Tag Archive: orgasm


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

This is what orgasm always looks like, right?

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.

For instance:

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.

Dangerous Lily sums it up perfectly here:

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!

I Feel Good!

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about a pleasure-centered and consent-centered approach to sex: that whatever feels good and is done with the consent of all parties is a good thing for us sexually.  But that becomes a trickier message to convey when we start talking about sex to our kids, our nieces and nephews, and other young adults that “we” are not comfortable thinking about as sexual beings.  And that ends up being unfortunate for everyone, in my opinion.

On one end, I totally sympathize.  It’s awkward and uncomfortable to have a 10 year old kid ask you about sex.  Sex is a complicated topic that a 10 year old is not ready to handle in its entirety.  Even if you’re an open-minded adult who been prepping “The Talk” for your child, you’ll still get thrown off-guard when those questions comes up from someone younger, older, gayer, more emotionally distant, or just different than you were expecting.  How much is too much information?

I think this article from “The Good Men Project” does an amazing job tackling the issue:

So many adults are fearful that telling kids that sex is pleasurable will simply encourage young people to have it before they are physically and emotionally ready for the consequences. Better, they imagine, to emphasize that it’s important to wait and to stress the risks. But as it turns out, centering pleasure is a great way to minimize the chances that a teen will be pressured into doing something that they don’t want to do.

BINGO!  A five year old that asks you about sex is not going to run out an boink the next prepubescent he/she/ze sees if you tell them that sex is about feeling good.  They are just looking for a straight-forward answer, and will probably leave the conversation at that.  But long-term, the messages you send to children about sexuality will stay with them, and help them develop a sexual sense of self thatpostsecret: virginity is centered in what they want and feel, rather than the fear, guilt, and self-sacrifice that can be instilled by other messages.

So let’s break it down.

WHEN YOU SAY…. The implicit messages are…
Wait until marriage. There’s something wrong with sex.  Something about the covenant of marriage makes it ok, but in general, it’s a dirty thing.
You have sex when you love each other. Sex for pleasure is wrong.  It is something you do to show commitment to your partner, and you do it on behalf of them, not for your own enjoyment.
Getting sex will get you pregnant, so you shouldn’t do it. Having sex is irresponsible.
Save yourself for your husband/wife If you “give up” your virginity, you’re worthless to your partner.  Your only value is in your chastity.
You’re not old enough to make that decision; you’re not ready for it.

 

Having sex is only for adults
Boys won’t respect you if they know you’re easy Sex is inherently shameful; a girl who has sex is worth less than one who is a virgin
There’s only one step between having sex and selling your body. Prostitution is bad.  Sex is bad.  If you enjoy sex, you’re on your way to become a prostitute, and filling the world with moral decay.
Your first time should be special Pressure to save the experience for the “right person,” sex will only be good and ok if you do it with the person you’re going to stay with.

 

Now let’s try this with a pleasure and consent-focused approach

WHEN YOU SAY…. The implicit messages are…
Sex is something you do because it feels good Sex is generally a good thing; it has the power to make you feel good.  It’s not shameful- we can talk about it.
He (she/ze) doesn’t have to love you, but he should respect you. You may not be with this person forever, but the experience of sex with them should still be positive.  You should be in charge of the decision to have sex.
You’ll know when you’re ready. You know your body better than anyone else.  Your sexual desire is relevant and important.
It’s never perfect the first time. Having good sex take practice.  It’s ok to keep having sex, to ask for different things, to work towards sex that is enjoyable.

 

See how different that is?

Come on lurkers, I want to hear from you.  How would your adolescence have been different if you had heard some of the latter messages, rather than the former?  Do you have any messages that you would add to either list?

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.

Use a Vibrator, Live Longer!

Well, not really…

An interesting study done by Indiana University students found that using a vibrator is closely correlated with better sexual functioning and being proactive towards ones sexual health.  Respondents who said they used a vibrator regularly scored higher in many areas of sexual function, including ease of orgasm, desire, level of arousal.  And this will make health care providers smile-  Vibrator users were significantly more likely to have had a gynecological or testicular exam during the past year.  Full article here: http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/10877.html

Now I love sexology studies and all that they provide to enlighten us about human sexual behavior and health, but one thing a study like this can’t do is confirm causality.  For instance, vibrator use and getting an OB/GYN exam are correlated according to the statistics gathered in this IU study, but why?

Here’s my sex-positive hypothesis:

People who are comfortable enough with their own sexual agency and their desired to go out and buy a vibrator are also probably more aware of their own sexual health issues.  They probably pay more attention to their bodies and notice when something goes wrong.  People who use vibrators have acknowledged that they are sexual beings and thus have a more positive outlook on sexual health and the necessity of gynecology work.

On the level of basic sexual functioning, I think the connection is even easier to make.  Healthcare providers across the country have been suggesting vibrators as a safe, non-invasive way of treating sexual dysfunctions for years.   Vibrators teach your body how to respond.  So people who use a vibrator, either on their own or with their partner, know what their body does and how it reacts to all sorts of stimuli, making it easier for them to simply relax and enjoy sex.   And these statistics and associations apply to men (who use vibrators much more often than societal convention would have you believe) as well as women!

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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