Orgasm is elusive for millions of women. Many studies, including a 2001 global study of 27,000 participants from 30 countries on sexual behavior revealed that orgasmic dysfunction is the norm rather than the exception. One third of all women have never experienced an orgasm and the second third rarely experience orgasm. Orgasmic dysfunction is not just a woman’s story; equal numbers of men suffer from a range of issues that hinder their 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. The American rate of anorgasmic women (women who have difficulty achieving orgasm) is three times higher than anorgasmic women in Europe; a finding that is both mysterious and revealing when you consider the very different cultural view and education that sex is given in different countries. For many women the lack of education about sexual functioning and the rampant misinformation and negative cultural connotations of sexuality blocked normal sexual curiosity and exploration.
Orgasms are as unique as each individual who experiences them. The wide variety of intensity, location and stimulus that contribute to and creates orgasm plays a big part in the mystery that many women experience in identifying what their own orgasm feels like. Interestingly, studies have found that the confusion about experiencing orgasm goes both ways–some women claim having an orgasm and show no bodily response, while other women who do have classic response like vaginal contractions and heart racing believe that nothing has happened. The modern mythology and (dare I say it; pornography) of orgasm looms so large that many women are not even sure how to identify their own.
Of all the coveted human experiences, what makes orgasm so elusive is that it cannot be forced. Even many methods of cajoling seem to backfire. Orgasm is not under our conscious control, which actually is the quality that may make it difficult for so many people to find. Betty Dodson, the famous sex therapist that used to hold masturbation sessions for women once said that “orgasm is where the body takes over.” This makes sense because the experience of orgasm often feels like a burst of pleasure, bliss, and emotional and physical release. In fact, the moment of orgasm creates such a complete release that the brain center that controls anxiety and fear is switched off.
Giving yourself over to orgasm is a leap. Some people describe it as the same feeling you get when you slide down the top of a large roller coaster hill. Taking the dive requires the ability to be completely in the present moment and to feel entirely safe. It isn’t that surprising then, that statistically, your chances of having an orgasm are much better on your own than with a partner.
Letting go of your judgments about sexuality, and digging deep into the fears and insecurities that most of us carry about our sexual history, preferences and behaviors is a challenge that many relationships face. Many people spend their lives married to people with whom they can’t even say the word “masturbate,” let alone imagine sharing the act. Not being able to disclose or trust our sexuality holds our orgasm hostage.
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’s “The Elusive Orgasm.” In a therapeutic workbook style, which guides the student to rethink her relationship to her own sexuality and make the changes to experience it, this book is a great introduction to uncovering the sexual pleasure that is our birthright.
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. It is a quest worthy or our time and attention.