Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Sex: Every Woman’s Guide to Pleasure and Beyond
by Sandra Scantling and Sue Browder
This is a wonderful book — with flaws. Scantling and Browder’s research recorded experiences of states like those Tantra cultivates — but in ordinary women, with no special discipline or unusual preparation. They do identify conditions that contribute, but in language that’s down-to-earth. They make “supersex” accessible; this got me quite inspired.
Feeling safe is a required condition. But the authors don’t allocate all the responsibility for creating safety to a woman’s partner. “A woman creates her own sense of safety by being clear — both in her own mind and with her partner — about what pleases her and hurts her.” I can use being reminded of this!
The book’s self-help style creates problems for me. Although the authors encourage letting go of destructive “shoulds,” and never use the word themselves, still “you can” and “you will,” and the instructions for what to do … all come off, to me, as another kind of should. I prefer books that stick to testimony. There’s plenty of that here, too, from their subjects… but none from the authors. So when they speak in their own voices, but don’t talk of their own experience, a vibe of authority results.
If you experience something wonderful, and want to help everyone experience it, how do you write about it? The natural inclination is to describe it with superlatives. Unfortunately, these authors have used so many that they lose force, cloy, and put me off.
Getting carried away with the wonderfulness of your subject … can also lead to overstating your case, overlooking problems. Scantling and Browder say “Paradoxically, when you and your partner each choose to do what you like, it results in a heightened sexual experience for you both.” They’re trying to encourage women to let go of the overwhelming cultural programming to please one’s partner. But we still need to be sensitive to our partners. I remember vividly a time one sex partner got so carried away with his own enjoyment of cunnilingus that it was way too energetic for me. It turned me off; I felt used.
All in all, however, I’m very glad I read this book: it got me thinking about ways I limit myself. I started playing again with fantasies I do feel good about, but had abandoned because I couldn’t make them take a clear shape in my mind. I decided just to let that happen, to let it be a shifting montage and enjoy what was there.