The Meaning of Orgasm (Jan, 1964)
The Meaning of Orgasm
A mechanical concentration on the production of a climax, says a leading marriage expert, can destroy the beauty of marital love. By Eustace Chesser, M.D.
Dr. Chesser, a consulting psychologist, is one of England’s leading sexologists and a founder of the Society for Sex Education and Guidance. He is the author of many books, among them “Woman and Love,” “Love Without Fear,” and “The Sexual, Marital and Family Relationships of the English Woman.”
Why do I never experience orgasm?” an anxious wife asked after two years of marriage. That same question had been asked a hundred times over. Before attempting a reply another question should be put: “Do you enjoy intercourse?”
If the answer is “Yes” there is little need to pursue the matter further. To worry about orgasm is quite unnecessary. A technical term has somehow gained currency and many of those who use it do not know what it means.
Orgasm is the name given to the climax experienced during the sex act. Unlike the climax of a man, in the woman it takes a variety of different forms. There is no single type of orgasm common to all women.
Some, of course, feel more intense pleasure than others. They may be so carried away that the intensity of the pleasure is almost painful. There may be an aggressive reaction, which is almost unendurable and results in crying out, scratching or biting. Often there is an agonized expression on the face, which is just the very opposite of a woman who is in ecstasy.
The romantic novelists can be misleading. The wife who thinks she is flattering her husband by pretending a satisfaction she does not feel will betray herself unless she realizes how she should really react and look. Only a very unsophisticated partner would be deceived by her feigned transports of delight.
In one type of orgasm the walls of the vagina suddenly contract and grip the male organ so tightly that ejaculation ensues. Simultaneous climax is profoundly gratifying, and both can then relax together. When the male climax occurs prematurely the emotional build-up in the woman is halted. Many have the tantalizing and often maddening sensation of being deprived of the goal almost within reach. There is no release of tension. The woman feels cheated, depressed, her nerves on edge, and quite likely she does not know why.
But many women are so made that they do not respond with Such a violent upsurge of feeling. They do not, as has been said, “tear a passion to tatters.” Instead of spending themselves in a brief frenzied outburst they are buoyed up by a feeling of tenderness which is diffused and main-tained. The vagina goes on contracting as gently as a sea anemone which opens softly in the moving tide.
The pleasure can be exquisitely prolonged by remaining in close union after the male climax has been reached. For her partner to withdraw abruptly means that for her the act is uncompleted. She is made to feel that her partner’s only concern was with his own gratification. Her body has been used as a mere means to a selfish end, and, the objective gained, he is no longer interested.
Such an attitude at a time when she is hypersensitive can be deeply wounding. It relegates sex to its lowest terms as a sheer bodily mechanism. A wife feels that she is not regarded as a unique personality, the one woman in the world who matters, but as little more than a convenience. Intercourse on these terms is hardly different from prostitution, except that it is not paid for in cash.
In fairness to the average man it must be admitted that he is usually quite unaware of this feminine reaction, he imagines that his partner experiences the same feeling as himself. When he is satisfied he takes it for granted that she too is satisfied.
He turns over and goes to sleep in blissful ignorance that his wife lies beside him awake and in a turmoil of unfulfilled longing. The smallest sign of tenderness and gratitude would have made all the difference. She could forgive his lack of understandingâ€”indeed, she could explain to him if he gave her an opportunity. But suddenly he seems shut away from her. He no longer wants to speak, still less to touch her, although a short while ago he was eager and almost imploring her love.
Hundreds of thousands of marriages begin to founder at this point for the lack of a simple word or gesture. Outwardly the marriage may remain intact and no one suspects that anything is wrong. The change is inward, a slow, deadly atrophy of the impulse which brought them together.
All the man may notice is that his wife is not particularly interested in sex. She complies as though it were an obligation, and they soon fall into a routine. They probably suppose that the same thing happens to most married people. They are not far wrong, yet it need not be so.
There was a moment when they could have entered a very different path. Unfortunately they took the wrong direction. If they begin to suspect that they have missed their way there is the obvious danger that they will wonder if they could do better with someone else.
In the Kinsey Report a very narrow definition of orgasm was given. This could create anxiety in the minds of many happily married people for they were made to feel they were missing something essential in their sex relations, since their own experience seemed to fall far short of what was described as orgasm.
I have often been questioned on this point. If a wife enjoys intercourse there is no real problem. It is often possible to increase the pleasure, but it is not possible to make the pleasure take precisely the same form for totally different individuals. For a woman there is no ideal standard of enjoyment to which she must conform or else admit defeat.
A little knowledge is dangerous. Instead of using and misusing a technical term like orgasm, it would be wiser to speak of sexual Satisfaction. We know that pleasure can vary in intensity. Some people go into transports of ecstasy over simple experiences that produce only mild enjoyment in others. We explain this by saying they are more emotional.
The degree of pleasure obtained in intercourse depends partly on temperament and partly on the strength of our sexual urge. To some extent we must accept our constitutional inheritance, but that is not to say we shouldn’t attempt to make the most of ourselves.
A woman who is only moderately sexed is not prevented from enjoying sex; just so long as she enjoys what she has got, she will find that’s enough. There is no need to fret because her type of pleasure is not identical with that of someone else.
It is not, for example, a question of doing some mechanical work the right or the wrong way. The kind of success that should be sought in sex is quite different, and that is why we can speak of the art of loving.
The artist, if he is worth anything, paints to please himself. He does not copy someone else. He knows there is not just one way of painting a picture, which is so right that all others are plainly wrong. The right way is that which gives him the maximum satisfaction.
So it is when we recognize that love is a form of art. one which enables us to express our personalities with greater freedom. There are no rules, no prohibitions. The test is solely the degree of mutual enjoyment.