Get Real! How Do You Tell When Women Are Done With Sex?

Heather Corinna

Sex is over when one or both partners don't want to have it anymore, either because they both feel satisfied or just because one or both are done with the whole works for the time being.

This column originally appeared on Scarleteen.

Liam asks:

I know for a
guy, sex is over once he ejaculates. But when is the sex over for a
girl? Because I’ve always been told in sex ed that the guy is
"finished" once he cums & that girls don’t always ejaculate during
sex. But I never really thought to ask about when a girl is "finished."
So when does a guy know the sex has finished for both, if the girl
doesn’t always "finish off" like guys do?

Heather replies:

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For
men or women, sex is over when one or both partners don’t want to have
it anymore, either because they both feel satisfied with the sex they
had, or just because one partner or both, even if the sex didn’t result
in orgasm, or feel like they wanted it to, just feels done with the
whole works and not very interested in sex anymore.

Obviously, some partners may decide for their partners that sex is
over just because THEY are have gotten what they wanted out of it, but
since partnered sex is supposed to be about two people, not one, that’s
not an approach I’d advise for a sex life of any real quality for
everyone involved.

Sex isn’t just about orgasm, or about getting one or both people to
orgasm, and having that be the whole point. Sex is about the people
involved experiencing physical and emotional pleasure together
throughout, with or without orgasm, before, during and after. Ideally,
during sex, we’re both checking in with our partner to tell them what
feels good and to ask if they are feeling good. We ask what our partner
wants throughout sex, and that communication is part of sex. We don’t
need to just guess or wonder, nor assume that because one or both of us
has reached orgasm, sex is or should be over.

One thing to understand is that men and women alike can reach orgasm
more than once: just because a person reaches orgasm once or ejaculates
doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all done. Now, not everyone can
ejaculate or orgasm more than once, nor can people who can do those
things do them every day or even want to every time they have sex. But
often enough in your sex life, you’ll probably fine that reaching
orgasm once, for you and your partner, doesn’t automatically turn off
your or their desire for more sex or other kinds of physical intimacy.

As well, just because one person reaches orgasm doesn’t mean sex is
over or done: what you were taught in sex ed, in fact, may have been
biased. For a very long time, through much of our history, women’s
sexuality was all but dismissed, or made to only be about satisfying
men. Many, many women have been taught that what determines when sex is
over is when a male partner says that it is or reaches orgasm. But just
because a guy feels done doesn’t mean his partner does (that’s huge
with vaginal intercourse, since while most men will orgasm with that
alone, most women will not, and additionally, on average, it takes
women longer to reach orgasm than it does men), nor that, even if he
can’t get another erection, the sex has to be over: sex isn’t just
about genitals or erection, for men or women. We can and do have sex
with more than a penis or our genitals: we have hands, mouths and all
kinds of other body parts which are sexual for both of us. Too, a lot
of the way people approach sexuality when teaching it is based around
reproduction, even though not only is sex not about that for everyone,
even for those trying to reproduce through sex, it’s still usually also
about pleasure and about sharing something intimate together. By all
means, when a male and female couple is having sex to try and
reproduce, once the male ejaculates, that’s all that’s needed to make
pregnancy possible: a woman doesn’t have to orgasm or ejaculate to
become pregnant.

Women with male partners do often know when their partner has an
orgasm, but not just because he ejaculates (if he does: men sometimes
do not ejaculate when they orgasm: they’re usually related, but
separate, events). Sex is a pretty goopy, wet enterprise, and often, a
woman isn’t going to specifically feel that her partner has ejaculated
if his penis is inside her vagina, which is also a wet place. With oral
sex, because semen has a taste, you can tell, and with manual sex or
mutual masturbation, you can see ejaculation. Often, whatever the
gender of our partner, if our genitals, mouths, or hands are around or
in their genitals, we can learn to feel the contractions which usually
happen with orgasm, and have a pretty good idea of when a partner is
having one. All the same, women usually know best when their male partners have reached orgasm because they say so, as in "Holey moley, that orgasm rocked!"

You’re right: some women do ejaculate with sex or some kinds of sex,
and some women do not. But for many who do, ejaculation doesn’t always
happen with orgasm: sometimes it happens considerably before orgasm.
Women who ejaculate also usually don’t with every orgasm, and more
women than men can have multiple orgasms. So, as is the case with male
partners, knowing when a female partner is done is going to be about
when she says she’s done, or asking her if she feels done.

Of course, not all men or all women will reach orgasm with
intercourse or any other kind of sex all the time. So, men don’t always
"finish off" in that way, either. It’s not just women who don’t always
orgasm. Sometimes, too, a woman might feel done with sex before a male
partner reaches orgasm or ejaculates, just like men might have that
experience. Obviously, when we’re having sex with a partner, we want to
try to each do our best to please the other person, but if either of us
just doesn’t feel like having sex anymore on a given day, no one should
feel they have to keep going when it’s a drag. After all, we all have
ways of getting ourselves to orgasm, too, for those times when our
partner is not feeling well, has lost the mood or is just plain
tuckered out.

What it all boils down to is that men and women are more alike that
it seems when it comes to all of this, and ejaculation isn’t a good way
to tell that anyone is finished with sex.

One more thing? Our feeling of being "done" isn’t always just about our own pleasure.

Sometimes, even if we’ve had several orgasms, and don’t really feel
like we can handle or are up to more being done with our bodies, we
might see that our partner is still up to more. Since partnered sex is
about giving pleasure as well as receiving it, and a lot of our
excitement is about our partner’s pleasure, we might not feel done if
we have the opportunity to please THEM more, even when in one respect,
we’re done. In fact, sometimes we may want to have sex with a partner
that is entirely about pleasing them, about their bodies and genitals
more than our own or exclusive of our own altogether. We can be in the
mood for that kind of sex sometimes and not others where it’s more
about both of us having genital or other stimulation.

Not all people feel done with sex just because they reached an
orgasm, either done for their own pleasure, nor done when it comes to
their partner. In other words, it’s not a race where whoever comes
first wins and the other partner is S.O.L. If you ask me, when any two
(or more) people are sexually active together, if everyone is doing it
for the right reason and really invested in each other, none of us is
really going to feel done unless we both feel done. As I
explained a bit earlier, it doesn’t always work out that way. We’re
human, and our moods, relationship dynamics and the way we feel in our
bodies tends to vary from day to day. Sometimes, we just aren’t
connecting enough physically or emotionally to continue with sex, we
get distracted and lose the mood, or just aren’t feeling well or
energetic, even if we really wanted to be sexual at first. It happens,
and it’s okay that it does now and then. But for the most part, our
feeling of pleasure and being "done" should be interconnected with the
way our partner is feeling.

Hopefully, that fills in the gaps for you. And by all means, if your
sex education had a gap like this you saw, you might want to pipe up
and say something. I get that group sex education in school can be
awkward, so it’s not always so easy to interject in class, but you
could certainly tell your teacher privately afterwards where they had a
blind spot or left something as critical as this — as the sexual
experience of more than half the globe, and a more realistic idea of
what sex between people is like — out. Who knows, you may wind up
being the person students in the future have to thank for getting that
information from the get-go, and for getting a sexuality education
that’s not only more realistic, but about everyone sitting in the
classroom!

Here are a few extra links for you which may fill some additional gaps in your education:

Commentary Human Rights

When It Comes to Zika and Abortion, Disabled People Are Too Often Used as a Rhetorical Device

s.e. smith

Anti-choicers shame parents facing a prenatal diagnosis and considering abortion, even though they don't back up their advocacy up with support. The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, often finds itself caught between defending abortion as an absolute personal right and suggesting that some lived potentials are worth more than others.

There’s only one reason anyone should ever get an abortion: Because that person is pregnant and does not want to be. As soon as anyone—whether they are pro- or anti-choice—starts bringing up qualifiers, exceptions, and scary monsters under the bed, things get problematic. They establish the seeds of a good abortion/bad abortion dichotomy, in which some abortions are deemed “worthier” than others.

And with the Zika virus reaching the United States and the stakes getting more tangible for many Americans, that arbitrary designation is on a lot of minds—especially where the possibility of developmentally impaired fetuses is concerned. As a result, people with disabilities are more often being used as a rhetorical device for or against abortion rights rather than viewed as actualized human beings.

Here’s what we know about Zika and pregnancy: The virus has been linked to microcephaly, hearing loss, impaired growth, vision problems, and some anomalies of brain development when a fetus is exposed during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sometimes these anomalies are fatal, and patients miscarry their pregnancies. Sometimes they are not. Being infected with Zika is not a guarantee that a fetus will develop developmental impairments.

We need to know much, much more about Zika and pregnancy. At this stage, commonsense precautions when necessary like sleeping under a mosquito net, using insect repellant, and having protected sex to prevent Zika infection in pregnancy are reasonable, given the established link between Zika and developmental anomalies. But the panicked tenor of the conversation about Zika and pregnancy has become troubling.

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In Latin America, where Zika has rampantly spread in the last few years, extremely tough abortion restrictions often deprive patients of reproductive autonomy, to the point where many face the possibility of criminal charges for seeking abortion. Currently, requests for abortions are spiking. Some patients have turned to services like Women on Web, which provides assistance with accessing medical abortion services in nations where they are difficult or impossible to find.

For pro-choice advocates in the United States, the situation in Latin America is further evidence of the need to protect abortion access in our own country. Many have specifically using Zika to advocate against 20-week limits on abortion—which are already unconstitutional, and should be condemned as such. Less than 2 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The pro-choice community is often quick to defend these abortions, arguing that the vast majority take place in cases where the life of the patient is threatened, the fetus has anomalies incompatible with life, or the fetus has severe developmental impairments. Microcephaly, though rare, is an example of an impairment that isn’t diagnosable until late in the second trimester or early in the third, so when patients opt for termination, they run smack up against 20-week bans.

Thanks to the high profile of Zika in the news, fetal anomalies are becoming a talking point on both sides of the abortion divide: Hence the dire headlines sensationalizing the idea that politicians want to force patients to give birth to disabled children. The implication of leaning on these emotional angles, rather than ones based on the law or on human rights, is that Zika causes disabilities, and no one would want to have a disabled child. Some of this rhetoric is likely entirely subconscious, but it reflects internalized attitudes about disabled people, and it’s a dogwhistle to many in the disability community.

Anti-choicers, meanwhile, are leveraging that argument in the other direction, suggesting that patients with Zika will want to kill their precious babies because they aren’t perfect, and that therefore it’s necessary to clamp down on abortion restrictions to protect the “unborn.” Last weekend, for instance, failed presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he doesn’t support access to abortion for pregnant patients with the Zika virus who might, as a consequence, run the risk of having babies with microcephaly. Hardline anti-choicers, unsurprisingly, applauded him for taking a stand to protect life.

Both sides are using the wrong leverage in their arguments. An uptick in unmet abortion need is disturbing, yes—because it means that patients are not getting necessary health care. While it may be Zika exposing the issue of late, it’s a symptom, not the problem. Patients should be able to choose to get an abortion for whatever reason and at whatever time, and that right shouldn’t be defended with disingenuous arguments that use disability for cover. The issue with not being able to access abortions after 20 weeks, for example, isn’t that patients cannot access therapeutic abortions for fetuses with anomalies, but that patients cannot access abortions after 20 weeks.

The insistence from pro-choice advocates on justifying abortions after 20 weeks around specific, seemingly involuntary instances, suggests that so-called “late term abortions” need to be circumstantially defended, which retrenches abortion stigma. Few advocates seem to be willing to venture into the troubled waters of fighting for the right to abortions for any reason after 20 weeks. In part, that reflects an incremental approach to securing rights, but it may also betray some squeamishness. Patients don’t need to excuse their abortions, and the continual haste to do so by many pro-choice advocates makes it seem like a 20-week or later abortion is something wrong, something that might make patients feel ashamed depending on their reasons. There’s nothing shameful about needing abortion care after 20 weeks.

And, as it follows, nor is there ever a “bad” reason for termination. Conservatives are fond of using gruesome language targeted at patients who choose to abort for apparent fetal disability diagnoses in an attempt to shame them into believing that they are bad people for choosing to terminate their pregnancies. They use the specter of murdering disabled babies to advance not just social attitudes, but actual policy. Republican Gov. Mike Pence, for example, signed an Indiana law banning abortion on the basis of disability into law, though it was just blocked by a judge. Ohio considered a similar bill, while North Dakota tried to ban disability-related abortions only to be stymied in court. Other states require mandatory counseling when patients are diagnosed with fetal anomalies, with information about “perinatal hospice,” implying that patients have a moral responsibility to carry a pregnancy to term even if the fetus has impairments so significant that survival is questionable and that measures must be taken to “protect” fetuses against “hasty” abortions.

Conservative rhetoric tends to exceptionalize disability, with terms like “special needs child” and implications that disabled people are angelic, inspirational, and sometimes educational by nature of being disabled. A child with Down syndrome isn’t just a disabled child under this framework, for example, but a valuable lesson to the people around her. Terminating a pregnancy for disability is sometimes treated as even worse than terminating an apparently healthy pregnancy by those attempting to demonize abortion. This approach to abortion for disability uses disabled people as pawns to advance abortion restrictions, playing upon base emotions in the ultimate quest to make it functionally impossible to access abortion services. And conservatives can tar opponents of such laws with claims that they hate disabled people—even though many disabled people themselves oppose these patronizing policies, created to address a false epidemic of abortions for disability.

When those on either side of the abortion debate suggest that the default response to a given diagnosis is abortion, people living with that diagnosis hear that their lives are not valued. This argument implies that life with a disability is not worth living, and that it is a natural response for many to wish to terminate in cases of fetal anomalies. This rhetoric often collapses radically different diagnoses under the same roof; some impairments are lethal, others can pose significant challenges, and in other cases, people can enjoy excellent quality of life if they are provided with access to the services they need.

Many parents facing a prenatal diagnosis have never interacted with disabled people, don’t know very much about the disability in question, and are feeling overwhelmed. Anti-choicers want to force them to listen to lectures at the least and claim this is for everyone’s good, which is a gross violation of personal privacy, especially since they don’t back their advocacy up with support for disability programs that would make a comfortable, happy life with a complex impairment possible. The pro-choice movement, on the other hand, often finds itself caught between the imperative to defend abortion as an absolute personal right and suggesting that some lived potentials are worth more than others. It’s a disturbing line of argument to take, alienating people who might otherwise be very supportive of abortion rights.

It’s clearly tempting to use Zika as a political football in the abortion debate, and for conservatives, doing so is taking advantage of a well-established playbook. Pro-choicers, however, would do better to walk off the field, because defending abortion access on the sole grounds that a fetus might have a disability rings very familiar and uncomfortable alarm bells for many in the disability community.

Commentary Violence

When It Comes to Threats, Online or on the Campaign Trail, It’s Not Up to Women to ‘Suck It Up’

Lauren Rankin

Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.

Bizarre and inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new for this election. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate has made an entire campaign out of it. But during a rally last Tuesday, Donald Trump sunk to a new level. He lamented that if Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, there will be no way to stop her from making judicial nominations.

He said, “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

For a candidate marred by offensive comment after offensive comment, this language represents a new low, because, as many immediately explained, Trump appears to be making a veiled threat against Clinton, whether he had intended to or not.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called it a “death threat” and Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News host, called it a “direct threat of violence against a political rival.” Former President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis said it was “horrifying,” and even the author of an NRA-linked blog initially tweeted, “That was a threat of violence. As a real supporter of the #2A it’s appalling to me,” before deleting the tweet as the NRA expressed support for Trump.

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This kind of language is violent in nature on its face, but it is also gendered, following in a long line of misogynistic rhetoric this election season. Chants of “kill the bitch” and “hang the bitch” have become common at Trump rallies. These aren’t solely examples of bitter political sniping; these are overt calls for violence.

When women speak out or assert ourselves, we are challenging long-held cultural norms about women’s place and role in society. Offensively gendered language represents an attempt to maintain the status quo. We’ve seen this violent rhetoric online as well. That isn’t an accident. When individuals throw pejorative terms at those of who refuse to be silenced, they are attempting to render public spaces, online or on the campaign trail, unsafe for us.

There is no shortage of examples demonstrating how individuals who feel threatened by subtle power shifts happening in our society have pushed back against those changes. The interactions happening online, on various social media platforms, offer the most vivid examples of the ways in which people are doing their best to try to make public spaces as uncomfortable as possible for marginalized populations.

Social media offers the opportunity for those whose voices are routinely ignored to hold power in a new way. It is a slow but real shift from old, more traditional structures of privileging certain voices to a more egalitarian megaphone, of sorts.

For marginalized populations, particularly women of color and transgender women, social media can provide an opportunity to be seen and heard in ways that didn’t exist before. But it also means coming up against a wall of opposition, often represented in a mundane but omnipresent flow of hatred, abuse, and violent threats from misogynist trolls.

The internet has proven to be a hostile place for women. According to a report from the United Nations, almost three quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence. As someone who has received threats of violence myself, I know what it feels like to have sharing your voice met with rage. There are women who experience this kind of violent rhetoric to an even greater degree than I could ever dream.

The list of women who have been inundated with threats of violence could go on for days. Women like Zerlina Maxwell, who was showered with rape threats after saying that we should teach men not to rape; Lindy West received hundreds upon hundreds of violent and threatening messages after she said that she didn’t think rape jokes were funny; Leslie Jones, star of Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live, was driven off of Twitter after a coordinated attack of racist, sexist, and violent language against her.

And yet, rarely are such threats taken seriously by the broader community, including by those able to do something about it.

Many people remain woefully unaware of how cruel and outright scary it can be for women online, particularly women with prolific digital profiles. Some simply refuse to see it as a real issue, declaring that “It’s just the internet!” and therefore not indicative of potential physical violence. Law enforcement doesn’t even have a solution, often unwilling to take these threats seriously, as Amanda Hess found out.

This kind of response is reflected in those who are trying to defend Donald Trump after the seemingly indefensible. Despite the overwhelming criticism from many, including some renowned Republicans, we have also seen some Trump supporters try to diminish or outright erase the violent aspect of this clearly threatening rhetoric. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani have both said that they assumed Trump meant get rid of her “by voting.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that it “sounds like just a joke gone bad.”

The violent nature of Donald Trump’s comments seem apparent to almost everyone who heard him. To try to dismiss it as a “joke” or insist that it is those who are offended that are wrong is itself harmful. This is textbook gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse in which a victim’s reality is eroded by telling them that what they experienced isn’t true.

But gaslighting has played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign, with some of his supporters insisting that it is his critics who are overreacting—that it is a culture of political correctness, rather than his inflammatory and oppressive rhetoric, that is the real problem.

This is exactly what women experience online nearly every day, and we are essentially told to just suck it up, that it’s just the internet, that it’s not real. But tell that to Jessica Valenti, who received a death and rape threat against her 5-year-old daughter. Tell that to Anita Sarkeesian, who had to cancel a speech at Utah State after receiving a death threat against her and the entire school. Tell that to Brianna Wu, a game developer who had to flee her home after death threats. Tell that to Hillary Clinton, who is trying to make history as the first woman president, only to have her life threatened by citizens, campaign advisers, and now through a dog whistle spoken by the Republican presidential candidate himself.

Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump’s rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.

Language matters. When that language is cruel, aggressive, or outright violent, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it doesn’t come without consequences. There is a reason that it is culturally unacceptable to say certain words like “cunt” and other derogatory terms; they have a history of harm and oppression, and they are often directly tied to acts of violence. When someone tweets a woman “I hope your boyfriend beats you,” it isn’t just a trolling comment; it reflects the fact that in the United States, more women are killed by intimate partners than by any other perpetrator, that three or more women die every day from intimate partner violence. When Donald Trump not only refuses to decry calls of violence and hate speech at his rallies but in fact comes across as threatening his female opponent, it isn’t just an inflammatory gaffe; it reflects the fact that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Threats of violence have no place in presidential campaigns, but they also have no place online, either. Until we commit ourselves to rooting out violent language against women and to making public spaces safer and more accommodating for women and all marginalized people, Trump’s comments are just par for the course.

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