Learn About Sexuality

The significance of orgasm to men and women

For older men and especially for women, arousal is not spontaneous. A woman cannot guarantee that orgasm is possible when she considers masturbation alone. She has to think about the possibility and gauge whether her state of mind is such that orgasm might be possible. Even after she has started stimulating herself or thinking about a fantasy, she may conclude that she is not sufficiently aroused to be able to orgasm. She just abandons the idea. There may be a mild sense of disappointment but there is no sexual frustration because she is not aroused enough to experience it. This is one reason why women cannot easily orgasm with a lover. They are rarely (once every few weeks or so) sufficiently aroused to be able to drum up the necessary conscious arousal for orgasm to be possible.

Men assume that because orgasm is such a vital aspect of their sexuality, it must have an equal significance for women. But male orgasm is associated with ejaculation of sperm. A woman ovulates on a monthly cycle. Her reproductive capability relies solely on her ability to attract a mate. So there is no need for her to ever have an orgasm. When we talk about a person being sexual we often talk in terms of orgasm. But orgasm only lasts for a few seconds. Orgasm is a relatively small (and optional) part of women’s sexuality. Despite their lack of responsiveness, women want to express the validity of their contribution to the sexual scenario. Men only understand connection with another human being in terms of orgasm, so women feel obliged to talk about their feelings in the same terms to have credibility.

Men are competitive and they often like to use quantitative measures of performance. Anyone who defines sexuality in terms of sexual activity culminating in orgasm, will always conclude that women have an inferior ‘performance’. The fact that women are perfectly happy being unresponsive does not occur to men. But there is an aspect of sexual pleasure that is uniquely defined by orgasm. It is the satisfaction of obtaining a sexual release, together with the muscle spasms and relaxing aftermath that go with a ‘good’ orgasm. Once again men have the advantage here because they enjoy much more frequent and powerful orgasms than women do. But men lose out in other (more emotional) ways that only women can appreciate.

Men are not motivated by orgasm (which ends their enjoyment of engaging in sexual activity) but by the rewards of intercourse. Even for men orgasm does not encapsulate all of the erotic, sensual and emotional pleasures of being sexually active with a lover. Men are aroused by the eroticism of dominant whole body contact, the breath-taking pleasure of penetration and control through thrusting.

A woman may start off wanting orgasm but over time she comes to accept that sex is a purely sensual experience. She also appreciates that her emotional state is significant because it determines her willingness to engage in sexual activity with a lover depending on the state of their relationship and her generosity. The sense of release is completely different for a man and a woman. A man has the reality of penetration and domination. He has ejaculation and the end of the sexual frustration that arises from his unrequited sex drive. A woman’s sense of release comes purely from the use of fantasy. She puts herself in the position of the male. But this is a second-hand use of imagination based on no real-life experience of being male.

She can imagine what it might be like to ejaculate as a male. All the sensations a woman feels from arousal and orgasm are likely to be considerably less than a man feels. The clitoris is only a small part of what the penis becomes. Women are not motivated by physical pleasure in the way that men are. A woman enjoys pleasant sensations but they are not so amazing that she would pay to enjoy them. So even when they know that a lover can give them pleasure they are not necessarily motivated to engage in sexual activity. A woman, who uses fantasy during masturbation, obtains a satisfaction from the idea of penetration and domination (doing something to someone else or imposing on someone else).

If a man ever experiences impotence, he can feel that life is no longer worth living. Male sexuality, specifically men’s arousal cycle, represents not only a man’s masculinity but also his emotional foothold on the world. A long-term sexual relationship fuels his ability to succeed in the otherwise emotionless world of men. Women lack men’s sex drive but also orgasm is less vital to a woman’s sense of well-being. Even when a woman does orgasm it is just a very enjoyable pleasure. It does not provide the central meaning to life. When a mature woman eventually finds a way to enjoy pleasurable sensations from being stimulated by a lover, this pleasure is much more vital to her male lover than it is to the woman herself.

Whenever physical contacts or psychologic stimuli had led to orgasm, there was rarely any doubt of the sexual nature of the situation, …. For this reason, the statistical data… have been largely concerned with the incidences and frequencies of sexual activity that led to orgasm. The procedure may have overemphasized the importance of orgasm. (Alfred Kinsey 1953)

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