In my intake questionnaire, one of the questions I ask is whether there’s a difference between the experience of orgasm [or lack of it] in partnered sex and solo sex.

A frequent response from women seems to be that they have no problem reaching orgasm when they masturbate, but that partnered sex is often problematic. Understandably, this produces patterns of disappointment, frustration and resentment, but also something more fundamental: these women think that there’s something wrong with them, or even that they’re “broken”.

It isn’t that they don’t experience arousal in partnered sex, rather that the arousal is experienced as incomplete, partial and unsatisfying. There is often the sense of hitting a glass ceiling during arousal, making orgasm frustratingly near, but unattainable.

Often this pattern plays out in a belief that is takes “too long” to reach orgasm, a belief that isn’t made easier by a perception that their partners are impatient or tired with the “length of time this is taking”, as if it some kind of chore, or that orgasm is a kind of performance to send the audience home happy.

Because there’s an underlying belief that sexuality is arousal, and that arousal comes from stimulating the body – stimulating the genitals – the temptation is to think that more stimulation – harder, faster – is the solution, and even though it’s uncomfortable, that uncomfortableness should be broken through.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I think there’s a risk that we keep making the same error in a slightly different form. We can move the focus from penetration to the g spot, or from the vagina to the clitoris, but throughout, there’s the underlying assumption that all that’s needed to get to orgasm is bodily stimulation, and if that doesn’t work, there’s something wrong: with the stimulation, or with the person.

But what if the assumption is wrong? And wrong in a particularly harmful way, namely that it works well enough for a while, until it doesn’t, with the inevitable conclusion “What’s wrong with me?”

I say the assumption is false. It assumes that the body in its natural state is neutral, but with stimulation can become pleasurable. My view is that the body is naturally pleasurable, and sexuality is a integral part of that, but most of us don’t feel that way because our bodies are habitually stressed, particularly with regard to our sexuality. So, the real issue is to deal with the stress, re-discover the inherent pleasure of the body, and to witness, enjoy and express the sexuality which naturally flows from that.

Our society’s normal route is to create enjoyable stress [arousal] to overcome habitual stress, to get to orgasm experiencing a temporary release from the habitual stress. That’s why we need more and more arousal to get to the same place: why people when self pleasuring go from soft slow touch to faster stronger touch, then repeat the process with vibrators, until that doesn’t work either.

But why is the stress there in the first place? There’s a number of causes:

-we think of sex in terms of performance and comparison

we separate our sexuality from the rest of us: our feelings, our imagination, our playfulness, our relatedness

– we are overfocused on the body

-rather than being with the actual experience, we are focused on where we are going and what we should be experiencing

-we lose connection: between our sexuality and the rest of us, and between ourselves and the other

In my opinion, attending to ‘Dysfunction’ means attending to the cramped and restrictive notions about sexuality which society gives us through embodied, heartful, relational work. It’s not ‘fixing’ something, it is a release from the idea that the body is something to be ‘fixed’

If this makes sense to you and you’d like to explore it further, why not consider a chat with me on Zoom? The link is here

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