"Talking through the ball gag" : women navigating empowerment and vulnerability in the pursuit of sexual pleasure

Women’s sexual pleasure has been traditionally misunderstood and understudied, and studies of women’s sexuality often relate to violence and danger, sexually transmitted infections, or unwanted pregnancies. By interviewing eight women, this qualitative interview study explores how women who have sex with men experience sexual pleasure. Two main themes emerged from their narratives: Women experience feelings of empowerment and women experience feelings of vulnerability connected to their pleasure. I found that a pleasure gap exists between the pleasure that the participants talk about and the actual sexual pleasure they are accessing. The women view themselves as sexually empowered and explore pleasure with sex toys, kink, and BDSM play, but do not always access pleasure or communicate their desires to a partner. To close the pleasure gap, my research suggests that women adopt a critical view of sexual empowerment and build ongoing partner communication.