There’s so much more to sex than just coming
By ADINA LAKSER
“An orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm,” legendary sex guru Betty Dodson said in response to the much debated question of the best type of orgasm. While any orgasm can certainly be good, there is still much confusion, misinformation and even politics about what coming should look and feel like. Here’s the lowdown on getting off: You’ll know it when it happens.
I couldn’t find a succinct and accurate definition of an orgasm. How do we describe it? How do you know if you got there? As James McIntosh summarizes the question on MedicalNews.net, “medical professionals have used physiological changes to the body as a basis for a definition, whereas psychologists and mental health professionals have used emotional and cognitive changes. A single, overarching explanation of the orgasm does not currently exist.”
So, if you think it’s an orgasm, it is. Luckily, there is no paperwork or standards you have to adhere to. You get to call it as it … comes. But it is strange that there is no consensus on such a fundamental human experience. Whether it’s because we find it too powerful for words, or because of our prudish history regarding sexuality, or a combination of the two – or something else entirely – no one knows.
Not surprisingly, people with female sex organs – vulva, vagina, clitoris – experience orgasm differently than people with male sex organs – penis, testicles. The most common ideas of what sex is (penetrative sex between a man and a woman) and what an orgasm looks like (ejaculation at the end of sex) are based on the male sexuality model. Only straight male’s take on sex is considered, while everyone else’s experience is viewed as other.
Good old Freud has something to do with that. In the 19th century, he determined that a vaginal orgasm, possible through penetrative sex alone, is more mature and morally superior to a clitoral orgasm, usually not achievable through intercourse alone. Instead of encouraging male partners to be more exploratory, sensual and playful in sex, he just put all the pressure on women to learn how to orgasm during “regular sex,” promoting a patriarchal version of sexuality that still haunts us today. Even though we know so much more about the power of women’s sexuality, many women feel bad for taking so long or for needing fingers, mouths and/or toys to get there.
The joke’s on him though, because we now know the clitoris extends into the vagina, so all orgasms are both vaginal and clitoral. As a 2005 paper in the Journal of Urology concludes: “The anatomy of the clitoris has not been stable with time….To a major extent, its study has been dominated by social factors.” Given historical insistence on pleasure through penetrative sex alone, it’s no wonder the clitoris was not thoroughly explored.
Let it all out
While for most cis men, ejaculation and orgasm are one and the same, some men do experience orgasm without ejaculation, or vice versa. In fact, there are Tantric practices where a man learns to control or withhold ejaculation to create deeper and more intense sexual experiences. White Lotus East, a Tantric centre in New York City, describes the practice on their website:
Tantra teaches us that for a man to achieve the highest Ecstasy possible for himself and his lover, he first needs to learn ejaculation control and to direct his sexual energy up his spine to the higher centers of his brain. In Tantra this sexual energy is known as “kundalini” energy.
When a man masters the ability to move his Kundalini energy up along his spine, he increases the pleasure for himself and his lover to levels that he might never have dreamt of.
Some men find that as they age, orgasm and ejaculation naturally become less intertwined while other men don’t feel sexually satisfied unless they have had an ejaculation.
It’s the complete opposite for cis women. Ejaculation, sometimes referred to as squirting, can be a wonderful and wet experience (put a towel down!). However, ejaculation and orgasm are not synonymous. And her ejaculation, unlike a male ejaculation, has nothing to do with reproduction. We still don’t know exactly what the fluid is, but the best guess is that it is from the prostate and is not pee!
It’s not happening
Often, partners or couples seek outside help because of issues with orgasms, including coming too quickly, too seldom, not at all or unsatisfactorily, or taking too long to come. As a coach and sexuality advocate, I have mixed feelings about our issues with orgasms.
On the one hand, we all deserve the deliciousness and delight of a sexual release. Given the historical emphasis on the “right” kind of orgasms for the “right” kind of person, I recognize how important it is to have permission and information to explore and get there in different ways.
On the other hand, sex can be pleasurable with or without coming. This focus on the end goal can take away from the mystery and magic of sex as, perhaps, the only space where we don’t have to strive for achievement or productivity. And since orgasms are sudden and involuntary, they can’t be worked at so hard. In fact, they require letting go – sometimes the more focus and striving we place on getting there, the less likely we are to actually reach orgasm. At the end of the day, as with many things, it’s important to focus on what we can control – communication, techniques and learning about and listening to our bodies – and then let go of what we can’t.
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