Dr Pamela Stephenson is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating sexual disorders. You would think that would mean she spends her time counseling men who like to fuck cheese and things of that nature but what Dr Stephenson actually does is write a weekly sex advice column in The Guardian where she spends most of her time trying to persuade women to lie back and think of England when they express feelings of not wanting to be fucked.
Today, a woman wrote to Dr Stephenson saying that after she has sex with a man, whether it’s a casual fling or a serious relationship, she feels disgust towards him. She states that these feelings “fade into the background” if she’s dating the man for a long time but they never fully go away. So this woman spends her relationships having sex with men who disgust her.
I’m not a sex therapist but I’ve been around the block a couple of times and my advice to this woman would be, “stop having sex with men.” The disgust you feel is legitimate. It’s perfectly ok to not want to have sex with men.
Dr Stephenson’s answer was a little different. Stephenson advises the woman that something has probably gone wrong along the way and that she may have “internalized feelings of disgust about sex.” She goes on to say that this woman needs to “[e]xamine [her] long-held beliefs and [her] targeted disgust, and spend time pondering where they may have come from.” Once she has identified the source of her disgust, she has to “work to rationalise and correct” it.
It looks to me like what Dr Stephenson is saying here is that it is not rational to be disgusted by sex with men and that this is a disorder that can be corrected. This suggests to me that she thinks women have a duty to be penis receptacles and that any resistance we might feel to this obligation is a problem we need to overcome.
When a woman wrote to ask Stephenson’s advice after being unable to orgasm through vaginal intercourse, she was told she may have nerve damage. She was not told that 3 out of 4 women do not achieve orgasm through penetration. She was not assured the the orgasms she was having during oral sex were legitimate and desirable. The problem was her. Her body must be defective. Or she’s not doing the sex properly and maybe a different position will help.
Another woman in wrote in saying that she had an “amazing” sex life with her boyfriend without PIV. They had attempted intercourse twice in the past but she had found it too painful to continue. What does Dr Stephenson think she should do? The very first thing she suggests is that the woman consult a gynecologist because there’s a non-specified ‘medical procedure’ that a woman can have that will make it easier for a man to penetrate her. I searched google for “treatment for pain during intercourse” and “medical procedure for intercourse pain” but nothing turned up anything that could be termed as a ‘medical procedure’ so I have no idea what Dr Stephenson had in mind. She then goes on to tell the woman how lucky she is to be having orgasms and not to be so intercourse-focused so her advice appears to be fairly inconsistent.
Another woman says her boyfriend has told her that her vagina is “repulsive” and that he can’t stand to look at it. Instead of advising her to ditch the scumbag, Stephenson tells the woman she should sit her boyfriend down like he’s a five year old child and read a book with him about “physical diversity” and help him to see that all vaginas are beautiful at the expense of her own feelings about her body.
Most of the letters Dr Stephenson receives from women go along the lines of, “My boyfriend wants to put his penis in me but I don’t want to/find it painful/don’t enjoy it/am too tired/have just had a baby/am post-menopause/etc. Is there something wrong with me?” The standard reply given out by the good doctor is, “Yes there is something wrong with you. Try wearing sexy underwear/getting an operation/letting him penetrate you in different positions/using a gallon of lubricant/giving him a blowjob instead.”
Pamela Stephenson is using her platform on the Guardian to advise women that being a penis receptacle is inevitable. If it hurts or if you just plain don’t like it then you have to fix that shit because how will you get a man? If your boyfriend tells you your vagina is so disgusting he doesn’t want to look at it (but still wants to stick his penis inside it) then you just have to sit him down and try to make him see that it’s actually a nice vagina. If you dump him, how will you get another man with that hideous vagina you’re sporting?
When women express disgust and revulsion at the idea of having sex with men, it doesn’t occur to Dr Stephenson to suggest they may not actually be heterosexual. Disgust and revulsion at the idea of sex with men is a Big Problem because then men might not get to put their penises inside women and that won’t do at all. The best thing women can do is interrogate their desires (sound familiar?) and rationalise and correct the absolutely abhorrent feeling that you don’t desire sex with men. Because that’s what you’re for.