Letters were written to the CRTC and to CBC officials.
They are reproduced here, together with a transcript of the program.
As the producer of this program, I’d like to hear your reactions to the program, the letters, and the controversy.
I’d especially like to know what you think ought to be done next.
The net seems like a good place for listeners and program-makers to talk about contentious issues.
Our e-mail address is [email protected]
– Max Allen, producer, IDEAS
CBC HAS BECOME AN EXERCISE IN SELF-ABUSE by Peter Stockland Toronto Sun, 2 April 1995
Gee, what will the geniuses at CBC try next?
It’s a question being asked with anger by listeners subjected to Mother Corp.’s airing of a radio documentary on female orgasm, complete with graphic anatomical descriptions of the so-called G-spot whose deft manipulation reportedly lets some women ejaculate as men do.
How graphic was it?
Believe it or not, they actually had a woman named Shannon Bell masturbate herself to orgasm on air using a “little yellow vibrator” whilst giving play-by-play about her bodily fluid.
“It tastes fairly good.
You can taste your own, but don’t taste anybody else’s because that’s not safe sex,” Bell told listeners who hadn’t thrown their radios out the kitchen window by that point.
I count myself lucky to have missed the original when it aired last month on the prime time series IDEAS. Reading a transcript of the show was enough.
The raw language used, the crudity of the themes pursued, would have been right at home in the letters section of the more scurrilous skin magazines.
Equally bilious, though, was the pseudo-intellectual, feminist clap-trap wrapped around the more prurient parts for a veneer of academic respectability to justify such aural soft-core porn.
One who was not fooled by this trickery was Calgary MP Jan Brown, Reform Party critic for the CBC, who’s demanding Mother Corp. explain airing such vulgarity.
“It’s so far outside the bounds of acceptable community standard [sic] it’s beyond belief,” Brown told me.
She stressed she has no prudish qualms about such topics being discussed in appropriate settings — e.g. a doctor’s office or counselling session.
She just doesn’t think her constituents — or other Canadians — want it boomed at them by the tax-funded national broadcaster.
“I don’t advocate censorship, but what happened to basic judgment?
Is this what we want our public radio to do?” she demanded.
Brown’s hopeful other citizens who detest such tasteless, de-humanizing material will let her know so she can bring pressure to bear on the CBC powers that be.
“It’s got to be the population at large that demands accountability or it will just be worse the next time.”
Ironically, the program’s conclusion not only justified that concern, but detailed why she’s correct.
After all the bathroom-talk about sexual appendages and orifices was completed, after Sharon [sic] Bell’s little vibrator hummed its last, a University of Toronto chap explained why our enlightened age encourages women to masturbate on public radio while our less progressive ancestors would have blanched at the whole notion.
“These were profoundly prudish societies and the idea…would have seemed to them absolutely obscene,” said Edward Shorter, who directs U of T’s history of medicine program.
But why, an intensely-progressive CBC interviewer asked, were these earlier societies so prudish?
“They had a sense of human transcendence that we don’t, a sense of man-God relations — the fact that we are put on this Earth to do something else than achieve our own self-actualization,” Shorter said.
“If one sees religious fulfilment as the purpose of life, then things like human sexuality decidedly take a second rank because they direct one’s attention toward one’s self, toward one’s inner workings rather than outwards toward the Godhead as it’s supposed to be.”
He did not worry that the loss of our “human transcendence,” our “sense of man-God relations,” lets us debase a fellow human being by exploiting her sexuality as raw material for a radio program.
He did not fear that our newfound “self-actualization” dumps the unitized and procreative beauty of human sexual relations into the mire of masturbatory fantasy.
On the contrary, he said, we’re better freed of such “artificial” moral constraints.
We must, he said, “accept (that) the rules of the game in 1995” mean there are no rules of the game anymore.
Gee, doesn’t that hint at what the geniuses at CBC will try next — i.e. anything they can get away with unless they’re stopped.[PLEASE NOTE: In fairness to Edward Shorter it should be said that Stockland misstates by omission, revision and outright invention what Professor Shorter said on the program, a complete transcript of which is included at the end of this posting.]
IDEAS:ONE SEX OR TWO (15 FEB 95) / LETTERS _______________________
* [] To the producers of IDEAS:
On Wednesday evenings when I tune into the program IDEAS I am, for the most part, pleasantly surprised at the content–which usually promises me an hour of interesting and informative radio.
On Wednesday evening last, February 15th, I was surprised all right, but not pleasantly!
Granted I did not hear the introductory comments to the program, but as the hour passed I became more and more disgusted and angry that I and countless others across Canada should be saddled with such appalling junk.
In my opinion this material might have some place in a pulp magazine, but not on a national radio program.
Was I to believe that there was some cultural or artistic merit in the woman’s description of the female ejaculatory processes when she has been sexually aroused?
Moreover, did we need to have a detailed description of the “how-to-do-it” masturbation–complete with some orgasmic heavy breathing sequences?
Frankly, I failed to find any redeeming features in this so-called documentary whatsoever.
I write to register my protest at the subject matter chosen for this segment. I am disappointed in you.
Murray … British Columbia
* [] To Lister Sinclair:
The IDEAS program on female ejaculation was great!
I applaud CBC for its willingness to enter risky territory.
I came home and turned on the radio (a conditioned response) about half way into the program–to the surprise and confusion of my ears!
The commentator returned shortly and told newcomers that the woman we had just heard was alright, she had just had an orgasm!!
Instead of going to bed, I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the program.
Please find my cheque enclosed for $7 for a transcript and also the reading list.
Lana … Ontario
* [] To the CBC:
My full attention was not on the radio on Wed. evening after the 10 pm news so I do not know the name of the program.
However, after hearing the pornography of the airwaves with a moment by moment graphic description of ongoing female masturbation, I am disgusted that such obscenity was permitted, and STRONGLY protest again it ever happening again.
What people do and say in private is their own affair.
Love between people is good but is not to be aired or viewed by others.
Your standards have fallen to the gutter.
Patricia … Nova Scotia
* [] To Lister Sinclair and IDEAS:
I would like to congratulate you on your programming in general.
It is almost always fascinating.
(A few too many classical music programs–we can listen to it all evening on every weeknight and there is no shortage of classical music on weekends either).
In particular I wish to commend you on your program on female ejaculation.
It was extremely respectful of women as a celebration of female sexuality.
I appreciate this because it was not pornographic and belittling like so much of our media is.
So a big pat on the back for that!
Could you please mail me the reading list.
And could I please have a schedule of IDEAS for the 1995 season.
Thank you very much and keep up the excellent work.
In little towns like mine where there is not much in the way of “culture” it keeps our minds hopping.
I love to listen to CBC when I am sitting at my spinning wheel in the evening.
Kirsten … British Columbia
* [] To Allan Darling, Secretary General, CRTC:
I am writing this letter to you to lodge a formal complaint at the highest level.
On Wednesday February 15, 1995, The CBC Radio station in my home town broadcasted a show called “IDEAS”.
This was the first time I listened to this program so I don’t know what it’s mandate is nor do I really care at this point.
Because what I had listened to has appalled me.
The show’s topic was Women’s sexuality.
The show was bordering pornography at the first but during the last part they took a full turn and was to me pornography.
I was sitting at my kitchen table when I heard the host of the program comment, “if you are not open to new ideas or are a bit squeamish, you can wash your dishes now or put the children to bed.”
This many not be the exact comment but it is as close that I can remember.
The next thing I was listening to a lady MASTURBATING on the air!!
This lady was explaining exactly what she was doing in very graphic detail.
This whole ordeal took about fifteen minutes.
Then she did the whole thing over again.
She was explaining what she was doing and spoke how much she was enjoying herself pleasure.
Mr. Secretary, is this where my tax dollars are going to?
Where are the morals of the journalist who covered this story?
Is this type of pornography allowed on the public airways?
Is this the next new program for the CBC Television?
Mr. Darling I’m appalled that this type of program with this sexual conduct would get pass the C.R.T.C.
Just what is your job?
Please Mr. Darling I am asking for your immediate attention with this matter.
I will be looking forward to your reply in the very near future.
Please be advised that I have forwarded a copy of this letter to the Ombudsman for CBC, my federal member of parliament and my provincial member in St. John’s Newfoundland.
Thank you for giving this matter top priority.
Todd … Newfoundland
* [] To IDEAS:
A regular CBC Radio fan, I have the radio tuned to CBC all the time and often enjoy jumping into the middle of a conversation or programme. Such was the case this past Wednesday, February 15.
I had just finished my evening swim and had jumped into a cold car and was driving out of the parking lot.
Imagine my reaction to have tuned into the middle of a woman’s orgasm. Delighted as I was to be there during her climax, I was amazed as the woman continued to extol the merits and preferred technique of using her vibrator to achieve ejaculation.
The whole subject fascinated me and I wish I had the courage to order a cassette copy of the programme.
Alas, I don’t.
But please send me a copy of the reading list.
I feel a little like I’m pretending to buy Playboy for the articles but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pass up an opportunity to know more about such a subject.
Frankly, I suspect CBC will soon be self financing once word of the programme gets out.
Imagine if this had been a co-production with CBC television!
Sandy … Nova Scotia
* [] To Lister Sinclair, host of IDEAS:
In a recent letter to the CBC I deplored the decline from the significant to the trivial in such programs as Morningside and As It Happens.
I also stated that other programs, including yours, maintain a high standard of excellence in terms both of host and content.
This is still true of programs which you host yourself.
(I did appreciate Ideas in the Summer).
But those programs hosted and developed by others leave something to be desired.
But last night’s program on female ejaculation knocks the bottom out of the barrel.
Oh, I am not prudish.
I was very interested.
But they failed to distinguish between lubrication fluid and ejaculate at the beginning, which left me confused through more than half the program.
Secondly, you said that there would be no foul language.
Well, there was.
One of the women used the f… word to designate intercourse, which made me wonder what, precisely, the whole program was about.
One of the women masturbated on the air.
I do not see a reasonable purpose in this.
I find it offensive.
If a man had done this, the feminists would have raised a storm.
Do women have special privileges?
Certain ideas, or rather statements, were repeated several times, hammered in, generally statements that blamed men.
It seems to me that men acted more from ignorance than ill-will or desire to dominate, even the ignorance created by the biologist’s obsession with (species) survival function.
But the worst of it was the frequent emotional tone of accusation and hostility against men.
I find that disturbing and insulting.
No man could get away with such a tone
Once more I must ask, Do women have special privileges?
I am sick and tired of being emotionally battered by feminists.
I am a man of liberal and humanistic principles.
Indeed, I am a man of compassion.
I have a natural tendency to side with the underdog.
I have always treated women as equals and have stood for equality.
I do not deserve such treatment.
Yet I have to suffer it, when I want to hear an informative broadcast on the CBC.
But it is not only women who demonstrate to me that the oppressed can easily turn into oppressors.
I have been the target of discrimination and prejudice also in Quebec simply because I couldn’t speak French. This is even carried into other countries.
A native of the Dominican Republic (national language is Spanish) addressed a Quebecer in English and was scolded for his pain and lectured that he should speak French instead of English.
In one case it was even life-threatening. What I have disclosed here, is not politically correct.
Is my experience not politically correct?
Do we live in a dictatorship?
When I arrived in Canada in 1957, thirty-eight years ago, I fell in love with country and people.
That lasted 15-20 years.
Since then it has been one disappointment and one disillusionment after another, and painful experiences piled on other painful experiences.
Rudeness, intolerance to independent thinking, impotence vis-a-vis corporate business, utter lack of empathy, fads and fashions even in education and the individual’s need to jump on the bandwagon, only to throw it out utterly when the fashion changes.
I have had it, Sir.
Later this year, when my money comes, I shall leave Canada for good, not to go to my European country of origin but to a Spanish-speaking country.
I have sometimes been told, Why don’t you go back to where you come from, if you don’t like it.
Well, I am now ready to take that intolerant and inhospitable advice.
Rougard … Manitoba
* [] To IDEAS:
Please send a copy of your reading list for last night’s IDEAS program on women’s sexual arousal techniques and history.
You will no doubt receive negative opinions about your program.
But I found it wonderfully fascinating and enlightening and indeed expect to find it an aid to better living.
Canadian ignorance about the body, both female and male, is appalling. The way to learn about ourselves is not through blackboard lecture, encyclopaedic writings or mumbling embarrassees.
Your personalized straight talk and honest, open, unabashed description of what really goes on–and how to make it happen yourself–or in my case with a partner, remains in the mind like the images of good poetry.
Your truly sensitive probing (sorry, I couldn’t resist) of one of life’s great mysteries and most powerful pleasures is the kind of thing I have come to expect from Lister Sinclair and all of you at IDEAS.
It is the reason I am a regularly fascinated listener to this my favourite of CBC radio’s first class offerings.
Again and again.
Joe … British Columbia
* [] To Anthony Manera, Acting Chair, President and CEO of the CBC. cc: Keith Spicer, CRTC; Rosemarie Ur, MP, Lambton Middlesex; Rosanne Skoke, MP, Central Nova.
I have long been a fan of CBC radio and television and have never been in favour of budget cuts that may affect their programming.
However, on Wednesday evening, February 15, as I was driving home with my car radio set to CBC, the program IDEAS was airing.
The topic was sexuality and I didn’t pay much attention for a while.
Then I couldn’t believe my ears as a woman (she was leading a workshop) started to explain in great detail how to achieve female ejaculation.
She actually went through a verbal demonstration, complete with heavy breathing (“I’m really getting turned on” she told us) and then her shriek when she achieved her goal.
She went through this not once, but twice.
We were told that she liked to do this to herself using a mirror so she could watch, and she felt she should let us know that it tasted nice.
But (perhaps to be politically correct) she did let us know we shouldn’t taste anyone else’s (ejaculate) as that was not “practicing safe sex”.
I do not believe that I am a prude and I’m not shocked very easily, but I say in my garage in disbelief at what I was hearing.
Did the CBC really feel it was necessary to tell women how to masturbate?
Are most of the women in this country looking for this kind of information?
(I am sure there are plenty of books available to those who want to learn about this.)
I can’t help but feel this is aimed at the lesbian population.
I feel this program was in extremely poor taste.
If it were on a private station, one could boycott the sponsor.
What can we do when it is on our national station?
Perhaps only express our anger that tax money is spent on the production of this extremely offensive material.
I hope you will investigate my complaint and give me the courtesy of a reply.
Jane … Ontario
* [] To Max Allen, IDEAS producer:
Well, there I was, in my faded flannelette nightie and my woolly slippers, padding wearily around the kitchen with a mug of hot milk about to fill my hot water bottle and betake myself to bed early, when I thought, “No no no, Margaret, what you need is some intellectual stimulation.
Stir yourself! Make an effort! Stay up late tonight and listen to IDEAS!
Whatever is on is bound to expand your horizons.”
So I turned on the radio, mid-programme, trusting IDEAS, as always to provide the much needed stimulation.
It was female ejaculation night.
My first thought was “Who produced this? and my second was “I should have done it when I had the chance!”
Some years ago in London I was invited to a female orgasm (and I think ejaculation) workshop, which my producer cheerfully assured me meant sitting on top of mirrors with dildos.
And you know, I didn’t have the nerve.
And NOW look what’s happened.
A whole show about it on IDEAS.
Oh the great missed opportunities in my reporting career. …
What I want to know is, are you SURE your ejaculating contributor is all right?
I was glad of the reassurance, but a bit unconvinced.
Mind you, I though two raccoons were killing each other in a tree the other night, but they were just mating and I’m sure they’re all right now, too.
So I thought I would write to thank you for the intellectual stimulation.
I expect the letters are just pouring in!
Margaret … British Columbia
(The writer is a BBC and CBC reporter and documentary maker, whose work includes six series for IDEAS including The Dead Sea Scrolls, Seven Deadly Sins, The Burning Books, The Book of Job, etc., and the book “Beyond Golgotha” published in 1993.)
* [] To Keith Spicer, Chairman, CRTC:
On Wednesday, February 15, 1995, my wife and I tuned into the CBC broadcast IDEAS.
We heard a very emotional female, full of sexual passion, teaching the public how
woman would masturbate and then ejaculate: and seemed to be preforming the very act on our public broadcasting system – If unchecked, we foresee this appearing on CBC TV.
We found this subject to be very offensive, outrageous, and of extreme pornographic nature. Some people may call this type of material erotica, but to us, the word, erotica, was fostered by those who condone pornography.
We believe this material is the product of a few reprobates that have not the love of God before their eyes, and do not care about the plight or state of the many abused women, children, disabled, and elderly citizens of our country.
We wholeheartedly believe that this type of disgraceful material should be completely prohibited from being aired; not only on our public broadcasting systems: but also on all the other broadcasting systems in our country – CANADA: A nation fading into the depths of iniquity, immorality, and ungodliness.
May God grant CANADA the grace to recover from this evil, and keep her glorious and free.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers God will judge.
Where we feel very strongly about this matter, we have sent a copy of this letter to the following: President of the CBC Ottawa, Ont. – Regional Director, CBC, St. John’s, NF – VOCM Radio Station, St. John’s, NF – Read Admiral Fred Mifflin, MP, Ottawa, Ont. – Preston Manning, leader of The Reform Party, Ottawa, Ont.
We are expecting a written reply stating your position on this subject.
David & Josephine … Newfoundland
* [] To IDEAS:
As per my telephone conversation of today, I am submitting a cheque in the amount of $7.49 for a copy of the transcripts of a program aired Wednesday 15 February 1995, which I was lucky enough to hear (midway) over my car radio.
Being a frequent listener to IDEAS, I can only assume that the program, which your colleague informs me was titled “One Sex or Two” came under that series.
Discussion between the genders are, to say the least, guarded in this area and I feel that you are to be complimented in the frank but tasteful way that it was executed.
Since this subject is basic to the animal world and even humans fit this category, it is hoped that further focus can be devoted to similar subjects.
David … Manitoba
* [] To CBC Radio:
I am a regular listener to CBC Radio, starting with the 8 a.m. news then Peter Gzowski throughout the rest of the morning.
I find the news and feature stories to be of superior quality, however I was appalled and disgusted by Lister Sinclair’s programme on Wednesday, February 15 at 10 p.m.
I tuned in rather late and didn’t pay too much attention until I heard a segment of the programme discussing the clinical aspects of ejaculation by both males and females. One female in particular gave a live demonstration of how the so-called “G” spot can be located, by going through masturbatory steps to achieve an orgasm of monumental proportions.
I am a liberal-minded person, but I must say that I found this a bit much to stomach.
No doubt the programme has its merits by enlightening listeners as to what the human body is capable of doing.
However, I think this segment in particular could have been presented in a different venue such as, perhaps, a learning centre of sexual practices.
Mrs. M. … Ontario
* [] To Whom It May Concern:
I just happened to tune into the IDEAS show on female ejaculation and sexuality.
Unfortunately I missed the first part of the show. Of what I did hear, I thought it was fascinating and very educating (my partner agrees wholeheartedly).
This is a new topic for me and I hadn’t realized such a thing was possible.
It’s about time that things like these were brought out into the open.
Female sexuality is an important and wonderful thing.
Thank you CBC for yet another timely and educational show.
Could you please send me a reading list from the show.
Keep up the great work!
Lisa … Ontario
* [] To IDEAS:
Please send two copies of the reading list related to the February 15 program on female ejaculation.
Congratulations on the program.
Mary …, Ph.D Certified Sex Educator, Counselor and Therapist/AASECT Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary
* [] To Max Allen, IDEAS producer:
I am writing in response to our phone conversation on February 22 regarding the show “One Sex or Two”, aired February 15, 1995.
When I called you, I did not expect you to agree with my point of view but I was pleased to find you willing to discuss it with me.
You had asked me to follow up my arguments with a letter so I will summarize them as follows:
- It is not the tope (female ejaculation) that I have a problem with.
Obviously from the amount of mail you received thanking you for addressing this topic, it made a difference to a lot of people.
The part of the show I missed was the medical debate but from the sound of it, it was good, helpful dialogue on the subject.
- Your argument for airing the segment where a woman at a workshop is masturbating and providing ongoing monologue, is that it “proves” that female ejaculation actually occurs.
Apparently there are people that remain sceptical in spite of the women who claim it happens to them.
If I am not convinced by intelligent debate between people who are medical experts and claims by women who say it does happen to them, do you think I would be swayed by “hearing” it happen?
- Are you justified in doing whatever it takes to “prove” an unusual phenomenon?
Is there integrity in having a good debate and then proving one side is true?
Would it not be better to have a good quality debate and let people make up their own minds?
- Unless you are a doctor or a therapist, does it matter whether you believe that female ejaculation exists?
If it happens to me I know it exists, and my partner also knows it exists.
The debate would be enough for me to realise that it happens to others.
If I have not experienced it, is it that important that you bring a private act into the public arena just to “prove” that it happens by having a woman masturbate?
What if I didn’t believe it unless I saw it?
Are you then justified in putting it on TV?
- Finally, I do believe that sex in all its forms (unless illegal or hurtful) is private.
Should it ever be brought into the public arena?
As far as the act itself, I can’t think of a circumstance where it would be therapeutic and appropriate to put it out for public consumption.
An example of what I mean: If someone brought up the subject of sexual dysfunction on the radio, I do not think I would need to hear the couple having sex and experiencing the dysfunction in order to believe it exists.
As a therapist myself, I think it is important not to look at the subject of sex as taboo, but to allow ourselves to leave the act itself with the dignity of privacy.
I can’t think of any therapist who would ask a couple with a sexual dysfunction to have sex in her office so she could see it for herself.
Please feel free to contact me and discuss this further.
I appreciate the time you took to respond to my concerns.
Janet …, M.A. Manitoba
15 February 1995
One Sex or Two?
c1995 The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation All rights reserved
Lister Sinclair I’m Lister Sinclair. The Valentine cards were on sale at half price today, with their velvet messages of lust and sentiment.
Yesterday, no matter where you looked those messages were in evidence. On radio and television, and in every newspaper, men and women were talking about their deep and enduring affection for one another. An affection which seems to us to represent a fundamental part of life, until you examine the divorce statistics, or look back in history.
Ideas tonight is going to examine a mystery: two mysteries actually, one inside the other. The first is a sexual phenomenon that, in public discourse at least, is almost completely a secret; and the second is why it’s a secret.
Some background. Everybody knows there are two sexes. It’s one of those simple facts of life that are self-evident. Sexual dimorphism, it’s called: female and male, and they’re as different as night and day. We’re talking about body structures here, not psychological yearnings or socially conditioned behaviours, which are much more varied. And recognized.
But it could be argued that there are not in fact two sexes. Some scholars (for example the anthropologist Gilbert Herdt, whose recent book is called Third Sex, Third Gender) have presented convincing evidence that two sexes aren’t enough to account for human experience.
On the other hand, it used to be thought by philosophers, moralists, and natural scientists that there was fundamentally only one sex, though the basic equipment was organized differently in different people. A conclusion that could be drawn from this was that since, in men, the obvious result of sexual excitement was ejaculation, it must also be the result in women. But if this is the case, then why don’t we notice it, or admit it, today?
And so here we come to the first part of tonight’s programme. It’s about sex of course; you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you or your family, if you have one, want to listen. There’s no dirty language, but the ideas may be unfamiliar and startling. They’re presented by journalist Sue Campbell, who works for CBC Radio News.
Beverly Whipple There are women who ejaculate a fluid. It comes out the urethra, the tube through which you urinate. And the fluid is different in chemical composition than urine, which is what most people think comes out the urethra.
Kathy Daymond There’s a sort of notion of female sexuality as very interior. The nice thing about female ejaculation is that it exteriorizes female sexuality. It moves female sexuality and female pleasure into public space.
Shannon Bell It’s something that people recognize as being quite powerful, something that’s got a politics to it. And the politics it’s got to it is control over your own body.
Sue Johannson The idea is to learn everything you can about sex. Because sexuality is a part of us. And as human beings we are the only ones who enjoy sex. Animals do not enjoy sex, they have an urge for sex. It’s like the hunger urge to eat because you’re hungry. It’s like the urge to go to the bathroom. It’s like other urges. And it’s a need but it’s not pleasure, it’s not an enjoyment, there’s no sense of satisfaction there, there’s no unity, no bonding, no closeness, no intimacy. It’s just something you do and then you walk away contented. So if we are given this then it’s a gift, and we have an obligation to learn about all of these gifts that God gave us. And to enjoy them to the fullest. Because that’s why we were given them, not to be denied.
Sue Campbell I’m Sue Campbell. Female ejaculation, and speculation about it, has a long history. You can find references to it dating back 2000 years. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote:
“…there are some who think that the female contributes semen during intercourse because women sometimes derive pleasure from it comparable to that of the male and also produce a fluid secretion. But this fluid is not semen. And sometimes it’s on quite a different scale from the semen discharged by the male, and greatly exceeds it…”
In the second century, Galen described a female prostate that produced a fluid that was expelled after orgasm:
“…the fluid in her prostate is poured out when it has done its service. This liquid not only encourages the sexual act but also is able to give pleasure and moisten the passageway as it escapes. It flows from women as they experience the greatest pleasure in intercourse…”
Then in the 16th century, the Italian anatomist Renaldus Columbus referred to female ejaculate while he was explaining the function of the clitoris:
“…if you rub it vigorously with a penis, or touch it even with a little finger, semen swifter than air flies this way and that on account of the pleasure…”
And in the 17th century, the Dutch anatomist Regnier de Graff wrote a book about female anatomy and spoke of female fluid “rushing out” and “coming in one gush” during sexual excitement.
So female ejaculation was observed, and accepted, and talked about for centuries. But in modern times references to it by both medical practitioners and by moralists are scarce. Historian Thomas Laqueur:
Thomas Laqueur In the 18th century, that whole way of understanding the body disappears and one has a much more mechanistic, reductionist view of the body. And certainly for whatever the female does, pleasure is just irrelevant.
Sue Campbell Professor Laqueur teaches at the University of California in Berkeley. He’s written a book called Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud.
Thomas Lawueur What I discovered in doing this research is that prior to the 18th century it was taken as a matter of fact that women as well as men had an orgasm and more specifically “ejaculated” during intercourse. And specifically that some form of female ejaculation was necessary for conception.
Sue Campbell Laqueur calls this view of the sexes the “one sex” model.
Thomas Laqueur I coined that phrase to account for a view of sexual difference which I thought was dominant from the Greeks to sometime in the 18th century in which the male and female are seen as versions of one another, both anatomically in the sense that the vagina is an internal penis, and physiologically in the sense that the fluids in men and women are fungible that sperm can become blood, can become urine, can become milk and that that system is roughly possible in both sexes. And finally, that the actual phenomenology of pleasure is comparable in men and women.
Sue Campbell To us the idea that the fluids of men and women are fungible that they can turn into one another_seems fantastic. But it was consistent with the old idea that men and women were anatomically more similar than different. The modern view of sexuality is based not on this kind of “one sex” model, but on a “two sex” model.
Thomas Laqueur It’s a model of opposition and complementarity, in which anatomically the male has a penis which is outside and the vagina is a quite different thing that’s inside. The testes and the ovaries are entirely different. Sperm is active and eggs are passive and sit there. Menstruation is a specific function of women, men don’t have it. And in terms of orgasm, it’s not wildly relevant specific to the physiology of reproduction at all in this model.
So the two sex model, you might say, is just about difference and complementarity. It’s apples and oranges. The one-sex model is a model of hierarchy, apples and crabapples. But the notion that men and women differ not as apples and crabapples, so to speak (that is to say the same thing arrayed along an axis), but rather as apples and oranges (that is to say they’re different and complementary)_and that this difference and complementarity is defined by anatomy, that is to say by egg and sperm, penis and vagina, ovary and testicles_ that’s really an 18th century development. In other words it’s somewhere in the early 18th century that anatomy books quit depicting the penis as a vagina, somewhere around 1760-1780 that they quit calling the ovaries testes.
So, it’s in the 18th century that doctors, political theorists, philosophers and midwives come to construe men and women as different. And it’s roughly then when the notion of the frigid woman, the possibility of the frigid woman, or the notion that women are less sexually engaged than men, makes its appearance in both medical and popular literature.
Sue Campbell In other words, until that time the sexual activities of men and women, and the equipment they employed to perform them, were accepted as equal. Then the tide turned:
Beverly Whipple If you look back in the ancient literature, from de Graff in the 1600s back to Aristotle, you’ll find that there are references in their writings to the female ejaculation. However, from our looking at the literature, it seems that during the period of time that the microscope was invented, they looked at the fluids from both the male and the female, and saw that the female ejaculate did not contribute anything to procreation, and it seemed to be left out of the literature after that.
Now that’s just our reading of the literature. But it seemed that there was no sperm in the female ejaculate so therefore they didn’t see it as contributing anything to procreation.
Sue Campbell This is Beverly Whipple from the Rutgers College of Nursing in New Jersey. Dr. Whipple and her colleagues were among the first to “rediscover” the phenomenon of female ejaculation in the 1980s. They did laboratory tests of the fluid, and gathered reports from women about what it felt like to ejaculate.
Beverly Whipple We found through doing laboratory analysis comparing the ejaculate that was expelled through the urethra to the women’s urine, that the ejaculate had high levels of something called prostatic acid phosphatase, and it had low levels of urea and creatinine which are found in urine these are by-products of protein metabolism. And also it had high levels of glucose. The samples of female ejaculate were significantly statistically different from the samples of urine.
Sue Campbell So, if female ejaculation exists, how does it work?
Beverly Whipple That’s a very good question. We know that female ejaculation does exist, but where it comes from and what is it? We know the chemical composition of the fluid, and we just talked about that. It has prostatic acid phosphatase and glucose, and some tests have shown fructose, and a little bit of urea and creatinine. Where it comes from, that’s another question. We believe it comes from the female prostate or the prostatic tissue, the glands and ducts that surround the urethra. They’re called the Skene’s glands or the paraurethral glands. But we’re not sure because you can’t do an autopsy and have the fluid come out. But we believe in terms of studies that have been done, the immuno-histochemical studies that have been done, that this is where the fluid is coming from.
We do know that there’s a sensitive area that’s felt through the vagina, and that it swells when it’s sexually stimulated. In some women stimulation of this area produces an orgasm and during that orgasm the woman has an expulsion of fluid from the urethra. In other women stimulation of this area produces an expulsion of fluid but with no orgasm. And some women have an expulsion of fluid without stimulation of the area of the Graffenberg spot. So my contention is that in some women these two phenomena are related or correlated, and in other women they are not.
Sue Campbell Could you explain the G-spot? You’ve written a book on the G-spot; could you give us a quick idea of what this is?
Beverly Whipple The Graffenberg spot, or G-spot, is a sensitive area that is felt through the upper or front vaginal wall, the interior vaginal wall. You feel it through this wall about halfway between the back of the pubic bone and the cervix. And you have to use a motion of two fingers a sort of “come here” motion. You have to use quite a bit of pressure to feel it. What will happen is that there’s an area there that will begin to swell as it is sexually stimulated. A woman can also put her hand on the abdomen right above the pubic hair line and she can feel this sensitive area swelling between her fingers and the fingers of her partner who is stimulating this area. It can also be stimulated with a dildo or with a penis, depending on the position of intercourse.
The first publication we did was of a women whose fluid we analyzed, but she also reported that she had this expulsion of fluid with oral sex from her partner when she had an orgasm, and that was not in any way stimulating the area of the Graffenberg spot. So these two phenomena may be related, and may not.
Sue Campbell You’re calling it a phenomenon. Why?
Beverly Whipple Because it’s something that occurs.
Sue Campbell Is it something out of the ordinary, would you say?
Beverly Whipple No, not necessarily. It’s just a way of describing something that occurs. It’s not necessarily out of the ordinary. We don’t know what percentage of women do experience female ejaculation. Nor do we know what percentage of women have a Graffenberg spot.
Everyone that we examined in our study did have this sensitive area that swelled when it was stimulated. But we don’t know if everyone has a Graffenberg spot. And we don’t know what percentage of women do ejaculate because, as you know, most sex research that is done whether it’s a person filling out a questionnaire or someone coming into a laboratory is biased by the people who volunteer either to fill out the questionnaire or come to the laboratory. So it’s very difficult to get a cross-section of people when you’re doing sex research because there’s a group of people who just won’t fill out a questionnaire.
Sue Campbell Female ejaculation still isn’t talked about much in scientific circles, and what talk there is tends to focus, still, on the issue of whether the fluid women expel is really “ejaculate fluid” or whether it’s just urine. The idea that it’s really just urine can often lead to medical intervention.
Beverly Whipple We have stated that we’re very concerned because prior to our publications, some women had surgery to correct this “problem”, which is just a normal phenomenon that occurs. These women thought that they were urinating. Other women have been told to just stop having orgasm and that would stop the fluid from coming out. Since we’ve conducted our studies and published them, we know that we’ve helped a lot of women not to have surgery for something that’s a perfectly normal phenomenon.
Sue Campbell The majority of modern sexologists have dismissed the existence of female ejaculation altogether. In the 1950s Havelock Ellis reported that muscular contractions of the vagina did produce genital secretions, but he said that female ejaculation was an erroneous term for it. In 1964, Wayland Young published an influential book called Eros Denied: Sex in Western Society. Referring to female ejaculation, he said:
“…women were thought to diffuse an actual fertile fluid at the moment of orgasm exactly as men ejaculated. The old erotic books are full of descriptions of the mingling of these vital fluids. Man does this at the moment of pleasure, so presumably that little passive counterpart of himself which is his woman does exactly the same. We wonder now how this can ever have been believed…”
In the 1960s, the eminent sex researchers Masters and Johnson concluded that female ejaculation was a myth, an “erroneous but widespread concept.” When I called Dr. Masters to find out what he thought today, he told me he’s changed his mind. He now believes that female ejaculation does occur, but only in the “rare female.”
Information about female ejaculation is nowhere to be found in most medical texts. Most sex guides don’t mention it either. The indexes are full of references to male ejaculation, of course; when women are mentioned, it’s in terms of how the ejaculatory abilities of their male partners affect their chances of conceiving.
So, how could something as significant as female ejaculation go unnoticed by the sex professionals? Well, for one thing, if your field is anatomy you tend to study dead bodies. And a cadaver is not sexually aroused, so you won’t find any evidence for what you’re looking for. Another problem is that women have to be taught how to do it or at least be encouraged to allow it to happen.
On her radio and television call-in shows, sex counsellor Sue Johannson often finds herself explaining the “how to” to both men and women.
Sue Johannson When I talk about it I describe it in living colour, a blow by blow description so that they know exactly what to do. It’s kind of like “face front, raise right hand.”
There are a few things that you need to do. You need to be very, very relaxed. You need to like your own body, really be comfortable with your own body. So you’re not worried about cellulite; you’re not worried about stretch marks; you’re not worried about vaginal farts; you don’t care what your hair looks like, your mascara is running. You can make noise and you can do what you want to do. So if you’re lying there with your heels behind your ears this is absolutely wonderful. Go for it.
Sue Campbell And then there’s the more technical advice:
Sue Johannson Generally women, in the beginning, will experience G-spot orgasm with manual stimulation. When they get good at it they’ll learn how to get a position where penile thrusting will achieve the same end. But generally, in the beginning, it’s manual stimulation, two fingers. She has to be very sexually aroused: she’s had one orgasm, two orgasms, three orgasms she’s on a roll. Then he will insert two fingers into her vagina and just kind of crook those two fingers forward and very very gently but firmly stroke the wall of the vagina.
She must have permission to tell him whether that feels good: “oh that’s wonderful you’re right on; ah, that’s marvellous,” and give him instructions. So he can’t feel threatened or intimidated by her saying, “A little to the left, a little to the right, a little harder, a little softer.”
Then she will notice the sexual excitement level rising and rising and rising and all of a sudden she will have this tremendous urge to push. It’s the same feeling that women have when they’re going to have a baby. They just take a deep breath and they push down right to the bottom, they just bear right down. And all of a sudden this fluid literally shoots out. And you do not have control. You cannot say “Ooh! I got to stop this.” You can’t. The first time I heard about this I’d heard about the G-spot and I, like most other people at that time (this was the late ’70s) pooh-poohed the whole idea I was working at the Clark Institute in a forensic sciences unit with prisoners. One of the guys was talking about being out on a weekend pass, and his girlfriend “shooting.” He literally described it as “shooting.” And of course in my superior smug way I said, “Oh no, no; females do not ejaculate. Males ejaculate. Females lubricate but they do not ejaculate.”
Well, I lived to eat crow, believe me, because we soon found out of course that females do ejaculate. I found out that females do ejaculate and it was quite a shocker for me. And that’s when I decided that I’ve really got to find out a whole lot more information about this, because if it’s happening for me, it’s happening to other women. I have access to information; I have an obligation to make sure that that information gets out there, regardless of whether some doctors, some medical professionals, and some sex therapists say that it just does not exist. It does.
Sue Campbell Shannon Bell has given dozens of lectures on the subject and has lots of experience holding “ejaculation workshops.” In her day job, Dr. Bell is a professor of feminist theory and political philosophy:
Shannon Bell If you’ve seen a woman ejaculate and you’ve seen a man ejaculate, the female experience is much more powerful. There’s a lot more fluid. As a woman you can keep ejaculating. A man has one ejaculation and he sort of has to take a rest for a couple of hours, or longer. Whereas, with a woman, you can ejaculate again in five minutes.
Sue Campbell We’re going to sit in on one of Shannon Bell’s demonstrations. I should warn you that if you’re uncomfortable with frank sexual language, you might want to listen to some music, or wash the dishes for the next six or seven minutes.
Shannon Bell [at workshop] It’s fairly easy to ejaculate. One of the things you have to do, though and what I tell people when I’m doing the class is that in order to ejaculate you have to build up your vaginal muscles. The way to build them up is doing what is called the Kegel exercise. The Kegel exercise_ I’m doing it right now is just closing and opening the top wall against the bottom wall of your vagina. It’s basically opening and closing your vagina, touching the top wall to the bottom wall.
It’s good to start off doing about twenty-five of them a couple of times a day, and moving up to fifty a couple of times a day. In a couple of months, I built up really strong vaginal muscles: before this, I actually couldn’t contract. It’s one of the easiest muscles to build up, and the payoffs are great.
You can do [the exercise] almost anywhere. You can also contract against your finger, or a dildo, or your companion’s hand, or a penis. That’s good, too, because it provides resistance. And it feels good.
If you’re looking in your vagina, it’s always good to have a surgical glove around, because a surgical glove with lubricant on it feels great when you’re massaging the top wall of the vagina.
Now, where the ejaculate comes from is the glands and ducts that surround the urethra. There are about thirty-three glands and ducts that are between the top wall of the vagina and the urethra. It’s called the urethral sponge area. I think it’s been renamed, by a feminist health collective, as “the urethral sponge of the clitoris.” So it’s like a woman’s clitoris has gotten really, really big now: it’s not just that little thing on the outside; it’s the top wall of the vagina and the bottom wall, and it’s like the whole can be really erect. It’s no longer separated from the rest of the sex organ which I think is really cool.
I’m just looking for my yellow vibrator. [vibrator switches on]
In order to get an internal erection, one of the best things is a really small vibrator, just to ride on the top of your lips. Just place it between your two lips, sort of just below your clit. What it does is it really feels nice, you get little vibrations it starts the erection happening inside.
The other thing is, that in order to ejaculate, you really have to push out. The feeling that a lot of people have when they’re making love that they have to pee that’s usually a sign that you feel that you are ready to ejaculate. What you need to do is to push out. We’ve been training ourselves not to push out, but to hold back because we think we have to pee; and if you actually push out, train yourself to push out, you can push the fluid out. It’s really an incredible high.
I’m going to do that right now.
What I find happening is, I can feel fluid building in the glands and ducts surrounding my urethral sponge. I can actually feel it from the outside. If you put your hands from where my clit is up to where my ovaries are, you can actually feel the glands and ducts filling up with fluid.
Now, I normally ejaculate pretty easily. I’m in the scientific group that they call the “easy expulsors”: it takes me from one to three minutes at the most. I can usually ejaculate a lot, and repeatedly. There’s a middle category where it takes women longer before they can ejaculate with stimulation; and there’s also a group where it’s harder to induce but it’s a really powerful ejaculation. I try to have a lot of them, and powerful too.
What I’m doing here is, I’m getting somewhat turned on. I’m feeling like I’m starting to have to ejaculate. I can feel internal contractions. That was just kind of warming up.
I actually like to ejaculate on mirrors. I’ve written about it. The reason I like to do it is that it’s got this phenomenal sound; you can actually see yourself ejaculating really well; and it’s just very, very beautiful. So I’m going to do that.
What I’m doing now is getting ready to ejaculate. I’m masturbating, the way I normally masturbate: I’ve got my fingers between my two lips that pull on my clit; and I’m also pushing on the ducts that surround my urethral sponge. From the outside, I can feel them getting full of fluid…
…The thing about having a penis inside of you and ejaculating is that, often, the penis is too big and you can’t really push out. So you have to take the penis out to do it, because you need room to be able to push out.
I like to have mirrors around, so I can see what I’m doing. I also like to ejaculate on mirrors, because you can see yourself ejaculating; and when the ejaculate dries, you can see that female ejaculate isn’t all that much different from male ejaculate. It’s a bit thinner, of course, because it doesn’t have the semen properties. But we do have an equivalent to the prostate gland, so the fluid is there, and if you were to have both side by side, you could see that female fluid is a white fluid on the mirror when it dries; it’s clear, usually, when you ejaculate and it’s got a lot of minerals in it.
Also, it tastes fairly good. You can taste your own, but don’t taste anybody else’s, because that’s not safe sex.
Breathing is important, because you’re channelling a power and energy. It’s good to circulate your breath.
Sue Campbell If you came in, in the middle of that, you’re probably wondering if she’s okay. She is. That was Shannon Bell, in one of her workshop demonstrations of female ejaculation.
Beverly Whipple It’s not okay or comfortable in most societies to talk about sexuality. Sexuality is considered very private. And it’s very difficult for most people to speak about sexuality. Male ejaculation is something that has been out there and seen, and it also has to do with procreation. So, therefore, male ejaculation is more acceptable to talk about because it has a purpose and the purpose is to supply the sperm for procreation.
Whereas with female ejaculation, is there a purpose for it other than pleasurable? This is something we’re looking into.
Shannon Bell It’s had different coding. I mean, it’s had coding of whether it contributed to fecundity, whether it contributed to childbirth, whether it was pathological.
I think what’s really interesting now, is now it’s really being talked about by women as pleasure. It’s not a debate about whether it’s pathological, whether it contributes to fertility; what it is, is that it’s recognized as being a pleasurable sexual experience and it’s there simply for sexual pleasure. It’s something that someone who wants to enhance their sexual pleasure can pursue.
Sue Campbell But, and this was emphasized by everybody I talked to, it’s not mandatory. Dr. Whipple:
Beverly Whipple In providing this information to women, I hope that we’re not going to see people set up a new goal that they have to achieve: that they have to find their G-spot or they have to experience female ejaculation. Each women is a unique individual who has the capacity of responding sexually in many ways. I’m always concerned when I talk about this information because I don’t want to set up a new goal for people to achieve.
I think of sexuality as being pleasure-oriented rather than goal oriented. When I teach I used the analogy, for goal-oriented sexual activity, of the staircase where each step on that staircase leads to the next step. So if a person is goal-oriented, they would start off with a look, a kiss, a touch, a caress, penis-and-vagina intercourse, leading to the top step of orgasm. And if they don’t reach that top step they don’t feel good about what’s happened along the way. Or that top step may be the G-spot and they have to find that. And if they don’t, there’s something wrong with all the pleasurable experiences they’ve had.
Whereas if you think of pleasure oriented sexual experiences, use the analogy of the circle, where each thing on the circumference of the circle, whether it’s touch, holding, holding hands, kissing, oral sex, whatever it is_can be an end in itself. It doesn’t have to lead on to something else.
I’m sure many of your listeners have felt completely satisfied holding hands with someone or being held or cuddled; and every experience doesn’t have to lead to something else. And that’s why I don’t want to see the G-spot or female ejaculation set up as a goal that women feel they have to achieve or men feel they have to find for the women.
Sue Campbell Sex counsellor Sue Johannson:
Sue Johannson We see ejaculation as something males do. So there’s almost that feeling that this is a poor second, when in actual fact, in terms of quantity of fluid, it is absolutely amazing.
Sometimes we are afraid to let go and afraid to do that because we’ve been brought up to be very conscious of a male fragile ego, particularly in the area of sex and sexuality. So we are afraid that once again we are walking all over him, we are bulldozing him down and we can do everything better than men. So we generally tread very cautiously, trying again to protect males, which is unfortunate. It would be much better to be comfortable with ourselves and make this a joint experience, a shared experience and a shared pleasure.
Sue Campbell This is still, in the late years of the twentieth century, not an easy project. There’s a very long history of hiding female sexuality.
Thomas Laqueur I think women came to be seen as less sexual beings for a variety of, essentially, political reasons, some of which women shared. It’s basically a kind of, you might say, Republican political view_that the public space is a male space and a space of reason and public action; and that the female space is a space of moral education and moral guidance; and that space is one in which sexual excitement and energy and lust are inappropriate.
Kathy Daymond You know Aristotle was writing about female ejaculation and there was a debate about whether it had a part in reproduction or whether it was purely about women’s pleasure. So this discourse has existed at various moments in history. Then it just disappears, it gets buried. It crops up here and there, and in the 19th century it reappears again in Victorian pornography. But it also appears then in medical discourse as some kind of pathology. That kind of discourse has continued, where women who do this and don’t know what it is and go to the doctor are told this is abnormal and it’s dysfunctional and it should be surgically dealt with.
So you have to understand it’s been a part of female experience throughout history and partly because of the way discourse has been constituted and by whom and in whose interests we’re now at a moment where male ejaculation is considered some kind of a norm, but anything female is “other” in relation to that.
Sue Campbell In 1990 Kathy Daymond produced a thirteen-minute film on female ejaculation called Nice Girls Don’t Do It. She’s been surprised by people’s reactions to the film:
Kathy Daymond Dramatic things like bursting into tears and saying “Oh geez, God, thank you; I’d stopped fucking because this weird thing happens to me; and, I went to the doctor and the doctor said that they could fix it by performing some kind of surgery on me; and, my boyfriend trashed me out and basically said don’t do this, stop doing this”. There was all this kind of real shame and real secrecy and really serious misinformation about it.
It’s not like everyone has to embrace female ejaculation as the most important part of their sexual experience, but for those women for whom it does happen, it needs to be taken back as something that’s exciting and pleasurable and powerful. And perfectly acceptable. It needs to be normalized, I think.
Sue Campbell I asked Sue Johannson to read some of the letters she’s received from her radio listeners:
Sue Johannson This is a wonderful letter from a lady. Her boyfriend of three years knows exactly where her G-spot is, and he knows exactly how to “work it.” He only needs to use one finger, and together, she reached “forty-three orgasmic expulsions in a matter of fifteen minutes.” The trick? Simple: she pushes, like giving birth, to the count of about four seconds. Then she relaxes for about eight seconds. Then she repeats it, until a “tickling sensation” begins. She tells him about that, and then he moves his finger; he wiggles it faster until she “comes.” Those are her words: “I completely soak the bed. It shoots out.”
There’s another letter here; this lady signs herself “G-Whiz” (that’s a wonderful way to describe the G-spot orgasm). It is only now that she has discovered the difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasms. She has a great “bearing down” sensation, followed by the release of “copious amounts of clear, sweet-smelling fluid from the urethra. This expulsion of fluid can take place for several hours; it was unbelievable, the amount of fluid. My box-spring and my mattress dried out for one week after our first G-spot encounter.”
I’d encourage them to relax and enjoy, and just let it happen. Don’t worry about peeing the bed; because once it’s happened a few times, they’ll realize that this is not urine.
Everybody who’s had a child who peed the bed knows that urine stains the mattress: you get this big, ugly, yellow ring. Then you get another ring, and another ring, and another ring, and by that time you have to throw the mattress out. G-spot fluid does not stain the bed. It does not stain sheets. There is no odour, once it’s dried. Urine has a very strong odour.
The sheet will be a little stiff; it’s just a little stiffer. It needs some fabric softener or something like that in the dryer.
The only problem is, it takes a long time for it to dry on an ordinary mattress, because the fluid soaks in. So I always tell females: once you’ve hit the G-spot, and once you know that you can do this you can do this then you’re in control. You can decide when you want to do it. If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it on his side of the bed. Let him have the wet spot for a change.
Women who do hit the G-spot get very smart. They’ll take a green garbage bag and open it up on one side and across the top and stretch it out, and then they’ll take a beach-towel or a big flannelette sheet and pin the four corners to the green garbage bag.
She’ll keep that rolled up under the bed, and when she want to hit the G-spot, she just hauls this out_of course, her partner gets the message: okay, tonight’s the night, big boy, pant-pant, we’re going to go all the way and she slides this under her hips and down to her heels. Then she’s free and can just relax.
Other women get even smarter and they buy a waterbed. This is the ultimate, because then you never have to worry about a wet mattress whatsoever, and you do not have to plan ahead. If it happens: “Oh, well, isn’t that wonderful? What’s a little bit more water around here?”
Shannon Bell Will all women ejaculate the same way as all guys ejaculate? I think the potential’s there. I would say that once anybody has ejaculated a few times they’re not going to go back to not ejaculating. It’s too pleasurable. It’s too much fun. And it gives you a different consciousness in terms of sexuality.
Thomas Laqueur There’s been a recent and rather elaborate book written by a group of women who hired a medical illustrator to draw, for the first time, detailed anatomical drawings of the clitoris and particularly the clitoris’ internal structures. That book Carol Dowler is the author is very specific in seeing the clitoris not as a smaller penis, but as an “inside” penis. The argument is that most of the erectile organ of the male is outside, but most of the erectile spongy tissues of the female are inside.
The authors rightly point out that most previous anatomical drawings of the cross section of the female pelvis just sketch in, in a very broad and hazy way, what the female internal genitals of pleasure might be. But if you draw these in, one can see structures which are very much isomorphic to the penis. So if you look at this book and they’re very explicit about this the clitoris is as big as the penis, only it’s inside.
The point of this is or I think the point of it is that women should imagine their sexuality to be as phallic, that is to say, as aggressive, as authoritative, as male sexuality. It seems to me it’s a way of imagining, in the body, a particular version of what female sexuality should be.
Sue Johannson I want people to be able to enjoy their sexuality and to relax and to be able to do what is comfortable for them. And if they are in a sexual relationship and they feel like pushing down, don’t hold back, don’t stop and think “oh I can’t let go, I can’t do that because I’ll pee the bed.” What’s the worst thing that could happen? You could have an accident. You could pee the bed. It is possible. It’s unlikely, but it is possible. Let go, try it. And just relax and enjoy. But don’t make it your homework for the weekend: something I’ve got to do, add it to the must-do chores for the weekend. No, just let it happen. Relax and enjoy. And celebrate sex.
Lister Sinclair On Ideas tonight, you’ve been listening to Sue Campbell’s documentary about female ejaculation.
To find out why we know the things we “know” about women and sex, and how other “facts” are ignored or disbelieved, it’s helpful to look at history. And so Ideas producer Max Allen went to talk to Edward Shorter, a historian of the family and head of the history of medicine program at the University of Toronto.
Among the books he’s written is A History of Women’s Bodies, which is also about women’s lives in European societies from about 1600 onwards.
Edward Shorter Sex is defined in cultural and social terms as well as in physiological terms, and I think that one can argue that before the beginning of the Romantic period of family life, women really did not enjoy sex all that much because the consequences of it were so devastating for them in terms of the endless pregnancies they would have to endure, each pregnancy placing the mother’s life very much at risk. So universally one finds that whenever women reached the age of menopause, they were entitled not to have intercourse with their husbands any more, they were entitled to drop out; and they cherished this right. This suggests that there was at least a certain differential in the sexual experience of men and women in past times.
Max Allen Is it your observation that it’s more likely that men had fun than women, or didn’t they enjoy it either?
Edward Shorter No, these were the days of a double standard in which men were permitted to enjoy not just their lawful wives, but the servant girls and the barmaids and anybody whom they might find upon the High Road and rape. It was perfectly acceptable for men to have a wide variety of sexual experiences throughout their lives; it was not acceptable to a women to have anything more than one man, ever.
The idea of using sex as a means of personal discovery or self-actualization is really a very post-modern idea for women, not for men.
Max Allen Why?
Edward Shorter Well, the world has really changed. The post-modern world has fundamentally different playing rules than the modern world did, and sex and family life are just part and parcel of that larger package. There are just so many aspects of relations between the sexes and about women’s lives that have changed since the 1960s, that to boil this down to sex and ask why sex has changed is really to beg the rest of these really very interesting questions. Women are now driving fire trucks, for example, and they weren’t before the Second World War. Now they’re multi-orgasmic and people are discussing on talk shows women ejaculating during orgasm, which is a kind of dialogue that one didn’t even find in the medical literature before the Second World War. So: everything has changed, and with it, female sexuality.
Max Allen Well, one found that kind of dialogue if one went back far enough. Starting from 1600 on, perhaps one didn’t hear about it, but Aristotle talked about it and Galen talked about it.
Edward Shorter They talked about it in theoretical terms. They were interested in the philosophical differences between men and women, and postulated a female ejaculation. However, did they actually take the microscopes and video cameras and record exactly what happened in those crucial four seconds? No, they didn’t.
Max Allen Why do you suppose it is that, assuming that female orgasm is fun for women, why didn’t they pursue it more? I’m asking a question for which there’s probably no evidence, and you’ll have to guess from the skimpy historical data you can find.
Edward Shorter They didn’t pursue it any more because these were profoundly prudish societies, and the idea of digging into women’s physiology would have seemed to them absolutely obscene. So it’s for that reason that they didn’t do it.
Max Allen And the question beyond that is: Why were these societies prudish?
Edward Shorter They had a sense of human transcendence that we don’t have.
Max Allen What do you mean?
Edward Shorter A sense of man-God relations. The fact that we are put on this world to do something else than achieve our own self-actualization. If one sees some kind of religious fulfilment as the purpose of life, then things like human sexuality decidedly take a second rank, because they direct one’s attention toward one’s self, toward one’s inner workings rather than outwards toward the Godhead as it’s supposed to be.
Women who, themselves, might very well have been aware of ejaculation would have been much too embarrassed ever to discuss this in presence of men or to put it down on paper.
There was once this whole female subculture of women’s special knowledge that was transmitted from generation to generation in oral tradition, and men didn’t find out about it. When this female subculture finally vanished, much of its special knowledge simply vanished as well, including presumably all kinds of intimate information about female ejaculation. It’s not described in medical literature because of course male doctors would never have seen it and would have, a priori, considered it to be unlikely.
Max Allen You have a section of your book called “The Quality of Intercourse,” speaking of the time before 1900. Say something about it.
Edward Shorter The quality of intercourse was brutish, nasty and short, as Hobbes described life in Britain generally once, simply because there was no foreplay and because men had very little sense of the importance of their female partner’s pleasure. Indeed, women were feared by men to be, deep down, raging volcanoes of desire who could easily get out of control and overwhelm a man if they were turned on too much. So for many men is was positively important not to loose this volcano, this satanic streak which men feared lay just beneath the surface of the women’s group. And so there was almost a calculation about seeing to it that women didn’t derive too much pleasure from sex.
Max Allen I’ve read this before, not only in your work but in others too. This seems inconceivable to me. It seems to me that if what you were faced with was the possibility of a volcano, that would be good and not bad.
Edward Shorter But women’s sexuality was seen as basically satanic, rather than life-giving or fulfilling. Historically there are all these images of Satan associated with the effluvia from a woman’s pudendum. Under these circumstances you can see why men would fear women and see something sulphurous and hellish underneath the surface.
Max Allen Today if you described a group of people who were thought by another group to be in that situation, I would say: Well, why don’t they do something about it?
Edward Shorter Well, Max, you say that because you’re a post-modern guy and your first thought is: Hey, we’ve got a problem here, let’s fix it. The people who lived in past times didn’t see their lives as problematical, any more than we see our lives as problematical. In parts of Africa today, clitoridectomy is important and desirable, and the way we lead our lives in Toronto is seen as somehow awful and having gone off the rails. Similarly, women who lived in the seventeenth century saw themselves as leading completely normal lives. They accepted the rules of the game as given, just as we accept the rules of the game in 1995 as given.
Lister Sinclair Edward Shorter, from the University of Toronto, author of A History of Women’s Bodies, published in paperback by Penguin Books. Ideas tonight was produced by Max Allen and Sue Campbell, with Kathy VonBezold and Liz Nagy. I’m Lister Sinclair.