February 13, 2015

It’s time to be more honest about women’s orgasms in literature


Josh Hartnett in THAT scene



Women are seriously underrepresented in Hollywood. But what’s even more underrepresented is a woman’s orgasm.

Think about it – every time an orgasm is shown in a film, it’s shown as amazing, powerful, fun and intense – everything an orgasm should be. What’s not portrayed is how bloody difficult it can be to have one in the first place.

It’s the same with a lot of fiction. When you read about a woman having sex with a character she fancies/loves/marries, she will inevitably orgasm. If the book you’re reading is particularly erotic, it will often be discussed in lots of juicy detail.

But the one thing that’s always missing about the orgasm is the reality for millions of women. As many as one in three women have trouble reaching orgasm when having sex, according to Planned Parenthood, and as many as 80 per cent of women struggle to orgasm from penetrative sex.

These figures are huge, but you wouldn’t know it from flicking through the nearest chick lit or romcom. Even though so many of these movies and books are targeted at women, I feel like they’re presenting a reality that just isn’t true. More than that, it can sometimes make women feel as though they’re doing it wrong, that they’re alone in their struggles.

It’s why I decided to focus my upcoming novel around this search for the perfectorgasm. In it, my protagonist Ellie (from my debut novel Virgin – she’s no longer a virgin) is trying to up her sex numbers. She’s only ever slept with one guy, but she’s 22 years old, a magazine intern in London, and she’s got access to Tinder and OKCupid, so things are going to change.

In other words, she wants to get into the dating game, have more sex and find out what all the fuss is about. Her previous sexual experiences have never resulted in orgasms – they tend to only take place when she’s alone in her bedroom – and she wants some real context for Meg Ryan’s orgasm face in When Harry Met Sally.

Meg Ryan faking an orgasm

Meg Ryan faking an orgasm

Only when Ellie does start sleeping with someone, she finds that orgasming with him is harder than she thought. In fact, the more she tries to make it happen, the more the big O eludes her. It’s like a losing battle.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but the reason I wanted to make this such a strong part of the storyline is because not every woman can open her legs with a guy and suddenly reach ecstasy. Some of you may have seen the teen movie 40 Days and 40 Nights where the female lead orgasms simply by Josh Hartnett rubbing a flower across her body.

Disclaimer: I have never, ever known of this to happen in real life.

But a generation of young women who watched that movie grew up thinking sex would be like that; easy and satisfying. Only what so many people find is that it’s not that easy. Sex can be hard (no pun intended) and that’s not something we need to hide from.

It shouldn’t be so taboo or unusual to discuss the difficulties of sex and trying toorgasm. It’s all very well and good having Anastasia Steele climax all over the pages of 50 Shades of Grey, but isn’t it time we saw more of the orgasm’s downsides in fiction too?