In the Blog

“It is like trying to describe a sneeze.”

July 6th, 2007     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

Anne Katz wrote an excellent article in the Fall 2004 issue of Shameless discussing young women getting comfortable with sex. I’d like to pick up on that conversation with a Summer 2007 installment: on orgasms.

Since this is a ‘non-professional’ entry, I think we can assume the usual disclaimer that I have no special training to bring to bear on this subject. However, that seems to be true of much of the information (and misinformation) flotsam out there. So I’m tossing my two cents in the ring (ah mixed metaphors, how I enjoy you).

As there is much to discuss, I’m once again going to divide the content into two parts (I promise I learnt my lesson, and Part 2 is not far behind this time).
* Part 1: O is for Orgasm * Part 2: Ejaculation is not a male monopoly

Part 1 It is jaw dropping when you consider the disparity between what we know about men’s orgasms, and what we know about women’s. Heck, even in terms of what we know about male and female sexual anatomy. There isn’t even a consensus on the size and location of the clitoris. Now I’m not saying there are scientists (I’m aware of) who claim the clitoris is located in, oh I don’t know, the elbow, but it is only recently that anatomy is being drawn to show the clitoris extending all the way up and into the vagina. Recently. Can you picture it taking this long to have fully mapped the penis? “My goodness, there appears to be a shaft as well as the head. Phenomenal.” Granted, penises are a little more… obvious, but it’s sad that the arguably more complex and scientifically interesting female genitals have been so seriously shortchanged.

“An orgasm is described as a level of sexual arousal that reaches a peak then subsides leaving the participant feeling elated, relaxed and sexually satisfied. It is difficult to describe an orgasm because it is different for every female. Women generally describe it as a feeling of being so aroused that you are going to explode.”

“You’ve got your apples, and you’ve got your oranges…” The two broad types of female orgasm are vaginal and clitoral. For a long time, the vaginal orgasm (the one associated with the g-spot) was seen as “more mature”, and harder to achieve. On the flip side, some doctors have claimed that vaginal orgasms don’t exist. Which is no doubt pretty surprising to all the women who have had them.

The clitoral orgasm is the more common orgasm, associated with in/direct stimulation of the clitoris. Indirect stimulation because the clitoris can be so whoppingly sensitive that direct stimulation can actually be painful. Which can lead some women to give up on clitoral stimulation altogether, instead of trying a less… heavy-handed approach (ellipses are proving very useful in this entry).

Many women who have climaxed will find that two labels for types of orgasm don’t begin to cover it. Women can climax in any number of different ways, from all manner of stimulation, with varying sensations, intensity and duration. Some women could describe dozens of different kinds of orgasm they personally experience. Some women orgasm without contact with the vagina or clitoris at all. So there’s lots of possibilities out there - a smörgåsbord of orgasms if you will.

“You must find your focus grasshopper” It is straight-centric, but Talk Sex With Sue Johanson does provide a fairly succinct and helpful description of the female orgasm, and how to have one. The site also includes an interesting and often-overlooked requirement for having an orgasm — concentration. Orgasms for women often involve a degree of fantasy, so without having the time, space and comfort to focus on the, ahem, task at hand, most women will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to climax. That said, the clitoris alone has as many nerve-endings as the whole penis, so that’s pretty responsive equipment you’re working with. The odds are in your favour.

Getting in the right state of mind is the one piece of advice that surfaces again and again when discussing how to reach climax — far more than any physical technique. Depending on the person, fantasy, relaxation and concentration can play major roles in a woman’s ability to get, maintain and peak their arousal. If you are worried about how you look, about losing control, about being perfect, if you have guilt, distractions or pressure, it’s going to be much harder (if not impossible) to have an orgasm. The more pressure you put on yourself, the less likely it is that it will happen. The catch-22 of arousal. True not only during sex with a partner, but masturbation as well.

Most women do have their first orgasm when they are alone — most likely because when there is no partner present, it is easier to focus on and be responsive to what’s going on with you. So relax and enjoy. If it doesn’t happen this time, then darn it all, you’ll just have to try again. And that’s not such a terrible thing. Practice, practice, practice.

Conclusion There is infinite variety and possibility in women’s orgasms. As Ontario Tourism coined, it is simply “yours to discover”.

Next time: Female Ejaculation.

Tags: advice, body politics

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