Ask the Loveologist: The Orgasmic Brain
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I know I can orgasm because I have on my own before, but every time I come close to it with my boyfriend something just freezes. He is trying to be understanding about it, but we both end up feeling badly. I know it means a lot for me to have pleasure with him, but it seems like the harder I try, the worse it gets. I don’t want my ability to have an orgasm mean everything about us and it is starting to feel that way. What can I do before this comes between us?
First off, know that you are in good company. Some 40 percent of women have a problem with orgasm at some point in their lives. Also, it is much more common for women to be able to orgasm by themselves than in their partnerships. That being said, many couples struggle with this reality and long for a solution to sharing intimacy and pleasure. One way to start changing your thinking about this issue is to feel grateful that your partner is so invested in finding ways to make you more comfortable and able to enjoy your intimacy. This is not the case for many couples, where the pleasure of both is not the issue.
Understanding a bit of the brain functioning when it comes to orgasm might shed some light on what happens when the arousal process turns off in your intimate times. One important study of the brain’s process during orgasm shows that when a woman reaches orgasm, something unexpected happens: much of her brain goes silent. Brain regions responsible for everything from her sense of self control, moral reasoning and judgment all get turned down in the moments of intense arousal.
“Fear and anxiety need to be avoided at all costs if a woman wishes to have an orgasm; we knew that, but now we can see it happening in the depths of the brain,” said researcher, Holsteger at the 2005 meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Development: “At the moment of orgasm, women do not have any emotional feelings.”
While some brain areas get shut down, others are activated. The production of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone levels jump fourfold at orgasm. The researchers also found heightened activity in the critical part of the brain’s reward circuitry that may mediate orgasmic pleasure in women. Such activity may connect a female’s sexual pleasure with the emotional bond she feels with her partner.
Getting your brain to release you for this remarkable experience is more of a surrender activity than it is a push. As you have seen from your own experience, trying only makes it less available. Use your boyfriend’s interest to your advantage, rather than making your time centered on the orgasm, spend the time exploring what feels good. Oral sex is usually one of the first doorways for many women to experience orgasm with a partner. Even mutual hand stimulation can open your eyes to what feels really good.
Like most things when you take your eye off the goal and get really involved in the process, the goal ends up to be just part of the journey. Investing in a few good books for the exploration is always worthwhile. Some of the ones that I keep in my bedroom include Rachel Swift’s How to Have an Orgasm as often as you want, Dorian Solot’s I Love Female Orgasm , and Jonathan Margolis’ O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm.