Ever felt confused around those magical flowers that are vaginas? Ever been confronted with a penis only to feel an overwhelming sense of ‘blargh!’? Ever found yourself in the mood and situation for bumping uglies, but not knowing whether to gyrate, thrust, wiggle or starfish?
Like many people on the whole cusp-of-life-desperately-trying-to-discover-any-sense-of-personhood spectrum, I often turn to the internet to acquire skills. When I wanted to learn how to put people’s faces on other people’s bodies, there was a YouTube tutorial that helped me deform via PhotoShop. When I started enjoying deep house music so much that I wanted to stop munting to it and start making it, the web was inundated with tools to help me navigate Ableton music software. When it was my first rendezvous with a lady in a while and I’d forgotten how to…
Enter Tristan Taormino, a sex-positive educator who has starred in, directed and written ‘feminist’ porn and, in more recent years, has produced a series of videos called the ‘Expert Guides’. Taking a YouTube tutorial approach to a myriad of practices (fellatio, anal pleasure for men, hand jobs, g-spot hitting positions – pick your team, sport!), Taormino’s videos had been touted to me as both informative and enjoyable. So, with much anticipation, I downloaded the ‘Expert’s Guide to Cunnilingus’ and turned the volume waaaaay down in my share house.
Image: Tristan Taormino.
Taormino’s work is confrontational to say the least. Within the first 20 seconds I was presented with a human diagram of the vaginal area and then a live demonstration of cunnilingus – from the female lecturer to the female demonstrator. Although poorly dubbed and kind of like the ‘Pop-Up Video’ of the sex world, it was extremely informative and stressed that communication is the key to good lovemaking. Was it porn? Maybe. But as I watched the demonstrator have orgasm after real orgasm – it felt a million miles away from the ‘Big tit bitch gets facial and likes it’ calibre of porn that inundates most adult sites.
To see the good time that the demonstrators were having in the video made me feel strange. This was maybe the first time that I had watched a piece of sexual media that had actually shown authentic pleasure, communication and mutual benefit. It couldn’t have been further from the media I was exposed to when sexual activity first came into my realm of consciousness as a horny little sprout.
Indeed, when we think about teaching young adults about sex, what do we tell them? Visions of the “You will get pregnant, and you will die,” PE teacher from Mean Girls rings most of the bells. We refrain from mentioning the capacities of safe, considered and consensual sexual pleasure to young adults, stressing the dangers instead. As a relatively recent school-leaver, my peers and I learned about STIs, pregnancy and little else as part of our sex education and acquired most of our nookie-in-practice educatin’ from free-to-access pornos (none of which came in handy when I lost my virginity whilst watching a 28 Days Later DVD… it’s all about the #ambience).
Is it so crazy to suggest that we should start showing young people this kind of sexual material and talking to them about how to pleasure their sexual partners? As our society becomes increasingly permeated with harsh images of sexual performance, the emphasis is moved further away from spaces of sexual pleasure. Maybe if we brought pleasure – in conjunction with affirmative consent and consideration – into an open conversation, we might find that our sex lives are safer, more informed and a helluva lot more satisfying.