I have written previously about my “long” and tumultuous relationship with orgasms. I’m revisiting the subject now because it looks like I’ll be
teaching a mini-workshop on them—in particular, looking at what orgasms feel like to different people, and how we’ve been tricked by friends, peers, the media, and the majority of our culture into believing that we don’t know our bodies.
There are a surprising number of purportedly sex-positive articles written about women struggling with orgasm. Unfortunately, a lot of them come to pretty unenlightening conclusions.
I knew, in pretty non-negotiable terms, what orgasm was supposed to look and sound like; When Harry Met Sally taught me the basics of that vernacular long before anything more pornographic entered the equation. The telltale orgasm signs, that crescendo of gasping and thrashing, informed nothing about my own physical experiences, however. Like Sally, I could fake it in bed or over a turkey sandwich. I had the culmination memorized, but none of the process.
From the moment I started masturbating, I tried to figure out what orgasm was. How it was supposed to feel, look, sound. I was trying to match my experience of masturbation with the overzealous renderings of romantic comedies (and these articles!), where women writhed in pleasure, felt their toes curl, and moaned in a moment of ecstasy. And I knew that was NOT happening for me.
Everything I’d heard about orgasm to that point in my life was that I would “know it when it happened.” And when, even after this “sound advice,” I was still questioning, I decided I must not be orgasming. I was frustrated and angry with my body for years. I questioned myself, my technique, my internal structure, and my hormones; I talked to a sex therapist on the phone; I stole my mother’s vibrator to see if it made a difference (yes, mom, I admit it—she always knew). But nothing helped because my problem was neither physical nor mental, per say.
I faked orgasms because I didn’t know how to have one.
In fact, I don’t think I would have recognized an orgasm if it bit me in the face. And when I compare sensations and those little after-shock contractions now vs then….um yeah I actually did have orgasms. The contractions, and especially the twitchy minutes-long aftershock contractions, are never present for me if I didn’t orgasm…I don’t think though that I faked it modeling after what I saw on porn. I think I was mimicking him. His pleasure built and built and built and it was obvious and then….crescendo! angels! choirs! He was exhausted and delirious and right there was the proof positive of his orgasm, filling up the reservoir tip of our condom.
I was having orgasms. But it wasn’t an orgasm like a man’s. And it wasn’t like the ones I saw in movies or porn, the ones I’d come to expect as standard. They were instead strange, slightly off orgasms that my body didn’t recognize or embrace. They were a body learning what it liked and what it meant to move and feel in that way. I still cum like this now when I’m extremely tired or if I’m on antibiotics that sap my sex drive. But they were orgasms all the same. I was just having a different type of orgasm– one I didn’t understand or feel coherently, because I had been brainwashed into thinking there is only one way to cum, and I would “know it when it happened.” But because I had never had orgasms explained in language that I could associate with my own experience, I didn’t understand them. I assumed they just weren’t there.
I know now how many different ways our bodies can feel and interpret things. I know that some women cum all the time, and for others, it’s a rare but earth-shattering occurrence. I know that some women just feel giddy warmth, while others feel contractions all up their bodies. Some feel electricity emanating from their core. It’s this variety of experience and sensation that I love and find so exciting. I want so much more conversation on what orgasms feel like to different women, so that people can realize that they’re not disfunctional/broken/anorgasmic, they just feel and process those sensations differently.
Side note: for those of you who don’t know, I’ve started working with the organization The Garden (thegardendc.com) and we’re going to start hosting sex toy and educational workshop parties at homes around DC. If you are interested in hosting one, please comment here, or email me at Bianca@thegardendc.com to talk about setting it up!