted contraception and women’s health in the 1910s; it was was fueled by Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique among others and helped along by the formation of the National Organization for Women in 1966. But the first Our Bodies, Ourselves in 1970 was clearly one of the key moments in the shift toward acceptance of women’s health and sexuality from their own perspective. This book helped thousands of women learn about their own bodies and start living in them differently.
    Now, thirty-five years later, we still haven’t completely let go of the orgasm-through-intercourse-alone concept, as if simultaneous orgasm were the ultimate in sexual bliss. It is a romantic idea, and it can be done—especially if you add clitoral stimulation to intercourse. Remember though, we aren’t shaped the same way as men and our sexual response is different and perfectly normal. The motions that send them over aren’t the same motions that consistently send us. Their pace is different—they move through excitement and plateau much faster than we do. Plus, they usually control the movements during intercourse as they approach their orgasm. Instead of obsessing over simultaneous orgasm, just enjoy yourself and enjoy each other and have orgasms however your body wants them.

    Calling All

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