How the Internet Taught Us About Female Pleasure
Sex & Dating

How the Internet Taught Us About Female Pleasure

This article is a sponsored collaboration between LELO and PAPER

My fascination with female pleasure began the summer before I started high school, within the chat boxes of an online forum set up to discuss a popular publication for teen girls. This was back during a time when adolescents like me were starting to connect with each other via the internet, customizing our new social media profiles with crude code and creating message boards about everything from our Motorola Razrs to applying frosty blue eyeshadow. But amongst the hundreds and thousands of threads populating the site was one curiously vague prompt: a question about “how to feel good down there,” filled with suggestions like using a cucumber and lying down in the bathtub directly beneath the faucet. It was the day the internet taught me something I’d thought of as impossible before, because I had the power to get to know myself better while making my body feel extremely good.

In subsequent years, the American school system’s lack of proper sex education only made these chat rooms, sex blogs and social media communities focused on education, destigmatization and open dialogue even more important for me. They were the places I went to for advice about exploring my body and where I learned about how useful toys can be in the pursuit of solo female pleasure, mostly because it was the only space where I could do that.

Take LELO’s IDA™ Wave for example. A hands-free dual vibrator designed to stimulate both the G-spot and clitoris, the IDA™ Wave has the ability to usher in the ultimate orgasm thanks to an external vibrating base combined, a rotating internal arm using the company’s patented WaveMotion™ technology and 10 titillating settings accessible via the LELO app and your phone’s Bluetooth capabilities. And with this in mind, it’s no wonder the company describes it as a tool that’s “ideal for sexual awakening on your terms” and, by extension, an awakening of self.

Despite the media’s obsession with the male orgasm, female pleasure has traditionally been demonized by a society where young women are already routinely told to shirk their physical needs. So add a millennia of Abrahamic religion and patriarchal norms, and it’s easy to see why most women feel shame when it comes to any sexual pleasure unrelated to procreation, particularly masturbation. However, one woman named Denise* explained that this comes at a huge cost to young women who are trying to find “empowerment in self-discovery,” given that “exploring your sexuality and getting in touch with [how you feel] naturally is the path to self-acceptance.”

“The more you are in touch with yourself the less you allow others to make decisions for you,” she said, echoing research that found frequent masturbation is “positively associated” with overall sexual function, development and increased sexual assertiveness for women thanks to its ability to teach them about their own anatomy, build up their self-confidence and bolster their inherent power.

After all, as Pro Hoe founder Penda N’diaye added, this kind of sexual empowerment and bodily reclamation is the basis of unlearning “whatever shame or stigma that you've internalized,” which allows you to “kind of switch off that part of the brain” in favor of the “things that make you feel good and allowing yourself to feel good in those in those moments.”

For Denise, Tumblr was the way she learned more about herself through her budding sexuality, with the assistance and encouragement of other young women who were being equally as ”vulnerable with their experiences in early sexual development,” while also “assisting one another in the cultivation of pleasure, education and understanding.”

“These were things most of us never discussed with our parents, especially our mothers. I owe a lot of my social development to these conversations that were taking place online with women I admired,” she continued. “As more conversations were being had and as more women were freely expressing themselves, their audiences also started conversations.”

Now, Denise said the same thing has been happening on TikTok, where another generation of young girls continue to share “what they’ve experienced in the world and start more deep, honest dialogues about how to navigate sex, dating and life,” whether it’s about using a toy like the IDA™ Wave or advocating for your own orgasm with a partner.

Similarly, N’diaye remembered her own MySpace days, which helped her create online connections that brought together “sex and technology and media” in a “really individualized” way. And as she recalled, it was a far cry from the pre-internet days when she could only “rely on conversations with other friends” or magazines like Cosmo for information about pleasure and sexuality, let alone conversations about tools for masturbation. Not only that, but these online communities and resources also allowed her to start questioning the media’s treatment of female pleasure, as well as realize that “masturbation is something way beyond the self pleasuring, it's really more about autonomy.”

“I had some autonomy, because my parents were not on MySpace,” she said. N’diaye then went on to note that social media has also been important in the sense that it’s continued to enable “a lot more conversations that allow women to question their female desires and pleasure,” all while “feeling more positive in terms of their communication skills.”

“That’s where a lot of the hesitancy comes from, speaking up and feeling like you deserve pleasure,” N’diaye continued. “But on the internet, there’s now media [that paints female pleasure in] a positive light, which does give you a little bit more confidence to say, ‘Hey, I deserve this. I deserve to speak up.’”

This was especially true after she realized prioritizing her own sexual pleasure shouldn’t be a source of shame after realizing her online friends weren’t “crazy” or “uneducated” or destined to “burn in hell” for masturbating. That said, we’ve only continued to grow more open to discussing female pleasure since then, which only could’ve happened with these more mainstream conversations brought forward by the internet via everything from big-budget television shows to the pandemic-driven popularity of sex toys meant for female solo pleasure à la the IDA™ Wave.

But even so, N’diaye added that “we still have a long way to go until it feels like it's just a part of our everyday conversations, even though it’s a lot better than when I was younger and couldn’t find anything.”

“Because we should all be feel comfortable talking about sex,” as she went on to say. “It's something that we all participate in.”

Check out LELO's IDA™ Wave dual stimulation massager here.

Photo courtesy of LELO