Telegraph UK: Not all orgasms are loud, sweaty, ‘earth-moving’ experiences, says Dr Petra Boynton, who advises a reader that what you see in the movies is hardly ever like the real thing.
I think there is something wrong with my orgasms. I do have them and they’re nice but not ‘earth moving’ if you know what I mean. Is there something I can do to change this?
Before thinking about changing the way you have sex, it may help to consider more generally about what we’re told about orgasm. It might seem like an odd place to start but it may explain why you’ve been left feeling anxious that there is ‘something wrong’.
Mainstream movies feature women (and men) having loud, sweaty orgasms preceded by lots of heavy breathing and moaning (see also, porn). Magazines and self help books promise us ‘best ever’, ‘bed rattling’, ‘amazing’ orgasms. Instructing us to work towards having ‘bigger’ orgasms ‘every time’ we have sex; using competitive and goal-focused language where orgasm is always the end result of intercourse and is something to ‘achieve’ rather than experience.
In Western popular culture orgasms are consistently represented as explosive – aka The Pleasantville Experience.
If your orgasm isn’t like this it’s easy to feel there is something wrong with you.
Orgasm messages are often tied in with commercial ventures that further problematise pleasure – if we don’t have orgasms at all, don’t have them enough, or don’t consistently experience earth-shattering climaxes. The pharmaceutical industry is well known for medicalising these ‘orgasmic problems’. While sex product manufacturers are eager to sell us items that will give us ‘more mind-blowing orgasms’. Suggesting any pleasure we already experience is inadequate and that we should always be striving for orgasmic improvement.
Because we’re led to believe all orgasms should be frequent and fantastic, if we don’t fit this model we’re left feeling dysfunctional. Which can diminish the enjoyment we’re getting from masturbation or partnered sex, and from all the pleasurable things we enjoy instead of, or before or after orgasm.
All of this results in the silencing of diverse orgasmic experiences.
Step outside the aspirational, commercialised, goal-focused, medicalised and mediated world of orgasm and listen to people’s experiences and you hear reports of orgasms just like yours – something nice.
You will also hear people talk of regularly not having an orgasm but still enjoying intimacy. Of enjoying the pleasure that comes before an orgasm (particularly, but not exclusively, if they’re exploring fantasy, fetish or kink). Of experiencing some orgasms more intensely than others. For some people orgasm is very important, for others not so much. Some people are very distressed about not having an orgasm or not having the ‘right’ kind of one. Others are less concerned.
Knowing all this may be enough to reassure you that your orgasms are perfectly valid. It could be misleading information that has skewed your expectations. However, the above information is not offered to negate any changes you may wish to make to your sex life, so here are some additional options for exploring pleasure.
Firstly, tackle barriers to excitement. Sometimes people find it difficult to experience orgasm because they were raised to feel sex was bad or dirty. Learning more about intimacy with books like Paul Joannides‘Guide To Getting It On’ may be useful. Ensuring you have privacy and time to enjoy sex can be reassuring. Body image worries and confidence issues can be a barrier, as can relationship difficulties or communicating desire. Counseling or reflecting on how to express your needs may help.
Secondly, think about what feels good for you. Explore pleasure through masturbation on your own or with a partner. Try a lubricant. Experiment with vaginal and clitoral play but also see what other parts of your body feel good when touched. Vary the sexual positions you usually favour. These options and more are explored in depth in this piece from Cory Silverberg on experiencing different orgasms from your norm (linked to this are guides on orgasm, toys and books that may be useful).
It may be you experience different pleasures by trying the above. They may alter the way you view orgasm or how yours feel – physically or emotionally. You may continue to experience your orgasm as something ‘nice’. Which would make you similar to many other people – and not like the hype would have us believe.
Petra Boynton is a social psychologist and sex researcher working in International Health Care at University College London. Petra studies sex and relationships and is The Telegraph’s agony aunt. Follow her on Twitter @drpetra.