from the book Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality — The Power of Feminine Way
By Linda E. Savage, Ph.D.
The Heart of the Matter
As much as women complain about their hips, buttocks, breasts, or waistlines, the yoni is at the heart of most women’s body-image distortions; it is their ultimate disowned body part. How women really feel about the seat of their sexuality is a much more serious issue of body image that they rarely, if ever, talk about—even in therapy. Yet these feelings are central to desire disorders in women.
The Sanskrit word yoni refers to the entire feminine sexual system. This system is far more extensive than the meaning of any commonly used terms. This term will be used throughout the book because it encompasses the external vulva, internal vagina, the complex organization of nerves of the clitoral system, and the whole pubic area. Yoni is more female-positive, being newer to Western terminology and not having the limited connotations of other terms. For instance, the word vagina is commonly used to refer to the whole female sexual system as if it were analogous to the penis (as in “boys have a penis, girls have a vagina”). This has perpetuated a gross misunderstanding among young and not-so young men and women about female sexual functioning.
If sex is defined as intercourse, behavior essential only for procreative sex, the vagina would be considered the primary female organ because it is the passageway to conception. If sex is defined as pleasure, the vagina is no longer the principal source of feminine sexuality. Most adults have heard the word clitoris, but young girls are rarely informed that this word describes their principal organ of sexual pleasure. The patriarchal bias toward sex for procreation is perpetuated by the use of vagina, which refers only to the internal canal.
The vagina is a source of much pleasure for the penis. Most couples are dismayed when the woman finds that friction applied to the vaginal walls does not result in her orgasm. It is still hard for men to understand that what feels so good to them is not enough for their partners. Countless women have told me that their husbands think there is something wrong with them because they cannot achieve orgasm with minimal stimulation apart from intercourse. The general myth persists that women “should” enjoy this as much as men. It is as if we expected men to attain orgasm from nipple stimulation (something that produces much sexual pleasure for women) and considered them defective if they needed any other kind of stimulation.
The woman-centered sexual perspective shifts the focus enormously. If visiting anthropologists from another planet were to interview a few sexually secure women, they might describe male-female sex quite differently. In fact, alien researchers might not immediately see any connection to procreation in what they were told by these women about the things they enjoy. Pleasure would appear to be the purpose of the interaction, and there might not be any emphasis on one particular sexual act, but a long list of pleasurable activities in no particular sequence and with no particular finale.
Our alien researchers might take notes on touching, eye contact, playful or seductive moods, sensual bathing, passionate kissing, and embracing. They might list the clitoris as a primary sexual organ because it gives the women such joy, but they might also recognize that the entire body is an organ of pleasure, with the yoni as the source of sexual heat. If they published their findings, we humans would recognize that their data was biased because it would be obvious that they had interviewed a rare and small percentage of the female population.
Sadly, most women do not accept their yonis as a most precious treasure. Men refer to their scrotum as “the family jewels,” name their penises affectionately, and often admire their organs in mirrors. Rarely do women admire their external vulva, or appreciate the wonderful shapes and colors of their labia. When we enter into therapeutic discussions, all women who have low desire admit to feelings ranging from discomfort to disgust about the looks and odors of their yonis. Most have never really looked at their yonis with their legs spread, and they report feelings of aversion or horror at the thought of doing so. Most women tell me that they have always thought of the vaginas as “dark” and perhaps “dirty” or “icky.” If they are given an opportunity to view them with a speculum and hand-held mirror, they are surprised that it is a lovely, clean pink. The “Yoni Exercise” in chapter 9 is a way to begin to heal some of these negative feelings.
Women also report that they believe their partners, husbands, or boyfriends must certainly have the same perceptions. Projecting their own repulsion onto men may be justified by experiences with their current partners or reactions from men in the past. Many men have admitted in my office, “It’s not my favorite part,” yet these same men express dismay that their wives do not want them to have cunnilingus (oral sex) performed on them.
Suzanne, who had previously had a very high desire for sex, told me this story. Her husband loved her to perform oral sex on him, and during their honeymoon, she summoned the courage to ask him to return the favor. He obliged her, and the experience was extremely pleasurable for her until his reaction at the end. Very quietly he got up, went into the bathroom, and vomited. What truly amazed me is that he continued to perform cunnilingus on her on a fairly regular basis, vomiting each time. Needless to say, any enjoyment she would have normally received diminished until she was able to bring herself to participate in nothing but “duty” sex.
I have treated many cases where women have experienced similar, if less extreme, reactions to their yonis. Amazingly enough, many, if not most women, accept this revulsion to their yonis as natural. Oral stimulation is one of the most pleasurable sexual experiences for a woman, yet the most common reason for women refusing to receive it is that they believe that their yonis are viewed by their partners as being somewhat unsavory. Even when partners insist that they enjoy giving pleasure in this way, most women will report disturbing thoughts that intrude on the pleasurable physical sensations, blocking their ability to achieve orgasm.