Home Social aspects of sexuality Sexual pleasuring Sexual pleasure need not always focus on orgasm

Sexual pleasure need not always focus on orgasm

Alfred Kinsey concluded that any research that involved making subjective judgements of the emotional rewards of sex activity would make it impossible to compare individual experiences (because of personal interpretation). He chose to use responsiveness as an objective measure of sexual activity. Measuring physical phenomenon is a very natural male perspective on sexual function. Kinsey acknowledged that this quantitative approach meant that his research did not include a more qualitative assessment of sexuality.

Because of their sex drive, men naturally assume that the function of sexual activity is to focus on the genital stimulation that leads to orgasm. They assume that women respond as they do and that women seek genital stimulation above all else. But genital stimulation is only pleasurable if you are aroused and women are not aroused (enough to orgasm) with a lover. 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. Men have a natural advantage because they experience orgasm more commonly than women do. But men lose out in other ways that only women can appreciate.

Men think they’re sexual because they have an arousal cycle that ends with grunts and ejaculation of semen. But they miss the enjoyment of sensuality, the emotional pleasure, the needing and the loving, touching and caressing. It’s all over in a flash; until the next time. Women’s sexuality involves a desire to spend time with a lover enjoying affectionate companionship. When a woman loves another person, she is typically motivated to demonstrate her affection by kissing and caressing a lover’s body. She is not aroused by and so not motivated to stimulate a lover’s genitals as a man is. But if she knows that genital stimulation gives a lover pleasure, of course, she may offer it.

Sexual activity includes any behaviour that is directed towards achieving orgasm. But if we consider the person giving oral sex and the person receiving (vaginal or anal) intercourse, even though they are not aiming to orgasm themselves, we still call their behaviour sexual. The role of facilitating a lover’s orgasm is just as sexual as being the person having the orgasm. Sexual activity (alone or with a partner) can include psychological (emotional and erotic) and physical (sensual and genital) stimuli that may be delightful but that do not necessarily result in orgasm. This issue is vital in appreciating the confusion over female orgasm. Men’s easy arousal means that sexual release of pent-up drive is a priority for men. But women don’t need orgasm.

When we suggest that a couple spends some sexy time together, the inference is that they engage in genitally focused activity. We tend to define sex and sexy in the way that men understand these words, in terms of eroticism. But women can find spending time with a lover cuddled up on the sofa watching a sentimental film, very sexy. They may also be more amenable to sex after a romantic dinner. A woman does not get the same emotional fulfilment from sex that men do. But that does not mean that a woman cannot enjoy sex. A woman can appreciate many aspects of sensual pleasuring because she has no need to release sexual tension as men do.

A woman feels little physically from consensual intercourse. Sexual activity in general holds little interest given her lack of arousal. A relaxing massage may compensate a woman for being unaroused. Men tend to complain that they are bored by making effort on platonic activity that doesn’t arouse them. But this is exactly the same reason why it’s boring for women to offer intercourse. For women, quick intercourse is generally a plus. But they may sometimes miss lovemaking, romantic kissing and non-genital caressing.

A woman engages in sexual activity with a man in order to please him. She offers him an opportunity for penetration because she knows that he obtains great pleasure from the activity and it is relatively effortless for her to provide it (if he is intent on his own orgasm). A woman’s objective with a lover is to give him access to her body until he achieves orgasm. He may indulge her in a variety of foreplay but none of this activity puts an end to her willingness to offer him an opportunity for penetration. In fact, foreplay only extends a woman’s waiting time and she may prefer quick intercourse if she is not in the mood to indulge him with an opportunity to extend his own arousal.

Men approach sexual activity (alone or with a lover) already aroused and so stimulation leads to orgasm. Women are not spontaneously aroused and so stimulation is not a guarantee of orgasm. Therefore, women often engage in sex without ever having an orgasm. A woman accepts that she does not orgasm so she hopes to enjoy more general sensual pleasuring with a lover. For this, two things need to happen. First a man has to work out what keeps a woman happy outside the bedroom. This involves non-sexual intimacy and caring behaviours, including sympathetic listening, taking an interest in her concerns, demonstrating affection giving support, admiration and respect.

Secondly a couple needs to invest some time and effort in their sex life. They should plan a sex session once in a while. A man should invest in some accessories such as sex toys and porn movies. Women are embarrassed by erotic content so a man needs to be patient and willing to experiment. Movies need to have some story content to be interesting for women. On an ad hoc basis couples could also plan some quickies for variety, by changing the venue for having intercourse to the shower or outdoors, for example.

Women, more often than men, report that they find sex to be pleasurable even if they do not orgasm. … many women enjoy the intimacy that sex provides, the kissing, touching, closeness, etc. (Debby Herbenick)

Excerpt from Learn About Sexuality (ISBN 978-0956-894748)