The Myth of the One True Penis

Louisa Leontiades Sexual Shame, Vile Depths

For me and my teenage (mostly hetero) girl-friends in 1990, finding the one true penis which would make us come from intercourse alone was an eternal preoccupation and our theories were supported by the relationship bible, Cosmo.

If we found the penis, it was one of many signs that it was attached to Mr Right. That’s why when I met my future husband I knew he was the one. I was the envy of my friends because I could come from sex… sometimes. When the mood was right, without alcohol and with a whole lot of foreplay… his one true penis could ‘make’ me come.

But it was a lot of conscious effort. Often I couldn’t come and I could only imagine that sex with me was rather sad and perfunctory. So I faked it. Penis in vagina sex wasn’t great, but only because something was wrong with me.

Because Penis-in-Vagina + Male orgasm = Sex…doesn’t it??

Once upon a time I was all like ‘Lesbian Sex? It’s not really sex is it.’ And in my private girls’ school we were all programmed to think… ‘Where’s the penis?’

For a protestant, middle-class, white girl, sex had always been illicitly enjoyed but laced with heavy doses of guilt and shame. I knew that a certain amount of ‘try-before-you-buy’ was permitted, but sex was primarily for procreation with a permanent partner. And my assumption was that sex was by definition, intercourse because the goal of intercourse was sperm production… even if in our enlightened times the female orgasm was allowed to enter into the equation.

The act of sex began with penis-in-vagina pounding and finished with the male orgasm. Anything prior to that was foreplay and the arc of achievement was dictated by him. After I had had my turn at coming, we turned our attention to the final and crucial act. Because whilst my orgasms were fun, they were not necessary to complete the sexual act. Only his was.

Fast forward 20 years, I had been married, divorced and discovered polyamory.

Sex was great but I still felt like I was learning a craft, perfecting my technique, building my skill database and heading for the finish line.

‘You don’t have to worry about me coming when you go down on me.’ I said magnanimously.

‘Well thanks. But when I go down on you, I’m not trying to make you come.’ Said my new boyfriend.

And my first thought was ‘Why not? How bloody selfish.’

Then he said ‘Of course making you feel good is a great thing and I like it. But I am personally responsible for my orgasm and you are too. If you expect me to come every time you go down on me, I wouldn’t enjoy your blowjobs. I enjoy blowjobs because they feel good, not because they make me come. Sex is whatever feels good. Orgasm is only one part of it. Penis in vagina is only one part of it. Does there always have to be a goal?’

As his words filtered through my consciousness, I felt an enormous sense of relief. Years of conditioning and expectations lifted off me. And later that day I cried as the prison around my beliefs crumbled. I realised the pressure I had felt to bring myself to orgasm so that my lovers would feel good about themselves, had been immense. And as far back as I could remember, I had equally been trying to learn how to ‘make’ a man come. The deep throating, quick wrist action, the flicks of the tongue, the kegel exercises, the caressing of the prostate, the anal play. Orgasm was the achievement by which I measured my sexual success. It was a game where you had to score.

But you couldn’t practice to be perfect before you met them (apparently men didn’t want that either). And so I tried… through the gagging, through the jaw cramp, through the concentrated periodic tightening of my vagina during intercourse. All the while, terrified in case I received the ‘constructive’ feedback…

‘You’re really no good at that are you?’

The Three Damaging Expectations

Do consider ‘proper’ sex to be –

  • Penis in Vagina?
  • Defined as finished when he comes?
  • When you come from intercourse alone?

If so, you are not alone. I was once like you. Fearful. In denial and increasingly not interested in what I thought sex had to be. Because if you adhere to these types of false expectations, not only are you setting yourself up for an horribly unsatisfactory sex life, you are constantly living under the threat of failure. And who wants to have sex like that?

If you are afraid he might leave if you don’t satisfy him in bed; if you put yourself under immense pressure to come without stimulation that is suited to your unique body; if you put responsibility on him to create an experience which is yours to own and celebrate; if your end goal is always to allow his penis inside your vagina because otherwise, you didn’t really have ‘sex’; if you are scared to tell him what you really enjoy because it will threaten his manhood; if you secretly believe that his orgasm will always take priority…consider this.

What if caressing didn’t have to lead anywhere? What if your sex consisted of whatever felt good for you in the moment? What if there were no pressure on either of you to orgasm to satisfy the other person’s ego? What if you could experiment without expectation and judgment?

Sex would no longer be an act which had check the boxes, instead it could be about connection, intimacy and pleasure. And sure, occasionally a bit of penis-in-vagina pounding.