Joe Kort: All right. Welcome to Smart Sex, Smart Love. Today I’m going to be talking with Laurie Mintz, who is the author of the topic of this podcast today called Becoming Cliterate. Her book is called Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters And How To Get It. It was a book that was actually reviewed by the New York Times.
Laurie Mintz, PhD, is an award-winning college professor. She currently teaches Psychology of Human Sexuality to hundreds of students a year at the University of Florida, and has had over 20 years of experience working with private clients on sexual issues. Dr. Mintz has received numerous professional awards, and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association. She’s published over 50 research studies, writes a Psychology Today blog, and has been quoted in many outlets, including Cosmopolitan, Women’s Day, Prev, women’s Health, Men’s Health, CNN.com, Oprah.com, and the Huffington Post. You can find more about her at her website at www.DrLaurieMintz.community, which we’ll say at the end. Welcome, Laurie.
Laurie Mintz: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Joe Kort: I’m excited to have you here because this is such an important topic. You know, I always say to people, because I’m gay and all my writings and trainings are gay, people don’t realize that 75% of my practice is with heterosexual clients. Actually straight people call and they’ll say, “Do you see straight people?” I feel like that kid in The Sixth Sense, “I see straight people”, like I have to like inform them. So to me … And so I know in my work with people, and with women especially, that they struggle with becoming cliterate, and men struggle with becoming cliterate.
So I thought we could start with the question of, “Why did you write this book?” What was your hope in writing this book?
Laurie Mintz: Well, my hope in writing this book … And it’s a great question, is to help both women and men in the world at large become more cliterate, and to close the orgasm gap. Stated really simply, the orgasm gap is the fact that during heterosexual sexual encounters, the men are having way more orgasms than the women are. Really striking statistics on this topic. One of the most striking, I collected myself with my students that 55% of men versus 4% of women say they orgasm during first time hookup sex. So I wrote the book to empower women to orgasm and to close the orgasm gap.
Joe Kort: That’s so awesome because so many women, they don’t organism, they don’t think they need to orgasm and they don’t know … They don’t understand that PIV, penis and vagina intercourse isn’t the main way women orgasm. Right?
Laurie Mintz: Exactly. In Becoming Cliterate, I talk about many, many cultural reasons for the orgasm gap, but I say that the number one reason … And I believe this so strongly, and I’ve seen it over and over, is the lie we’re told about getting laid. I call it the number one lie about getting laid is that women should orgasm from penetration or intercourse alone.
Joe Kort: It’s so hard to understand. I mean, I believe it, but so many women don’t know this. It’s like a new generation comes up and then they don’t know it. Every generation seems to always need to be educated about this. It’s not just in the culture.
Laurie Mintz: And that’s the thing that’s just so striking to me. It’s 2019, and this is still not well- known. When I first started teaching Psych of Human Sexuality to the undergrads, and the orgasm gap came to light for me and the reasons for it, and I started teaching the students in my class about the clitoris, and women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone, they were like shocked.
It was as if … I’m older. I’m almost 60. So my coming-of-age was during the sexual revolution. Everyone kind of, “Our bodies ourselves” and things like that. We all knew about our clitoris. I was so shocked to find that a whole knowledge, a whole body of knowledge had been lost to women, and that we’re back where we started with women thinking they should orgasm from intercourse.
Joe Kort: I know. And I remember … I don’t know how long ago this was anymore, but Ian Kerner’s book, She Comes First, that was like a big deal, New York time bestseller. I thought then that we were going to have … Because it was about men pleasing women first, letting them have their orgasm, and then having his orgasm. I thought, “Okay, he’s embedding this in the culture”, and not necessarily. Right?
Laurie Mintz: Exactly. There’s a whole history, and Ian’s book is one piece of it, of the clitoris being lost and found, lost and found, lost and found again. His book came out, I think, in 2004, and it’s exactly … I quote his books throughout Becoming Cliterate. It’s a great, how-to oral sex manual guide that’s all about the clitoris and the power of it, and how if heterosexual men discover this, not only will they give their partners more orgasms, but that takes the pressure off of their penis to perform the impossible. Yet, even at that book being a New York Times bestseller, we’re still not there culturally, where we equally value women’s and men’s most reliable routes to orgasm.
Joe Kort: I just had a woman in my office who was 35 years old, and she said she didn’t even know where her clitoris was. I was so shocked.
Laurie Mintz: Yes. Yes. There’s been studies … This strikes me. Like a quarter of women and men about cannot even locate the clitoris on a diagram.
Joe Kort: In my sex therapy trainings, we had vulva puppets. So then we were able to look, and not just diagrams but be able to touch and feel on the puppet where it was. It feels like every girl, woman should be given one. Every man should be given one, you know?
Laurie Mintz: I agree. I have one of those vulva puppets, and I love it too. But everybody should be given sex education that includes the clitoris. Our sex education system, in the words of Peggy Orenstein, acts as if the clitoris doesn’t exist.
Joe Kort: Yeah. What I just learned, I think, was … You and I met at the Sex Therapy Conference at SSTAR. I forget what SSTAR stands for. Do you know?
Laurie Mintz: Society For Sex Therapy And Research.
Joe Kort: That’s right. Then you did your presentation there. I learned there, it may have been from you, how we erase women’s sexuality by saying “penis and vagina”, that the vagina is not a sex organ. The Vulva, the clitoris is. We should be saying penis and vulva, penis and clitoris. Right?
Laurie Mintz: Yes. I love this topic, so I’m so glad you brought it up. It was so fun to meet you at SSTAR. That was me that said that I have a whole chapter in Becoming Cliterate on our linguistic analysis, and that is a piece of it, that we call our entire genitals a “vagina”. So in other words, we’re linguistically erasing … A psychological, linguistic genital mutilation. We’re not even mentioning the parts that give ourselves the most pleasure. Instead we call our entire genitals by the part that gives heterosexual men the most pleasure, our vaginas, rather than the part that gives us the most pleasure, our vulva, our clitoris.
Joe Kort: I absolutely love this. When you say it, it’s infuriating, because it’s something that’s so simple and yet we don’t do it. Right?
Laurie Mintz: Right. Right along those lines that the way that we use sex and intercourse as if they were one and the same, and call everything that comes before “foreplay”, we’re saying … We’re not only erasing gay and lesbian individuals when we equate sex and intercourse, PVI, but we are really privileging heterosexual men’s sexuality. We’re calling sex by the one act that gives heterosexual men the most pleasure.
Joe Kort: That is so true. Really, just think about it. It’s such a simple thing to know, and yet it’s so profound because the culture has done this. I want to ask you, in the book you stress the importance of women taking their pleasure under their own hands by exploring their own bodies and learning what they like and what helps them orgasm. However, there are women that are uncomfortable touching themselves and their sex organs and their clitoris and their vulvas. So do you have tips that women can use if they find themselves resistant to learning more about enjoying their own bodies?
Laurie Mintz: Oh, this is a really important question. I’m so glad you asked me this because the hesitancy and embarrassment and shame that so many women feel in touching themselves is so important to overcome. That’s why I have a whole section in the book on it. Basically what I do and what I’ll tell you here is using research and accurate information. So for example, talking about where the shame comes from and debunking it. It’s so old. It comes from stories in the Bible. It comes from beliefs that if you touch yourself, you’re going to go crazy.
There’s ways to debunk those beliefs, and I can get into those if you want. Then really helping people understand that the research really clearly demonstrates the benefits of self-pleasure for both physical health and psychological health. Just examples, it increases immunity, decreases pain tolerance, helps you sleep. Most importantly, in terms of orgasm, that learning to orgasm by yourself is the first step to learning to orgasm with another person. It’s the most important mainstay of sex therapy for women learning to orgasm. So really, really kind of taking a deep talk about why masturbation is important and that it is essential to learning to orgasm.
Joe Kort: I love it. I remember Oprah, in the last couple of seasons of her show, had Laura Berman, sex therapist on. Laura Berman felt it was important … They did a whole show. I was so proud of Oprah because she’d never done a show like this where Berman said that she thought young teen females should be given vibrators so they can explore their bodies, so that when they end up with boys, they know how to show the boy and themselves how to stimulate her too, and it won’t become all about the boy that she’s having sex with. They got a lot of flack for that. Do you remember that show?
Laurie Mintz: I don’t, but I’m gonna look it up. I love that. I mean I think that is so important. I’m not surprised they caught a lot of flack because in our culture we’re very sex negative and we’re especially women’s pleasure negative. Vibrators are fantastic, which is a whole nother topic. But in the Netherlands, in their sex ed, they teach about the clitoris. They encourage self-pleasure. If you expect pleasure and you know how to get it, it’s not just important for pleasure, you’re much less likely to tolerate sexual pain, which so many young women have. You’re more likely to recognize coercion. I mean expecting, owning, knowing your own body and how to get pleasure is so essential.
Joe Kort: I love it. Tell the audience, because I think it’s important to know, why do men … Why is it important for men to also become cliterate?
Laurie Mintz: Well that’s really important. Really important. It’s why I have a whole chapter in the book for men. In the media, you’ll often hear things that the reason women aren’t having orgasms is because men are selfish or they only care about their own pleasure. In the research and in the many men I talk to, this is simply not true. Men really want to please women, but they don’t know how because they’ve been fed the same lies. They’ve been watching the same false images of women orgasm from penetration alone, and they don’t have that corrected in sex ed and many women fake orgasm with them.
So men need to become cliterate, too, because it’s going to help them not only become better lovers for women, but that’s going to help them enjoy sex more because it’s going to take away the terrible performance pressure they’re under to “make” women orgasm by lasting long and thrusting hard, which isn’t going to work in the first place.
So men becoming cliterate, it helps them and the women that they are having sexual encounters with.
Joe Kort: God, that makes so much sense. You’re right, with my experience with straight men that are in my office and even outside my office, they often do feel turned off if they can’t turn her on. That’s one of their biggest losses is, “How do I do that?” When she’s not turned on, they take it very personally.
Laurie Mintz: Yes. There was a study that was really interesting recently that basically kind of proved what we already know that … And it’s so sad, and affects so many of our clients, that men see their ability to pleasure a woman with their penis as a reflection of their masculinity. That’s why I also say, along with stopping calling the vagina a vulva and sex intercourse, we really need to stop making jokes about men’s penis sizes, because all that does is fuel their anxiety and it is a very non-cliterate joke. We need to start joking … If we want to joke about something, let’s joke about the flexibility of a man’s hands or tongue, or his ability to hold the vibrator, not the size of his penis.
Joe Kort: Wow. I hope that’s one of the biggest takeaways a lot of men listening to this will hear, because that is a big thing. A big question is, “How many inches do I have to be for her to feel pleasure?” They’re very humiliated by that whole thing.
Laurie Mintz: Exactly, exactly.
Joe Kort: What do you say about people that are religious? Do you have anything for people that this, for them, that goes against their religion to become cliterate kind of thing?
Laurie Mintz: Yes. That’s a really tough one when it comes to working with any client who has very deeply held beliefs, say against masturbation, or against anything but intercourse. But I will tell you a story, and I will never forget this. This was a client taught me this. She had never orgasmed and she and her husband did the typical no foreplay … Even though I hate that word, I’m gonna use it in this context. Then right to intercourse. Of course she not only didn’t orgasm, she was really not enjoying herself and had some pain.
So I introduced her to her anatomy and the clitoris. I talked to her all about this. She went home and she did some research, and she found a book about this. In the book it said, well, the clitoris is the only organ in the whole body, male or female, designed for pleasure. So it must be God’s gift to women. She was so excited about that, that she felt more comfortable embracing the power of her clitoris, talking to her husband about it, and their sex life completely changed.
Joe Kort: That’s awesome. I would hope for something like that for people who are religious, because so many of them feel like this is taboo and sinning, really, to do this.
Laurie Mintz: Exactly, but it’s there for a reason. The other great quote I’ve read is the reason our hands meet our genitals is we were designed that way so that we could. Also breaking down … I sometimes work with really sex-positive religious leaders, and I send a client to them. I’ve learned so much from them, like the verse in the Bible that’s supposed to be quoted all the time about anti-masturbation, a lot of scholars of the Bible don’t even believe that’s what that was about. It was about this guy named … I’m going to probably pronounce it wrong, but Onan. It was about intercourse, that he pulled out and “spilled his seed on the ground”, not because of masturbation. So if you really even can work with some sex-positive religious people, they can even help take these taboos away.
Joe Kort: I never knew that story. That’s really helpful to hear, because that’s been misconstrued, obviously.
Laurie Mintz: Yeah, he was supposed to have been punished for spilling his seed, but the real story is, his brother died and he was instructed then to procreate with his sister-in-law, because that’s what the law then. He was having so much trouble with this, that he pulled out and ejaculated outside of her, and that’s what he was punished for.
Joe Kort: Wow. Wow. Okay. So a lot of couples and just individuals find it difficult to talk about sex and talk about it at all, let alone even with their partners. Can you tell us some tips that you would recommend that people can use to become more comfortable expressing to their partner what they like and what they need sexually?
Laurie Mintz: Yes, absolutely. That’s like so, so, so important that the first tip, I would say, is to realize that communication is necessary for satisfying sex. Like when we look at movies or porn, you don’t ever see communication. Everybody knows what to do and does it without speaking. But indeed, communication is the bedrock of a good relationship, and communication can make your bed rock.
Joe Kort: I love that.
Laurie Mintz: Yeah, and people also need to realize that it’s a lot easier to learn to communicate than to read minds in bed. Even though people think it’s hard, it’s a lot more easy to learn and effective than reading minds. I really advocate that people don’t just start out with good communication in bed. That’s not going to happen. But to learn good communication in their daily lives and then apply it to sex. There’s tons of good communication tips I could give that not only apply outside the bedroom but in the bedroom.
Like one of my favorites is don’t ask questions that aren’t questions. We often do that. “Do you want to have sex?” is an example. It’s really never a question. It either means, “Hey, I’m really horny and I hope you want to”, or “I hope you’re not horny because I’m not either”, and really learning instead to say what you want with I-statements and time your communications well, and really, really learning good communication outside of the bedroom and then applying it to sex, during sex and outside of the bedroom. Talking about sex is just a natural extension.
Joe Kort: Very well said. Then I also think about clients that have talked to me and some female friends that over the years talk to me about shame, about how their clitoris looks, or their vulva looks, or it doesn’t look normal, or what is normal? How do you address that?
Laurie Mintz: Yeah, and that’s … Unfortunately it’s really akin to the issues men have about their penises looking wrong or being too small, is that every vulva looks different. They’re all beautiful, they’re like snowflakes. Every one is different. But all we see in porn are big penises and even in petite inner lips. Those people are chosen for that. They’re very not normal, or some women have even had surgery.
So the key is seeing other women’s vulvas and there’s some beautiful online sites and pictures. My favorite is called Gynodiversity. It’s got beautiful pictures of women’s vulvas, all shapes and sizes, with hair, without hair, all kinds of women from different races and ethnicities. Once you see real vulvas, you’ll know that … Or you’ll hopefully come to love yours and know that what you look like is just fine.
Joe Kort: What a great answer. It’s true. I had a porn star tell me once that some of the vulvas you see in porn are prosthetics. They’re not even real. Did you know that?
Laurie Mintz: I didn’t know that. That is really upsetting.
Joe Kort: I know it is.
Laurie Mintz: I knew that a lot of women had labioplasty to be in porn. I didn’t know they were prosthetics. Wow.
Joe Kort: Yeah, made to look, I guess in whatever way … I don’t know, made to look whatever. I just think it’s awful, because again, you’re telling women this is how it should look and if it doesn’t look this way, something’s wrong with you.
Laurie Mintz: Yeah. This is why we have young women, you know, young girls, 13, 14, 15, 16 trying to … Want cosmetic genital surgery.
Joe Kort: Yeah. Yeah. Awful.
Laurie Mintz: It’s terrible.
Joe Kort: As we almost are coming to a close, what would you say the biggest takeaway you want people to get from reading your book, Becoming Cliterate?
Laurie Mintz: Well, I want people to know that we have a gendered orgasm gap in heterosexual sex, and that there’s a very simple solution to this problem. That is we need to hold men’s most reliable route to orgasm, penal stimulation penetration, equal to women’s most reliable route to orgasm, vulva clitoral stimulation. Frankly, I really believe that there’s never been a time in Western history where we are poised to really get this and to change it. I think that for people with clitorises, the revolution is coming.
Joe Kort: I love it. I just feel like, I don’t know that I always believe this, but sometimes I do, and this time I do, some things are meant to be. I think you were the one meant to talk about this and spread this word. I think you’re so smart and I had so much fun with you at that conference. I laughed so hard. I felt like you were like a long lost sister that I had never met.
Laurie Mintz: I felt this … Well, thank you. I mean really that kind of brings tears to my eyes that you say that I’m the one to spread this word. I really do hope that the word gets spread and that we don’t have to do this again. Like let this be the end of it. You know? I want people to … Like people have called my book radical and my hope is that in 10 years people will be like, “What? Why was that radical?” Honestly, Joe, I’ll also say I felt completely the same way. I so loved meeting and spending time with you, and I love your work, and I felt like you were a long lost brother.
Joe Kort: Thank you so much. How can people find you, Laurie? Website, Twitter, or how so?
Laurie Mintz: Well my website, www.DrLaurieMintz.community, and that has links. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as well. My name on everything, all of those social media sites and my website, is the same, Dr. Laurie Mintz.
Joe Kort: Thank you so much and thanks for agreeing to this podcast. I hope everyone listening learned a lot from you today. Thank you.
Laurie Mintz: Thanks for having me on.
Joe Kort: No problem.