The way people have sex in our culture exploits women, plain and simple. Their pleasure is relegated to “foreplay” while men’s gets to be the main event, and even when it comes to foreplay, people are spending more time pleasing men than women. But the degradation of women and devaluing of female pleasure isn’t just in the sexual acts we perform; it’s also in the language we use to talk about sex. 

Many of the terms we use in the bedroom reflect and perpetuate larger gender inequalities. Our sexual vocabulary suggests that women are either defective men or potential male conquests.

Here are some terms we need to abolish from our bedrooms if we want to promote equality outside it. 

1. “Pop your cherry” 

There are so many things wrong with this phrase, the first being that it’s anatomically misleading. There’s no seal over your vagina that you have to “pop” in order to have intercourse, and you don’t need to bleed or be in pain your first time. The hymen is stretchable and often has already stretched by the time something first goes in the vagina; the majority of women don’t bleed the first time they have sex. The “cherry” narrative is just a way to make men feel like they own women’s bodies, make women feel ashamed for having sex, and romanticize women’s pain. Sex never has to be painful and shouldn’t outside of a pre-planned scenario with safe words.

2. “Plow through” 

“I plowed through her.” “I destroyed that pussy.” Some straight men describe their sexual encounters as if enacting violence upon women is an accomplishment, once again making female pain out to be a normal, desirable part of sex. But sex is not an act of violence committed by men against women or an action they perform on female bodies. It should be a mutual encounter. 


3. “Get it in” 

Phrases like “get it in” and “score” make sex out to be a game — and make women out to be the rewards men get for winning. This leaves little room for female pleasure, agency, or consent. Women aren’t passive holes to fill or notches on bedposts; they’re sexual beings with desires of their own. Plus, the whole idea of sex as a penis going into a vagina puts women in the passive role. Sex involving a penis and a vagina could just as easily be described as a vagina going around a penis.


4. “Vaginal sex” 

I know this one sounds harmless, but hear me out. Why do we call penis-in-vagina sex “vaginal sex” and not “penile sex”? From the perspective of someone with a vagina receiving pleasure, all sex is “vaginal.” The term “vaginal sex” contains a hidden assumption that every kind of sex involves a penis. The ubiquity of this phrase shows how female pleasure is viewed as optional while male pleasure is viewed as mandatory. If we stopped viewing the penis as the center of every sexual encounter, we’d acknowledge “penile sex” as one of many kinds of sex a penis-owner’s partner can have.