I am about to explain to you how most everyone has lied to you about orgasms. I’m sorry, it’s true, and if you don’t want the heartbreak you should press the “back” button now.
Still here? Ok. So now, I’ll have you think about what you know about orgasms: probably not much. They feel good, they happen during sex. Sometimes women have difficulty achieving them. Feels kind of like a one dimensional character, huh? Orgasms deserve way more cred than that - they’re multidimensional and complex. Let’s talk about a few of the ways we make orgasms out to be more ‘flat’ than they are in reality.
Fireworks, sparks, a rush of warm from ones head to one’s toes: these are common descriptors for what orgasms feel like. Generally, we consider them as feeling good; but orgasm isn’t always “good”: sometimes it’s warm, comforting, relaxing, tingly. Other times, it’s painful, disorienting, upsetting. The truth about orgasms is that they are a sensation, but it’s also an emotion, and your mental and physical state can affect quite a bit how your brain registers the sensation. Orgasm isn’t something your body knows innately; it’s not something that just happens. Your body feels things, but it’s not until your brain gets an understanding of what’s going on with those nerves firing off that you feel something. Some people associate negativity with the sensation of orgasm due to trauma, or shame. Their experiences are also valid, in a world that seems to invalidate and scoff at their experiences daily.
I don’t think I need to say this, but I will anyway because the myth still pervades: you don’t need to put a penis into a vagina to procure orgasms. Penises in vaginas don’t always (and in fact, often don’t) lead to orgasm. Orgasms are much more subtle and elusive than that - the right words, motions, interactions, and thoughts could all be needed to get the spell right. Orgasm can be called forth in all sorts of ways - mental, physical. They can be involved with just you, one other person, multiple people. You don’t have to be naked to orgasm, and your genitals don’t have to be involved at all. Orgasm is tricky and fascinating in that way - everyone has their own unique set of codes that unlock the experience, sometimes multiple. The codes and spells needed for each person are unique to them and their experiences, stress levels, sexual interests.
For example, I thought for a long time that I didn’t have orgasms, really. But after some time I realized that my body was responding with those little convulsions of the pelvic floor that were associated with orgasm - I just didn’t feel them. What I did feel was a strong sense of bonding and emotional connection, of feeling good and safe, when I was with a partner I had a connection with. Although we’ve labelled pelvic floor contractions that are seemingly subconscious to be what orgasm is, that’s not always true and that’s not always the core of what makes an orgasm an orgasm. You can have those convulsing contractions and still not feel anything. You can have completely different sensations, thoughts, and emotions that are associated with sex that feel good, or disorienting, that aren’t that specific muscle contraction.
This is pretty straightforward, and I think a lot of people know this in practice, but there’s also some worth to just up and saying it: sex can be good, or what you want, without involving orgasm. Some people even get more pleasure from denying themselves, or being denied, orgasm.
Although it can be unpleasant or traumatic for some people, it can be a stress reliever, anti-depressant, and a way to reclaim one’s sexual self after an illness, injury, or trauma. Some people use orgasm as a kind of self-medication for anything from depression to anxiety - the release of all those happy chemicals in your brain and through your body really does help. Science agrees with me: orgasms can be good for everything from your brain to chronic pain. Going back to me, my experience of orgasm was almost exclusively as this - a treatment for stress, pain, anxiety, depression, and trauma - for the majority of my orgasm-active life. I really only learned how to orgasm for pleasure reasons recently - and often don’t because it takes too much effort, and is usually a way for me to treat myself.
People use and experience orgasm in all sorts of interesting ways - don’t relegate it to the existence of a one-dimensional character, and instead strive to celebrate how complex it is.
Caitlin is a writer, sex educator, consultant, and product reviewer who focuses primarily on issues of sex toy and accessory safety, pleasure, sexuality, gender, and more. You can learn more, or ask any questions, at their website- www.sex-ational.com.
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