Before I ever had my first kiss, I went to second base. Well, kind of. The tamest possible version of second base. I was twelve years old; pre–bat mitzvah but post–crossing the threshold of menstruation and leg shaving. It was a time when I was strangely confident. Of course, I wasn’t immune to insecurities. I mean, I was one of the tallest girls in my grade, I had the hair of Michael J. Fox—as Teen Wolf—and a mustache. (All of this is still true except for my height—this was about the time I stopped growing.) And I’d experienced my fair share of mean girls, unrequited crushes, cruel teasing, embarrassing AOL conversations, being the least athletic person in the history of sports, continually telling my parents and believing that “Today is the worst day of my life!,” etc. But to be twelve, at least in the year 2000, at least for me, was to exist in this golden era before you were fully indoctrinated with society’s master plan: to make women feel bad about themselves and how they look. How else are they going to get you to spend that much on cream for cellulite?!
I was in a basement in New Jersey, watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This setting may sound like the beginning of a horror movie to you, but I promise the story doesn’t end with me waking up missing a kidney. (Or does it? Stay tuned!) Anyway, a shaggy-haired boy from Hebrew school sat next to me, and halfway through the movie, under a blanket, he began to slowly feel me up over my black sports bra from Macy’s. I can still remember how heightened it felt, even though he never actually touched my skin. In between each subtle movement, he would whisper, “Is this okay?” and I would nod. I was calm. I knew this person. It wasn’t moving too fast. It felt right.
He asked if he could kiss me. I said no. I wasn’t ready for that yet. Kissing seemed like it’d be more intimate and intense than someone touching a barely formed body part of mine through thick fabric, a body part I had almost no relationship with yet.
I should probably mention that there were other Hebrew school friends in the room at this time. Which made my decision to keep the experience pretty PG a lot easier. I think everyone I grew up with would say that many of their coming-of-age experiences happened around other people because you never get to be alone with someone when you’re that young. So you must eschew modesty and make do!
I emerged from the basement feeling confused about certain plot points in Rocky Horror and conflicted about my over-the-sports-bra experience. I thought I had liked what was happening. It was exciting and fun to be touched in this way. And yet, it felt fairly ordinary—like things had unfolded exactly as they were supposed to. But I had no emotional or physical reference point for sexual experiences. So while it was easy to feel good during it, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel after it. When my mom picked me up that night, my face was red. It was as if my whole body was broadcasting that someone touched my boobs. Or “boobs.” All of a sudden, I went from feeling in control of my destiny to feeling really guilty and uncomfortable.
I knew, even at twelve, that women are made to feel unnecessarily ashamed about sexual behavior. And I’d just had my first taste of that shame. I had to keep reminding myself I’d done nothing wrong. That night was a turning point for me. I decided that moving forward, I never, ever wanted to feel the slightest bit bad for wanting something so natural and normal. I declared myself a “sexual warrior.”
“We have all been made to feel powerless or weak in sexual circumstances. Let’s commit to not perpetuating that.”
I am a twenty-seven-year-old, white, cisgender, femme, queer (but often passing as or assumed to be straight), able-bodied, formerly fat, bighearted, California-grown human-ass being. And I am a survivor of many forms of sexual assault. That’s a truth that I’ve been working with more and more and I’m proud as shit to say I am healing all the parts of me that were hurt, shamed, and hiding, and I am now loving all the parts of me. And I’ve been doing whatever else I felt I needed to do to move forward and not have those wounds define me.
One effect of all this is I’m no longer interested in casual sex. It turns out that “casual sex” was almost never actually about my pleasure. And I only realize now how dangerous and impossible it would be for me; for my safety and wellbeing. So you, who may be my lover, you should know that I am not a casual lay. I am not a no-strings-attached, easy, whatever you may wish, Pussy to stick your prick in. Nope!
And as I write this, I need to make it known that I am not only turned on by people who are grown-ass Men, but I am also turned on—incredibly so—by women and those who do not identify as just one of these two genders.
Having said that, I do feel that women and other people who hold a good amount of feminine wisdom do not need the same kind of information I am presenting here. So though I personally embody a sensual, sexual, feminine spirit that LOVES, adores, and grows relationships with people of all gender expressions, this very serious and very lighthearted talking-to is directed at dear ones who identify as Men.
So, as I was saying—I need to, like, get to know you for some stretch of time before we get to dick-in-my-holes fun. You know, so it might actually be fun for both of us. That’s the reality that I’m operating within. One in which we are adults, so we get to choose!
If you want to get close to me, that’s great and beautiful and yes, I actually am really interested in getting to know wonderful people, intimately even, but it may be a long while before we get super intimate physically. Or it may not be so long, I don’t know! There will probably be long conversations, though, before any sex acts. We’ll have to talk and listen and be honest and vulnerable with each other, please. Otherwise no pussy magic fun for you.
Along the way there will probably be sweet make-out sessions, delightful building-of-companionship sensations, and maybe massages, tickle attacks, and/or hand-holding! So that’s exciting. (It is pretty exciting for me . . . )
So can I explode the myth that you need to “make me” come? Yeah, nope. Sorry, I don’t get down with that phrase. For me, “coming” is not anything that sounds like another person controlling my body or taking the reins and deciding When and How. It’s a co-creative process! I’d like to release some of that pressure, for both our sakes.
I can “make” myself come anytime I want. But being with a partner is not just about getting to the “coming.” The orgasm moment is not the Goal. Got that? I reiterate: One Orgasm does not equal One Finish Line. Did your brain explode a little?
Climaxes (multiple!), physical release, and bliss will indeed happen, if we allow ourselves to go there together. And personally, I need to feel comfortable to play with my partner and luxuriate in the eternal moments that swirl around those climaxes. There will have to be power dynamics, shifts, and one of us leading and one of us following, and switching it up and doing what feels right. Sometimes that may feel like compromise because this is a true collaboration, and it may even feel like you (my partner) are giving up some of your power and control to me. At this time in the story of the world, I say that’s probably a good thing to do more often. We can both let go, and also consciously allow me to voice my choice more of the time. Join me in smashing the patriarchy. Even within our bedroom endeavors.
Most women have been hurt and abused in some way in intimate spaces, so try to bring that into your awareness before entering into sexual intimacy with me, or with any other person. We have all been made to feel powerless or weak in sexual circumstances. Let’s commit to not perpetuating that.
A LITTLE TO THE LEFT
“I had HEARD about this clit thing, but I was like, no way, I don’t have that, or if I do it’s definitely broken.”
How I learned to orgasm
I’m turning twenty-nine in four days.
I’ve had sex with ten people.
Only one has made me orgasm.
The first guy I was with in my freshman dorm room couldn’t hide his bafflement when I didn’t “make noise” during sex.
And I was like, “Are you supposed to make noise?”
He said, “I don’t know, I guess so?”
So, like any good student, I tried it. And making noise WAS a good way to get someone to care about what I was feeling . . . and I actually used it to get most guys to think that they were achieving something. I convinced a lot of people that I was feeling things I wasn’t, and I went through this chunk of my life not understanding my body enough to know that orgasm was a possibility for me. I thought I was one of those girls who just couldn’t do it. But eventually I watched enough TV and overheard enough conversation to catch on to the fact that I was stuck under a rock . . .
I come from a small town in New England—where you don’t learn about sex or talk about sex and by default you know nothing about sex. And when I moved to New York City, I was so overloaded with every type of sensory stimulus that my brain kind of exploded. And by sophomore year, and my fourth sexual partner, I knew that I hadn’t experienced sex the right way. I heard somewhere that every woman should learn as much as she possibly can about her body before she lets someone else all up in there. Good point. So I grabbed one of those mirrors that come with the blush at CVS, and one afternoon when my roommate was out, I took a long, taxing look at my vagina. I touched it, trying to find my clit, because I had HEARD about this clit thing, but I was like, no way, I don’t have that, or if I do it’s definitely broken. But what ended up happening is that I taught myself everything no one was going to teach me. And after I found my clit (holy shit) I waltzed into this beautiful sex toy shop called Babeland and I bought myself the most generic-looking and-operating dildo and I practiced how to orgasm from the inside (holy shit). And when it ran out of C batteries, I replaced them. I was basically keeping the bodega in business with my battery purchases alone. And I practiced until I got so good and so orgasmy that I began to notice some other really important issues I had with sex. Mainly this issue of confidence. Because when you’re lying in bed alone, fondling your newly discovered vagina, rather than lying in bed with a partner, EVERYTHING CHANGES. Fuck.
So it turns out that just because I discovered enough about my body to achieve orgasm while seated over the engine on a bus listening to Justin Timberlake, it didn’t mean that I knew how to let someone else discover that. So I decided, as I do with many things in my life, to become the BEST at giving sex. I was overcompensating for my lack of sexual self-confidence with this Kanye-inspired “I’m a sex god” mentality. I didn’t know that being good at sex didn’t mean pleasuring your partner to the ends of the earth. It actually meant being pleasured too, and I felt miserable that I couldn’t do that because of NERVES. The epically insecure corners of my soul didn’t let new guys see me naked, and they couldn’t make me orgasm no matter how hard I, or they, tried. And I spent many a night consoling guys who felt bad that they came so early, while being secretly ecstatic that the encounter was over.
Then one night—as this story ends with one single orgasm—someone decided that if I wasn’t turned on, he wasn’t turned on. And that exploded my brain yet again. And as I’m still picking up the pieces from the cracks in the floor, I can tell you that the best sexual experiences I’ve had happened when I was guided into pleasure and made to feel comfortable by someone not stopping until he figured out what worked for me.
Imagine you could give an essay entitled "How to Make Me Come" to a past, present or future sex partner, free of judgment or repercussion. What would you want them to know? In this book inspired by Emma Koenig's wildly popular website, a diverse collective of women do just that.
Emma Koenig was inspired to answer this question after a truly frustrating sexual experience with a partner. As she says, "THE SIMPLEST VERSION OF THIS STORY DEVOID OF ALL IDENTIFYING DETAILS: He thought I had an orgasm. I hadn't." She knew she couldn't be the only woman to have been mystified by an experience such as this, and so her Tumblr, How to Make Me Come, was born as a safe space for women to talk honestly and openly. The website touched a major chord. It received tons of press and garnered over a million page views in a month. And now, a broad range of the best of these anonymous essays have been collected into MOAN.
The ways through which women achieve sexual pleasure are often ignored, devalued, or misunderstood. MOAN tackles the ideas surrounding the sometimes elusive orgasm head on. Here is a look into the spectrum of desire. Of frustration. Of experiences that have left an impact. From the hilarious to the tragic, from the intellectual to the erotic, these essays will leave you feeling inspired and excited to embark on your own journey of sexual exploration and empower women to do what most of the time is hardest for us: asking for what we want and don't in the bedroom and beyond.
What people are saying about it:
Prioritizing women's pleasure is a critical part of our liberation. Not only is MOAN an intimate, educational and funny collection about orgasm and desire but it pushes the cultural conversation forward."
--RASHIDA JONES, actress, writer, producer
"Koenig's book is exactly what we need to break the absurd, toxic silence around female sexual pleasure."
--PEGGY ORENSTEIN, bestselling author of Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter