Orgasm is a very obvious event for most people with penises. At the moment of orgasm, stuff shoots out of their body. Penis-owners don’t have to wonder if that was an orgasm or not, or where it originated. It just IS, indubitably, as conspicuous as a neon sign over the bed: “You came!”
Clits are more circumspect, their orgasms more assorted. There’s an ambiguity in the orgasms of a clit. Ask women to describe their orgasm and the answers are a menu of sensation, as varied as ice cream flavors. Witness a handful of women having orgasms and you’ll wonder how they can all be called the same thing. Some women get very still, with no more than the ripple of a shudder through their body. Some women make no noise, some moan, some whimper, some scream. Some thrash about, some barely move, some practically convulse. It may last a moment, or minutes. Some women immediately need to have all stimulation stop… some woman roll right into the next wave of feeling and another climax. The researchers list the symptoms: elevated heart rate, flushed faced, a series of rhythmic contractions in the vagina, the uterus and the pelvic floor muscles. But they also say that not all women show all these signs all the time, and even in one individual it can differ from one to the next. Women say their individual orgasms can be very different – some big, some small, some they aren’t even sure if it was one or not.
And so one really has to wonder how there can be such an emphasis on this one monolithic thing An Orgasm as if it is undeniably there or not there, like a pregnancy. Where one can’t be sort of pregnant, one can certainly have a “sort of” orgasm.
But you’d never know that from the way people talk about it. Browse around the internet for advice on having an orgasm and it is invariably framed as black/white, yes/no. Have you had one or not? Did you have one or not?
For any woman who questions her subjective experience, the ubiquitous answer is “if you have to ask, then you probably haven’t.” I mean to dismantle this harmful piece of folk wisdom. It’s just not true that if you doubt whether you are having an orgasm, then you must not be.
There are women who think they aren’t orgasming, and they are. There are women who aren’t sure that the sexual response they are having qualifies as orgasmic, and assume they, therefore, aren’t orgasming, because they’ve been told so many time – “oh, you’ll know!”
There are women that think so much about whether they are going to finally, this time, have an orgasm, that they don’t notice the climax they have. There are women who judge and doubt and hold their climax up to inspection and find them wanting. I did that to my climaxes for a lot of years, until I finally began to see my see my orgasm, acknowledge it, love it for what it was and accept it, nourish it with awareness and help it grow into a robust orgasmic response.
If you feel like your orgasm is ambiguous, start by thinking about your “pleasure peak.” Were there moments in the experience that you would call a pleasure peak? Just start noticing those and appreciating them, and let go of needing the label for a little while.
Let’s stop feeling inadequate if our climax doesn’t wake the neighbors, merge us with the universe, or turn us into a butterfly.