A speaker at a recent professional sexuality conference I attended referenced a quote variously attributed to psychologist Terry Tafoya and to Marlo Thomas: “The reason so many women fake orgasm is that so many men fake foreplay.” That quote always gets a laugh from an audience.

A woman sitting near me whispered to her companion “I get that it’s an accepted verity of life that all women require a certain amount of foreplay before intercourse—varying from a lot to a whole lot, and it’s like a hoop all men have to jump through to get to the good part. It just has never been like that for me or for most of my partners.” I nodded in silent agreement.

This particular “verity” is repeated in all sexual instruction books I encounter. It rarely says “most women require foreplay” or even “most women prefer it”. It usually states that extensive preparation for intercourse is a necessary fact of female sexuality, and it isn’t. There are women who, at least sometimes if not always, prefer instant coupling, who become revved up only once intercourse has begun. I liken them to a lamp that can’t get turned on until it’s plugged in. Foreplay at those times and for those women is just so much parsley, superfluous decoration to the main meal.

There are men who are just the opposite. There is no “get it up, get it in, get it moving, and get off” for them. They require, at least some times if not all the time, lots of slow warming up—kissing, caressing, canoodling and conversation. They are none the less red blooded males, just men who do not adhere to the mythology of who men are “supposed to be” always sexually ready for action.

While we are at it, there are men who don’t enjoy intercourse of any kind but who do enjoy other sexual interactions. There are men who do not enjoy receiving oral sex. There are women who are orgasmic just by breast stimulation and women who do not like their breasts touched at all.

I used to say that the only thing true of all women all the time is that they have vaginas, but of course we know as we become more familiar with intersex and transgender individuals that this is not so at all. Sex, gender, physiognomy can be as varied as individual sexual preferences. And even as the idea of sexual preference being fixed at birth becomes more accepted there exist those in whom it is mutable, by circumstance, behavior, or how they choose to identify.

So many minority groups complain of their invisibility—older people, bisexuals, those who identify as gender queer or gender fluid. I want to make a stand here for those men and women who just don’t or won’t adhere to sexual “norms“. They are who they are and refuse to be lumped in with all women or all men when they are not and should not be. So since anything you want to state about all men or all women is going to be followed by a gross exaggeration you might as well get into the habit of replacing your statements with “most men” or, better yet, “some women.” No one is likely to argue with that.

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