Penthouse Retrospective

by Lonnie Barbach and Linda Levine Originally Published: November, 1980

Female Sexuality | 40 Years Ago This Month

“At first his attention is absorbed in the film, especially since it takes place in a French brothel. Needless to say, the ‘young ladies’ in the film are all absolutely beautiful and into all kinds of sex, particularly licking, sucking, and eating their partner and/or partners. While he’s turning on to the film, I’m turning him on by starting leisurely at his toes with my mouth and tongue and working slowly up to his balls and penis. Poor guy! He struggles with wanting to concentrate on the film but not wanting me to stop. I’m also extremely turned on at this point; so we spend the rest of the time making love, as the film continues.

Although many of the women we interviewed enjoyed pornographic books and films and found them arousing, some were turned off by their male orientation.

“We record ourselves sometimes and make an audiotape of our screws. We also have a video recorder, and we have filmed ourselves with the camera and played the tape back on our television. Then we watch it and fuck along with it.”

Female Sexuality: VIBRATORS

Vibrators were the sexual aids most frequently mentioned by the women we interviewed. Many women had tried a vibrator at one point or another. Some enjoyed the vibrator and continued to use it frequently; others enjoyed it only occasionally.

Ann (married 6 years) recalled her first experience:

“Steve used the vibrator first. The first time he used it he gave me an orgasm in about three seconds, and I was scared shitless of it. I didn’t want to use it for a long time. I told him I didn’t like it. It just wasn’t me. It felt like a kind of reflex mechanical reaction. But he continued to bring it out, and we used it differently — slower and not directly on the clitoris — and it got more stimulating and easier for me. Sometimes we use it up to the point of orgasm, and sometimes I go off on it. I use it on him around his anus and around his glans, which he likes. I’m not sure how often we use it, but it’s often enough, and we usually think of using it at the same time.”

A lesbian couple used it this way:

“Both of us lie on either side of the vibrator and press it against us. That way we both manage to get some vibrations.”

Female Sexuality: BODY PAINTING

Decorating one another’s body was mentioned by a couple of women as being particularly enjoyable on those nights when passion is not high but the desire for fun and intimacy are.

Iris (divorced and living with boyfriend Jake):

“One night Jake and j had decided to devote the evening to being alone and ,being ‘intimate.’ We specifically did not want to limit or inhibit ourselves by feeling that that would necessarily mean intercourse. As it turned out, that evening we weren’t really feeling that passionate. So we started out just giving each other massages in front of the fireplace; then we were feeling warm and relaxed and a little playful. Jake grabbed a magic marker from his desk arid started making designs around my mons area. Not to be outdone, I grabbed a few myself and turned his penis into a beautiful hanging purple flower. We laughed and ended up drawing all over each other’s body. Body paints that turn into bubble baths in the shower have since become a substitute for magic markers.”

Female Sexuality: FANTASY

Not all women fantasize, but many feel that fantasy is an important part of their sexual encounters. The way these women used their fantasies varied. The large majority of women never shared their fantasies with a partner but kept them as their own personal, secret turn-ons.

The fantasies that surfaced most frequently were variations on the theme of being dominant and submissive. Women today are actively raising their consciousness. They are breaking old stereotypes about how women ought to be and are developing their competent, assertive, and rational side. They were often horrified when masochistic fantasies of being forced to submit sexually were found to be arousing. However, what women enjoy in fantasy and what they actually find arousing in reality are two very different things. Many women enjoy being raped in fantasy but would be devastated if the act were perpetrated on them in real life.

Unlike the psychoanalyst’s theories, our sexual fantasies do not necessarily “tell” something about our inner wishes. Enjoying fantasies of submission are not necessarily signs of a masochistic personality. We often find that women who can truly enjoy those fantasies are women who feel sufficiently secure to know that in real life they are not masochistic at all.

Alexandra (divorced):

“Barry and I had some sadomasochistic fantasies which, were never played out in any way that was dangerous, just fun. It was definitely on a fantasy level. It was comfortable for us to act the fantasy out in bed; it would have been uncomfortable out of bed. I don’t like to play the masochistic role, nor do I like a man to play being dominant over me in any aspect of my life, but in bed it was just a game.

In comparison, Female Sexuality fills a much broader spectrum of the human condition than does the male equivalent. "Normal" means a variety.

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