Myths About Lesbian Sex And Desire DebunkedEverything you’ve been taught about women’s sexual desire is wrong. And lesbians have the most orgasms of all!

Hear that, slut? That’s the sound of your desire being beaten into cultural shape. No matter your current sexual identification – queer, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, slut-shaming is still thrown at women with the kind of gay abandon that would leave even the most hard-skinned woman bruised.

Historically, women have been presented as having less desire than men and naturally passive. But current research is turning that idea on its phallic head. It suggests that lesbians have more orgasms than their heterosexual and bisexual counterparts. According to a 2009 study by Holmberg and Blair, they also experience more sexual desire than men and women in heterosexual relationships.

Regarding popular representations of women and desire, same-sex attracted women are often presented as pillow fighting against a backdrop of soft, seductive music and blurry images of thighs and fingers entwined. It’s nice. But a male gaze also idealises what men like to think women do in bed. It’s a fantasy of soft femininity meeting: One that doesn’t challenge long-held views that male sexuality is active and female sexuality is passive. It’s no secret that lesbians like to fuck, despite the mythical claim that lesbian relationships will meet with the dreaded lesbian bed death. The narrative underneath the myth is that female desire satisfying female desire has nowhere to go but the cemetery. I’m calling patriarchal bullshit.

An all-female sexual research team comprising Meredith Chivers and Amanda Timmers has found that despite cultural and historical evidence to the contrary, heterosexual-identified women desire women and men with the same ferocity. Homosexual-identified women report higher levels of same-sex attraction, as do homosexual men.

What does this mean?

Some say, like the doco Bi The Way, that this is evidence that more bisexuals exist than western culture would like us to believe or want us to hear. If you’re not into labels, sexual fluidity is the new identity disclaimer. It says I’m not bisexual or lesbian or hetero, I go with the flow, and I do who and what I want. Miley Cyrus claimed it, and so did Lindsay Lohan, Cara Delevigne and most recently, Lily Rose-Depp. The problem, it seems, is the taboo of female desire that lingers like the stench of a bar in your clothes the morning after. I teach subjects at Melbourne University that explore gender and sexuality, and not one of my female students to date has said that sex is essential in a relationship when I’ve asked what they want, at least not initially. When I say it’s necessary to me, silence descends.

What we know, scientifically, is that women’s sexual satisfaction is a predictor of general well-being and good mental health.

Yet, women in Australia and the United States have fewer orgasms than men. In the US, heterosexual women orgasm 61.6% of the time, lesbians 74.7% of the time, and bisexual women 58% of the time. Heterosexual men orgasm at rates of 85.5%, gay men at 84.7% and bisexual men at 77.6%. In Australia, the last national survey in 2012 recorded that 92% of men and 66% of women orgasmed, and only 24% of women reported that they’d received oral sex.

So why aren’t women communicating what they want, how they want it and what feels good? Why aren’t they making sure their desire is met with pleasure? Women, at large, are taught consciously and unconsciously that to speak about sex openly is wrong, unfeminine, a cause to be called a slut. After all the feminist critiques, female desire is still spoken about in hushed tones, and while men expect orgasm, on some level, women are taught not to.

It seems one’s sexual identity, especially lesbian identity, acts as cultural protection against gendered ideas about sex. Lesbians have to shunt the active/passive, masculine/feminine paradigm of heterosexuality by being lesbian. This means they have more space to perform their identities outside of preconceived ideas of what women do. They perform in ways that are not so bound by cultural expectations.

Bisexual women are not so lucky. But the good news for the sexually fluid is that a slow but visible cultural change is happening. We have SlutWalk’s celebs coming out in unprecedented numbers and a solid LGBTI activist base worldwide. And, we’re asking questions, so women might finally learn to shake off the shackles of staying quiet to please.