Sexual Empowerment

A local sexologist discusses the idea of women embracing their pleasure

The idea of a woman knowing and pleasuring herself has not been in vogue for thousands of years,” says Regena Thomashauer (aka Mama Gena), bestselling author of Pussy: A Reclamation. “We’re taught to sit back and let someone else drive. The truth is, when you think someone outside you controls your pleasure, you feel out of control.”

Think about your adolescent sexuality training.

Gotcha! You’re thinking: “What adolescent sexuality training?”

Exactly my point!

Growing up, most of us received little information about our sexual selves and what we did hear ran along the lines of: 1) don’t touch it — it is bad, dirty and wrong; 2) if you’re a girl, boys just want what’s between your legs, and you can’t let them have it; 3) once you’re married, it’s all good, as long as it is your husband doing the touching and/or the touching is for procreation.

Does anyone teach girls and women about the pleasure their bodies are capable of feeling — and that it’s not just all right to feel pleasure but is a glorious gift?

Women are endowed with the only organ known to exist for the sole purpose of pleasure, the clitoris. With more than 8,000 nerve endings, the clitoris extends internally, encircling the vulva and affecting an estimated 15,000 additional nerve endings throughout the pelvic region.

For many women, breasts are an additional pleasure zone and, for most of us, areas of the skin — when stroked tenderly — evoke tremendous pleasure sensations.

My point is this: Our bodies are equipped to experience vast amounts of sensory pleasure and nobody teaches us about it. Instead, our culture to this day teaches girls that sexual gratification — pleasure — is fine for men but shameful and wicked for women.

Even worse is the messaging that women exist solely to please and serve men sexually.

Is it any wonder that many women feel so disempowered and turned off — that many women can’t possibly answer the question “What do you want?” in a sexual context because they can’t possibly know, based on what they’ve been taught, how they’ve been treated and on what they’ve never learned?

Embracing the question of what you want sexually is an important first step toward personal and sexual empowerment and sexual satisfaction. Given generations of cultural messaging, turning inward for answers can be difficult. Many of us have internalized the cultural belief that “good girls don’t” and good women have sex only to satisfy husbands or boyfriends, not for their own pleasure.

What if women were to be given permission to feel sexual pleasure — for themselves? What if they knew that it is incredibly empowering to get to know their own pleasure responses for themselves? That how we experience pleasure — on our skin, our nipples, our faces, inner thighs, clitoris, vulva and, heaven forbid, our G-Spots — is a gift and ours to delight in? Can you begin to let this belief sink in a bit? What if you had been taught this, as a young girl by a trusted elder, instead of shame-based beliefs?

I invite you to think about this question: “What do you want?” And just as importantly, “Can I give myself permission to begin exploring how I feel pleasure, sexual and otherwise, in my body?”

Notice what this brings up for you, negative or positive. And remember this: It is your body, your life and your pleasure to either experience or forgo.

What do you want?

Jane Steckbeck is a clinical sexologist and certified sex coach writing on behalf of the Eugene Intimate Health Center, which supports all gender expressions and empowers people to leave sexual shame in the past. For more info go to

For more on “Empowered Sexuality for Women,” check out Steckbeck’s class, Feb. 19 to April 2, with a deep dive into seven principles that are key to sexual empowerment. Go to