The Story of a Woman in Sexual Pleasure

A few years ago I was asked to participate in a storytelling show. The piece I read was called “My Vibrator Story.” I had written it in a workshop and test read the story at the end of class. The audience, made up of the other participants, was primarily women that day. My story, a personal tale about masturbation, ended up getting lots of laughs—so much so that I was invited to share it in front of a much larger, public audience.

But when the time came to read “My Vibrator Story” at this bigger event—no one had told me there would be over 100 people there—I bombed in my delivery of the piece. I indicated to the audience when I wanted them to laugh. I kept looking at them and smiling as I read as if to say, “This is one big joke, let’s not take me or my story too seriously.” The audience’s response, as I read my work and when I finished, was lukewarm.

It was a long time before I was willing to read any story in front of strangers again. What happened to me that night? How hard could it have been to just read words off a page? Maybe I was too nervous. I’d never read my work in front of that many people before. Or maybe I’d felt insecure. The list of performers that evening had included original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman and other known performers.

Looking back now, I realize that beyond nerves and self-doubt there was something else going on for me that night: I’d felt deeply ashamed to be talking about female sexual pleasure, especially my own, in front of an audience that included men.

Masturbation, by Gustav Klimt Wikipedia Commons:  http://tinyurl.com/m743nxn

Masturbation, by Gustav Klimt
Wikipedia Commons:
http://tinyurl.com/m743nxn

“My Vibrator Story” is about what I did years ago one summer. Tired of feeling disappointed in dating and having no desire for casual sex, I went down to the local sex shop and bought myself a sex toy. I liked mine so much that I went back to the store and got vibrators for my closest girlfriends, too. When I got tired of my vibrator I bought another and then another.

The story version of my experience, told in 1400 words, includes a jaunty play-by-play with orgasms. It also talks about the relief I felt for the respite: For once, I had total permission to not worry about someone else’s sexual satisfaction. I could let my sexual experiences be all about me. And as I got to know my body better, I learned more about what I liked and what I didn’t like. I began to recognize what worked for me and didn’t work.

When it came time to share in public what to me felt like an empowering, self-honoring experience, the last emotion I expected to feel was shame. But that’s exactly how I felt—as if I was telling a disgusting, dirty story.

Also, thoughts like these ran through my head as I had read: Why couldn’t I have read the story about the night I was almost date raped by that frat boy in college? Or what about the one where my swim teacher fondled me when I was ten? As if those stories were less offensive because they were about horrible sexual experiences and not positive ones.

Granted, there are now more stories out there that portray the more pleasurable aspects of a woman’s sex life—The HBO shows Girls and Sex and the City  and Showtime’s The L Word are a few examples. Also, more women are openly talking and writing about the female sexual experience, including their own.

Still, many people in this world continue to treat female sexual pleasure like a taboo topic: Fit to be viewed mainly in a pornographic context, and even then primarily for the purpose of arousing the male gaze. God forbid the portrayal of sex when it revolves around a woman’s own pleasure.

In 2010, the movie Blue Valentine almost got an NC-17 rating because of a scene where actor Ryan Gosling’s character performs oral sex on his wife, Michelle Williams’s character. She is the one who orgasms. Last year, the CW network edited out a scene from an episode of the drama Reign because it depicted a female character sexually pleasuring herself. And just this month, Jean Franzblau, a writer/performer, got fired from a corporate job because the client found out she has a one-person show called Coming Out Kinky: A Grown Up Story.

Why are so many people in society still uncomfortable with stories about female sexual pleasure? I suspect this has a lot to do with a patriarchal paradigm that generally refuses to acknowledge women as sexual beings in their own right. It’s okay to think of a woman as a slut or frigid or a sex object. A sexually empowered woman is still a big no-no.

Despite my behavior in private and my personal belief that female sexual pleasure is awesome, I’d obviously internalized the cultural shame around talking about it. Although the truth is, if the audience (no matter the size) had again been primarily women, I wouldn’t have felt mortified when reading my “My Vibrator Story” out loud.

To be clear, the men who were in the audience that night didn’t do anything to make me feel bad about telling my story. But as I looked out into the crowd and saw them there, my first response was shame. I think it’s because on some level a part of me believed that patriarchy was right: female sexual pleasure is acceptable but only when a man is involved and not if it’s all about the woman.

Any kind of societal or internalized conditioning that makes a woman feel ashamed about owning and embracing her sexuality has got to go. The next time I read “My Vibrator Story” in front of any audience, I’m going to do my best to tell the story simply and unabashedly.

 


59 Comments on “The Story of a Woman in Sexual Pleasure”

  1. BroadBlogs says:

    “Why couldn’t I have read the story about the night I was almost date raped by that frat boy in college? Or what about the one where my swim teacher fondled me when I was ten? As if those stories were less offensive because they were about horrible sexual experiences and not positive ones.”

    That is so telling! Wow.

    I’m wondering if you could publish your original story here some day?

    • I was going to say the same thing about hoping to see the original story published here sometime :)

      -C

    • diahannreyes says:

      Yes, I didn’t think about how telling that was until much later. I felt like I could have gone into that even more but for focus’s sake decided not to. I hadn’t thought to but I might. Thanks for the encouragement, Georgia :)

    • George B says:

      Interesting article. I know some female friends of mine are not afraid to share such experience as long the person they talk to are open minded and not “blah blah blah”.

      This is why I’m a big fan for female beauty and express this with my photographs.

      • diahannreyes says:

        I definitely think the more open-minded the audience, the easier. I do think the world could benefit if more people were open-minded and there was less shame around sexuality, especially female pleasure.

        • George B says:

          I think its not about shame but the absence of understanding it. Nature put that there for us to reproduce but the more human beings got civilize the more we less understand the human instinct and natural response. We think more of studying, analyzing and documenting for knowledge rather than for wisdom. From there we forget how our body would naturally respond. We think it to much and when we do we need hunger for its facts and analytic details and if we can’t get them we either hide put this aside as taboo or something we just don’t put it out on the open.

  2. I just asked a client this week what the difference was between owning her sexuality and being perceived as sexy. It was a stumper question aimed right at the place you’re describing here. Owning our sexuality is huge part of owning our power. It is quite literally our creation force, and when we don’t own it ourselves, it will be owned by others– and we see the result: Objectification of women, rape culture, 8 year olds on diets, etc etc…

    • katherinejlegry says:

      I’m confused by your statement: “… and when we don’t own it ourselves, it will be owned by others- and we will see the result: objectification of women, rape culture…”
      I was not raped because I didn’t “own” my sexuality, sexual expression, and “creation force”. I didn’t “give away” my power…
      I don’t think you meant that by your words, but I think ya’ll should be more careful when placing the blame on women for not “owning their power” and so therefore the victims of others.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Sexy vs. owning of sexuality. An important distinction for sure. Not mutually exclusive, necessarily but one doesn’t necessarily mean the other. Elizabeth Hall McGill recently wrote a blog post about feminine power that you might find interesting if you haven’t seen it already.
      http://elizabethhallmagill.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/fear-loathing-and-feminine-power/ . Yes- and the creative source- right there in the pelvic area- for sure- like a socket to be accessed directly by oneself.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I hope I get to hear your story one day :)

  4. I love this post! Would to love to read/hear the original 1400 word story as well :) thank you for being honest :)

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Kelly! :) It seems writing about the story has spurred some interest I wasn’t expecting so will have to feel into what to do about it. Always great to hear from you here.

  5. Diahann, what a great post. I hope it goes viral. :)

  6. Ralph says:

    Hi Diahann :D I don’t know what the fuss is all about concerning masturbation. We all do it or have done it at one time or another. Women have their toys and what a selection to choose from !! Whereas Kleenex would have gone out of business years ago if it wasn’t for men, including me ;) lol Hugs. Ralph xox <3

    • diahannreyes says:

      Ralph, good point. It’s interesting how some things in life get so much bad press despite their universality.

      And what an Kleenex endorsement. I don’t know if you follow Funny or Die, but that would make a great video for that site!

    • ledrakenoir says:

      Yeah and those wet wipes are also good and easy to carry in your toiletry bag – by the way wasn’t it Woody Allen who once said “Masturbation is real lovemaking with someone you really love”… :D

  7. drshapero says:

    Another great article. I have spoken in front of large audiences in the thousands but I must admit this topic would sure push the comfort zone. I commend you for reading it in that setting. You bring up some very good points and one point in particular about sex which I think may be problematic with many couples. Which is the lame old “whats in it for me” (obviously appropriate in the realm of masturbation.) but when it comes to couples many lose sight of the other persons needs. True in many other realms in addition to sex. I find great pleasure in serving the needs of my partner. I find satisfaction beyond my imagination when I explore addressing the needs of the one I love. When couples function on that plane we get an entirely different relationship. I find your articles interesting and refreshing.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you Dr. Shapero :) I agree- when there is mutuality and attention it can create a much deeply satisfying experience for everyone involved. Sometimes I wonder if that is something that needs to be taught in general. I do think sex can be a rorschach of what’s going on between two people and in someone’s life.

  8. Of course now we all really want to read this story of yours! Which brings up the question of degrees of shame. I am wondering if you would have felt a lesser amount (or any shame at all?) if your story was in print media (but with byline and picture) versus presenting it orally. I am also curious if a male were to have written and read aloud a similar story, would he also experience a similar reaction? Are some subjects simply taboo across the board for both genders? Or do we shift uncomfortably in our seats, and giggle awkwardly as we exclaim, “Well I guess Boys will be Boys.” Fascinating post and you are extraordinarily brave and insightful as always to blog about such matters.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Stephanie. yes- I think if there had been that distance of not having to be physically present and have it go off into the print ethers that would have definitely felt less mortifying. You bring up a good point- Dr. Shapero in his comment above says he would have been uncomfortable reading as a man, though not sure if he meant shame necessarily. I do think when I read to a mostly women audience the laughter was as much about the humor in the piece as the sort of resonant- I totally get it, i’ve done it, I want to do it- communal experience.

  9. panikikubik says:

    I honor you for this post and for your work. You are a true inspiration and I’m so glad that I found your blog!

  10. Diahann, I just have to say that I think your blog is incredibly important. You tackle the topics most of us want to skirt around and avoid examining. That takes guts. And what an important topic you’ve addressed here! While our culture has made great strides in understanding female sexuality, I think we still have a ways to go. It wasn’t too long ago that women (well, decent proper women, the kind who make good wives) were thought not to have any sex drive at all. Sex was something they engaged in for the sake of their husbands. Today we live in an age where women are no longer required to marry in order to obtain financial support from a man; we are able to gain an education and work to support ourselves. As our employment sectors have shifted from manufacturing to more service-oriented jobs, and more women have become the primary earners, many men find themselves struggling with the change. And so we see “men’s rights movements” emerging; we see male politicians fighting to control the reproductive rights of women. So of course some men will be threatened at the idea of a woman taking control of her own sexual pleasure. (And the saddest part is that it’s not just men: many women strongly believe that other women should not have access to birth control, and should look to the man as the head of the household. I have numerous female friends who describe themselves as religious fundamentalists, and when they quote that Bible verse about women submitting to their husbands, I cringe.) So many of us carry around baggage concerning our sexuality. It’s hard to discard it when our culture still sends out the message that women who have a high sex drive, or decide not to be monogamous, or who want access to birth control, are sluts. But we combat this shame by speaking out and refusing to be silenced. Thank you, Diahann, for speaking out.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Miranda, you bring up a lot of rich points. I love that this cultural habit of trying to control women’s sexuality is being called out more these days because, as you said, it is still very much there. And yes- the internalizing of these beliefs can be so deeply rooted. The impact of patriarchy impacts both genders for sure. I hadn’t even realized how I on a certain level was carrying that limiting belief around about talking about sexual pleasure even though intellectually I felt otherwise. Thank you also for your kind words about my blog.

  11. Bravo Diahann for your courage to talk about what everyone else thinks, knows, but keeps locked up in their puritan shamed brainwashed guilt-infested minds.

    Jocelyn Elders was spot-on, but she spoke against their religious right.

    I remember reading in the Boy Scout handbook about “wet-dreams,” of which I had never experienced unless you consider pissing the bed at 13 a wet dream, but no need to go into that. It went on to say how natural this wet-dream experience was, that we shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it, and that only “Bad Boys,” can’t wait on nature.

    Well thank God we had confession a way back when. Yeah sure, liked I’d tell a priest I’d been jerking off. He would have loved to hear all about it. Yep, I’m sure he would have.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Peter- your last paragraph made me laugh. And I didn’t realize that Boy Scouts was progressive enough to let boys know wet dreams were perfectly normal and natural. That’s great.

      Thank you, Peter. It’s funny how these things work- it took a few years for me to even understand what was going on for me that day- and then it made perfect sense. Reading the responses here, including yours, is an affirmation that I my feelings that evening came from a personal as well as a universal place.

  12. ninoalmendra says:

    Good read as always! I wish to be one of the crowd when you Read again your Vibrator Story. Or you can add a link on this post of a Youtube copy.

  13. Jenn B. says:

    I think that writing about sex takes courage…and reading that work aloud requires a whole other kind of courage! It’s so interesting to read about how shame can resurface in different contexts.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Jenn! Living in LA there are lots of great storytelling venues and I’ve since found that I wasn’t even being as risqué as others dare to be- that I also think this town is different from most places. I now get that my reaction was normal but at the time I didn’t even know what hit me. And ya- that shame thing- it’s an uncomfortable (and inconvenient) emotion that sometimes shows up when we least expect!

  14. lorieneck says:

    D~ I so am looking forward to reading or better yet, hearing your story read aloud by you soon!

    Thank you for sharing…. love this!

  15. aqilaqamar says:

    Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    though I disagree in some bits i liked this article

  16. I can’t really add much to the thoughts noted ahead of me, mostly because I agree with them, and at the moment I am a little all over the map about the subject of female sexuality. Not in that I have any problems with it in and of itself, but with that patriarchal stance that has been so over-absorbed into all societies.

    I am, again, very angry at how all things dark have been turned on women. Including the recent horrific news stories from India, I’ve been having some discussions about how female middle schoolers need to learn to be more modest, as opposed to our actively teaching them all not to rape! I’d just read a study that showed that boys from Grades 6-9 were under the impression that unless a girl very actively said no, all other circumstances implied yes. I’ve been writing this down, but I don’t know yet where it will end.

    There should be no reason why your story couldn’t have been received the same way as that first telling, but I do understand what happened. Despite it all, I am hopeful that you will go with the third telling. Besides, you know what they say about that third time…

    • diahannreyes says:

      Hi Robyn, I too have been feeling very angry about the recent incidents here and abroad w/ women and girls. The Isla Vista Shooting, in India, and also the Nigerian girls. Also-how patriarchy/misogyny really does kill- on the overt level and the much more subtle levels and not so grand scale levels. I am definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts in your post that it sounds like you are preparing. And I definitely think it is important that there is now talk about no longer blaming the feminine for being themselves as opposed to blaming them and not teaching males that rape is wrong.

      Thank you- I definitely am curious to see how I feel should there be a next time. But at least this time, I’d be more prepared on an emotional level.

  17. HeartBound says:

    Diahann, I could just feel the discomfort that you felt during that moment when you were reading your story. Seriously, I have so much respect for you – that you had the courage to read it out aloud at all. I also love that you used this post as an opportunity to turn the tables on what you were feeling – to question the societal conditioning that shapes our perspectives, and reactions to such topics.

    Thank-you for bringing your light to the truth that female self love and pleasure is nothing to be ashamed of – and that it really is all the wonderful things you say it is. :-)

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Cat! LOL- I was the opening act that night so had no where to go really but up to the podium and read. Thankfully, with some perspective, I can now offer myself compassion rather than judgment for that night. I really appreciate your words. Even now it can still feel scary to talk about female pleasure as if I’m violating some taboo. Hopefully one day i won’t feel like that for me or any other woman.

      I hope you are doing well with all the changes that have been integrating for you down under!

  18. Great post.

    It does require courage and self belief to write a post like this and as a member of the opposite sex, I would like to acknowledge you for this.

    I suppose our societies are still deeply enmeshed with certain stereotypes and beliefs about the feminine gender. But posts like this would initiate remedial actions…..

    Shakti

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Shakti. It would be wonderful if this post and the writings of others could dissolve those stereotypes! I am appreciating that you are a man and your name is Shakti :).

  19. sarahbgoode says:

    This rings true for me. I absolutely feel shame, and then shame about the shame. I hope culture changes in the years to come. I hope you get to tell your story again, but with a more rewarding outcome :)

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Sarah! I hope so too. And I know what you mean about the shame about the shame. I was surprised after publishing this to experience shame about talking about it again. On a positive note, that seems to have dissolved so I guess it is a layer by layer process. I hope you are well!

  20. :) Love your provocative posts, you’ve got guts Girl! I don’t know how exactly I feel about feminine – masculine (im)balance today. It seems like in some parts of the world, women are still rising for our basic rights, louder and louder, and they still get slammed for it, many very violently. But we are getting there! Whereas in other parts of the world, it seems like we are overshadowing the masculine, but not always in good ways. Because nobody feels happy… Men feel repressed, and we feel dissatisfied. Maybe it will just take some readjustment as the roles are not assumed anymore. And we shall live in a different world :)
    I do believe that feminine-masculine balance comes first and foremost from within. I think you reading your story initially was authentic and you felt alright about it, but performing for other people is something else… Maybe this is what made you uncomfortable, rather than your own story? I also do think that sharing something so private would make many people uncomfortable, both sexes equal. Luv xox

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you! I agree- the balance must exist within or it will be challenging for it to ground in the world. And I know as a woman I also need to give the men I know room to find that balance too. I feel like so much change is a foot and hopefully at some point, like you mentioned above, integration. Regarding my story, think that it was a combination of seeing so many people and then my story being such a private matter as well as feeling shame around sharing it so all factors for sure. I appreciate your thoughtful insights here. :)

  21. Tarnished says:

    Hi! I got here from the link over at BroadBlogs, and like your take on some of this topic…I believe in creating a sex positive culture for both women and men. Being gender dysphoric, I can’t say I share many of the experiences you talk about here, but it’s really interesting to read about what cis women go through in regards to their bodies. It’s so different, even though we have the same parts!

    One thing I wanted to ask about is why you don’t yet have any posts touching on the g-spot or clit exclusively. I tried searching for both terms in various ways using your Search widget, but nothing really came up. I hope that you’re planning on posting about these “two” incredible and powerful pieces of the female anatomy. They’re my favorite! ;)

    http://tarnishedsophia.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/happy-international-clitoris-week/

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you. I am definitely going to have to check out your work! I haven’t yet felt pulled to discuss either the clitoris or g-spot but I will definitely throw both into my creative pot to see if anything arises for story. :)

      • Tarnished says:

        That’s great, but no pressure. :)

        I just figured since your blog is about the female body and pleasures, it would make sense to talk about the most sensitive/pleasurable areas. The g-spot is cool, in that it’s actually the back part of the clitoris. And the entirety of the clit itself is as large/larger than a penis! If you have time to check out my post, take a look at the link I provide. It may surprise you.

  22. We are honest when we are alone. Hypocrisy creeps in when the first ‘other person’ steps in.

    • diahannreyes says:

      My acting teacher has this exercise he has his students do. We are supposed to do daily activities we would do at home- fold the laundry, make the bed, dress up-and do them on stage. The test of mastery is if you can do them as if no one is watching you- much more real and interesting to witness :)

  23. ledrakenoir says:

    Masturbation is a human right regardless of whether you are male or female – have never heard of some who have been blind of doing it – we also learn not to be alienated from our own bodies… :-)

  24. Aquileana says:

    I personally think the best sex is with myself and/or oral sex… I think those were my best experiences ever… Your post is sincere, witty and accurate. Thank you, Aquileana :D


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