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  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Sis, Express your needs when it comes to sex.

By now you may have heard about the orgasm gap, a disappointing statistic similar to the wage gap where men are getting more than women. While the majority of lesbian-identified women report typically reaching orgasm during sex, heterosexual women are in last place when it comes to orgasms. A study ranked the percentage of people who typically have orgasms by sexual orientation, and the list is as follows: heterosexual men (95%), gay men (89%), bisexual men (88%), lesbian women (86%), bisexual women (66%), then heterosexual women (65%). Regardless of sexual orientation, women are having fewer orgasms than men. Although orgasms are not the only way of achieving sexual pleasure, there is something to be learned from these statistics. Women who “ask for what they want in bed” were among those who reported more frequently having orgasms in the study. So let’s talk about sexual empowerment, particularly for Black women.

A common thread in these love letters has been identifying and communicating your wants and needs in relationships. It can feel difficult to open up and express yourself in this way, especially when society and culture have socialized Black women to be strong, unemotional, and independent. Notice none of these cultural tropes lend themselves to opening up about your own needs. Physical and emotional intimacy is vulnerable and can feel particularly unsafe for Black women who may have become accustomed to having their needs unacknowledged and dismissed. When it comes to sexual intimacy, feeling safe, and empowered to express your needs requires a level of emotional security. The relationships with your sexual partners as well as your broader relationship expectations impact this sense of security. Healthy relationship expectations are key for healthy intimate relationships, communicating your needs, and feeling validated and heard by your partners.

Expressing sexuality can feel particularly challenging for women who have been historically disempowered. Society has not socialized women to be assertive and certainly has not socialized women to openly communicate their sexual desires. Consequentially, there are barriers to sexual expression for women. This dilemma is heightened with Black female sexuality both policed and exaggerated though harmful stereotypes such as the “Jezebel,” a hypersexualized image of the Black woman. A history of sexual exploitation of Black women, objectified and dehumanized through slavery, has created a context where sex has been for the benefit and/or pleasure of others. Expressing one’s own sexual desires or needs, on the other hand, has been used as the basis for denigrating Black women, too often referred to as "bitches, hoes," and now "thots" in pop culture.

Contrary to these harmful messages, you get to decide what you want and don’t want when it comes to sex. With love and intimacy, the only way to get your needs met is to identify and express them. First, it is important to get to know yourself. Practice self-exploration and understanding your own sensuality. Learn your sexual desires and boundaries and practice open communication with partners about what feels pleasurable and safe for you when it comes to sex. Talk about and negotiate when and whether you feel comfortable having sex, if at all. Share what you find pleasurable versus not and discuss the boundaries of your sexual relationships (e.g., exclusivity vs. multiple partners). Practice assertiveness around your wants, needs, and boundaries. As always, when you are choosing partners remember to choose yourself first, Sis.

Check out these Sex-Positive resources for understanding your sexual needs and those of your partner:

*Dr. Spesh is an Atlanta based Clinical Psychologist, blogger, and diversity consultant.*

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