Writer Stephanie Theobald went on a road trip around America to re-discover female pleasure. Here are the secrets – and the 7 types of female orgasms – she discovered
Arriving in New York in 2015 with a failing relationship and a body I felt out of touch with, I decided to set off on a 3,497-mile trip across America to rebuild my orgasm from the ground up. But what started as a quest for the ultimate auto-erotic experience became a fantastic voyage into my own body.
As my journey progressed, I found myself cast as a modern Alice in Wonderland, meeting heroic sex-positive feminist pioneers from the 1970s and becoming immersed in a countercultural America of marijuana lollipops, alien pleasure cults and ‘eco sexual’ sexologists.
I found myself meeting heroic sex-positive feminist pioneers from the 1970s and becoming immersed in a countercultural America of alien pleasure cults and ‘eco sexual’ sexologists
In an era when the phrase ‘female empowerment’ has become a piece of jargon that corporations trot out to tick boxes, my belief is that we can never be truly empowered as women unless shame-free sexuality is in the mix too.
When I returned from my adventure in America and started giving readings from my resulting book: Sex Drive: On the Road To A Pleasure Revolution, it became clear to me that women are thirsty for honest knowledge about our bodies and our desire.
We have put up with so many anti-climaxes from books and films that promise to explore female sexuality in an honest way. But actually all we get are sniggers, coy giggles or men’s desire reflected back at us.
I’d like to reassure women that there are good times ahead. The Second Sexual Revolution (the first one in the 1960s and 1970s was all about men. At the time it was still being asked if women even had orgasms) is well and truly under way.
All of the orgasms listed below can be achieved without anyone else. In fact, it’s best if you practice them on your own first of all. That’s the great thing about the Pleasure Revolution, as I’m calling it. There’s no pressure, no egos, it’s about play, about keeping things light, keeping the vibrations high and bringing life force back into your life. And once you’ve lit yourself up, it’s your duty to light the next woman up so we can keep this thing going and take it even higher. Clits up, ladies!
Vulva Ballet Orgasms
Read my lips: masturbation is the foundation of female sexuality. It is not a second rate activity. It will give you a better sex life when you eventually go to bed with someone else because why should your partner know how to get you off when you don’t know how to do it yourself?
Sex Drive was inspired by a ‘masturbation master class’ that sex-positive feminist legend Betty Dodson, now 89, has revived and which I attended. At one point, she noted that masturbation needs foreplay just like partnered sex. So start out with a vulva massage which Betty describes as being, ‘like a ballet only with almond oil. (She is scornful of expensive commercial lubricants. Throughout the weekend, Betty said things like, ‘I went through the Sexual Revolution using almond oil’).
Why should your partner know how to get you off when you don’t know how to do it yourself?
Get friendly with your vulva again. The vulva is the correct name for the female genitals because the word encompasses the full works: the inner and outer lips, the clitoris, the vagina, the urethra. Betty gets incensed at the way so many women mis-use the ‘vagina’ word. ‘The vagina’s the goddam birth canal!’
Part of the vulva ballet includes cupping your hands and smelling the scent of your vulva. ‘I always taste myself before love-making for reassurance,’ Betty told us. ‘It’s the equivalent to testing your breath to see if you want to brush your teeth.’
Fast Food Orgasms
Read my lips again: porn is OK. If you get off on porn hub then that’s fine. The dirtier the better. Fantasy helps focus the mind. Do not worry that your fantasy is not feminist enough. You can’t eat Ottolenghi every day. Sometimes you just want a Big Mac.
In Sex Drive, I mention some of the female-run porn sites so you can be certain that the people in the videos are not being exploited. Worrying about that stuff is never great for orgasm. Also, consider making your own ‘porn’ in your head. It’s called ‘fantasy’ and can be much more creative than watching web erotica. Again, don’t worry that your personal porn film is too rude.
Most of us are not psychos and ethically and practically we would never do half the things that we come up with in our sexual fantasies. But as a way of getting yourself turned on, these mini movies can be just the trick.
Haute Cuisine Orgasms
The trouble with watching porn is that you can find yourself getting off on somebody else’s fantasy. This is where fine dining comes in. It’s also known as Tantra, although I don’t use that word in Sex Drive as it’s become a little synonymous with Sting.
Basically, Tantra refers to breath, sensate focus and moving energy around your body. You have to put in the homework and practice but the rewards are long-lasting and intense.
Kink tantrica Barbara Carrellas teaches me a technique she writes about in her book, Urban Tantra, that brings about what she describes as a ‘prolonged ecstatic state accompanied by the sensation of Champagne bubbles dancing under the skin.’
Start out with dirty truck driver-style fantasies (or whatever you have in your fast food larder) but then as you’re on the edge of coming, stop yourself and imagine breathing that erotic energy into your heart.
You repeat this a couple of times until you can’t hold back any more and finally let yourself go and feel an ecstasy of energy shooting from the bottom of your feet out of the top of your head.
Eco Sex Orgasms
Annie Sprinkle was one of America’s fetish porn stars in the 1980s and early 1990s and now she espouses a brilliant new movement called Eco Sexuality where you posit nature as your lover as opposed to your mother. So smell that rose as if it were a lover giving you a gift. Stroke the tree trunk you’re passing in the street as if it’s the back of a beautiful boy.
As Annie told me at one point: ‘Ecosexuality’s about making love with everything. With clouds, with your dog who’s sitting there, with the plant on the window sill. It’s like, you know, there’s sex and life force everywhere.’
I end up having an orgasm with an oak tree in in Sex Drive
As I drove further west on my road trip and the longer I spent on my masturbation ‘homework’ the more I realised that sexuality and spirituality are closely linked.
As you become more sensitive, you begin to tune into different energies all around you. I end up having an orgasm with an oak tree in in Sex Drive but you’ll have to read the book to see how that works!
This is another Annie Sprinkle-ism which she articulates in her book The Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm. It’s when you’re having great, meaningful, deep sex with a partner and you come and instead of shrieking with glee and passion you find yourself bursting into tears.
This is a common and perfectly acceptable form of erotic release in sex for women, but I’ve never seen it portrayed in a movie. The fact that this state now has a word for it will hopefully help women feel less ashamed (so much of the Pleasure Revolution is about getting rid of this shame that pervades so much of our sexuality).
As Annie Points out in Sex Drive, people who are smart about sex will understand that ‘you can be in a state of ecstasy but also be in a state of sadness. But you can bathe almost any feeling in ecstasy.’
21-Day Challenge Orgasms
For the next 21-days, tell your partner that they are going to be doing the washing up tonight (they’re going to benefit from this practice so tell them to hang on in there).
Then turn off your phone, go to your bedroom and lock the door. You are now allowed to do anything in there for 35 minutes for the next 21 days. Put on some sexy lingerie and look at yourself in front of the mirror or strip naked and get into bed. You don’t have to have an orgasm.
Just getting intimate with yourself is enough to start with. Touch your body, experiment with that new sex toy you recently got through the post, make up some sexy movies in your head revolving around the guy you saw in the M&S queue or the woman who sold you perfume in the department store. Do/think/feel whatever you want. Live a little!
Nobody knows what the hell you’re getting up to in there. Your friends will soon start asking if you’ve been on a secret holiday. The answer is yes. Reveal your secret and tell them to do it too. Swap notes. Start talking about honest female sexuality.
Stephanie Theobald is a writer, journalist, novelist and traveller.
Her first three novels, Biche, Sucking Shrimp, and Trix were published between 2000 and 2004.
Her fourth novel, A Partial Indulgence, came out in 2010 and was hailed by The Times as delivering “art, sex, money, class . . . with enormous style”.
She currently writes for publications including The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Elle and The Financial Times, her work focusing on sexuality, gender and unconventional people.
Check out Stephanie on social media: