Illustrating the Female Orgasm (or Lack Thereof)

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From the top, drop some social commentary. Sahki Todi, a brand strategist and content creator based in New York City, created her 100 Day Project “Nogasms” to explore female sexuality and the still-elusive-to-many female orgasm. Todi, who has only been illustrating for a year now, found visual inspiration in New Yorker cartoons and ultimately earned a “Best 100 Day Project” nod from Debbie Millman.

“My mission is to help men and, most importantly, all women, understand that female sexuality is complex and create more awareness and tolerance for the obstacles women face in the bedroom by starting a conversation about it,” writes Todi.

Nogasms consists of illustrations paired with statistics, insights and quotes from real women and literary figures alike. We checked in with Todi for more insight into the project.

How did you choose the literary quotes to accompany your illustrations?

I picked the literary quotes route first as I was looking for a safe way to discuss the orgasm gap. I got the idea while looking for ways to express a woman’s dissatisfaction with her sexual experience and immediately thought of one of my favorite quotes from literature: “I am half agony, half hope,” from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Then I would browse quotes from literature which, when applied to a sexual setting, would drive home the message from books like The Scarlet Letter and Jane Eyre.

The quote [that] cracked me up the most among those was No. 5: “Nobody run off with her, she just run off with herself I guess,” from Lonesome Dove, which I find hilarious because it can be easily implied as masturbation, though that is not what the author meant.

It looks like around illustration 11 you began adding quotes from women that you know. What was the context of these quotes? How did these women respond to your project?

Since this is a project for the people, it mattered greatly how they responded to [it], and the initial feedback I got was that people want to hear from real women, and I embraced that. I started first talking to women I knew, asking them simply if they ever faced an issue with achieving an orgasm for any reason, and the conversation would then take its course.

I was so surprised by how comfortable every woman was in sharing her experience, as though they were waiting for someone to hear their story. Almost everyone I spoke to had something insightful to share, and I would dig deeper into certain issues during my own research. My overall sense of speaking to women has been that obstacles around sexuality are extremely common but almost never discussed. I found women are more than willing to share their experience regarding orgasms or lack thereof.

Where did you find the information for your post captions?

I read a lot of articles and got a lot of information from shows like The Goop Lab and Explained on Netflix and Ted Talks by Sarah Barmak [and] Sophia Wallace, who focus on female sexuality. I used to listen to a podcast called How Cum for a while. These were all sources for inspiration and would also help me narrow my questions to women. Through articles, I come across stats that I then use in support of my posts. This particular one (80% fake orgasms) was from a study published by CBS News.

What has the response been like online? Have you received any criticism from men (or other women)?

The response has been mostly positive online, but there was once a man who took offense about a religious post that focused on a particular sect of Christianity which promotes sex as sin. Then I got some negative comments from men about a post I did on the “WAP” song. But in my conversations with some men, I have experienced some pushback when I asked them if their female sexual partner has ever had trouble orgasming with them, to which one man said “Every time!” and proceeded to make hand gestures I best not describe.

I found some men to be in denial about the possibility that their female partner might have trouble orgasming. I have come to find that men definitely overestimate a woman’s pleasure during intercourse. Apart from that the only other feedback I get is to diversify my focus onto non-heterosexual relationships and be more inclusive in my illustrations, which I am currently working towards.

What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on “Nogasms”?

Working on “Nogasms” has been a revelation from the beginning, but the most interesting takeaway from this has been that sexuality is a very insular experience, and I realized that great orgasms begin from knowing yourself first.

If you could assign a song (or album/playlist) to associate with “Nogasms,” what would it be and why?

It has to be “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion! Female sexual empowerment as a trend has been gaining momentum in the last couple of years, and I love that this song is encouraging women to own their sexual experience. Like “Nogasms” it provokes conversations about an otherwise taboo subject which people shy away from and urges women to be vocal about their sexual needs.