I was conversing with a female friend about whether an orgasm can be forced. She asserts that a vibrator on a vagina can force an orgasm–like tickling can force a laugh. We then branched off into interpretations of pleasure–if an orgasm is forced, is it considered forced pleasure or re-interpreted as something else. I should think under hostile circumstances the body would shut down that type of information processing and make it impossible–she assures me I am wrong.
This is a very interesting question about the borders between sexual response in the brain and in the body. It is a mysterious border country that most of us wonders about but rarely have the space to say out loud. I do know many people who can be tickled and made to laugh against their will, a minor form of torture that many parents try on their kids for distraction purposes. For some, the laughter that comes is a genuine one that disrupts whatever happened before, for others, the out-of-control forced laughing is interpreted through anger. Being tickled and laughter takes on negative associations. This is a good analogy for orgasm which is not under our intellectual control, but like laughter can be released even at moments we are not seeking/desiring that stimulation. Usually this kind of behavior is associated with the sexual practice of BDSM.
I do believe that some women could be brought to orgasm involuntarily, whether it is through the use of a vibrator or some other stimulation that the woman has no control over. Indeed, scenarios of domination and submission in sexuality and the millions of ways that people are “forced” into sexual activity that ends in orgasm is at the core of many, if not most, pornographic films. The issue of who owns their orgasmic potential and who has the invitation or right to pursue it is at the root of a great deal of mis-communications and dysfunctional relationships. There are still many places on earth where women have no say in their own experience of pleasure.
The question of what happens in the body under hostile circumstances and how the mind interprets forced acts of sexuality is most remarkable by how individualized are the responses. Some women completely shut down their sexual response capacity when faced with seemingly minor infractions on their sense of will and control, while others are able to turn the tables on their aggressor with their ability to out-perform and maneuver sexually in forced situations. Millions of women use this ability professionally where the issue of their ability to orgasm puts them in the driver’s seat. I don’t know for sure, but have long wondered whether women who were more sexually responsive under sexually abusive or threatening situations actually ended up in a more powerful situation than their counterparts who froze.
While this issue of forced pleasure takes on a world of its own in many a porn film, or even just in the garden variety fantasy life that many men and women have, this question and the contemplation of forced pleasure takes on a real life urgency and offends many when you consider the millions of young women and girls that serve as real life sexual slaves. Do any of these women experience any kind of pleasure or are they all entirely numb and out of their body during the sexual acts. Certainly the body has ways to protect the psyche in sexual assault circumstances. The lines for where that falls are not drawn with indelible markers I suspect.
As challenging as is this question is to explore, it’s important to ponder because there is an incredibly wide range of sexual experience that occurs on this planet, much of it existing in total darkness and fear.
Wendy Strgar is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. Wendy helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. As her online presence continues to grow, Wendy has become a trusted and respected source of information on lasting and healthy relationships. “I feel like I am inventing a language to give intimacy back to the people, take the fear away and open a space for physical love to serve as the glue that holds relationships together.” Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.