Learning the Anatomy of Pleasure
Pleasure is the object, duty and the goal of all rational creatures. –Voltaire
There is a lot about our own sexual anatomy that we never learned growing up. In fact, the anatomical facts of nature have been seriously updated. All of this talk of G spots and female ejaculation has inspired a second look. Who knew that the clitoris is not just a magic button crowning the vagina, but was proclaimed by Masters and Johnson as “a unique organ in the total of humanity.” The organ, with over 8000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis, has actually 18 parts both visible and invisible. It is so complex and extends so deeply into the pelvis that is now actually considered an organ system. The clitoris is now widely considered homologous to the penis with more structural similarities than differences. This new understanding of the function of the clitoris as an intricate network capable of a vast multitude of unique and powerful orgasmic sensations literally changes the map to pleasure.
The same could be said of the male sexual organs. The anxiety that many, if not most, men feel about their penis size is as universal as the misconception that it is the penis that is the ringleader when it comes to sexual satisfaction and prowess. “We equate masculinity and power with penis size,” says Ira Sharlip, MD, clinical professor of urology at the University of California at San Francisco and president of the International Society for Sexual Medicine. “Of course, there’s really no relationship.” Still, Sharlip says, “all” of his patients want to increase their penis size. Many men are surprised when they move their attention away from the penis to the powerful erogenous zones nearby like the prostate area and scrotum. The penile roots, not unlike the clitoral ones have a whole different arousal capacity and depth.
Our lacking and misguided ideas about our anatomy may be partly to blame for the real problem that plagues so many couples. The incomplete understanding of our own or our partner’s anatomy is often accompanied by the lack of skill building that makes for intense and growing sexual satisfaction. Lets face it–when you are unsure about how or why something happens inside of you, then communicating about it seems impossible. In a recent Men’s Health survey of 5000 men and women, 1 in 5 women rated her partner’s sexual skills as average or worse. Yet over 25 percent of women have never given their partner any feedback about their intimate touch for fear of hurting his feelings. This is a shame considering that when asking men about their openness to sexual feedback, fully 80 percent of men say: “Whatever you want, all you have to do is ask.” An additional 17 percent are open to feedback … if she’s “nice about it.” Only 3 percent say they don’t want to hear anything.
Of the women who have given their men sexual advice, over 64 percent of them said that when they gave their partners feedback on their love skills, they experienced more pleasure. The same was true for nearly 60 percent of men; so why not consider your sexual health as a new and vital home study course? Take the time to update yourselves together with hands-on sexual anatomy lessons. One of my favorite teachers is the author of Getting the Sex you Want. Tammy Nelson, not only has a thorough overview of both male and female erogenous anatomy, but she also has developed a program of communication skills that make the previously unspeakable possible for many of us. Although I have not been able to get myself to practice all of her suggested exercises, the ones that we have slowly incorporated have opened up our ability to ask for what we want and what we are thinking in surprising and refreshing ways.
Another great teacher that any aspiring lovers would want to include on their bookshelves are the works of Ian Kerner. His books, She Comes First and He Comes Next (recently re-titled Passionista) are the most intelligent and thoughtful discourses I have ever read on oral sex. Far from merely a how-to guide, although there is plenty of that too, his thinking about what oral sex means and how it is experienced for men and women is thought-provoking and will challenge your assumptions.
Taking control of your sexual education is one of the most loving acts you can bring to your relationship. The truth is we were all seriously undereducated and, depending on your background, even deliberately misinformed about our sexual selves and the act of creating pleasure in loving healthy ways. But don’t get too serious about the lessons- the connection between humor and eroticism runs deep in our bones. Remember your childhood games of “playing doctor” or the laughter that erupted from the “gross-out” jokes? Applying this kind of levity and curiosity to re-learning the anatomical map to pleasure will make you laugh and surprise you, maybe even with an orgasm or two.