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Ask the Loveologist: Can You Force Pleasure?

Ask the Loveologist: Can You Force Pleasure?

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.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, 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, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


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12:23PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

interesting, thanks for sharing

9:09AM PDT on Apr 3, 2010

Savannah and Julie A: Thanks for your sentiments. It's very difficult -- if not impossible -- to recognize personal boundaries, to even know such things exist when they were skewed at a very early age by sick & twisted parents.

An inability to understand and defend boundaries -- personal, professional, familial and relationship -- has plagued my entire existence. I'm 58 now and still working on these. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 43, which further blurs boundary lines.

I left the "nocturnally playful" husband (No. 3) ten years ago after 22 yrs. of marriage. Your comments here help me to see his actions for what they were: manipulation and control, another form of abuse.

Your thoughts have also shed light on my processing of a recent 5 yr. relationship with a younger man which ended mercifully a year ago. The least common denominator?


Thanks so much for your thoughts and your time. Love to you.

10:52AM PDT on Mar 30, 2010

Thank you for the information I'm really sorry to hear about Sofie's case though.

6:20AM PST on Feb 3, 2010

What pleasure?! It's simply disgusting!

4:13AM PST on Jan 25, 2010

I've noted, thanks :).

10:51AM PST on Nov 18, 2009

Sorry - I didn't mean to send 2 messages, I didn't think the first had gone. Is there any way of deleting a message once it has been posted?

10:49AM PST on Nov 18, 2009

Hi Sofie,
This misguided form of play sounds just like sexual abuse to me. You were in no state to give your consent nor to stop him.
I've sent you a message privately.

10:39AM PST on Nov 18, 2009

Hi Sofie,
Sorry if I come over hard here - but I am shocked that you say this wasn't sexual abuse. I think it most definitely is. You were not in a state to give your consent to what he did to your body, nor to stop him if you wanted. He was exercising power over your body without your being in a position to do anything about it (it doesn't even sound as if you'd given your agreement to him doing this previously).

9:09AM PST on Nov 18, 2009

Forced orgasm is not always rape or sexual abuse (I was sexually abused as a child -- a complex & gnarled subject I'm not addressing here.). Sometimes it's a misguided form of play.

My ex-husband used to delight in three a.m. games while I was in REM sleep. He would talk to me, initiating a dialogue while I was dreaming. Other times he would stimulate me manually, "forcing" climax while I was still asleep. I don't know whether it's the same for others, that external stimuli incorporates itself into the dream instead of waking you.

One such nite's dream, I was in line with my daughter at Luby's. The place was packed. I was talking to her when an "out-of-control" feeling took me over. I looked at her, looked around at the strangers in line and tried to keep it together. When the hair-netted lady behind the counter asked if I wanted salad, I lost it and came right there in front of everyone. I was horrified! I woke up.

He thought it was funny. I didn't. I study my dreams for meaning and answers. I didn't look lightly upon these nocturnal intrusions. This loss of control in public was too scary to be pleasurable. Even when sex is not abusive, the Big O does not always deliver the usual endorphins.

Brings to mind the old Dr. John song "I was in the right line, but it was the wrong time...."

3:04AM PDT on Oct 30, 2009

Hi Wendy,

Although I have difficulties with the language and words you used in your post, I am very glad you opened this subject. Rapists and abusers do use the line 'You enjoyed it' as an excuse for themselves and an extra weapon against their targets. Because for most people the pleasure responses of the body are assumed to equate with pleasure in the mind, this adds feelings of confusion, culpability, and shame to the horror of the attack.

If I had known then what I know now I would have been much kinder and understanding of myself - and much less intimidated.

This is a very painful subject which needs to be handled with great sensitivity, but to not discuss it only keeps power in the abusers hands.

If victims, friends and family, judges and juries understood that bodily pleasure responses do not necessarily mean pleasure in the normal sense, then the viciousness of this weapon would be massively reduced.

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