My preference for sex with vaginas simply means that I value my ability to find pleasure in sex.


by Joyline Maenzanise

In my late teens, I became aware that there were some cis women who I tended to admire in a rather intense way. I never acted on this because I assumed the feelings were nothing more than fleeting admiration—albeit intense—and, frankly, I didn’t know that I could act on them.

Growing up in a very heteronormative setting meant that I had already begun to join the bandwagon of hormonally-charged teens developing crushes for another gender. However, I never had any serious relationships and it wasn’t until my early twenties that I had sex for the first time, with a cis man. I had been watching porn and “flicking the bean” for years though, and found stimulating my clitoris with my finger during these sessions to be amazing.

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On several occasions, I had heard a few older women bragging about the magic that is a penis. Naturally, I had begun wondering what sex—the having a penis inside my vagina kind—felt like. The sex I’d had wasn’t the explosively pleasurable experience these women had talked about, but trying it for the first time was still surreal. 

But that nice feeling of having finally experienced what penis in vagina (PIV) sex felt like was short-lived. The plane landed too soon. I orgasmed, only to sob with regret afterwards, because I had been taught that PIV sex ultimately devalued a woman. And in that moment, I felt I had devalued myself. 

I eventually got over the regret and continued to have more PIV sex with my partner. The little pleasure I had previously felt from a penis inside my vagina proved to be a fleeting experience. Even though we continued to have sex, I didn’t get much enjoyment from it. Unsurprisingly, I had a difficult time orgasming from penetration, but I learned that I could achieve one by rubbing the penis over my vagina. But it wasn’t just the lack of orgasms that bothered me about a penis inside my vagina; it was really the whole experience.

Research shows that I am not the only one who simply doesn’t find pleasure in PIV sex. A 2017 study published in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy surveyed the sexual experiences of women aged 18 to 94 years. More than 80 percent of the women were unable to orgasm from PIV sex. Nearly 37 percent revealed that they required clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. Earlier, in 1924, Marie Bonaparte—descendant of Emperor Napoleon and one of the first women to become a psychoanalyst—proposed that a shorter distance between the clitoris and the urethral meatus increased the likelihood of orgasm during penetration. 

As time went by, my flings with cis men never distracted me from my “intense admiration” for cis women. In fact, as the years progressed, the feelings only got more pronounced. I also became aware of the fluidity of sexuality and the validity of experiencing attraction to those of the same gender. Despite attempts to pray this “sin” away, as the church had made sure to instill the belief that those feelings were an abomination, I became more and more attracted to cis women. What’s more, the more attention I gave to these attractions, the less I found myself being romantically attracted to or sexually involved with cis men. 

My first time having sex with a cis woman was magical. Whatever those other women professed to experience with a penis inside their vagina, I finally got to experience with someone with a vagina. Rubbing my clitoris and vulva against hers was a sensational feeling, and I simply could not stifle my moans as I revelled in the intense pleasure. 

Every so often, someone sparks a discussion on social media about how having genital preferences is problematic or even transphobic. Though not all transgender folks agree with this, one Twitter user, Dr. Rachel McKinnon, believes that genital preferences leave transgender people out of the thought process and are, therefore, transphobic. According to her, “someone who says they like penis and not vagina isn’t any different from someone who says they prefer ‘real vagina’ to transwomen’s vagina.”

It’s important that we call out transphobia whenever it arises. It’s also important that we are clear on what counts as the erasure or unfair discrimination of transgender folks. Transgender folks are the ones who get to decide what is or isn’t transphobic, and many trans people do not agree that simply liking one genitalia over another is unfair discrimination. So, whose voices do cis folks listen to when there is a discrepancies within the trans community?

I am gender non-conforming and I am attracted to women. I like women with vaginas (“real” or not) and women with penises, but my sexual preference is sex without penetration. Preferring sex with a vagina doesn’t mean I would never be with a woman who doesn’t have one—but I need them to be comfortable with and willing to pleasure me in ways that don’t involve penetrating my vagina. 

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My preference for sex with vaginas simply means that I value my ability to find pleasure in sex, because I’ve learned that I deserve to enjoy it, too. I have done the work of exploring my body and I finally understand what I need and how best my body can be pleasured. Trying to pressure or guilt someone into enjoying a type of sex or genitals which don’t bring them pleasure strips them of their right to autonomy and their right to enjoy their sexual experience and have a healthy sex life. 

For many of us, sex—or having a healthy sexual life—continues to play a crucial role in a relationship between sexual beings. A 2017 study conducted by Anik Debrot et al. shows that “sex promotes a stronger and more positive connection with the partner.” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, adds that a satisfying sex life “strengthens the bonds between partners, meaning that their long-term relationship satisfaction is bolstered as well.”

Everyone who is sexual deserves to experience the pleasure of sex and the pleasurable affects of a satisfying sex life. Everyone deserves to be with someone who actually enthusiastically wants to be with them—and their genitalia. While labelling genitalia preference as transphobic may not be tantamount to demanding attraction, it can sometimes seem like guilt-tripping folks into accepting sex with genitalia which doesn’t enhance their sexual pleasure.

Joyline is a queer weirdo who’s been a freelance writer since 2017 and a member of the Southern African Freelancers Association since 2018. Her work has been published by The Tempest, HelloGiggles, Gay and Lesbian Review, Pink News and several other publications. Joyline is a sucker for comedic series and when she isn’t watching her favourite Netflix shows, she loves swooning over the cute dogs of Instagram. Check out her Contently profile for her work. Also, follow and interact with her on her Twitter profile.