Orgasms, apparently, are not always orgasmic.
According to a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a lot more goes into how people achieve a healthy orgasm than proper technique.
“There seems to be a widespread assumption that orgasms during consensual sex are always positive, but research had never explored the possibility that they might be negative and/or non-positive under some circumstances,” researchers said.
Survey Says: It Wasn’t Good for Her, Either
In a sample of 726 participants collected through an online survey, the study asked “whether they have ever had an orgasm during coerced sex, compliant sex, and/or when they felt pressured to have an orgasm (i.e., orgasm pressure).” The study also asked for participants to describe their orgasms in qualitative terms; nearly half described their experience during consensual sex as “bad.” (Note: It is conceivable that there is a correlation between people who respond to ads on Facebook, Reddit, and Craigslist … and bad sex. Just sayin’.)
In an interview with Psychology Today, researchers said other terms used included “hollow and mechanical,” “irritating and uncomfortable,” “not a good experience,” and “mental torture,” among others.
The study also reported that orgasms during consensual sex did not necessarily mean that the sex was enjoyable, the person was aroused, or even that the orgasm was desired.
“Specifically, many participants described their experiences in negative and/or non-positive ways despite orgasm occurrence, reported that their orgasms were less pleasurable compared to other experiences, and suggested that their orgasm experiences had negative impacts on their relationships, sexuality, and/or psychological health,” the researchers said.
The Science of Sex
A proper orgasm depends on a number of factors: your physical and emotional state, whether you are masturbating alone or sexually active with a partner, the type and amount of stimulation, your energy level and degree of excitement, and social location (defined by the researchers as “gender and sexual identity, gender identity conflict, race/ethnicity, and religion”). Many participants suggested that “their orgasm occurrence made them feel “sad and detached” or ”betrayed” by their own body because their orgasms seemed to invalidate the negative effects they were experiencing.
“People who have had orgasms during unwanted or undesirable encounters should note that their orgasm does not mean they liked it or secretly ‘wanted’ what was happening — it is okay to have mixed or even entirely negative feelings about a sexual encounter where you had an orgasm,” researchers said, according to news reports.
The study alludes to the fact that during moments of emotional height and jubilation, we are especially emotionally vulnerable. Researchers tied in how the myriad of contentious social factors, especially gender identity and past sexual conflicts, can shape bad orgasm experiences.
“Orgasm’s association with positive, successful sex is certainly connected to notions of physical pleasure, but the study’s results “directly challenge the assumption that orgasms during consensual sex are always and/or unilaterally positive experiences.”
And this is a good point. The concept that orgasms are the peak of sexual intimacy is fairly new, with ties to mid-20th century marketing. Thank Don Draper. Instead, communication on an emotional and often a spiritual level are far more effective to arouse sexual intimacy than any new toy, all natural lube, or high-tech condom.
Ultimately we need to understand how our partners feel pleasure or how they reach their highest form of jubilation. For some, it’s that feeling when you make a sale. If you’re a writer, it’s when you get your favorite pitch approved or you turn in an article on deadline. For baseball fans, it’s that feeling when Joey Votto drills a game-winning homer. Whatever your passion, yearn for that feeling of bliss when you’re with your partner. Because despite popular belief, orgasms aren’t the key to happiness. And neither is that game-winning homer.