Human female sexuality
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Human female sexuality encompasses a broad range of issues, behavior and processes, including female sexual identity and sexual behavior, the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, and spiritual or religious aspects of sex. Various aspects and dimensions of female sexuality, as a part of human sexuality, have also been addressed by principles of ethics, morality, and theology. In almost any historical era and culture, the arts, including literary and visual arts, as well as popular culture, present a substantial portion of a given society's views on human sexuality, which also include implicitly or explicitly female sexuality. In most societies and legal jurisdictions, there are legal bounds on what sexual behavior is permitted. Sexuality varies across the cultures and regions of the world, and has continually changed throughout history, and this applies equally to female sexuality. Aspects of female sexuality include issues pertaining to biological sex, body image, self-esteem, personality, sexual orientation, values and attitudes, gender roles, relationships, and activity options, and communication.
The ultimate female sexual pleasure is the orgasm. However, women find it harder than men to experience orgasms due to the increased level of stimulation needed to reach them. Even though most women need more than just one type of sexual stimulation in order to achieve orgasms, the very important parts of the body to take into consideration are the clitoris and the vagina. The clitoris function may be to provide female sexual pleasure, or it could be a vestigial penis remaining from the embryo stage of development. Most women experience orgasms due to intense clitoral stimulation. One of the reasons why orgasms are easier to achieve when the clitoris is stimulated is that the clitoris is actually very easy to find. On the other hand, vaginal stimulation may be harder to achieve.
For some women, the most sensitive area in the body is the G-spot, while for others, it is the Clitoris. If properly stimulated, the G-spot may cause very strong orgasms, some stronger than the ones reached after clitoral stimulation. Women are able to experience multiple orgasms which can be serial multiple meaning they are experiencing several orgasms immediately one after another or sequential multiple orgasms, which are the orgasms that occur one after another but separated by few minutes. Even though multiple orgasms are very rarely experienced, they are not impossible. They are, in fact, the ultimate climax women can achieve.
Women are able to achieve multiple orgasms due to the fact that they do not require any kind of refractory period as men do after the first orgasm. Theoretically, if stimulation is not interrupted, most women should be able to achieve multiple orgasms. Achieving multiple orgasms is not as easy as it looks given that generally women reach orgasms with greater difficulty than men. The variety of erogenous zones that a woman has on her body and that can be stimulated are an advantage that women have and men do not.
During sexual intercourse, it is usual that men stop the stimulation process in a woman, and this may be one of the reasons why many women do not actually achieve more than one orgasm. However, some women do not want to be pressured into another orgasm while others are eager for more. Sometimes, female multiple orgasms are accompanied by female ejaculation which does not happen in men. There is one important difference between male and female multiple orgasms which is also the reason why men cannot ejaculate when they experience a multiple orgasm. Although the biological function of a woman's orgasm is not completely understood as it does not serve an essential purpose to human survival some theories suggest that muscular contractions associated with orgasms pull sperm from the vagina to the cervix, where it's in a better position to reach the egg.
The female erogenous zones are areas with nerve endings that increase the sensitivity and their stimulation results in sexual response. The aim of exploring the female erogenous areas is to prepare the woman for sexual intercourse by increasing her level of arousal in order to enjoy the act and potentially reach an orgasm. The erogenous zones are different from woman to woman and it is also likely that the stimulation of the erogenous areas that some women find pleasant and exciting may be impossible to bear for others.
However, there are certain spots that most of the women enjoy pleasant when touched or kissed. One of them is the earlobes. For others, the lips are a sensitive spot that, when touched, produces wonderful sensations. The lips are also a main erogeous zone due to the high number of nerve endings, and french kissing is a usual method to stimulate them. Since the breasts and the nipples are rich in nerve endings, they are also important erogenous areas. The neck, inner sides of the thighs, and the feet are also sensitive parts of a woman's body.
Historical conceptions of female sexuality
Representations of female sexuality date back to prehistoric times; there is clear evidence of the depiction of female fecundity in ancient Venus figurines. Fertility goddesses are common in many ancient cultures. In many cultures there are also gods of love, marriage, and sex.
In the ancient civilizations of India, Japan, and China, the subject of female sexuality was expressed in several writings and commentaries. For example, much of the Kama Sutra, an ancient treatise on sex and sexuality, deals with female sexuality.
Historically, female sexuality has been seen in many male-dominated cultures as subordinate to male sexuality, and as something to be controlled by society through restrictions on female behaviour.
Traditional cultural practices such as enforced modesty and chastity have historically tended to place restrictions principally on women, without imposing similar restrictions on men. Some controversial traditional cultural practices such as female genital cutting have been described as attempts at nullifying women's sexuality altogether. Other cultural practices such as honor killings threaten unsanctioned female sexual behaviour with death, often at the hands of the woman's own relatives.
Nevertheless, many studies have shown that women's actual sexual behaviour throughout history appears, like that of men, not to have been controlled anywhere near to the degree decreed by social orthodoxy.
Modern studies of female sexuality
In the modern age, psychologists and physiologists engaged in the task of exploring female sexuality. Sigmund Freud propounded the theory of two kinds of female orgasms, "the vaginal kind, and the clitoral orgasm." However, more recently studies (1960s) by Masters and Johnson reject this distinction. Further studies have revealed the existence of uterine orgasms, so there remains some debate. Ernst Gräfenberg was famous for his studies of female genitalia and human female sexual physiology; he published, among other studies, the seminal The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm (1950), which describes female ejaculation, as well as an erogenous zone where the urethra is closest to the vaginal wall. In 1981 sexologists John D. Perry and Beverly Whipple named that area the Gräfenberg spot, or G-spot, in his honour.
While the medical community has not embraced the whole concept of the "G-Spot", Dr. Sanger, Dr. Kinsey, and Drs. Masters and Johnson credit his extensive physiological work.
The feminist movement, and the increasing social status of women in modern society, have led to women's sexuality being reassessed as a subject in its own right.
During the 1970s and 1980s, in the wake of the sexual revolution, numerous feminist writers started to address the question of female sexuality from their own female perspective, rather than allowing female sexuality to be defined in terms of largely male studies. The first such popular non-fiction book was Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden. Other writers such as Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and Camille Paglia were particularly influential in this, although their views were not universally or placidly accepted. Toward the end of the twentieth century the most significant European contributions to understanding female sexuality came from psychoanalytical French feminism, with the work of Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva.
Lesbianism and female bisexuality also emerged as topics that could be talked about in public. A short-lived movement towards political lesbianism within the feminist movement led to temporary schisms within the feminist movement between heterosexual and lesbian women, then rapidly floundered in the face of the acceptance that most women's sexuality was not defined by politics, but by their own sexual preferences. Most modern feminist movements now accept all forms of female sexuality as equally valid.
Feminist attitudes to female sexuality have taken a few different directions. The first is that female sexuality should be accepted and women should be free to have sex when they like, with whomever they like, provided they are of legal age and are willing to participate. This view is supported by academic and philosopher Patricia Petersen. The other is that women should be empowered to refuse to have sex when they want to, or to have their sexuality respected in society. A minority view within radical feminism states that even if it appears that women consent, heterosexual sex is inherently nonconsensual and women cannot ever be said to truly consent to it, because their decision is forged by the expectations and influences of growing up in a predominantly male-oriented society.
This has led to different groups of feminists embracing and opposing pornography as sexually liberating and sexually oppressive respectively, both in the name of women's empowerment over their own sexuality.
- Female Perversions, Louise Kaplan
- Le Sexe qui parle, Claude Mulot
- Anatomy of Hell, Catherine Breillat
- Female Sexuality, Princess Marie Bonaparte
- Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
- Les Diaboliques, Jules Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly
- sex, lies, and videotape, Steven Soderbergh
- The majority of women are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind
- Human male sexuality
- Human sexuality
- Female masturbation
- Female orgasm
- Feminist theory
- French feminism
- Women's erotica