Editor’s Note: Names have been changed or withheld to protect students’ privacy. 

By Raye Weigel 

“I see a lot of women who are focused on pleasing their partners, making sure their partners feel like good lovers. They might fake orgasms or stay quiet about what really feels good to them because they fear hurting feelings,” said Lynn Davies-Knaub, a licensed sex therapist.

She made sure to note that many women have no problem pursuing their sexual needs, and men also have problems with orgasm. However, there still seems to be an overwhelming aura of mystery and confusion around the female orgasm.

Rachel*, a senior theatre tech major, shared her experience:

“I never thought, as a sex-positive person, that I’d fake orgasms. But I reach a point in an encounter where, out of exhaustion, frustration, or even out of fear of embarrassing or angering my partner, that I just want it to end … I feel like I’ve been socially conditioned to pretend instead of having an honest conversation about my body,” she said.

Even the idea of orgasm seemed overwhelming to her: “The build-up to an orgasm scared me so much I would stop myself before climax. My first orgasm at 18 was when I lost my vaginal virginity, and holy shit,” she said.

In 2009, the Center for Sexual Health Promotion released a study that asked 1,931 U.S. adults ages 18 to 59 about their most recent sexual experience. They found men are more likely to orgasm than women — 91 percent of men said they climaxed during their last sexual encounter, compared with 64 percent of women.

One student at this university, a senior economics major who identifies as a queer woman and wanted to remain anonymous, said she has never had an orgasm.

“Society has influenced what I think of sex in general. I think I started out thinking that sex was phallocentric,” she said. “As a queer woman, this was such a weird idea that I couldn’t break out of, because even though I liked women, I didn’t know how to conceptualize sex without a penis involved.”

She talked about the relationship between pleasure and bodies, and how that could help to resolve the problem of a society-influenced orgasm gap: “I think destigmatizing pleasure goes hand-in-hand with destigmatizing bodies. . .  When bodies stop being either symbols of virtue or vice, I think we can see a healthier view of female pleasure.”

Courtesy of fivethirtyeight.com

Davies-Knaub said society puts a lot of pressure on women to orgasm, painting it as a performance rather than something that is about woman’s pleasure: “Most sex scenes in films have the woman moaning and reaching climax within seconds. And magazine covers focus on achieving better and better ‘end results.’ I see a lot of misconceptions and performance anxiety related to these messages.”

Focusing on realistic female pleasure, according to Davies-Knaub, can be a solution to a variety of relationship problems. What does she offer as a solution to her clients who struggle with orgasms? Take the pressure off:

“Partners can learn to invite feedback without becoming defensive or feeling inadequate; understand that sharing how we want to be touched and what turns us on is an act of trust and vulnerability, not a criticism,” she said.

Rachel pointed out that in today’s society, female pleasure can be lost in the midst of an obsession about male orgasms and turning men on. Unrealistic media and porn, for example, can show women having earth-shattering orgasms without any foreplay.

“If a change is going to happen, we need to alter what the male gaze is and what sexually active cis men consume and produce,” she said. “The fact that I feel fear or worry when with a male partner if I do not: a. finish him and b. stroke his ego so he thinks highly of his sexual prowess disturbs me.”

The female orgasm is becoming more and more discussed. Organizations such as OMGYes strive to educate about female pleasure. The Guardian published an article about the importance of orgasms and organizations such as this one travel around to schools and offer LGBTQ-friendly presentations on the topic.   

When we move from a culture of violence to a culture of nurturing, then we create a new reality that has space and even welcomes female pleasure but more crucially female empowerment,” the senior economics major said, “which yes, includes having more orgasms on your own terms.”

*Name has been changed.

Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of OMGYes.

Raye Weigel is a junior multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at rayanneweigel@gmail.com

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