I am a shamelessly sexually expressive woman who, evidently, still had a lot to learn at the Sexual Health Expo (SHE) in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint last weekend. I ventured into an unassuming warehouse transformed into a passion playroom, which exuded sexual energy by way of sex-positive, pro-pleasure seminars, toy exhibitions and product demonstrations.
The annual event, which celebrates sexuality and choice in a society that all-too-often shames it, was crawling with keenly curious consumers of all genders, sexual identities, races, ages and erotic desires. Spending a weekend in an adult playroom was nothing short of edifying, liberating and stimulating. It was a weekend spent creating positive affirmations surrounding self-pleasure, which can and does lead to better partnered sex and thus allows healthier relationships to ensue.
In the ultimate judgement-free zone, I talked with sexperts and leading sex toy aficionados who extolled the virtues of vibrating cock rings, tingling lube and modern-day flesh-lights that’ve taken upwards of 11 years of research.
Exhibitors included everything from We-Vibe, The Pleasure Chest, The Rabbit Company, Babeland, The Bodywand, Satisfyer, Joyboxx, Doc Johnson, OVO Lifestyle Toys and more. And seminars spanned topics from “Butt Sex Basics” and “Big, Fat, Hot Sex” to “The United State(s) of Masturbation” with clinical sexologist, host of the LoveLines podcast and weekly expert on The Amber Rose Show, Dr. Chris Donaghue and a live Sex With Emily podcast with Twitter’s #1 sex and relationship expert and Bravo TV star of Miss Advised, Dr. Emily Morse.
It was easy to talk about sex toys in an environment where pretty much everyone uses them. In fact, pretty much everyone masturbates anyway—more so than the general public assumes.
TENGA, which designs pleasure products for men and exhibited at the event, released a study of 1,200 Americans on their perceptions of masturbation, The United State(s) of Masturbation. What they found: At 88 percent, nearly everyone masturbates. And, contrary to popular belief, the gender gap isn’t so vast; an estimated 95 percent of men do it, compared to 81 percent of women. Many masturbate for sexual pleasure, but many also do so to relieve sexual tension, aid sleep and relieve stress. For women, who, on average, masturbate eight times a month, their pain threshold can increase up to 107 percent during orgasm. So, masturbating—if orgasm is the goal—can be a natural painkiller that’ll last up to 10 minutes.
That said, 54 percent of people feel uncomfortable discussing masturbation. Due to embarrassment and fear of being judged, 36 percent of men and 22 percent of women admitted to lying about masturbation.
We live in a world where talking about sex is taboo—the same world where one in three women struggle to achieve orgasm during partnered sex. That number can climb to 80 percent in regard to vaginal penetration alone, because more than 70 percent of women have orgasms from direct clitoral stimulation. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t communicate our sexual needs and desires. On average, it takes a woman 20 minutes to orgasm with a partner, while some have reported climax with merely 30 seconds of masturbation, likely because they understand their own bodies.
I caught up with Dr. Emily Morse at SHE for her best advice for women who are ready to talk about what they want, and need, from partnered sex. And they’re not afraid to admit that they know it because they do it themselves.
My conundrum is: If we’re masturbating, 30 percent of women say it actually feels better than sexual experiences with another person. So does that set us up for unrealistic expectations in bed?
I think the reason why is because, for a lot of women, it’s a challenge orgasming during intercourse. In fact, only 30 percent of women can orgasm during penetration without extra clitoral stimulation, so I think that a lot of them are like, I’ll have sex, but I’m not going to have an orgasm. And I’m not comfortable enough yet showing guys what I want—and I’m going to have to make a weird orgasm face, or I’m going to have to rub my clitoris and tell him what to do, and I don’t feel like going through that. I’d rather just get off. That’s what I always emphasize on my show: Communication is a lubrication. Talk to your partner and show them what you want. Your partner is going to think that’s sexy. You’re going to get off more, and you’ll enjoy sex more.
Communication is a lubrication. Talk to your partner and show them what you want.
In terms of other ways of getting yourself ready: Kegel exercises. You have a whole app about this!
Yes, Kegel Camp. It’s for your pelvic floor. Men can do them, as well—men should do them. It helps men stay harder longer and orgasm. For women, it helps increase their libido, it helps women have strong orgasms, it helps women during childbirth… These muscles in your pelvic floor, we don’t use them all the time. And if you work these pee-stopping muscles—you stop and start the flow of urine—for five minutes a day, hold and tense those muscles, you’ll have stronger pelvic floor muscles. My app reminds you to do it and walks you through 20 levels. The more you do them, your sexual energy awakens. You want more sex. You can have way easier of a G-spot orgasm… We’re just more in touch with our sexual energy.
What would you say are your biggest tips to get women to that point—more sexually open, aware, mindful?
Masturbate, number one. Know your own body. A lot of women believe that some day my prince will come, and so will I. No, don’t wait for any prince on a horse. Figure out your own body. Nobody else has the keys to your own sexual pleasures. Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate.
Know your body, and also communicate. Talk to your partner about what you want. Don’t worry about shame and judgment. A lot of women think guys think, if she knows her own body, she’s slutty. If a guy does think that, he’s not the right guy for you. And most healthy men with healthy relationships are like, Hell yeah, show me what to do. I don’t know what to do with your vagina because my ex-girlfriend wanted this different thing and you don’t want that, because every woman is different. If you give me a penis, I can figure that out. Women and their vaginas are all different. You put a hundred women in a room, and they’re all going to orgasm in a different way. So communicate with your partner.
A lot of women believe that some day my prince will come, and so will I. No, don’t wait for any prince on a horse. Figure out your own body.
Thirdly, I would say, use lube. Lube is the most underrated sexual condiment. Women who use lube more are more likely to orgasm during sex. It doesn’t mean that you’re too dry; you can already be wet. Add a few drops of lube, rub it on your clitoris before sex—it’s foolproof.
For more on masturbation, check out my interview with Dr. Chris Donaghue on Made Man here!