Getting More Pleasure From Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks is on a personal mission to help vagina-owners have more pleasure. She uses her platform to amplify a chorus of sex educators and sexologists currently working to shift the gendered narrative surrounding the experience of orgasm rather than personally. Banks discusses how this pleasure gap is a result of people with a vagina and people with a penis having historically unjust expectations around sex.

Seeing the sheer number of vagina-owners who don’t experience orgasms prompted her to take a closer look into why. Having read [journalist] Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex, it became apparent that young women weren’t having a whole lot of fun when it came to sex, says Banks, who I spoke with regarding the launch of her podcast. One of the statistics that really shook Banks—and that Orenstein, whose works focuses on sex education and gender dynamics, cites as a guest on the “Pleasure” episode of the podcast—comes from a 2011 survey of over 800 young people ages 14 to 17, which found that 50 percent of those identifying as women had never masturbated.

While there has been reason to believe (and hope!) that number has risen as masturbation and sexual pleasure have become less stigmatized for vaginal owners, learning about the pleasure gap got Banks thinking about conversations she had with friends around sex and her own sex life, and how much her sex education set her up to naturally leave pleasure out of the equation. All the information is fear-based about STIs and unwanted pregnancies, but nobody ever tells you how great orgasms are, she laughs.

There’s always an opportunity to find new ways to keep my relationship exciting with my husband, who I’ve been with for a really long time.” -Elizabeth Banks

To Banks, a pursuit toward self-understanding is a lifelong journey, or as she puts it on the podcast, a lifelong quest for more pleasure.

It’s great to be married for so long because there’s always the chance to find interesting ways to keep it fresh,” she says. She recommitted to that goal after speaking with sex therapists Jenny Skyler, PhD, LMFT, CST, and Daniel Leibowitz, LMFT of The Intimacy Institute, who shared insight with her on her podcast. Her sexual relationship with her husband is always characterized by “new conversation, growth, and surprises,” she says.

Rather than strictly focusing on performance-oriented sex as the mainstream media portrays it, Dr. Skyler calls for a pleasure-oriented model of sex in order to discover what works for you. In terms of content, movies, TV, and porn have many messages, at least for the heterosexual script, showing what goes on during penis-in-vagina intimacy and then your orgasm,” says Dr. Skyler in this podcast episode. However, it fails to honor much of the mind-body connection that is possible, as well as the unique and pleasurable ways of having sex.

It ignores how that sense of pleasure and preference can change over time-a part of being human that Banks says is so exciting. She says in the podcast that she and her girlfriend can have sex their entire lives if they want to. For her, finding a new way to “invite more pleasure into each experience” is all the more important.

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