Asking for What You Need: Inequality in Sexual Encounters

Sexual Health Columnist

There is an unfortunate trend I have noticed in my experience with the hookup culture at the 5Cs and beyond: sexual encounters seem to be completely male centric. Now, this is not a blanket statement, just me speaking from personal experience and from talking to my friends about their experiences. This is also only addressing heterosexual encounters. I’m bisexual but it’s an aspect of my sexuality that I’m only just starting to explore, so I cannot (yet) speak to these types of encounters.

There seems to be an unspoken rule that as soon as the guy has achieved orgasm, the hookup is over. There is little to no attention paid to the woman’s pleasure, at least in the experiences of myself and of people I have talked to. Since it’s rarely addressed, reaching orgasm as a woman is not something I’ve ever expected out of a sexual encounter; I’ve just learned to enjoy myself without it, and I find that this is a problematic trend for a lot of people. In my experiences, it is very seldom that a guy has paid much attention to my pleasure, and when he does, it’s such a rare gem that I’m so grateful for any little effort he makes. The only sexual partner who has actually gotten me to orgasm was someone I dated for two years; any hookup in college has been very one-sided.

This should not be the typical case for college hook-ups. Why should equal care of a partner’s pleasure be so rare and so surprising when it actually happens? When someone pays attention to your pleasure, it’s not like they deserve the Nobel Prize; they’re just being fair. Both partners should reach orgasm, if that’s the goal.

However, if a partner ever does try to get me to orgasm, I somehow feel guilty. I feel like they’re spending too much time on me or I worry that I’m boring them. It’s not rude to ask for equality in the bedroom though; female-bodied individuals should not put their pleasure aside. We are just as deserving of achieving orgasm as our male-bodied counterparts. Asking for what you want can be scary, especially if you aren’t used to it. One suggestion is to start small, by saying things like “can you go down on me for like 10 seconds?” One time a hookup of mine got me very close to orgasm, but then he stopped and I didn’t say anything or ask him to keep going. When I later told him, he was disappointed that I hadn’t spoken up and told him. The point is that our partners cannot read our minds, so don’t be afraid to let them know what you want. Put yourself in their shoes — would you be open and receptive if your partner shared their desires with you? Most likely, you’d say yes, so they probably will too. Your wants matter. If you bring a desire up and your partner isn’t interested or doesn’t feel comfortable or ready to do it, that’s okay, and should be respected. Everybody has comfort levels and limits, but starting a dialogue and at least asking for something you want is important. Having a partner you’re comfortable with is helpful; you can communicate with your partner and have a discussion about your needs and wants.