by Michelle Martinez

How the pleasure gap contributes to low sexual desire among women

March 22, 2020 | Social Leadership

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Women are taught to be desirable, but not to explore their own desire

…young women were being assailed with messages about how to primp their sexuality for public consumption, but at the same time society was steadily guiding them away from cultivating and expressing their own wants.

Katherine Rowland, The Pleasure Gap

The narrative that women have a lower sex drive than men is bullshit.

It only seems that way because of (at least) two interconnected cultural forces that make it hard for women to believe that sex is for them.

Sexual objectification makes it difficult to feel safe AND sexual at the same time

That women struggle in near epidemic numbers to inhabit their own bodies speaks to the extent to which we continue to feel objectified, sexualized, stressed, scared, judged, undervalued, and hemmed in.

Katherine Rowland, The Pleasure Gap

First, the constant sexual objectification and evaluation of women and their bodies creates an uncomfortable tension: when we feel we are meeting the standard for beauty and sexiness, we might feel hot and powerful to some extent, but that feeling is usually accompanied by a fear of unwanted attention that may be heading our way.

It can often feel as though our bodies are being judged as either “not hot enough” to be worthy of desire and attention, or they are “too sexy,” and people are therefore entitled to comment, harass, leer, or slut-shame.

Makes it difficult to feel sexual and safe at the same time. And it sucks to have to choose between those two things.

Cultural representations of sexuality are so male-centric that sex seems to be a masculine act itself

Psychologist Sara McClelland at the University of Michigan has found that young women often measure their own fulfillment by the yardstick of their mates’ pleasure.

Katherine Rowland, The Pleasure Gap

Because we are all breathing the same patriarchal air, men and women alike have learned to view sex from the male perspective. We think intercourse DEFINES “actual” sex, even though that’s not the most reliable way for women to reach climax.

Even being orgasm-driven favors masculine energy over the feminine, who takes pleasure in the journey, craves deep presence, mystery, surrender, slowness, anticipation, the wave-like build-up of sensation and energy, and states of mental emptiness that create space for spiritual expansion and connection with the Divine Presence in your partner and in yourself.

But instead, so many women end up thinking that the most amazing sex is achieved by having big tits, tight abs, and a fat ass so that her partner can get hard and cum hard. Being sexually DESIRED has become more important than actually experiencing the depths and expansiveness of her own sexual pleasure.

Growing up, I got the impression that sex was a “guy” thing. People joked all the time about how men want it and women tolerate it. There weren’t a lot of women in my private world or in the public eye modeling what it was like to want sex on terms that were different from what men wanted. Sexuality was dominated by male sexuality, and it took me YEARS to realize the two were not the same.

It’s about energetic balance

I’m not trying to knock male sexuality or masculine sexual energy. I actually adore it! But it’s not enough on its own. It’s not enough for men OR for women on its own. We need to create environments for women to feel safe AND sexual in their bodies so that the gifts of their sexual nature can benefit us all.

Creating a cultural environment where women’s sexuality can thrive

In the absence of changing the circumstances in which women do enjoy sex — circumstances that make them feel safe, secure, deserving, happy, stimulated, and free — authentic and consistent pleasure, for many, will likely remain out of reach.”

Katherine Rowland, The Pleasure Gap

We have to stop telling girls and women how to be wanted, “primp[ing[ themselves for public consumption” as Katherine Rowland put it, and instead encourage them to cultivate and express their own desires. The things that turn women on and feel good to them sexually aren’t always the same as what is most sexually satisfying to men, but they are equally valid, equally erotic, equally important.

And we have to make it clear that women do not have to look like Victoria Secret models or take flattering photos of themselves on Instagram to be sexually empowered and worthy of desire.

These are the cultural shifts that must take place if we want women’s sexuality to thrive.

And we do, don’t we?

About the author, Michelle Martinez


With degrees in Psychology and Public Health, and VITA-certification as a Sex, Love, and Relationship Coach, Female Sexuality Coach, and Tantric Sex Coach, Michelle is on a mission to help women re-establish loving, pleasurable, and powerful relationships with their bodies and sexuality through mindfulness, tantra, and cultural change.

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