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Beyond OrgasmDare to Be Honest About the Sex You Really Want
By Marty Klein
Celestial ArtsCopyright © 2002 Marty Klein, Ph.D.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOrgasm-Friend or Foe?
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Orgasm: the perfect compromise between love and death.
What exactly is this experience that so many people like so much? For starters, there's the physical experience. Orgasm is a complex phenomenon with several aspects including:
* increased heart rate and breathing
* reddening of the skin, especially on the face and chest
* pelvic throbbing
* erection of the nipples and genitals
* heightened threshold of pain
* contractions of the muscles around the anus, vagina, prostate and elsewhere
Notice, by the way, that "exploding skyrockets" and "the earth moving out of its planetary orbit" are not included here.
Our brain translates these physical sensations into "pleasure." We enjoy the muscle tension and the release that follows. We enjoy the warmth that floods us, and even the fatigue that immediately follows. We like the way our attention narrows, making us oblivious to everything outside our immediate experience. This has a physical basis, too, in the body's release of neurochemicals-hormones and other substances-into the bloodstream and brain.
Everyone has orgasms early in life-during infancy, childhood, and even beforethat, in the uterus. The sexual response system is triggered by hormones. Infants and young children orgasm from involuntary dreams and voluntary self-pleasuring. All of our organs prepare, in childhood, for adult function, and our sexual response is one of those organ systems.
In a sense, everyone's body has the same orgasm, with physical responses caused by identical processes. For example, our pelvic and anal muscles spasm at the identical rate-once every 8/10 of a second. Most men (along with a very small number of women) ejaculate, spurting fluid for a few moments. That said, each of us experiences orgasm slightly differently; you may or may not be one of those people whose face flushes, whose fingers and toes clutch, whose eyes roll, whose throat produces unexpected sounds.
At the same time, orgasm is an emotional experience, a burst of subjective feelings that many people value even more than its physical sensations. This is particularly true if we come without great effort or emotional conflict.
For example, orgasm is often accompanied by a moment of complete acceptance, if not downright love, of our body. No one has a bad hair day or feels overweight (or wrinkled, skinny, or dowdy) while they're coming. Even if you have a physique that isn't conventionally beautiful, during orgasm you know just how perfect your body is. For some of us, this is the most wonderful gift on earth.
Many people also feel a profound sense of wholeness or connectedness when they come: to nature, for example, to the universe, or to God. Another way to describe this state is wholeness. We feel ourselves to be whole, and yet we also feel a part of something larger than ourselves. Orgasm is paradoxical that way.
If we come with a partner, we may feel particularly close to him or her both during and after it. We may experience a variety of feelings all at once, including gratitude, generosity, compassion, vulnerability, understanding, trust, forgiveness, surrender, and love. Partners sometimes feel certain that both of them are feeling similar things at the same time. These are some of the reasons that many people like to cuddle and remain close after they come. It isn't just the unwinding of the physical experience; it's the "afterglow" involving our emotions.
Another way to describe this experience is weightlessness, both physical and psychological. During orgasm we let go of much of what prevents connection with another person, with ourselves-because the physical sensation is so intense it crowds out anxiety, self-criticism, and body self-consciousness. When we let go of what holds us down, we can more easily connect to our erotic selves: playful, passionate, accepting, and imaginative.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could have these feelings for more than two seconds at a time? Or if we could summon these feelings without going through the physical process of orgasm itself?. There's an enormous range of erotic experiences available to us if we're willing to tune into our body, let go of our inhibitions, trust our partner, and expand our definitions of sexuality. This may very well require talking with our partners in new ways-before, during, even after being sexual together.
That's what this book is about. This book is going to help you create sex that's orgasmic even when you're not coming. So let's finish exploring orgasm. Then we'll talk about what lies beyond it, and how to get there.
Not surprisingly, there's a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about orgasm. Let's look at the most common myths about it. Remember, a myth is an idea that everyone accepts, but isn't true.
Myth #1: Orgasm is the goal of sex
Many of us aim for orgasm during sex. We single-mindedly pursue it, ignoring the subtleties and various directions lovemaking can go. When that's the case, not coming can be disappointing and even frustrating.
If this is your approach to sex, you're missing most of what sex has to offer. When you make orgasm the goal of sex, you're saying that a two-second experience is the main reason for ten minutes-or an hour, or however long you spend-of effort. What a waste of all that energy! No matter how dramatic, no orgasm can be big enough to compensate for the lack of good sex along the way. So enjoy your orgasm if and when you have it. But don't focus on it so much that you miss the context. Or else you might feel alone the second you're done, and that would be too bad.
If you're with a partner who thinks orgasm is the goal of sex, explain your perspective and invite him or her to join you in exploring alternatives.
Myth #2: Orgasm is best from intercourse
Why should our orgasms be strongest from intercourse? If you're a woman, you probably need clitoral stimulation to come, which intercourse can't offer (unless you or your partner uses a hand). If you're a man, intercourse may not provide the stimulation you prefer-your partner's vagina may be too wet, or too tight, or curved at an angle that just doesn't suit you. And the performance anxieties with which people torment themselves during intercourse can make the resulting orgasms less a thrill than a relief or disappointment.
Does it matter how you have an orgasm? For years, people have debated the "clitoral" vs. "vaginal" source of female orgasm. Some feel one is somehow more mature or womanly than the other. Well, which is more "womanly," vanilla ice cream or chocolate? Being left-handed or right-handed? It's all a matter of taste and of your body's programming.
Let's put an end to this sort of question, and restore the orgasmic focus where it belongs-on how it feels.
We even have some data about orgasmic preferences. In the 1970s, Shere Hite interviewed thousands of men and women about a range of sexual topics. One thing she found was that most people had their strongest orgasms from masturbation. The second strongest were typically during oral sex. Your experience may be different; perhaps it matches Hite's rather large sample.
Myth #3: You should inhibit yourself during orgasm
Let's be honest about this: Most of us seem a little strange during orgasm. We groan, pant, drool, fart, swear, grab, demand, even cry. Do you look or sound silly when you come? Make promises you later want to renounce? Seem not quite yourself?
That's the whole point-to lose your mind-to leave your mind, and inhabit your body while it leaves the earth for a moment. Attempting to control this process can prevent it entirely. Attempting to retain consciousness while you come is like trying to sneeze with your eyes open. It can be done, but it doesn't feel complete, and it makes you wonder what it would be like if you didn't interfere with your body's natural rhythm.
Myth #4: You owe it to your partner to climax during sex
As if the question makes perfect sense, people frequently ask me, "How else is your partner supposed to know that you're having a good time? Or that he or she is a `good lover'?"
Perhaps the best answer is that orgasm is too important to be used to validate someone else.
How should someone know you're enjoying the sex? He or she could ask you. Or look at your face, or notice how your body is reacting. Or kiss you and see how responsive you are. But some people are shy about asking, hesitant about kissing, and, well, too nervous to actually notice how you're doing. That's why they need a yardstick, something tangible to prove their adequacy or your pleasure.
What a shame. Feeling pressured to have an orgasm for someone else is a sure way to introduce self-consciousness, doubt, and resentment into a sexual situation-not to mention that it simply makes it harder to come. Try something altogether different-relax, be yourself, and just get really, really close to your lover's body and heart while you're sexual together.
If your partner "needs" your orgasm for him- or herself, you have a bigger problem than just orgasms, which you should discuss when you're not in bed. If you need your partner's orgasm in order to feel adequate, consider other ways you might get your emotional needs satisfied. Therapy might be of great benefit to you now and in future relationships.
A broader erotic vision
So what's beyond orgasm? What kind of sex are we going to talk about for the rest of this book?
For starters, we'll be talking about sexuality rather than sex. That simple distinction is a way of continually reminding ourselves that we're not just talking about intercourse, or genital sex, or orgasm, or "doing it." To really broaden our thinking and expand our minds, we need to think about eroticism in new ways.
This broader erotic vision that lies beyond orgasm may surprise you. It involves imagination, risk-taking, and a kind of intimacy that may be unfamiliar to you. This intimacy, by the way, is available in casual as well as committed relationships.
Ultimately, being yourself is absolutely critical to great sex. Ironically, this is both harder and easier to do than many people imagine. It requires no special equipment, no physical beauty or agility, no secret sexual knowledge or technique. It does, however, require that you be honest with yourself about who you really are: your interests, fantasies, past, and intentions. Once you can do that, asking for what you want and accepting it-if you get it-takes you close to the heart of great sex. When you can experiment sexually-either alone or with a partner-without fearing the loss of your relationship, self-esteem, or sense of masculinity or femininity, you're just about there. And when you can turn everything into a sex game, when everything is erotic (even emotional vulnerability), then you can't help but have great sex.
So how do you create this kind of sex? Turn the page. We'll talk about secrecy, trust, and communication. How are they connected? How do they determine the kind of sex we have?
Excerpted from Beyond Orgasm by Marty Klein Copyright © 2002 by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.