Kim and I have long been a fan of taking the focus off of intercourse. For Kim, it is driven by her professional knowledge that 70% of women cannot orgasm from intercourse alone. Because she is committed to helping women experience more pleasure in their sex lives, she knows the emphasis needs to be placed on activities that are proven to provide better arousal, like manual or oral stimulation of the clitoris. Similarly, in my role teaching women and couples a specialized form of natural birth control, in which intercourse is avoided or discouraged on a few specific days of a woman’s cycle, I have discovered that the de-emphasizing of intercourse in most cases ends up enhancing a couple’s sex life, rather than detracting from it. By taking intercourse off the table as the main event, couples discover that other forms of touch and play are often more satisfying or at the very least a welcome change to the activities of their “normal” sexual routine.
This week I was forced to take this notion of redefining sex to a whole new level when I co-facilitated a lecture at the University of Toronto on sexuality and disability with Kim, our friend Danette, and her partner Russell who has a spinal cord injury. Danette and Russell shared candidly and openly about their sex life; Russell shared that although he can achieve an erection and ejaculate, he cannot feel the accompanying sensations that most men normally would, nor can he experience what it truly feels like to have an orgasm. They both shared profound insights into what it means to have an active and satisfying sex life where intercourse and male orgasm are not the focus. Instead, the focus turns to touch, pleasure, intimacy, and in this case, the woman’s pleasure. Sex becomes an experience where each act or touch is appreciated in its own right, where the duration and success of the experience is not measured against some idealized “norm” of what sex should look like.
Hearing them speak prompted me to finally take a book out of the library which had been on my reading list for a long time, called “Let me count the ways: Discovering great sex without intercourse.” In it the authors show not only how “normal sex” is not possible for a large portion of the population (those with cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, chronic pain, history of trauma, sexual difficulties, body image issues, etc. etc.), but the focus on being “sexually normal” can exacerbate and sometimes even create sexual challenges.
While the procreative power of intercourse has historically put male penetration and ejaculation centre stage, I think it is time to reevaluate its supremacy, for the benefit of all genders. In an age of birth control, diverse sexual and gender orientations, in vitro fertilization, and women living long past menopause, I hope we can all begin to see that baby-making no longer makes sense as the yardstick by which we measure sexual behavior. Let’s define a new normal where we all leave our sexual experiences feeling like our desires, whatever they might be, are the main event – and something to be cherished.
Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.