Fear of Pleasure

Excerpt from Female Sexual Pleasure by Mark J. Blechner, Ph.D.

Does male privilege in our society extend to deciding which facts about human sexuality can be known and considered important? Freud himself referred to the “dark continent” of female sexuality. He noted that the details of female sexual anatomy are not as visible as those of the male. But visibility is not enough of an explanation. Anatomists have paid a great deal of attention to the male prostate gland, which is not visible at all from the exterior body.

Perhaps the problem is a fear of sexuality itself. The clitoris is the only human organ whose sole function is sexual pleasure. The penis, besides sexual pleasure, has the tasks of urination and fertilizing the ovum. Is there something troubling about pure sexuality and a wish to eliminate an organ with no other “practical” purpose?

The Greek myth of Tiresias is relevant. Tiresias lived first as a man, then as a woman, and then as a man. The gods Zeus and Hera were arguing about who gets more pleasure in sex, men or women. They asked Tiresias, and he replied, “Of ten parts a man enjoys one only.” The statement that women enjoy sex ten times more than men was troubling, and Tiresias was struck blind.

Do men have a psychological need to diminish female sexuality? Do men envy the power of a woman’s eroticism? Perhaps men wish to deny that females can have multiple orgasms, thanks to an organ devoted exclusively to pleasure, and so they make that organ small and insignificant or erase it from the textbooks entirely. Men try to form-fit a woman’s anatomy to a male standard and describe it in male-centric terms. Why, after all, is the clitoris referred to as “a little man” rather than “a little woman”? The “little man in the boat” may actually be better described as a full-sized lady standing solidly on the terrain around her and joyfully moving with whatever dances come her way.