From one-thrust orgasms in cinema and pornographic films to misogynistic chart toppers from the music industry, misinformation on the topic of female sexuality has become an inescapable reality. Yet, this has never deterred LELO, the world’s leading designer of intimate lifestyle products, or Dr. Laurie Mintz, one of the most authoritative voices on sex and intimacy today. Beyond serving as a tenured professor at the University of Florida, Mintz is the award-winning author behind Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It and A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship.
Mintz also extensively works with LELO, offering her “sexpertise” to help educate others more deeply on pleasure, intimacy, and everything in between. Like Mintz, LELO aims to destigmatize the taboo of female pleasure by prioritizing education on the subject. “Education is power, says Sara Kranjčec Jukić, the company’s global brand manager. “Education is the only way to remove the stigma from sexual pleasure and to demystify female pleasure. Education is the only way to get to the ultimate goal: sexual liberation.”
Originally founded in Sweden in 2002, LELO has since become a global powerhouse in the sex toy industry through meticulous research, design and educational campaigns on empowerment by way of pleasure. The brand has received over 30 awards; in fact, they were the first sex toy brand to ever win a Cannes Lions award for product design. The brand’s products have been featured in numerous esteemed publications, like Vogue, Teen Vogue, Playboy, Cosmopolitan and Harper's BAZAAR, to name a few.
And, as part of their continued mission to celebrate female pleasure, LELO partnered with BlackBook and New York City-based gynecologist, Dr. Amir Marashi on our latest project, A Woman’s Right To Pleasure. The book is a 270-page coffee table book, featuring the art and writings of over 75 the most influential womxn creatives to date. Through artwork and essays, the book presents an unapologetic look at female pleasure — direct from the bold and brave women who contribute to these groundbreaking dialogues through their work.
So, to celebrate the release of A Woman’s Right To Pleasure (and the upcoming A Woman’s Right To Pleasure exhibition, featuring work by artists from the book), we interviewed Mintz on all things pleasure: the reality behind squirting, the consequences of faking orgasms, the different types of female orgasms and other burning questions.
“I think that when a woman learns to advocate for what she needs in the bedroom, she gains the confidence to advocate for herself more broadly,” said Mintz in our exclusive interview. “I’ve seen empowerment in the bedroom lead to empowerment in the boardroom and beyond.”
So, sit down, listen up, and grab a notepad.
Order A Woman’s Right To Pleasure now, and read our interview with Mintz, below.
You’ve maintained a small private practice for over 25 years. Have you observed any paradigm shifts amongst your female clients over time regarding their own pleasure?
Over the last several years, I’ve seen more of my female clients feel more entitled to sexual pleasure during partner sex, and also more comfortable with masturbation -- including using sex toys. However, many still are confused about pleasure and orgasm, due to the many false images in porn and mainstream movies; many still come in feeling broken because they can’t orgasm from penetration alone.
There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding the female orgasm. Are there actually different types of orgasms?
Yes, there is a lot of misinformation. In terms of this question, scientists are still debating this and there are three separate camps on this.
One camp says there are different kinds of female orgasms, including (but not limited to) vaginal, clitoral, and blended orgasms (those resulting from stimulation of the clitoris and the vagina at the same time). In terms of evidence, this camp points out that many women say these orgasms feel different from each other. Additionally, the vagina follows a different nerve pathway to the brain than does the clitoris. This camp points out, too, that different areas of the brain are activated during different types of orgasms. Finally, they refer to the finding that the uterus reacts differently during G-spot (pushes down) versus clitoral orgasms (pulls up).
The second camp points out that no matter where the stimulation is that finally leads to orgasm, engorgement of the internal and external clitoris is involved in all female orgasms. They also point out that stimulating the vagina without also stimulating the internal clitoris and clitoral bulbs is impossible. This camp thus says that all female orgasms are clitoral— even those resulting only from stimulation inside the vagina.
A third camp says that it’s time we start thinking of women’s entire sexual anatomy as one functional, connected unit and stop asking this question. They point out that no matter where stimulation resulting in an orgasm occurs, all female orgasms manifest themselves in the genital region and involve the same muscle contractions. One urologist says we should consider calling the whole cluster of erectile tissue involved in female orgasms—including the clitoris and the vagina and the G-spot area—a clitoris. In short, this camp thinks this debate is frivolous.
Maybe you’re wondering what camp I’m in. Honestly, I think all three make legitimate points, so from a scientific point-of-view, I am unable to draw conclusions. However, quite important, I think attention to this debate contributes to women doubting their own most reliable route to reaching an orgasm, which for most women is clitoral stimulation. We have a long history of differentiating women’s orgasms based on the point of stimulation and by doing so, declaring one better than the other. Additionally, I’d note that we don’t do this for men’s orgasms (e.g., call them by the point or type of stimulation, such as intercourse orgasms or blow job orgasms); it is only when it comes to women’s orgasms that we do this.
To add to that, what’s the best way for women to explore their own bodies and experiment with the various types? With a partner or alone?
Given what I say above, I won’t discuss the “specific types of orgasm” but instead different points of stimulation. The best way to explore is simply to take time alone to pleasure yourself. In fact, in virtually all sex therapy aimed at helping women to have their first orgasm, instructing them to pleasure themselves is always the first step. I sometimes first advise clients to watch some clips on the website omgyes.com of other women pleasuring themselves and/or to watch some Betty Dodson videos, particularly her vintage video, “Celebrating Orgasm: Carol.” These videos often help women get comfortable with the idea of self-pleasure and normalize clitoral stimulation. I then advise them to buy some LELO lubricant and simply take the time, in a safe space alone, to pleasure themselves. I often advise using both one’s hands and a clitoral vibrator as a starting place. I do so because external clitoral stimulation is generally the easiest and most reliable orgasmic trigger. Once they have orgasmed this way and if desired, or if this is not resulting in orgasm, women can then add in other types of stimulation such as combining clitoral stimulation and penetration such as with a “rabbit style” vibrator.
You’ve worked extensively with LELO. How can intimate accessories and products help women to better investigate their bodies?
We know that vulvas respond incredibly well to vibration, and indeed, research tells us that women who use vibrators have easier and more frequent orgasms. I think these findings say it all in terms of the usefulness of intimate products and accessories!
There’s so many different intimate products and accessories out there and on LELO—some tame and others not so much! How can women who are unfamiliar with the intimate product space begin to introduce that into their own lives?
I’d suggest simply getting on sites, especially LELO, and looking around, also paying particular attention to customer reviews. The more one looks, the less overwhelming it becomes. If they have friends who use intimate products and accessories, they can also open conversations about what they use and what they like, etc.
As we said, there are so many different LELO products… What's the best one for a woman to start with, especially if she has no experience with intimate pleasure products?
If you had to choose one, is there a special LELO toy that you think every woman should have in their arsenal?
I’d say there are two: The Sona Cruise and the Ora-3. They are both unique and unlike anything else on the market! The Sona delivers a different type of sensation as it uses sonic waves rather than vibration, and the ORA-3 mimics oral sex in a way no other toy does.
Do you think there are cultural dangers associated with faking orgasms? Is it wrong to fake them?
Yes! By faking you are teaching your partner to do exactly what DOES NOT work for you. Also research shows that women generally fake during intercourse with men and they do so for three reasons: 1) to make their partners feel good; 2) to avoid appearing abnormal; and 3) because they want “bad” sex to end. Regarding the first reason, we are much better off educating men that most women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone and showing/telling them what we need to orgasm. This relates to reason #2: You are not abnormal if you don’t orgasm during intercourse. And, finally, if the sex is not good, you are much better off communicating what would make it better than faking. Again, faking trains a partner to do what doesn’t work for you. Better to teach him what does.
We have to ask about the G-spot? Is it real?
The picture has reproduced from BECOMING CLITERATE by Laurie Mintz and reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2017. (Note: Highlights have been added to the original picture)
The best way to answer this question is to provide a visual. Specifically, when looking at this picture, you’ll notice there isn’t one labelled “spot”. This is because the G- spot isn’t a spot. It’s an area (roughly highlighted here) which includes the vaginal wall, the urethra, a spongy area of erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra, and parts of the internal clitoris. Because of this, many scientists now call this area the clitoris- urethra- vagina (CUV) complex.
Let’s talk a little more about the urethral sponge, which is also called the paraurethral gland, or the “female prostate gland”— a name given to it in 2001 by a group of world-renowned experts who set the world standards for anatomical terms. Some speculate that the function of this sponge is to protect the urethra during sexual intercourse, acting as a buffer between the penis and the urethra. Regardless of its function, this sponge runs along the roof of the vagina and can be felt through the vaginal wall. And, it’s an essential part of the CUV complex.
In terms of the sexual function of the G-spot, here’s what we know. First, not all women can find this area. Second— very important— some women find it sexually arousing to stimulate this area and some don’t.
What about squirting: is it real? Is it common? We’ve heard so many different things about it as women, and especially thanks to pornography. Can you demystify it for us?
A lot of porn shows women squirting and this indeed has caused lots of questions about this topic. Female ejaculation is when fluid is expelled from the urethra. Despite myths that this occurs during “g-spot” orgasm, the truth is that this fluid can be expelled during arousal, orgasm, clitoral stimulation, and/or G-spot stimulation.
This fluid originates in the urethral sponge (i.e., what is now called the female prostate gland). There are two types:
But, really, really important: Female ejaculation is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s also not a goal to strive for. It’s just another beautiful variation among women. Additionally, some evidence indicates that if you are not a natural gusher/squirter, you shouldn’t try to force it as this can harm pelvic floor muscles.
Finally, of note, a lot of the squirting in porn is fake, accomplished by ﬁlling the porn actresses’ vaginas with liquid using either oral syringes or douches. (Note, then, that the fluid isn’t even coming from the correct hole in that true female ejaculate comes from the urethra).
Building off the last two questions, there are so many myths surrounding female sexuality and the female body. What are the most common ones you hear?
The two most common myth I hear are:
There’s also a misconception that women enjoy sex less as they age. How can women overcome their fear of their own aging bodies and how they experience pleasure as a result?
This is indeed a misconception. In fact, research shows women enjoy sex more as they age. I believe this is because often, as women age they get more comfortable with their own bodies and what they need to orgasm and more able to tell partners this. Of course, women who fear their own aging bodies and believe sex is for the young might be exceptions to this rule. If so, I’d suggest reading books by Joan Price on sex and aging; they are normalizing and empowering.
What is the orgasm gap?
It is the consistent finding that when women and men get it on, the women are having significantly fewer orgasms than the men are. As one example, one study found that 39% of women versus 91% of men said they always or usually always orgasm during a sexual encounter. While this study did not ask the context of the sex (hookup or relationship), other research tells us that the orgasm gap is largest in first-time hookup sex and smallest in relationship sex, but it never closes altogether.
Why do you think the orgasm gap exists, and is this something you experience amongst your clients in your own practice?
There are many cultural reasons for the orgasm gap (e.g., slut shaming; women’s body self-consciousness due to media images of women, etc.). However, the #1 reason is our cultural over-focus on intercourse and the false belief that women should orgasm the same way men do—via penetration. Indeed, in one survey 73% of women’s orgasm problems were attributed to not enough or not the right kind of clitoral stimulation.
What is the difference between the vulva and the vagina?
The vulva is the entire outside portion of a woman’s genitals including, for example, both the highly sexually responsive inner lips and the external portion of the clitoris. It also includes the vaginal opening. The vaginal canal, on the other hand, is internal and it is where penises, dildos and tampons can go in and babies can come out. The vulva is chock-full of touch sensitive nerve endings, whereas the vaginal canal has touch sensitive nerve endings only in the inner third. The remainder has more pressure sensitive nerve endings.
You’ve previously mentioned in interviews that there’s a lot of issues surrounding language around sexuality that bother you. Why do you think it’s so important for people, and women specifically, to understand the correct terminologies for female anatomy (i.e. vulvas versus vagines)? Why does it matter?
What is not named, doesn’t exist. When we use the word vagina instead of vulva, we are linguistically erasing the part of ourselves that gives us the most pleasure. We are instead calling our entire genitals by the part that gives men, not ourselves, the most pleasure.
What role do you think pleasure plays in women’s ability to articulate themselves?
I think that when a woman learns to advocate for what she needs in the bedroom, she gains the confidence to advocate for herself more broadly. I’ve seen empowerment in the bedroom lead to empowerment in the boardroom and beyond.
How do women initiate that conversation about pleasure and what makes them feel good in their intimate relationships and experiences?
Clearly and directly, outside of the bedroom—and using good general communication skills.
In what direction do you want to see society shift in regards to cultural portrayals of women’s desire?
I would love to see more realistic portrayals of women’s pleasure in movies and porn—more portrayal of clitoral stimulation (vibrators, oral sex, etc.).
To add to that, at what age do you believe conversations regarding pleasure should be introduced to girls and young women? Should these conversations be compulsory or initiated in school settings?
I think these discussions needed to be started young and continued, adding more and more age appropriate information. The research shows that parents’ talking to children about sex is more important than what is learned in school, but sadly many parents aren’t equipped to do this. I’d like to see both mandatory, science-based, sex ed that includes pleasure and porn-literacy and I’d also like to see classes for parents to help them have conversations about sex with their children.
How do you think young girls should learn about and get to know their own bodies?
Many young girls will do this naturally—when little they will discover that it feels good to rub against an object (“Cushion pushin!”). I think we’d all be better off if this was normalized rather than shamed (e.g., telling a child, “That feels good but please do it in private”). Also, I think we’d be much better off (pipe dream!) if we taught the benefits of masturbation in sex ed.
How can people, regardless of sex and gender, support the women in the their lives and help them strengthen their relationship with their bodies?
Don’t make negative body comments. In fact, how about we stop discussing women’s bodies altogether! Even saying how “perfect” or “pretty” someone is sets us up to value women for how they look.
Tell the women in your life that you love and value them as they are.
Educate yourself about women’s bodies and women’s pleasure so you can help educate others and call out false images and statements when you see them.
If there’s one thing you could tell all women, what would it be?
You deserve pleasure! Stop worrying about if you are “normal” and get the type of stimulation that works for you! Also, the key to orgasming with a partner is getting the same type of stimulation you get alone.