James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘women’

Sexuality in Sri Lanka

In Cultures on March 13, 2011 at 7:51 am

I posted previously about widespread bisexuality among men in South Asia, but I noted that women’s sexuality in South Asia has remained somewhat invisible. Equal Ground, an organization addressing the sexual and gender rights of the Sri Lankan community, has just launched a campaign to make women’s sexuality more visible. Check out their powerful poster, which reads, “A Woman Loving Another Woman is Also a Woman: Respect Her Rights.”

Homosexual acts are still illegal in Sri Lanka (if widely practiced by men who think of themselves as straight) and homosexual status is persecuted, but we should keep in mind that Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to grant suffrage to women, and it was the first country to elect a female head of state. Also, nearby India recently decriminalized homosexuality. So change may be under way.

If you are interested in bisexuality (and the history of women’s suffrage) in Sri Lanka, read the excellent historical novel, Cinnamon Gardens, by Shyam Selvadurai. He is also the author of another beautiful novel, Funny Boy, about growing up gay and gender atypical in Sri Lanka.

Sweet Fruit

In Stories* on October 31, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Even though we couldn’t keep our eyes off each other on the base, I was nervous when I finally walked over to Jackie’s room to get her for the movie. I’d never been on a date with a woman before, and I had no idea what two women were supposed to do in bed. It couldn’t be anything like having sex with a man, unless she had one of those strap-on things, and that would be just ridiculous and anyway out of the question in the dormitory. I told myself not to worry. We were going off base, and if I could just hold her hand during the movie, that would be enough.

I had butterflies in my stomach as I knocked and heard her footsteps approaching from the other side. My cheeks were suddenly hot, and my mouth was dry. She opened the door, still wearing fatigues. We just stood there, smiling at each other like idiots. Then she took hold of me by the wrist and pulled me inside, closed the door, and pressed me up against the wall.

There was no talking and no kissing, at least not on the lips. She dropped down in front of me and pulled my panties down from under my skirt and pushed my skirt up with both hands and dug in with her tongue. I was still too shocked to do anything but lean my shoulders back against the wall and tilt my legs to give her room. She slid a finger into me, or two, while nuzzling and tugging with her lips. Her whole face was slippery against me now, and I put my hands on her braids and pulled her tight as my legs started shaking uncontrollably.

And then we lay down on her bed for more. We never did make it to the movie. In fact, I don’t think we even took a break for dinner. Thank god her roommate was on leave.


In Sexploration* on September 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Studies have found that men spend more time staring at a woman’s breasts than at her face or other parts of her body when judging attractiveness. Clearly breasts play an important role in attracting a mate. They come in a wide variety of sizes, and no particular size has been found to be more attractive. Everyone has his or her own preferences.

At puberty, women’s breasts expand into their adult shape over a couple of years as they accumulate fat. The nipples and areolas also enlarge and become darker in color and more sensitive to touch. The areolas develop a bumpy texture on account of lubricating glands just below the skin. Women’s breasts become more firm and sensitive during pregnancy and, to some extent, each month during the week leading up to ovulation. At those times, the breast may be too tender to manipulate sexually. The breasts become thinner and less pert after menopause, when the glandular tissue shrinks and is replaced by fat.

Some women consider their breasts uncomfortably large and seek surgical breast reduction. But about twice as many undergo surgery to augment the size of their breasts. The breasts are expanded by slipping saline implants, which are like water-filled balloons, beneath the breasts or underlying chest muscles. Though augmented breasts may not feel quite the same as natural breasts, and some firmness or rippling of the skin may occur in reaction to the implants, most women and their partners are satisfied with the results. Women who have had surgery to reduce or augment their breasts may have small scars near the armpit or at the fold on the underside of the breast, or sometimes around the areola.

Many women and men derive sexual pleasure from rubbing or squeezing their nipples or breasts, or from having them squeezed or sucked by a partner. The nipples are particularly well supplied with nerves that are sensitive to touch, and with tiny muscles that cause them to perk up. Some men enjoy rubbing their erection in a woman’s cleavage, but that is unlikely to be particularly stimulating for the woman, unless it is accompanied by nipple play. If you suck a woman’s nipples after she has given birth, you will stimulate the release of a sweet and fatty milk.

Men can develop breasts just like women, but this rarely occurs unless a man is obese or takes female hormones. For most men, the breasts consist only of the nipples and areolas. Men who develop “man titties” often consider them embarrassing and seek surgical breast reduction. I suspect some men and women might find breasts to be an attractive feature in otherwise masculine men, but I find no mention of this in the literature.

Bisexuality among Indian Women

In Cultures on September 17, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Very little is published about sexual behaviour among women in the Indian subcontinent. Women are universally expected to have a feminine appearance, to marry, and to have children. A woman’s virginity and fidelity are of much greater concern than a man’s, so premarital sex between women might be restricted and condemned more than between men, though perhaps less than between unmarried men and women.

It is likely that some women find opportunities to express physical affection and erotic feelings for each other away from the gaze of men. Intimate friendships between female friends have been celebrated in India, sometimes in frankly sexual terms, as in the 19th Cent. Mughal poetry called Rekhti. More recently, Deepa Mehta’s movie Fire, which tells of a love affair between two married women (Radha and Sita), was critically praised but publicly protested.

One small study of female university students in India found that one-third described themselves as “homosexual with certain heterosexual tendencies.” Only half identified themselves as straight. The remainder said they were lesbian, bisexual, or something else. (This is in contrast to the male students, of whom only 5% said they were something other than straight, but similar to the findings of a recent study of college women in the United States.) This provides a hint that a substantial number of women in South Asia may feel attraction and affection for their female peers, at least until they fulfill their familial duty by getting married.

A recent article in India’s weekly newsmagazine, India Today, portrays bisexuality among cosmopolitan couples sympathetically as a growing and “chic… phenomenon [that] is here to stay.”

Fluid Female Sexuality

In Research on August 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

‘Late-Life Lesbians’ Reveal Fluidity of Sexuality
by NPR staff
August 8, 2010

An interview with Lisa Diamond, the researcher I mentioned in an earlier post, about women who find themselves unexpectedly in love with another woman later in their life.

Vaginal versus Clitoral

In Sexploration* on August 7, 2010 at 6:42 pm

For nearly a century, scientists have debated the best way for a woman to reach orgasm: by stimulation of the clitoris or manipulation of the G-spot? Freud famously thought that women who derived pleasure from the clitoris were infantile and neurotic. Kinsey’s group, on the other hand, found that the vast majority of women masturbate by stoking and pulling the clitoris and labial lips, in preference to the vagina, and those findings have been replicated repeatedly.

Recent surveys of Czech women found that ninety percent had reached orgasm by stimulation of the clitoris, while only three-quarters had experienced orgasm by vaginal stimulation. A recent British study found that even the women who believe they have a G-spot (a little more than half) find their clitoral orgasms to be more satisfying than their vaginal orgasms anyway. A telephone survey of nearly twenty thousand Australians found that women were much more likely to reach orgasm if their partner pleased them with fingers and cunnilingus before vaginal intercourse, while only half reached orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone.

Women Are More Flexible

In Research on July 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm

A few weeks ago I posted about rates of bisexuality among men. The CDC’s 2002 survey also provided surprising information about women.

As with men, nine out of ten women said they were “straight,” but one of those nine acknowledged some attraction to women as well. Of the ten percent of women who were not straight, half considered themselves bisexual or “something else.” Only one percent of women considered themselves to be homosexual. Altogether, 13% of women said they were attracted to both men and women, which is twice the rate of men who said they were attracted to both sexes.

A more recent survey of nearly four hundred college women found that just over half considered themselves exclusively straight. More than a quarter considered themselves “mostly straight” or bisexual. Only one in twenty identified as lesbian.

According to the CDC survey, more than one in ten women reported having had a sexual experience with another woman. That is nearly twice the percent of men who reported having had sex with a man. But the surveyors asked men and women different questions, so it is difficult to compare the results: men were asked only about oral and anal sex, whereas women were asked about “sexual experiences.”

Among women who have ever had sex with a woman, two thirds still considered themselves straight, and another quarter considered themselves to be bisexual or “something else.” Fewer than ten percent of women who had had sex with a woman considered themselves lesbian.

The Kinsey Group, who interviewed nearly six thousand women in the 1930s and 40s, discovered even higher rates of sexual activity between women. Kinsey found that one out of five women reported having experienced sexual contact with another woman. The likelihood of having a sexual experience with a woman rose steadily from adolescence into the fourth decade, unless the woman married. More than a quarter of women reported having been sexually attracted to, or aroused by, another woman, but less than three percent were exclusively homosexual, according to Kinsey’s research.

Many surveys have found that the vast majority of lesbians had also had sex with a man.

Surveys have defined sex between women in different ways, and differently from how they have defined sex involving men. In spite of these challenges, surveys consistently show that women are less likely than men to consider themselves exclusively straight or gay, and they are less likely to define themselves by the gender of their partners. Recent research and reviews suggest that women are more flexible than men, moving more easily between male and female partners and feeling less defined by sexual labels.

Three New Books about Female Sexuality

In Research on July 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Lisa Diamond is a psychology researcher who has published a number of ground-breaking articles over the last decade based on her interviews with women who have experienced some same-sex attraction. What she found is that women are less concerned about the gender of the person they happen to fall in love with and also less concerned about having a consistent sexual orientation (akin to what I call the flexamorous sexual type).

Last year, Professor Diamond published a book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, which describes her research findings and the broader scientific context. She illustrates the book with quotations and life stories from many of the individual women she studied.

Sapphistries: A Global History of Love between Women, by Liela Rupp, is a beautifully written and comprehensive survey of homosexual desires, encounters, and identities among women throughout time and in different cultures. Sapphistries can also be read as a history of female bisexuality, because most of these women had relationships with men as well. (The same can be said of most “gay” male histories, which typically describe men more properly understood as bisexual.)

Emma Donoghue has just published Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature, a survey which includes many bisexual types.

The G-Spot

In Sexploration* on July 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Both men and women are confused about the anatomy and function of the female sex organs. Important parts of the female genitalia are embedded in the body rather than hanging out, like their male counterparts, so they are difficult to study, but scientists have also mischaracterized or ignored the area for centuries. Vesalius, a classical anatomist from the Italian Renaissance, went so far as to claim that the clitoris was a myth or an abnormality that should be removed. Sixty years after physicians “discovered” the G-spot and female ejaculation, scientists continue to debate their existence or characterize them as feminist myths.

Medical studies conducted in just the past decade have revealed the clitoris to be a more complex organ than had been realized previously. The clitoris is much more than the button of sensitive tissue visible under the labial hood; it includes long tubes of erectile tissue, similar to those found in the male penis, which extend deep into the pelvis, where they straddle the vagina like a cowgirl gripping a bronco. Squeezed between the vagina and clitoral tissue are several types of sexual glands. The entire organ is richly enervated and sensitive to the thrusting, stroking, tugging, vibrating, distending, and contracting motions that a woman experiences during intercourse.

Some scientists have begun to refer to a “clitoral complex” that includes the visible head of the clitoris, the deeper erectile tissues, the sexual glands, and the especially sensitive adjacent area of the vagina, often referred to as the G-spot.

The G-spot was named after Dr. Gräfenberg, the doctor who first noted that some women were aware of a point of maximum pleasure just within the vagina. The area is usually described as dime-sized and located about an inch inside, on the front side of the vagina. You can reach the area by sliding a finger into the vagina and bending the finger in the direction of the bellybutton.

Ever since Dr. Gräfenberg’s “discovery,” scientists have debated whether the G-spot exists, and most have been distracted by the hunt for a distinct organ rather than a sweet spot. It turns out that the location of the G-spot corresponds to the area where the deep, erectile tissue of the clitoris pushes up against the wall of the vagina, especially when the erectile tissue becomes engorged with blood and the vaginal muscles contract, as they do during sexual arousal and vaginal penetration.

Female Ejaculation

In Sexploration* on June 20, 2010 at 9:26 am

Do women ejaculate?

How can that even be a question, given that women have been reaching orgasms for millenia? Wouldn’t someone have noticed? But just a few hundred years ago, physicians thought that the clitoris was an abnormality to be removed, and Freud thought clitoral orgasm was a sign of emotional immaturity. So we are still learning.

In fact, the medical literature continues to debate whether women ejaculate at orgasm. Some researchers believe that any fluid that might be released is really just urine.

But the most recent scientific studies have found that women do ejaculate a variable amount of liquid, and that the liquid is similar in content to male ejaculate, except of course that it lacks sperm. The ejaculate, which is released by glands located within the ureter, or pee-hole, is clear or slightly white in color. The amount is often small and perhaps unnoticeable in the midst of the muscular contractions that accompany orgasm.

Go Girls!

In Flexible People on June 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

Female entertainers have been leaping out of the closet recently.

Christina Aguilera, while promoting her new album Bi-on-ic, told Out magazine this month that her husband knows she’s “into girls… it’s fun to be open and play.” She describes women as more visually attractive than men. However, she goes on to qualify that she could not live without “dick” and cannot really imagine having sex with a woman, because there would be too much “estrogen” in the room. She did not go so far as to call herself bisexual, but her statements reveal flexible thinking. The singer has a young child with her husband of many years.

Anna Paquin, a star of True Blood, the X-Men movies, and The Piano, recently declared herself bisexual for a public service announcement for The True Colors Fund, an organization advocating for LGBT rights. She is engaged to be married to her male co-star.

Lady Gaga told Rolling Stone a year ago that she was bisexual, and confirmed in an interview with Barbara Walters in December that she has had sexual relationships with women. She says her attraction to women is purely physical.

Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas told The Sun a year ago that she considers herself bisexual. She had previously revealed that she has had sex with both men and women. She is in a long-term relationship with a male actor.

A week earlier, actress Megan Fox of the Transformers also revealed that she was bisexual and had had sex with women.

Which sexual type best describes each of these entertainers? Fergie and Lady Gaga hint at being supersexual. Anna Paquin makes no apologies and might be flexamorous or ambisexual. Christina Aquilera is unafraid to say that she finds women attractive and may be heteroflexible, if not just self-promotional. If anyone knows these stars, please ask them to take the Flexuality Test!

Each of these women deserves applause for leading the way and resisting the pressure to define herself as straight.