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.