I have promised myself that I will review on this blog every single book that I read and “Becoming Cliterate” by Laurie Mintz, Ph.D. won’t be an exception despite its potential to make some readers uncomfortable. To start with, I love educating myself on the topics that I don’t feel like I have been educated enough either in school or through my environment. I have recently been watching a YouTube video about a guy who was reading one book a week for a year and one his key takeaways that he mentioned from this extensive reading was that he felt like his education was in his own hands. I very much like that perspective hence if I feel like I don’t know enough about something, I look up the most recent non-fictions books that came out on the topic and start reading. And honestly, sometimes it just turns everything upside down.
Let’s start from the fact that this book was mind-blowing in a sense that I don’t know why the information about women sexuality backed up by decades of research is not taught in schools to young adults (well as per author, it is in some countries like Denmark and the Netherlands so YAY for them) and why the education about a realistic sexual intercourse is left to mainstream media, porn and popular magazines which by the way, got it all wrong and impose unrealistic expectations and image about woman and man sexuality representing them as “normal” and “expected”. Anyhow, that was a bit of ranting on a topic – I guess, I feel disappointed and partly personally frustrated about the fact that this scientific information was not readily available to me when I was growing up until I proactively went to look for it. Now to the book itself.
We Got It All Wrong
“Becoming Cliterate” includes several sections and chapters focusing on a wide range of topics – woman anatomy, pleasure gap between man and woman, some practical tips on improving your sex life and sexual communication along with some cultural background on how man and woman orgasm. To start with, here are a few interesting thoughts from Laurie Mintz:
- “The reason there’s such a massive orgasm gap between the sexes is because we overvalue men’s common way of reaching an orgasm (intercourse) and undervalue women’s most common way (clitoral stimulation)”
- “The idea that women should orgasm from intercourse is the number one reason for the pleasure gap.” (and in fact, per recent research, only about 5% reliable do so).
- “Almost all women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, which is not achieved during typical penetrative course” (and yes, mostly this happens because clitoris is too far from the vagina itself).
- “The vagina (by which I mean the inside canal of the female sexual organs has very few touch-sensitive nerve endings. Instead, the overwhelming majority of the nerve endings that women need to reach orgasm are on the outside.”
- “The most striking thing about female masturbation is how likely it is to product orgasm and how little it resembles, mechanically, the stimulation received from intercourse. The most crucial action needed to orgasm with a partner is to get the same type of stimulation you use when pleasuring yourself.”
- “The myth of simultaneous orgasms is connected to that number one lie we’re trying to eradicate. Most movie scenes depicting simultaneous orgasms involve a man and a woman having intercourse when they not only orgasm at the same time but both do so from penile thrusting alone.”
These are just a few interesting thoughts to start with and the book goes much more into detail debunking all the myths surrounding woman sexuality and pleasure gap. I will let you explore that on your own – in the meantime, I wanted to go into detail on something that I think crucial which is sexual communication (and just general communication).
Sexual and General Communication 101
One of my favourite parts of the book was the chapter on sexual communication (and genera communication) that had some useful tips anyone can implement. Let’s start with four faulty beliefs about communication:
I shouldn’t have to say what I want.
I have definitely fallen prey of this one thinking too many times that people can read my mind – guess what? They can’t. You have to be vocal and specific about your needs and wants: “To be angry at someone for doing something you find offensive, but haven’t told him or her you don’t like, is unfounded.”
And another good point on this one: “Perhaps you think that if you have to request something, it’s less meaningful to receive it. But here’s another way of thinking about this: Contemplate how wonderful it can be to directly state something is important to you and then receive it. This means the other person listened to you and demonstrated their caring bu giving you what you said you desired.”
I’m sure I know.
Just ask someone instead of assuming e.g. what they like: “Assuming you know something can be hazardous to relationships.”
It’s useless to discuss.
I like a line from “Friends” TV show when Rachel flies to London to Emily and Ross’ wedding with the main motto: “It is not over until somebody says I do”. I think we can apply this rule to discussions and negotiating things in our relationship – everything is discussable: “For most couples – whether they’ve been together three months or thirty years – ineffective communication leads to unresolved issues that both partners feel hurt or angry about.”
Fights have winners and losers.
Here I am just going to quote the author: “Oftentimes, we’re taught to argue to prove a point. We’re taught to fight to fin. This is rarely constructive and can harm relationships. People who care about each other are much better off taking the attitude that the purpose of disagreeing is to get closer rather than to win.”
Now that we have covered the faulty believes about communication, there are some handy strategies and tips that Laurie Mintz provides for communicating:
- Allow yourself to be aware of what you want and your right to express it.
- Don’t ask questions that aren’t actually questions: For example, when you say something like “Are you going to be done soon?” when your partner keeps the light on in the bedroom and you want to sleep – instead, you can say something like: “I would like to go to sleep. Can I turn off the light?”
- Start sentences with “I” rather than with “you”: “Starting a sentence with the word “you” is almost guaranteed to result in a nonproductive conversation. It comes across as an accusation and puts the other person on the defensive.”
- Communicate about communication: “It generally involves putting out there what you’re thinking or observing about the interaction but ordinarily would not say explicitly”.
- Find the grain of truth: “When you’re in conflict with another person, keep in mind that there’s likely some truth in what this person is saying. If you can find it and acknowledge it, the disagreement will de-escalate.”
- Reflect what you hear: “Reflection is using your own words to repeat what someone said and, if possible, to acknowledge their emotions.”
- Create a culture of appreciation: I think this one is self-explanatory. More compliments and focus on what’s being done right!
These are some general communication tips that you can apply in sexual communication with your partner. Laurie Mintz also mentions several more sex specific talks:
- Kitchen-Table Talks: as the author mentioned, these generally occur in non-sexual location and their main goal is to discuss things that you want and how you want to try to make your sex life better;
- Let’s Have Sex Talks: generally talks before the sexual encounter;
- In-the-Midst Sex Talks: communicating your desires during the sexual encounter;
- Afterglow Talks: sexual communication after the encounter e.g. what was good, what was missing.
Lots to think about, huh? I think this is one of the best books I read this year in terms of debunking popular culture myths and if you are interested in expanding your knowledge as well, I do suggest you give it a try (if you are interested in the topic, of course). And for dessert, one final thought:
What isn’t named doesn’t exist, and every time someone uses the word “vagina” when they really mean “vulva”, they’re erasing some of the parts of a woman’s sexual organs that give them the most pleasure! It’s time we stop making ourselves – and parts of our bodies – invisible, and that starts with using the right language.