Tag Archive: inorgasmia


This article, about sex goddess and movie star icon Marilyn Monroe being inorgasmic, makes me sad.

But not because, as many might assume, I’m upset that one of the women considered the ultimate sex symbol was unable to come up gasping for air after a toe-curling, knuckle-whitening orgasm. But because even with stories of popular figures like Marilyn Monroe and research available to the masses about the number of women who don’t orgasm, we are still SO FIXATED on this “dysfunction.”

One of the movies at the top of my “to watch” list right now is Orgasm Inc, a documentary which investigates the medical industry that has exploded to symptomize and treat “female arousal disorder” and other similar sexual problems that women have (or are led to think they have).

One of the main points that Orgasm Inc talks about is this idea of finding the cure to inorgasmia, the “condition” which Marilyn Monroe and millions of other women deal with during some point in their lives. Inorgasmia is a relatively new term in the medical lexicon, and it focuses on a woman’s inability to orgasm. There are all kinds of revolutionary and experimental treatments for the condition, some of which I’ve written about before (Argentina and an Orgasm machine, Ole!), but almost no one in the medical community is addressing the crazy idea that… MAYBE THERE’S NOTHING WRONG.

As a teenager, the specter of inorgasmia loomed inordinately large because of my interest in sex and propensity for googling solutions to my sexual problems, rather than asking my nurse midwife mother. It freaked me out to no end that I might never orgasm, and nothing out there on the internet was telling me it was OK.

Over the course of about two years, I learned more about my body and my sexual response than many sexually active teens, particularly because I couldn’t orgasm. I got better at communicating with my partners, because I needed to let them know when to stop because I had reached a plateau, and how to work around certain movements that caused me pain. I became more comfortable with my own body and what I perceived were its “limitations.” I was pretty ok with a future sans orgasms.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m incredibly happy that my body has figured out its natural response mechanism so that I can orgasm, but I think the transitional period I went through without them was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave the space to think about my body and what I really wanted, and lowered the expectations and worries I had about sex, so that I could enjoy the ride and figure out what worked.

When I talk to people who say that they have inorgasmia, I tell them they can look at their situation in one of two ways. One: They can bemoan the dysfunction of their body and spend precious time and money frustrating themselves trying to find medical answers and berating themselves and their partners. Two: they can consider this a gift, hopefully one that passes in time, but make peace with it in the present, and use the signals their body is giving them to investigate their sexuality further. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something different. Use inorgasmia as a mandate to look into new sexual practices. Try a different partner. Try multiple partners. Try a toy. Try another gender. Try a new position, a new sensation, a new scenario, a new expectation for what a sexual encounter means.

The best part about inorgasmia for me was learning that sex doesn’t have to end with an orgasm to be fulfilling, for myself or my partner. And that understanding lowers the pressure for everyone involves, and gives us a much healthier, sustainable view of what sex is and can be.

Would you call that a sexual dysfunction?

Orgasm Inc.

There’s a documentary which was released in 2009, which no one made much of a fuss over, but I believe provides validate for the difficulties many women face in trying to understand their sexual bodies and capabilities.  It’s called Orgasm Inc. , researched and assembled by Liz Canner, who was contracted to make an erotic testing video for Vivus, one of the many companies racing to create a “female viagra” at the turn of the century.

Orgasm Inc. chronicles the way the medical industry has taken the pressures, doubts, and fears pressed upon women about orgasm and uses these feelings to market drugs and therapy options to make us “normal.”  This includes the creation of the new medical condition, “female sexual disfunction,” a term so broad and non-descript that it is used as justification by doctors and nervous women alike as the explanation for any kind of sexuality that is different than what society has put forth for us to accept.  That includes women with difficulty reaching orgasm, women who take longer to become aroused, and women who simply have lower sex drives than what the public considers “normal.”

I don’t think I need to go into a tirade about how absurd the concept of “normal” is when it comes to sex, so I’ll skip right to why this is so down-right infuriating from a personal standpoint: there’s nothing wrong with these women!  At the end of high school, I spent what feels like years worrying, researching, hypothesizing, and even talking to some doctors and sex therapists about why I couldn’t orgasm.  I was desperate for an explanation, a disorder that I could pin on the problem, so that I could tackle  it with drugs, with meditation, even therapy if absolutely necessary!  And I received a lot of advice- most of it telling me to relax, to stop putting pressure on myself and just let “it” happen.  When that didn’t work, I found a medical excuse: inorgasmia.

All of this was absurd and stress-inducing, of course, but the puzzle piece I was missing which would let me escape from this self-imposed sexual labyrinth had nothing to do with medicine, nothing to do with disorders, nothing even to do with relaxing my body or using a vibrator; it had to do with expectations.

When I started reading sex-positive blogs and 3rd wave feminist work, the deconstruction of sex made everything clearer.  Who decided that orgasm was necessary for sex?  Who decided that there is only one way to feel pleasure, or even to define what sex is?  This was a hard pill to swallow, having tried for so long to fit the mainstream’s idea of what is normal for sex, but eventually it eased the pressure.  I went into my current relationships saying, “I can’t orgasm, and that’s ok.”  The pressure was gone- sex was about exploring, understanding my body better.  Sexual disfunction was not part of the conversation and I didn’t feel the need continue looking for answers.

And you know what? 2 weeks later, I started having orgasms.  Crazy stuff.  

I’m not saying that this approach will allow every woman who has ever had my problem to orgasm, but I AM saying that doing so should not be the point.  You can have fulfilling sex without orgasm, without pressure to perform.  And maybe then the orgasms will come.  Or maybe you will have just found a better way to have sex in general, which doesn’t revolve around a societally-ordained “goal” for your pleasure.  Awesome.   Or, you can continue wasting your money on gadgets like this.

Also, I usually hate The Frisky.com, but this article, “Girl Talk: My Sister Taught Me to Masturbate” is amazing.  100% evidence of how communication about sex can be not as awkward and way more rewarding than we could imagine.

Stay cool, queer kids.

Argentina embraces the gay!  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38251758/ns/world_news-americas/

The passage of this law will mark the first time a Latin American country has allowed gay marriage.  The title is rather self-explanatory, but it’s nice to note the pocket of acceptance in an area of the world largely dominated by a highly anti-gay machismo culture.

In other news, a Rutgers researcher has built a machine for studying the way the female brain reacts to arousal and  orgasm.  http://www.nj.com/insidejersey/index.ssf/2010/04/science_consciousness_and_the.html

This research is interesting on a number of fronts: from just the scientific perspective, the neural stimulation from sexual arousal can ease pain and might be able to help inorgasmic women to orgasm by comparing biofeedback of “normal aroused brains.”  The article talks about this at length.

HOWEVER, what’s more interesting is the sociological implications of the need for an “orgasm machine:” chiefly how disconnected most women are from their bodies.  80-90% of women who say they can’t have an orgasm are actually “pre-orgasmic,” meaning that they can, but have yet to learn how to orgasm.  On this level, I can speak from personal experience.  In a society where understanding yourself sexually is regarded as taboo and yet orgasming is considered tantamount to a positive sexual experience, there’s a lot loaded on “getting it right” quickly.  Because so much of a woman’s ability to orgasm relies on mental and emotional components (rather than 90% physicality for males), this pressure only makes it harder for women to just RELAX and ENJOY SEX.

I will note, that in my personal experience, a same-sex partner can mitigate some of these pressures.  Of course I can only speak in terms of female partners (but then again, I don’t know that many males with problems orgasming!).  In such instances, another female can help to relieve the pressure associated with sex precisely because she knows how it feels to be subject to the same stresses.  A woman understands that you can be sexually pleased without orgasm (and that once the pressure to perform is relieved, its more likely to happen on its own), and that exploration of a woman’s body is just as important as the end goal.

I’m sure there are lesbians out there who still have trouble with inorgasmia (and plenty of straight women who don’t have trouble with it…), but overall, I think a lot of partners can learn from the sexual dynamics that ended up helping me.  A lack of pressure, a focus on exploration and mutual understanding will go a long ways towards making sex better for both (or all) people involved!  So hopefully one day women will be able to understand and come to turns with their own bodies and an orgasm machine won’t be necessary for helping teach women do what they are meant to do naturally.

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