The Elusive Orgasm
Loveologist Wendy Strgar, Natural Solutions' sexpert and founder of Good Clean Love.
How long has it been since your last orgasm? If it’s been a while, you’re not alone: Orgasm eludes millions of women. Many studies, including one conducted by Pfizer that looked at 27,000 participants in 30 countries, have shown that orgasmic dysfunction is the norm, rather than the exception. Orgasmic dysfunction is often associated with sexual dysfunction, which includes not only the inability to orgasm, but also the presence of pain with sex, and lack of libido and desire. According to the Pfizer study, one-third of all women have never experienced an orgasm, while one-third rarely experience orgasm. And elusive orgasms afflict men too: Millions of men suffer from sexual health issues, such as erectile dysfunction and ejaculation disorders, which hinder the ability to experience orgasm.
Orgasm is a natural biological response that is built into our bodies, yet often gets buried with time and cultural conditioning. Brain-imaging studies have shown that achieving orgasm involves more than just heightened arousal. It is perhaps the most profound “letting go” that happens in the psyche, when inhibitions and control in the brain’s center shuts down. In women, a variety of brain functions, including those that control emotions and thoughts are temporarily silenced. Surrendering to this release, which the French have long called le petit mort, or “the little death,” aptly describes the vulnerability and risk that many women struggle to experience.
Culturally, our collective lack of real sexual education throughout life, coupled with the rampant exhibitionism and sexualizing of mainstream media, sends a range of negative and unhealthy messages that many women internalize. Media’s preoccupation and insistent messaging about what makes a woman sexual often backfires, blocking normal sexual curiosity and exploration for many women.
Of all the coveted human experiences, what makes orgasm so elusive is that it cannot be forced. Betty Dodson, PhD, sexologist, and author of Sex for One (Three Rivers Press, 1996) once said that, “Orgasm is where the body takes over.” Interestingly, studies have found that the confusion about experiencing orgasm goes both ways—some women claim they’ve had an orgasm but show no physiological response (vaginal contractions and increased heart rate), while other women do have the classic physiological response but believe nothing has happened. This confusion is unsurprising when you consider that most of the millions of orgasms available for viewing on the internet have created a modern cultural mythology that orgasm always is an epic, earth shattering experience. This belief looms so large that many women are not even sure how to identify their own.
In actuality, orgasms are as unique as each individual who experiences them. Some people describe the feeling as the same feeling you get when you slide down the top of a large roller coaster hill. Taking the leap brings you completely into the present moment and although for most people orgasm lasts for less than a minute, for many people there is an experience of “time out of time.” Statistically, your chances of having an orgasm are much better on your own than with a partner. The good news is that the more orgasms you have, the more orgasms you’re likely to have in the future. Learning about your own sexual response and developing your orgasmic potential will bring both immediate gratification and long-term satisfaction.
As with any skill-based human motor function, all bodies come equipped with the tools for orgasm, yet without the proper education and opportunity to practice, many people never successfully achieve the synergy of mind, body and spirit to release this very unique and revelatory experience. The ability to orgasm brings different gifts to different individuals, but often the quest to orgasm not only brings us the gift of being closer to our partners and/or a brief moment of complete elation, but also attunes us to a deep, hidden part of ourselves. It is a quest worthy or our time and attention.
Finding a language to explore this exciting experience of letting go and having the courage to change your thinking and habits to discover this elusive place is the subject of Vivienne Cass, PhD’s guide The Elusive Orgasm (Brightfire Press, 2004). In a therapeutic workbook style, this book guides the student to rethink her relationship to her own sexuality and make the changes to experience it. It is a great introduction to uncovering the sexual pleasure that is our birthright.