Guiding with excerpts from Girl Boners gone by (past interviews), this week’s Girl Boner Radio episode explores important facts, common myths and pervasive challenges involving the Big O.
Listen on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio or below!
“Orgasm Myths, Facts and Challenges”
a lightly edited Girl Boner Radio transcript
Do you remember the first time you realized what an orgasm was, or even that they existed?
In speaking with so many folks about sexuality, I’ve been struck by a difference in what people over, say, 70, learned about orgasms early on versus folks in their 20s, 30, or 40s. Several people in their Golden Years told me they had no idea orgasms were a thing, through their teens or 20s, or thought they were something only men experienced.
Now, though, thanks to the internet there is no shortage of orgasm information. I just typed “orgasm” into Google and it pulled up 1 billion, 270 million results in a split second. Of course, that’s all good information.
There are a lot of mixed and perplexing messages about the Big O that leave many of us in the dark or confused—so today, we will set some important things straight, with facts, myths and challenges involving orgasms, guiding with highlights from past interviews, including a fun true story.
First, I want to highlight today’s sponsor, Promescent—which can actually help address several orgasm-related problems, such as an erection not lasting as long as you or your partner would like. Their safe Climax Control Spray can keep an erection going longer without bringing numbness to a partner. There are reasons so many urologists recommend Promescent.
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So back in October, 2017, I interviewed Shadeen Frances, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in sex therapy, emotional intelligence, and social justice, about common points of crisis she sees in her practice. One, she said, involves orgasms.
So the first orgasm fact we’ll cover today is this: An inability to “get there” can become a crisis point. And common myths about orgasms can make matters worse.
[acoustic chord riff]
So the folks who tend to come to me who are in active crisis tend to have a small cluster of themes that are at least interested in working with me around them.
One is an inability to orgasm. That is a crisis point for a lot of folks. That’s not a casual thing, which, to me, really reaffirms how important our sexuality is, it is to us, right? That I think it’d be easy for folks to sort of brush it off and say, it’s not that big of a deal. And for some people, it isn’t a very big deal. But that’s a very big crisis point. Folks of all genders.
She said they often come in saying-
-either, “I have never had an orgasm and this is incredibly upsetting to me,” or “I used to have orgasms, and now they are gone, and I cannot get them back.” Those are really big crises.
Are people often concerned about it because they want that pleasure themselves? Or has it become, often, a relationship issue where they almost want it for their partner?
I actually see a mix of both. Sometimes they’re on one end of it, where “I want this for me.” Some folks on the other end of it: “I actually don’t care much, but this is going to be a problem, my relationship, and I’m worried about it.” There are folks who rest in the middle, “both of these are a problem.” It can be situational, sometimes: “For myself, other times I really don’t care, but I don’t want to keep having this conversation with my partner.” So all over the map with that one.
And what are some of the common causes? Again, I know there’s many. What are some of the biggies?
Sometimes it is a medical thing, so I do stay in close contact with physicians that I know and trust, to make referrals to get a physical exam and see if there’s something happening hormonally or in terms of, you know, circulation wise, especially for men. Otherwise, a lot of times it’s boiling down to stress and shame. Stress and shame are incredibly unsexy experiences.
So I imagine when they come in thinking they’re going to talk about the orgasm issue, it’s a gateway to either finding out physical issues, emotional, maybe a mix of all, and then the residual ones because shame might cause the orgasm issue, which then causes more shame and this whole thing.
Do you feel like there’s a common first step that people take to start peeling back those layers? If someone’s struggling, and they feel like it’s all about the orgasm, but they kind of sense, you know, how do you get underneath those things?
I think it really depends on what folks’ goals are. I always let folks know, you know that it’s not my show, right? We’re on your journey. You are the expert on your own life. I will never know more about your life than you do. So you let me know where we’re going, and I will help us chart a course there. And I think with that being kind of the first step, having folks really reflect on okay, what is it that I want to get out of this process? What would make this time and this energy feel worthwhile?
I think really helps people to kind of clarify, okay, what am I kind of willing to do? And when folks are coming in in crisis, I actually don’t find that there is a ton of peeling back that really needs to happen because people are coming in very raw when they’re in crisis.
And again, I’m working with folks around a lot of different things. But if we’re thinking about kind of this orgasm piece, folks are often coming in feeling like they’ve tried everything, because they kind of probably have and, you know, being kind of just very, very stuck, and are really happy to go there, happy to do whatever they think will help.
What’s one big myth about orgasm that you wish everybody knew, especially in the context of working with people who struggle in that department?
That all of your orgasms will feel the same. That one comes up a lot.
Oh, I bet. I know that for me personally, it took me a long time to realize that the, quote small ones were orgasms.
Mm hmm. Yeah. Orgasms are fluid, right? So I relate a lot of things to food. I love food. And so I think about, okay, let’s say you have your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. Every time you go there, it’s not going to taste the exact same. It could be something about the season that the ingredients are being pulled from. It could be something about who the chef is. So that might be your partner, right? It might be the mood that you’re in. It might be the time of day. It might be how hungry you are. If you had a full meal right before your favorite meal, you’re probably not going to be so excited about it. Right? Or it might not feel the same even if you’re like mentally excited about it like I get about food.
So there’s so many things that can make that different. And does that mean that the meal is less worthwhile? Probably not. I’m a sushi lover. I could probably eat sushi at any point in time. But if I had sushi like every day, for the week, having sushi on Sunday, after six days of sushi, I’m not super excited about it. I’m going to eat it.
[laughs] Do not take my sushi.
Right, I still want it. And I’m gonna look forward to it. But when I eat it, it’s not going to be like, Whoa, yeah, she right, because like I had sushi for breakfast. And it’s written in the day before. And every day before that.
Less anticipation, right?
Right. And so, right, you fluctuate, right? You will always fluctuate, your body is not static, right? Your body is moving and changing. Our lives are moving and changing. So folks are often chasing the peak orgasm, or that particular kind of flavor of orgasm. And we can still work towards creating experiences that most reliably allow you to replicate that and to have that and to feel full with that.
But to notice and recognize the other ones that you actually might be having and not noticing, or the ones that you are devaluing because like, “Oh, that was that was a little one,” “that was a short one,” or that was a you know, “that was a dry one,” or whatever the case may be, to really be able to live in the fluidity of your body and really sort of have this smorgasbord of pleasure.
Yeah. And then when you embrace those that you are devaluing, I imagine they’re so much more pleasurable.
Absolutely. And I think folks are often surprised at how sexual they are or can be.
That’s interesting, because perhaps of a definition that might have been formulated by, you know, movies they’ve seen or the things they never learned in sex ed. You know, that if it doesn’t look like this, then therefore I’m not sexual. Instead of going, wait a minute. All these blips on the radar that I was discounting, are actually showing that I’m a pretty dang sexual being.
Yeah, right? And there’s so many ways that you can define that right? And so really exploring the reach of that, right? Because for most folks sex is not purely physical experience. So a lot of folks are coming to recognize, oh, there’s something actually spiritual about my sexual experience, or emotional about my sexual experience, or recreational or leisurely about my sexual experiences. Or it’s platonic and comfortable and casual, right? Or, you know, my sexual experiences range from being kind of routine, I want to know the schedule, I don’t want to go without it. It’s every Thursday at 7:30, to I want it to be spontaneous. I want it to be unpredictable. I want it to be steamy and raunchy and messy. But not very often because I don’t have time for that.
You know, there’s so many ways that we can actually figure out what works for us what’s, you know, quote unquote, “yummy” for us, what excites us, what’s cool for us, what goes outside of the boundaries, what we’re unsure about, but are willing to try that once. But I’m going to try that at least twice. Just to make sure.
Yeah, and that it’s okay. Whatever you want is okay.
Absolutely. And I’m a big fan—and maybe this is the millennial bias in me— but I’m a big fan of believing that you can probably have most of the things that you want.
Amen, I’m with you. I think that’s so true. I personally believe that what we believe about our sexuality is so self-fulfilling, which can be damaging, but it can also be incredibly strengthening. And to go, oh, my gosh, what if I questioned some of these negative beliefs that I’ve absorbed, then what might happen?
Yeah, to that point about self-fulfilling prophecy, I think that if you’re hoping to experience yourself differently as a sexual person, quite often your body is ready for that degree of flexibility, is ready to make that change.
That’s so exciting. It kind of gave me chills.
[acoustic chord riff]
Speaking of self-fulfilling ideas, here’s something about orgasms I love pointing out: It’s important to believe that you can come.
Yes, plenty of orgasms happen when we’re not focused on them; sometimes they happen best that way. We’re caught up in the sexual experience and the turn on takes over and [orgasm sounds]. Or even not during sex. There have been cases where someone orgasms while brushing their teeth, doing crunches or, in my friend Susannah’s case, daydreaming while driving.
I’m talking about something else in the orgasm realm… I actually wrote about it in my Girl Boner book, because it really gets my hackles up: If you believe you can’t experience orgasms or that it’s “normal” and “common” so no big deal, that may turn out to be true for you—not because you’re incapable, but because you never learned otherwise.
Here’s a little excerpt of what I wrote:
[excerpt from Girl Boner]
I shared that because if you don’t experience orgasms as often as you would like to or at all, it’s important to know that there are so many common messages out there that may be standing in the way. And that’s not your fault. With some self-awareness and exploration, on your own or with a partner, I can almost promise you that so much more pleasure awaits you. I kinda sound like a fortune cookie, but I mean it.
Which brings us to our next important fact: Orgasm is usually an active process.
I spoke with Vanessa Marin, a licensed psychotherapist and writer specializing in sex therapy, about this in February, 2019. She primarily works with cisgender women, helping many of them find their way to their very first orgasm.
The orgasm myth that riles her up the most, she said, is that orgasms are a passive process—which is especially damaging if you’re struggling to experience them at all.
So you see so many articles saying “All you have to do is relax. Stop thinking about it! You’re stressing yourself out about it.” Even “Have a glass of wine, just really calm yourself down.” Like that’s all that there is to do is just let go and let it happen to you.
I really like to make it clear that orgasm is an active process. It’s not a passive one. It’s not something that happens to us. It’s something that we make happen. And I think there’s such an interesting difference in how we look at male and female orgasm. Men don’t have you know, men don’t just lie there waiting for it to happen to them. They move in the ways that they like, at the angles they like. They get into the positions that they like. And they create that orgasm for themselves. But we really shame women for wanting to do the exact same thing.
That’s so interesting that our conditioning has set us up for that, too, because there’s so many ways where women are taught to not be assertive, and to not go for it. And that it also affects pleasure is huge. And then the stress that can come from feeling like you, quote, “can’t” experience orgasm only makes things more challenging, right?
Absolutely. I mean, these are definitely dynamics that show up inside and outside of the bedroom.
So I talk a lot about the difference between selfless sex and selfish sex. I think most of us women, we are socialized and programmed to be selfless, inside of the bedroom and out that we focus more on our partners’ experiences, that we’re being caregivers, and really sensitive and attuned to them. And so I really like to talk about this idea of having selfish sex. And it’s a healthy kind of selfish.
I think it’s interesting just to see even the reaction that most of us have to that word selfish. We’re like, “Oh, I’m not supposed to, that’s a bad word!” But the idea of you know, that you can care about your own experience, too. And that you can want things, too. Again, it’s inside and outside of the bedroom.
Completely. And so often, I think most partners really care about a partner’s pleasure. So if you are being selfish in that way, you’re focusing on your own pleasure, it really will benefit the whole relationship.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think most of us want to have an even exchange. We want to know that our partners are feeling good, that we’re feeling good that we’re both caring about each other’s experience, but there’s such a big gap in you know, for women right now that I think we really need to approach sex in a totally different way than we’ve been taught to.
So let’s say you do that important work of getting to know your own body and you have your first orgasm. Similar to what Shadeen shared, about the fluidity of orgasms, Vanessa said it’s important to recognize that your first ones, in particular, might not be earth-shattering.
Orgasms are like snowflakes. No two are alike. And they can be just wildly different experiences. And I think that’s part of what makes it fun. You can have such different ones at different times. And it’s such an experience that you can really explore. It’s not just you’ve had one and now you know what it’s like, and it’s, you know, it’s all boring and predictable from there. But yeah, most people expect that they should always be earth shattering. You’re having to pull yourself off the ceiling. Your head has exploded and all this crazy stuff has happened.
And I think that myth is actually most harmful for women who have never had an orgasm, because they’re expecting their very first one to be wildly, you know, intense and pleasurable.
When you’re first learning how to orgasm, your first ones are not going to feel great. Like they’re maybe going to feel a little bit more pleasurable than what you would normally feel. Sometimes hardly anything. So I actually work with a lot of women who have already had orgasms. But it’s just that they’re expecting that crazy top thing that they don’t realize and then once I tell them, they’re like, “Oh my god, I actually have been orgasming.”
In other words, don’t compare your orgasms to the ones you’ve seen on TV, in movies, or on the porn screen. It’s easy to fall into that, given the lack of sex education in the U.S. and many cultures, but it’s also an important framing to challenge.
It’s also important to note that people all across the gender spectrum, and all sexes, can struggle in the orgasm department, and learn how to better thrive. The so-called “orgasm gap” between people with a vulva and folks with a penis does exist — meaning vulva owners are less likely to experience orgasm during intercourse. That’s the case for many reasons: gaps in education and stigma around “female sexuality” being biggies.
Another type of stigma can work against guys. Men are less likely to talk about their orgasm problems—like, significantly—because doing so is not normalized. They can be seen as weak, or not “manly” enough, if they struggle. All of that is sad to me. It also means that more men grapple with orgasms than statistics show, because there’s less reporting.
Pretty much anyone can have trouble experiencing orgasm because of factors like performance anxiety, sexual shame, chronic health conditions, certain medications and surgeries.
Thankfully there are so many tools and resources to help anyone who’s struggling. In some cases, sex toys really help. Not so thankfully, myths can interfere there, too.
I asked Vanessa to weigh on this one: that if you need a toy for orgasms, it means there’s something wrong with you. (Just saying that made my Girl Boner heart hurt.)
Oh, that’s a huge one. Yeah. And that one is really, really sad as well. I see so many variations of that. And so many women who feel guilty for using toys for liking toys. And I just think, you know, we’re living in an era of incredible innovation.
There are some amazing toys out there. And this should be something that we all feel excited about exploring. There are great toys out there that can do things that hands and mouths cannot do. And especially, you know, I have a lot of clients who have injuries or some sort of chronic illness that toys are the only way that they can reach orgasm. So I think the fact that we feel bad about this is such a shame.
Accessories make so many aspects of our lives easier. We have blenders for making smoothies. We have speakers so we can listen to music easier. Electric toothbrushes, because they do the job better. Toys can make sex breezier in similar ways, only they’re way more fun, in my opinion.
So if you don’t feel ashamed about your blender, please don’t feel ashamed of your vibes…or your dildo or cockring or whathaveyou. [buzzing]
Another orgasm-friendly accessory worth embracing? Lube. When I interviewed Vanessa, I had just heard from a listener who was struggling to feel okay with another accessory that can make orgasms better: needing to use lube. Both she and her partner felt her lack of wetness was a problem—or, perhaps on a deeper level, that they were a problem. He wasn’t turning her on enough and her body wouldn’t act how it was “supposed to.” If you listen here often, you already know how I feel about lube. Basically, it’s a love affair. Vanessa feels the same way.
I love lube. I’m a huge lube evangelist. And so whenever I hear people saying, “oh, I feel bad, I shouldn’t have to use this.” I just think you know what, especially we as women, we judge our bodies for so many things already. Are we really going to let our level of vaginal wetness be another thing that we judge ourselves for? Like, no, it’s crazy.
And it’s also really important to recognize that your level of wetness is not related to how turned on you are.You can be very, very wet and not at all aroused. You can be wildly turned on and not at all wet.
And the same thing can happen if you have a penis—struggling to have an erection when you’re turned on or experiencing one at a not-so-ideal time.
The behavior of our genitals just does not line up with the desires that are happening in our brain.
Completely. I feel like boners are really a mind body, your brain thing more than anything, for sure.
And I think what’s helped lubes, too, is that there are such better lubes out there now, so many amazing high quality lubes that are very, very slick against the skin. They’re silky smooth. They feel great.
So I think everyone should be using lube. It definitely makes everything feel so much more pleasurable. It decreases any sort of discomfort or sexual pain. And it can make it a lot easier to orgasm and make the orgasms themselves feel more pleasurable. So there’s literally no reason to not use it.
What do you think about tips for somebody who has never experienced orgasm, regardless of age, are there some really practical ways to pave the way?
I am a firm believer that you need to start with learning how to orgasm on your own. So I think, as part of this whole orgasm is a passive process myth, a lot of women think, you know, it’s something that my partner does to me. And that happens to me when I’m with a partner. And I really think that it’s just so important for us women to take ownership of our orgasms and learn how to get ourselves off first.
And not only that, I think it’s an incredibly empowering experience to learn your body and to figure out what makes it tick and respond and what you like. Even if orgasming with a partner was much easier than orgasming on your own, you should still want to have that experience of orgasming on your own because it’s so empowering.
And from there, the next step might be for somebody who has a partner, they want to then help them learn how to help bring them to orgasm. What are the steps there? Does it require a conversation?
Definitely, it does require a conversation. I think so many of us are afraid to communicate in the bedroom. We have this you know another myth that if you have to talk during sex, that something’s wrong.
We kind of expected sex to just be natural, I’m doing air quotes that, you know, just should flow without any sort of effort required. And I think that’s so wrong and such a harmful myth. And communication is essential and can be incredibly sexy and bonding and connecting, too.
And when should you have that conversation?
I think if you’ve never had an orgasm on your own, or with a partner, I think it can be really useful to have that conversation at the beginning of a relationship. So again, I know a lot of people feel self conscious about this and really nervous.
But I think that if you can work up that courage to say, “Hey, by the way, I have, I’m still learning how to orgasm” or you know, “orgasming with a partner, it takes me a little bit of time just to get used to someone new. So I just want you to know what the expectations are. And you know, take it off the table for a little bit.” I think that can just really decrease your anxiety and help you feel more relaxed and more connected with your partner.
As you said, That, to me, just felt very soothing. It just normalizes that, and you know, we talk so much about other things that we haven’t tried or want to start experiencing. We talk about this new restaurant we want to try…but we can’t go “Oh, so you know…” But when you have some comfort around it, it’s so much easier to say that.
Absolutely. Yeah, a lot of women, they approach those kinds of conversations as if they’re confessing that they’ve murdered someone or kidnapped someone. And so I always say, “You’re not making a confession to your partner. You’ve done nothing wrong.” Paying attention to your tone and delivery is really important.
So if this is something that feels nerve wrecking for you, practice it in front of a mirror a few times until you feel your tone start to soften and it’s really just that, “Hey, just want to give you a heads up. It usually takes me a while to orgasm with someone new. So let’s not worry about it for a little while.”
[acoustic chord riff]
We’ll wrap up today with a true story about an orgasm challenge that turned into something pretty spectacular. Because here’s another Big O fact: Orgasms we desire are worth the effort.
In April of last year I interviewed Deborah Kagan, creator of Rock Your Mojo™, the author of Find Your ME Spot: 52 Ways to Reclaim Your Confidence, Feel Good in Your Own Skin and Live a Turned On Life.
During that conversation, she told me about her quest to find her G-spot and the impact finding it had on her life.
I was absolutely hell bent on discovering my G-spot this was back in my I guess early 30s. I had been married to a wonderful man, but not we just were not connected sexually. It just didn’t work for numerous reasons. And so after I left that marriage I mean I was orgasmic and I could self-pleasure and clitoral stimulation – like I knew how all that worked. And I started to become aware about G-spots and G-spot orgasms, but I had yet to experience it myself.
And so I went on this mission and it was legitimately a mission. I went to the pleasure chest strike so that I’m going to the epicenter in LA right of getting at the time, you know, getting a great sex toy.
And the staff there is so fantastic. So I just said, “Hey, what do you recommend for finding your G spot?” And I was led to this glass G-spot dildo. And so I went home. And I tried it. Didn’t really happen the first time. So I was, again, committed. On a mission. And so a couple times later, I had prepared and made the room an oasis. I mean there were candles, okay, it was essential oils, there was good lighting. And I’m with myself. Again, this is filling your cup, learning how to receive. So I’m learning how to do this for myself.
And anyhow, it was with this glass G-spot Delgado and patience and breath, and the willingness to be in my body deeply. Because it’s a different experience for those of you who know and for those of you who haven’t had it, be excited about the different experience. And all of a sudden it was uncomfortable at first. I do want to say that because there was almost an emotional discomfort and an irritation. And I wanted to stop and I was starting to get mad and I was starting to get frustrated.
But again, cellular memory. And especially for those of us who have gone through sexual trauma and who’ve gone through rape. There were these moments of, Okay, I’m starting to feel, but that cellular memory of like, I don’t want to feel because that was painful at the time. And I breathed and I breathed, I was just so committed to transforming and to feel whatever what there was to feel.
And so all of a sudden, once and it took a little while I’m talking this was like 20 minutes, 30 minutes–this was not like a five minute ordeal. And so all of a sudden, there was a sense of, This feels good. I’m liking this. Oh wait, let me go to the left and the right. And oh, what if I slowed down a little more and even slower and now if it’s just this tap? Something happened to the point where I started to feel good and then it was like oh my god.
This is going deeper and deeper, and an orgasm started to happen like that I have never in my life felt before. It was as though my body was swelling to the point of the size of the entire room. And this almost earthquake-y undulation of the body happened. And then here’s the wild part. And this might sound really fucking weird, but here we are. That it was as though the ceiling kind of got blurry. But then it parted. It’s like a part of the Red Sea. You know it started to open. And it was like God/Goddess, it was spirit, it was that and it was above me. Whatever it was, big guardian angel. That was something from Spirit that was so present and so floating right above me, and all of this light came into the room.
And then I and then I start crying, because I felt so connected to everything. And I’m orgasming and I’m crying, and I’m orgasming, and it went on and on and on and on and on. And then I just laid there and cried and laughed for probably like another 15 minutes. And that’s how I discovered my G-spot, August.
Thank you so much for sharing that. How did that impact your sexuality moving forward?
Oh, my gosh. Well, it just got me hungrier and more curious, because I was like, ooh, If my body can do that, what else can we do? And then I thought, okay, I was like, wow, okay, I can experience that with myself. Can I experience that with a partner? What is that going to be like? How do we keep doing that?
And it opened up an entire new world, which actually got me on the path of what I’ve been doing now for 11 years, you know, which has been supporting women. This year, I’m now opening the work up to men. But for the past 11 years, it got me on the path of supporting women in what I call rockin’ their mojo. So it changed my life, personally and professionally.
[acoustic chord riff]
So there you have it. Orgasms are fluid, valuable regardless of the intensity or type and, in some cases, pretty life-shifting. For more evidence of that, be sure to listen to the Girl Boner episode called “Incredible Orgasm Stories,” from about a year ago.
To learn more about the work of Deborah Kagan, Shadeen Francis and Vanessa Morin, click the links in the show notes or head to my blog at girlboner.org, where you can also sign up for very occasional email updates from me.
And, if you’re enjoying Girl Boner Radio, I’d love to hear from you by way of a rating and review. You can also support the show and my mission by joining my community at patreon.com/girlboner. Thanks so much for listening and have a beautiful, Girl Boner-embracing week.