Written by: Chantrea Keout-Urgell, Journalist, Feminist, Yogi, Wife and Mother
Today, many Cambodian women are aware that they have the same rights and freedoms as men, especially when compared to in the past. For instance, they have the right to talk about sex like men do.
But, do they clearly understand that they also have as much of a right to experience pleasure during sex as men do? Of course it’s not an identical experience - Women and men have different bodies and sex organs and so experience pleasure in different ways - but the key point is that women should experience sexual pleasure in their own way and most women should be able to achieve orgasm (if not during penetrative sex, then through other forms of intimacy like oral foreplay).
When I was 14 years old, I volunteered as a peer educator with a local organisation specialising in sexual and reproductive health rights. What I learnt during that time was... 1 - Do not have sex before marriage 2 - How to have sexual intercourse safely 3 - How can HIV be transmitted from one person to another 4 - Information about sexual abuse 5 - How to find assistance for sex and reproductive health matters All of those theories were memorized like chanting for me. I spread the knowledge to my friends in the class, other students in my school and many young people on the street. It was really a happiness to spend my time sharing about sex to teenagers and youths. However, I notice that 10 years later, things are still the same. It is still only the same theoretical blah blah about “we, women, have the right to talk about sex”.
I'm glad that women are now actually beginning to talk openly about sex and reproductive health, not just about having the right to discuss it in theory. At the same time, I’m disappointed that some women often seem to echo the same ideas like a parrot. When it is comes to debate about sexual activities, they begin to raise points about culture and tradition. Can't we see that most of the traditions are invented by men? Some traditions serve to prevent us from our ambition and desire.
A 2007 report written by Linda H. Bearinger about Global Perspectives on the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents: Patterns, Prevention, and Potential details that “With the gap between age at first sexual intercourse and age at marriage widening in many LMICs (Low and Middle-Income Countries) more people are sexually active before marriage than in the past and for longer duration.” A report from UNFPA, UNESCO and WHO in 2015 explained that young women in Asia and Pacific intend to have sex earlier than men where the countries have higher rates of early marriage. Though women may have sex earlier than men it does not mean they always agree and always have pleasure when they have sexual intercourse. Many women are treated as sex slaves by their husband after marriage and they do not even know they are victims. Some say it is tradition. Some say it is karma. But at the end of the day, forcing women to have sex is a crime. Women should try to talk openly with their partner about what they want and what gives them pleasure in sex. For instance, many women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm during intercourse. Most need touching and kissing for emotional and physical pleasure. And some find vaginal penetration alone is enough to reach orgasm. Not every man is selfish. Some men even find that their pleasure is in women’s pleasure. But if there are men who do not consider women's sexual pleasure to be important, then women always have the right to refuse sexual intercourse, and continuing without consent is always a crime.