We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: tips for redefining your concept of orgasm.
Q: “I read in your past columns about redefining orgasm to help take the pressure off of it. I was hoping you could give more sex tips on how to actually do that in the moment — because I find that it's really hard! Like, should I not even be thinking of orgasm as climax anymore? Should I not be trying to orgasm? I understand wanting to take the pressure off of it, but I still want to be able to orgasm. How do you manage the balance?”
A: Thanks for the question! The issue that I think you’re getting at is what role should orgasm play in a sexual encounter. How exactly do we redefine it? Should it be seen as the goal, or the end line of a roll in the sack, or is there something else that can serve as the apex? And how can you manage that mentally, in the moment? These are all complicated and important questions, so let's get right to it!
Here are seven tips for redefining your orgasm.
1. Know That "Orgasm" And "Climax" Are Not Necessarily The Same Thing
First of all, a quick semantic complication: Most people tend to use the words “orgasm” and “climax” interchangeably, but sometimes one is meant as a more all-encompassing experience than the other. For example, the orgasm might just be the physical sensation in your genitals, while the climax is the full bodily and emotional experience. Or vice versa, depending on who you’re talking to. The word orgasm only has to mean climax if you want it to.
2. Remember: You Get To Decide What You Want For Your Sex Life
Here’s the most important tip: you get to decide what you want for your sex life. I’ve talked a lot about trying to take the pressure off of orgasm, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to have orgasms. If you want to aim to have an orgasm every time you’re on your own or with a partner, that’s great! But if there are other aspects of physical intimacy that appeal to you more than orgasm (for example, having your partner really take their time kissing and caressing your body), that’s great too! You get to pick your goals — and those goals can change from day to day. There may be days where you’re dying to get home to your favorite vibrator and have an explosive orgasm. There may be days when you’re enjoying a quickie with your partner, and more concerned about the intensity of the moment than trying to have an orgasm.
Spend some time thinking about your general orgasmic goals at this point in your life. For example, you may have just learned to masturbate, so you might be on an orgasm kick. Or you may be recovering from sexual abuse, and more focused on feeling safe during sex. Then, before each new sexual interaction, ask yourself, “do I want to try to have an orgasm?” You’re not trying to lock yourself into anything, but you’re just trying to be thoughtful.
3. Know That Your Orgasm Is Unique
Building off of the above, keep in mind that you have a unique relationship with your orgasm. For some women, orgasms feel more intense than any other type of sensation. For other women, orgasms don’t feel noticeably better than other stimulation. For some women, orgasms can feel incredibly vulnerable, and aren’t something they want to share with just any partner. Again, take some time to think about the dynamics that tend to come up around your orgasm, and see how that can fit into your goals for your sex life.
4. Believe That Sex Can Be Over When You Feel Done
One other dynamic that tends to come up around this question is how to decide when sex is over. A lot of my clients will ask me, “but isn’t orgasm the clear sign that things are over?” If you think that orgasm is the natural conclusion to sex, it makes sense that a lot of women pressure themselves to get there. But orgasm shouldn’t automatically be seen as the conclusion. Both men and women can continue being intimate after they’ve orgasmed. It’s not like our bodies short circuit once we’ve orgasmed! There’s so much possibility to continue connecting and experiencing pleasure after we’ve gotten our rocks off. Why cut yourself off from all of that fun?
Instead of letting orgasm signal the end, keep going until you feel satisfied, exhausted, or blissed out. Right now, take a moment to think about what it feels like when you feel “done”. What does “done” even mean to you? And what does it feel like in your body? For example, maybe your legs turn to jello, and render you incapable of moving for at least 20 minutes. Or maybe you feel done after you and your partner have taken a romantic shower together.
5. Assert That Orgasm Doesn’t Always Equal Satisfaction
It’s also interesting to note that orgasm doesn’t always bring a sense of completion. For men, it does tend to be the case (speaking in very broad brushstrokes here, since men have plenty of diversity too). Men have a refractory period after they orgasm, which means they need some downtime before they can get erect and have another orgasm. But women don’t have that same refractory period, We can have orgasms right away, and there’s no limit to the amount of orgasms we can have. Some women are totally down for the count once they’ve had an orgasm, but plenty of women don’t feel satisfied until they’ve had multiple orgasms.
Again, more proof that orgasm doesn’t always work as the peak sexual experience. This can serve as another data point in helping you decide what feels right for your sex life.
6. Know That Having Agency Relieves Pressure
Take your answers to all of the questions I posed in the above paragraphs, and see what you can uncover about your relationship with orgasm and satisfaction. What are your orgasmic goals? What affect does your orgasm have on a hook-up? What does satisfaction feel like to you?
Also spend some time thinking about the pressures that tend to come up for you. How do you get in your own way when it comes to experiencing pleasure and orgasm? What external pressures do you feel? Those questions should give you some good ideas about the role that orgasm can play in your sex life. The process of being mindful about your orgasm in and of itself can relieve a lot of the pressure that you may be feeling. It feels really empowering to realize that you get to decide what you want for your own body.
7. Focus On Your Wants In The Moment
Obviously, your relationship with and goals for your orgasm are going to fluctuate all the time, and each sexual interaction is going to be different, so let’s talk about you can manage that uncertainty in the moment itself.
The simplest but best tip that I can give you is to ask yourself in the moment, “what sounds good to me right now?” There are going to be times where you can answer with a resounding, “an orgasm!” But there are also going to be times where the answer might be, “I just want to go slow and relax,” “I want to enjoy focusing on my partner’s pleasure,” or, “I don’t even want to think about an orgasm right now.” Keep asking yourself that question throughout the entire interaction, and let your answers be your guide.
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