Warning: Contains sexual content
When I was 6, my mum told me toys come to life at night.
It was a truly magical possibility. One I spent many evenings trying to confirm – setting alarms at odd hours to wake myself up and catch them in the act.
Sadly, I never got to find out whether Barbie and Ken were really as enamoured with one another as the marketing suggested.
(Though my hunch was Ken spent way too much time at the gym to maintain Barbie's interest, and she was probably having an affair with one of the Cabbage Patch dolls).
As an adult, I often find myself wondering what my more mature toys would have to say to each other if they could talk.
It's a running joke among my female friends and I that our vibrators are probably off somewhere smoking a cigarette, complaining they really need a pay rise and a holiday.
In fact, there's a literal meme depicting just that.
A vibrator puffing on a Winfield Blue, with the words "My vibrator after quarantine" above it, has been making the rounds on Instagram.
It's funny because it's so relatable. Though rarely admitted aloud, most women masturbate frequently.
We do it because it feels good and relieves stress. But mostly, we do it because it's reliable.
Partnered sex is a notoriously capricious affair for women. In no small part, because our cultural definition of sex negates the female orgasm.
Navigating sex feels a little like being asked to lead a training session at work when you showed up for an internship. It's not like anyone gives you a handbook on how to get someone off.
Adding to the confusion, the idea that penetration is the gold standard in sex is so pervasive, most women are convinced their inability to orgasm this way is a personal failing.
Men too, respond in puzzlement: "Why isn't she enjoying it?"
In actuality, this very idea ignores the sophisticated spectrum of valid, pleasurable ways people can be sexually intimate.
And in doing so, it nullifies not only female pleasure, but men with erectile difficulties, LGBTQIA+ couples, people with disabilities, and indeed, a large segment of people who simply don't get off on penetration.
The question women should be asking themselves when they don't climax during partnered sex, isn't "What's wrong with me?" it's "What am I doing differently when I masturbate?"
In a landmark study of over 17,000 women, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey shattered the long-held theory that women take longer to orgasm than men.
Kinsey's research uncovered an inextinguishable truth: when women masturbate, we reach orgasm in as little as four minutes – almost exactly as long as it takes the average man to climax.
What's most startling about this, is that a similarly large study by researchers at Indiana University, found that, during partnered sex, women orgasm just 65 per cent of the time (for men, it's 95 per cent). And this "orgasm gap" doesn't exist among lesbian couples.
This would all make a lot more sense if our teachers had noted the existence of female pleasure when they were busy discussing how babies are made.
The penetrative model of sex neglects it altogether. And that's a crying shame.
More so, research indicates around three quarters of women achieve orgasm most reliably during foreplay, while just one-fifth of us can get there through penetration alone.
It also explains why the same women populate online forums with questions like "Anyone know a good supplement to help with orgasms?" and "I love my boyfriend. Why can't I climax when we have sex?" are achieving efficient orgasms in the absence of their partners.
The problem isn't with women's bodies, it's with the way we're having sex with men.
Sure, penises are great! Some might even call them cute. (Not me. Please don't send d*** pics). Regardless, if you're a woman, you're statistically unlikely to reach climax relying on one.
A far more adept approach would be to engage in extended foreplay, focusing on manual stimulation and then to continue that throughout the duration of sex.
Consider penetration a neat optional extra. Kind of like the free delivery you get thrown in if you spend enough money on your Uber Eats order.
A humble partner will be happy to accept his member isn't the magic thing society and porn have taught him it is, and instead put in the work to get you there.
Kind of like how I've had to accept my toys don't actually come to life at night. Which is probably a good thing, or else my vibrator would be asking for a raise.