The Ultimate Sexual Conquest for the Twenty-First Century

by | March 18, 2018 | General | 8 comments

If your sexual partner didn’t have an orgasm, would you want to know?

It probably depends on who you are. If reports from the high school and college heterosexual hook-up scene are any indication, mutual satisfaction is not the focus in most encounters. In Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All, Jaclyn Friedman reports that men are three times more likely to have orgasms than female partners in a casual college hookup (p. 194). She describes a Saturday night liaison where the woman gave the man a blowjob and he reciprocated with one lick of her labia.


Anecdotal evidence suggests that many young men believe a woman feels the same level of pleasure from vaginal intercourse that he does, and given the abysmal state of sex education, the blame is not all on them. But you’d think anyone would realize there’s an imbalance between a blowjob and a single flick of the tongue. Is it ignorance or indifference? Neither speaks well for a man, but then again by the traditional rules of heterosexual male conquest, only his pleasure matters. She has been “conquered” no matter what she feels.

In a long-term relationship, add fear to the reasons for the pleasure imbalance, from fear of wounding the lover’s ego to worse. Friedman tells how her beloved first boyfriend, Andy, “taught me about my clitoris and threatened to rip out my uterus and shove it down my throat if he ever discovered I’d been faking orgasms with him” (p. 50). Friedman loved Andy, but, faced with evisceration, just never get around to telling him that she’d never had an orgasm, not even with herself. Unfortunately for Andy, wherever he may be, he may have known about the clitoris in theory, but his prowess was built on lies.

Women might hesitate to offer the truth even when the threat is less explicit or dire. The first partner I was truly in love with thought my genuine moans of pleasure meant I was climaxing over and over. I wish! I didn’t have the nerve to tell him the truth either. Fortunately I figured out how to have real orgasms with him before the lie by omission became too uncomfortable. The first time with was oral sex, but one fine day, by being on top, it happened during intercourse, too. Ironically, he commented that I came very quietly that time, but I didn’t set the record straight. My joy at achieving the “right kind” of orgasm was mine alone. After we broke up a few months later (officially I broke up with him, but as is often the case, he made it easy by having a fling with another woman), I vowed I would always be honest about my orgasms with my future lovers. And I was. Who says anger can’t have a positive result?

Beyond the hook-up scene, Friedman reports that straight men are almost 50% more likely to have an orgasm with a partner than straight women are (p. 3). Every sex survey I’ve read claims that one-third of women have orgasms every time they have sex, one-third have them sometimes and one-third never do. There may be reasons for the latter situation that are beyond anyone’s control and there may be no easy solution.

But it also might be true that if a man makes a point to ask about what gives his partner pleasure—and is willing to listen to and act upon her/his answer—this will lead to more intimacy and hopefully more pleasure. At least it would cut back on the lies. And again, wouldn’t any responsible, self-respecting adult want to know the truth?

I’d also like to humbly suggest that if you know you’re having orgasms, but it’s unclear if your partner is, it’s on you to do the asking.

Friedman puts it well:

“Those of us who sleep with men pay every time we encounter a man who treats us like interchangeable vending machines that will dispense to him sexual pleasure if he inserts the secret coin. Because these men think they know What Women Want, they pay little attention to the needs and desires and boundaries of the individual woman in front of them, and women’s sex lives suffer for it. And if we have the temerity to refuse to play along with the script in his head, we know we’re risking him reacting with violence or abuse” (p. 51-52).

I wonder how many men are afraid to even ask? Talking about sex, particularly your own “performance,” is scary. We’re too busy admiring the players to recognize such courage publicly. So I’d like to do just that right here and now.

If you ever asked, with sincerity, what you could do to please your partner and listened to the answer, you are awesome! Really awesome!

If you ever had the guts to explain what you need even though everything you ever learned tells you to shut up and do it like they do in the movies, well, I think your courage in communicating honestly and your respect for your partner’s pleasure—because sexual pleasure includes the pleasure of giving pleasure—is equally awesome!

While we’re on the topic, here’s another question for you:

When did you lose your virginity?

Now suppose the official definition of “losing your virginity” changed. You could only claim graduation to the status of the sexually experienced if you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs in any way and your partner definitely had an orgasm because you could trust him/her to be truthful.

By that definition, does your answer change?

The time difference between the first and second definitions for me is two-and-a-half years.

For those sexually active years, I was pretty excited just to be desired by men, and I was having plenty of orgasms on my own, so don’t feel too sorry for me. However, it does make me sad for all of us that such an amazing aspect of the human experience is silenced, sometimes by directly saying “don’t talk about this, it ruins the mood” and sometimes because we just don’t have the examples, the practice, and the knowledge that it can be different or better if we just express what’s really going on.

We don’t have to reserve sex talk for our lovers. While always keeping a sense of what’s appropriate in any given relationship, I wish we could talk about it honestly with friends of every gender. I’ve had the honor of doing so, although I wish I’d done it more. How much could we all learn if we share our experiences, our joys, and our confusion about sex and listen to what they have to say about theirs? What if we all treated sex as a complex and important part of the human experience, not as a dirty joke or a shameful thing to deny?

I remember as a child giggling with my friends about the meaning of “knowing” in the Biblical sense. Now as an adult, I think reviving the verb “to know” about our sexual encounters is a pretty good idea. In the twenty-first-century sense, everyone would know if their partners are experiencing pleasure, and everyone would know how to express it and receive it on their own terms, not those of the media or anyone else.

For me, this is the ultimate sexual conquest of the twenty-first century: vanquishing our society’s fear and loathing of sexuality by talking honestly and respectfully about this very important part of the human experience. I believe erotica writers are well-positioned to take the lead.

What do you think?

Donna George Storey

I want to change the world one dirty story at a time. When I posted this mission statement on my website, I hoped my cheeky ambition would make my readers smile. I smile every time I read it myself. And yet I’m totally serious. I truly believe that writers who are brave enough to speak their truth about the erotic experience in all its complexity—the yearning, the pleasure, the conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction—do change the world for the better. So if you’re here at ERWA because you’re already writing erotica, a big thank you and keep on doing what you’re doing. If you’re more a reader than a writer, I encourage you to start dreaming and writing and expressing the truth and magic of this fundamental part of the human experience in your own unique voice. Can there be a more pleasurable way to change the world? I'm the author of Amorous Woman, a semi-autobiographical erotic novel set in Japan, The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey  and nearly 200 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies. Check out my Facebook author page at:  


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    You make some excellent points, Donna. Without honesty, sex isn’t going to provide the real connection that makes it so special.

    However, is sexual pleasure and satisfaction really all about orgasms? Doesn’t a focus on “getting off” (including “getting one’s partner off”) turn sex into a goal-directed process rather than a spontaneous and joyous mutual exploration?

    When I think back over my (very active) sexual history, I don’t remember the orgasms, though I know there were many. What I recall is the breathless arousal, the feelings of closeness, the thrill of breaking taboos, the sweetness of lying in my lover’s arms after we’d both exhausted ourselves in pleasure. For me (your mileage may vary), orgasms aren’t the point. And to be honest, I think the notion that orgasms by both partners is the measure of good sex is part of the reason for the fear, embarrassment and sense of inadequacy — on both sides.

  2. Donna George Storey

    Lisabet, you make excellent points, too. It’s a complex issue and you made me think about why I focused on orgasm in a way that gives it more weight than I do in my own life. In fact, I hope that many more people will think deeply about their intimate experiences and be able to express their feelings as eloquently and with as much self-insight as you just have in your comment (thus proving my point that erotic writers can lead the way). I realize one reason for my focus is because a visible orgasm has been the measure of “success” in the traditional, male-focused view. You implicitly raise a point I didn’t feel I had the space to go into—most data I’ve seen states that only 75% of men have orgasms during every sexual encounter. Men might also feel hesitant to talk about that with their partners. With more support, hopefully both partners can affirm their own values of what’s satisfying when it comes to intimacy.

    Orgasm is also more quantifiable and thus more a focus of surveys than emotional closeness, the excitement of breaking taboos, and other far more interesting aspects. Friedman had data on the orgasm differential for me to quote, so I used it as shorthand for an imbalance in the valuation of women’s pleasure. That both reflects and perpetuates the focus on orgasm. I know there are many couples who get great pleasure from other things, but it does concern me that many people never ask or feel comfortable talking about what they are really experiencing–one lick versus a blowjob being a good example.

    Finally, I appreciate that my focus on orgasm deflects from my greatest wish: that breaking away from someone else’s definition of “good sex,” and sharing our experiences widely and with less fear because we have more support, is a courageous act, not a sign of being lesser than the unrealistic models in porn or the mainstream media. But seriously, thank you for pointing that out. It is a key element of my argument that I left out.

  3. Tom Rogers


    Please allow me to comment from the male perspective. I’m not going to argue the point that there are large numbers of men that are self-absorbed and are focused solely on themselves. I will argue the point that the fault of one sided sex lies solely on the man’s shoulders.

    If the woman in the relationship/encounter/one night stand/whatever doesn’t make her desires known, and what trips her trigger, then expecting the man to instinctively know what she needs is as silly as it is in a marriage. I’m not a mind reader.

    I told my wife when we were dating that if she told me nothing was wrong and that she was fine, then I was going to act like what she said was the case. The “guess what pissed me off” or “guess what I want/need” is a waste of energy and time.

    If the woman tells the man what she wants/needs to satisfy her, and the man ignores her and takes his without reciprocating, then your point is valid. If she won’t speak up and help her partner, then her lack of fulfillment is as much her fault as it is his. If she doesn’t feel safe or comfortable making her desires known, then maybe that’s not an encounter that should be happening.

    Tl:dr. The woman’s sexual satisfaction is as much her responsibility as it is his.


    • Lisabet Sarai

      Thanks for sharing the male perspective, Tom. I agree wholeheartedly. And I have known men who have expressed deep frustration at the fact that their partners did not or could not express their real desires.

      There are many societal pressures behind this reluctance. Donna has noted some in her post. In addition, we’re brought up to fear being labeled as “sluts” if we’re too open or enthusiastic about sex. (Fortunately, I seemed to have escaped that conditioning!) Meanwhile, some men (not you, maybe not even the majority, based on personal experience, but definitely a significant number) also buy into this notion. A woman who likes sex, who talks about sex, is someone to take lightly, someone to ridicule, someone perhaps even to abuse. Someone to fuck, but not someone to marry.

      Once again, I’m not saying this is a universal attitude by any means, but it’s enough to make a lot of women clam up about their desires and preferences.

      • Donna George Storey

        Lisabet, you put this very well: “A woman who likes sex, who talks about sex, is someone to take lightly, someone to ridicule, someone perhaps even to abuse.” In thinking back about why someone would feel so threatened by a woman who likes sex and talks about sex, it’s possible that the man feels such a woman is beyond his control. Her sexuality is her own. I guess one should get the male perspective on this, too.

        I’m reminded of a question I’ve often seen in the context of a male superior sexually harassing a female subordinate in the workplace (an example being my January column): “How often do you masturbate?” Again we have an emphasis on quantity (not really that interesting) but also a sense that “forcing” a woman to admit she is so horny she seeks satisfaction outside of a relationship with a man as a way of identifying her as someone with a “naughty” sexual appetite, as someone you can abuse. The question in that context certainly doesn’t feel like a respectful way of learning about a woman’s sexual desire! Anyway, great points!

        • Tom


          I grew up with just my mother and I. She was a very strong woman and I took my cues on interacting with women from what I learned from her. I was also honest enough to admit that I had no idea what was going to make my partner scream, so I asked. The times when I was expected to just know, and then the aftermath when I guessed wrong, made my tolerance for that particular game disappear.

          My ex-wife was like that after we got married, hence the ex moniker. When I met my current wife, we had a very frank discussion about what we liked, disliked and what sent us into orbit. The time and energy spent slogging through the dynamic that you described is far better used in bed, than giving each the silent treatment.

          If sexual harassment is based on the frequency of masturbation, I’m pretty sure that my teenage self should have been filing charges on a weekly basis.


          • Donna George Storey

            Tom, I realize I was not clear with the context of the question “how often do you masturbate?” in my comment to Lisabet. I’m going to change that because I don’t want to mislead anyone about where I stand. To explain, I have read several accounts of women being sexually harassed by bosses or co-workers by text. For some reason the men ask “how often do you masturbate?” a lot to steer the discussion in a sexual direction (see my January column). I’ve seen jokes about it as well, so it appears to be as common as “What are you wearing?” in a suggestive text conversation. There is no connection between masturbation in its own right and sexual harassment, of course. But if a boss asks his subordinate or co-worker such a question, when they are not in a consensual sexual relationship, then it is inappropriate. I really want to make that clear, because it’s important to be aware of the difference between consensual sex or private individual sexual activity and sexual harassment where the power differential in the workplace defines the interaction.

    • Donna George Storey

      Thank you for your perspective, Tom. I absolutely agree the woman’s satisfaction is her responsibility and that it is ridiculous to expect a man to figure out what a woman wants, especially with no meaningful input from her. Our current situation is not especially kind or fair to men or women. It is not fair to let your partner believe things are great when they’re not. My hope is that by talking more about these things and sharing our experiences, as you have done, this broader range of voices will help us expand our sense of what’s possible. As Lisabet points out, many women who show interest in sex are shamed for it. I was, and looking back, I wonder what was going through those young men’s minds. It seems rather self-defeating. It is perhaps the case those encounters shouldn’t have happened, but guys are usually quite nice during the courtship phase.

      Another traditional and deeply rooted assumption that harms both women and men is that men have natural “needs” and women don’t really feel anything until they are awakened by their husbands on their wedding night. If they do know what they want from solo or partner sex, they can’t admit it because again, women (but not men) are subject to shaming. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but the way I took control of my pleasure came from a book I read in 1984—Sensual Pleasure, A Woman’s Guide: A Step-by-Step Program for Complete Sexual Fulfillment with a Man. It basically tells women readers that it’s all on you and you can train yourself to get the stimulation you need to have orgasms during heterosexual intercourse. Orgasms are not everything, but it was empowering. It’s out of print, so this isn’t a commercial endorsement! Also, the author, Eva Margolies, addressed the objection that women shouldn’t have to accommodate themselves to male-oriented intercourse. She said, yep, it’s unfair, but developing that ability frees you from worry and stress and you can enjoy sex more with a variety of partners.

      I know there are exceptions, but generally it doesn’t take most men as much work to get that kind of release. That’s why I suggested it might be nice for the man to ask (it sounds like you did). The best example I ever read of a way to ask was in Carol Queen’s Exhibitionism for the Shy. The first time Queen had sex with her partner in the book, at a sex party, he smiled and said, “Show me how you like to be touched.” Or maybe it was “Teach me how you like to be touched.” Sorry, I don’t have the book handy and couldn’t find the quote on Google. But wow, I remember how awed I was by that guy, and whichever word he used, it was so sweet. I wish every person could say that to his/her lover. Sadly I don’t think many people feel they can. Back to your point about a woman’s pleasure being her responsibility, it’s also sad that many women, young and old, don’t know how they like to be touched or feel they can’t say it out loud.

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