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Intimacy Is About More than Orgasms

Intimacy Without Orgasms

My last article in the recent vibrator series was about orgasms, but I don’t feel comfortable with all the hoopla over orgasms. I also don’t think that orgasms are, or should be, the main reason we have sex, though I am a big fan. And, I know my opinion runs contrary to the media message of what defines a woman’s sexual experience. Intimacy with no orgasm is possible.

unmade bed

“Did you come?”

Reducing the act of sex to those three words transforms sexual pleasure into a quest. It creates pressure on women to “perform” and has become a sign of a man’s prowess if he can claim to “give” her an orgasm (when discussing heterosexual sex).

The Big O has become the main focus of sex, overshadowing all the other wonderful reasons we engage in intimacy.

The truth is that our bodies are capable of experiencing pleasure in many ways. By expanding the definition of sex to include other forms of sexual intimacy we can shift the primary focus from having orgasms to being more in tune with the pleasure we receive from our bodies.

I’m not saying that having an orgasm, or climax, isn’t a good thing. I’m suggesting that there is more to good sex. And, as we age it becomes imperative that we start to look at sex as more than penetrative sex/intercourse.

Is an Orgasm the Most Important Part of Sex?

There are a number of reasons to consider sex as encompassing a variety of “acts”. First of all, the number of women who reach orgasm during intercourse alone is pretty low. Most women need clitoral stimulation.

If we insist that sex is primarily an act where most women will not reach an orgasm without extra stimulation we’re reducing a woman’s access to pleasure. Placing the primary focus on intercourse is more about a man’s satisfaction than a woman’s.

And we are ignoring the fact that individuals, or couples, can still achieve pleasure without having a climax—male or female.

We also have to consider that a significant number of women have never had an orgasm. So, does that make them faulty? Does that mean they don’t feel pleasure and find satisfaction in sex? No, but the emphasis on orgasms leads to feelings of shame and causes women to feel they’re somehow less of a sexual being.

Why Can’t I Orgasm?

There are plenty of women who can’t orgasm with a partner, for a number of reasons. From childhood trauma to aging or medical issues to difficult relationships—women find their capacity for (orgasmic) pleasure is lessened. And in the quest to have an orgasm, the frustration from trying and trying is enough to deprive many women of any pleasure at all.

It’s hard to feel pleasure if you, or your partner, believe that orgasm is a goal to be achieved. When a partner bases their self-esteem or skill as a lover on our orgasm we feel extra pressure, and shame if we can’t perform.

And a third reason to revisit how we define sex is aging. Our bodies change as we go through menopause. Those of us with male partners may witness their changes in erectile function as well.

Coping with erectile dysfunction or vaginal discomfort can make traditional intercourse difficult or impossible. We can learn to find pleasure in other ways—using fingers and tongues and exploring other erogenous zones.

We learn to redefine pleasure and in the process we find that sex can last much longer, provide continual waves of pleasure. and be tailored to suit our needs, physical or emotional.

Other Options

We can use vibrators to help us orgasm, providing clitoral stimulation during intercourse, or as a sole focus.

But, what about exploring pleasure that isn’t based on achieving an orgasm? Cuddling, kissing, stroking, licking, nipple play…the possibilities for pleasure in intimacy are endless.

When we you shift the focus, drop the goal-oriented sex and set out to explore pleasurable sensations we discover that sex is immensely rewarding.

For more articles by Walker Thornton on women’s sexual health, read how to use a vibrator, sex over fifty, and changing your expectations for sex in midlife.


Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski

Wednesday 27th of September 2017

Have vibrator, will travel but that's not all there is to it, you're right.

Walker Thornton

Thursday 28th of September 2017

Exactly. I think vibrators are great--have more than a few. Thanks.

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