This week we have a question (send yours via here, thanks) “If people do decide that that they want to learn to be “better” at sex… How would you advise a woman who has enjoyable sex with her (female) partners but would better like to learn how to have more reliable/reproducible orgasms. Solo and with a partner.”
Here’s our podcast (if you like it please tell your friends)
Here’s a kinda transcript/blog post of what we talked about.
First of all (after a really enthusiastic YAY) we talked about MJ’s cat Barney who was upside down and looking at us. However if you were to go over there are floof her belly she wouldn’t like it. Barney has clearly articulated her ‘yes/no/maybes’ to MJ but these are dependent on the situation. So every time we stroke Barney we should treat her as a new cat. #consent
When people talk about having “better” sex it confers the idea that sex is like an activity that we can get better at, or improve our performance about: like juggling, cooking, cycling or playing the saxophone. Unlike bikes and saxophones, different people are different at different times, and are not objects that you can work in a particular way.
So it’s a difficult thing to get better at with all women because what will work with one women, or the same woman, or with ourselves, because we are always changing. So what gets us hot one time might not work for the next time.
Trying to have better sex or having orgasms can get in the way of enjoying sex. When we look at trying to achieve an orgasm it’s like trying to play Miles Davis or climb Mont Ventoux on a bike rather than enjoying a nice bike ride or enjoying blowing through a complicated metal object.
Going in seeking an orgasm can make it a lot more difficult to have an orgasm. Trying to make them happen can make it quite frustrating. If we can start with how turned on we might be feeling at the start and following that feeling to see where it takes us, rather than trying to have sex to get to a point of orgasm then we might start to be able to enjoy sex more.
But many people think that orgasms are very important to them and get annoyed when people say to them that orgasms aren’t important. If people enter into sex with someone not caring whether they have an orgasm then that person can get very annoyed because they are selfish. However the focus of giving people an orgasm or making someone have an orgasm is also a problem because this can also be non-consensual or just making it about them proving that they are good at or “better” at sex than others.
It comes down to sex negativity and sex positivity again. It’s important to make sure that it’s not just men that are getting orgasms from heterosexual sex (because penis in vagina sex is the only sex that counts and that is often more stimulating for the penis than the vagina) and this sexism is important to address. However we also caution against making things equally bad for people by placing the same pressure on women to have orgasms as on men. That pressure can make it very difficult to experience orgasms and also can get in the way of having enjoyable sex.
Sex positivity can take us from the place of men are the only people who orgasm from sex to now everyone having this pressure to have orgasms. This pressure can now also be framed as having more, better, more intense, more real or authentic orgasms, or multiple orgasms – which might not be something that everyone wants or enjoys. As we say in last week’s podcast sex positivity can run the risk of creating more shoulds for people, and it’s the shoulds that are the problem. If we can more focus on what feels hot with someone or by ourselves and free ourselves of this pressure then we can enjoy it more.
If we focus on orgasms what we can do is to focus on those few seconds of whatever an orgasm feels like (whatever orgasms feel like to you dear listener) then we are throwing under the bus all of the seconds, minutes or even hours of pleasurable feelings in our body and/or hot thoughts in our head. As if they were just a means to an end.
If people aren’t focussed on reaching an orgasm then it might feel like a nice warm bubbling feeling for a while with a more gentle tipping over feeling at the end. Whereas someone trying trying trying to have an orgasm might start from a not very hot place but which might quickly peak in orgasm which actually may not feel that pleasurable because they haven’t spent much time in the warm bubbling place.
When we start trying to work our bodies like bikes or saxophones then we can get quite frustrated with ourselves for not being able to make ourselves work in the way that we should. This can then lead to really self-critical feelings which can be a real passion killer and can mean that we stop enjoying ourselves. We could be worried about what the other person might think about us not having had an orgasm and criticise ourselves for not having orgasmed yet. We could also be self-critical about a quick wank that is now taking ages and eating into time that we should be using more productively. That kind of thing.
So the key is (we think) instead of trying to have an orgasm try to tune into what is hot; either what feels nice in your body, or hot thoughts, or both. You may have an orgasm this way but if you don’t then at least you’ve spent that time having hot thoughts and feelings. There’s a lot to be said for spending time enjoying feeling lots of mid-level kinds of thoughts and feelings too. And some people will deliberately keep themselves on the edge of an orgasm (edging) or get someone else close to an orgasm but not allow them to have one (consensually).
We also think that we need to decouple ‘climaxes’ or ‘endings’ from orgasms. Sex doesn’t have to end with orgasms and we don’t have to feel like we’ve failed if we’ve had sex and no-one has orgasmed. There are lots of different kinds of climax and this is something that a lot of kinksters have discovered. Sometimes scenes might end with tears, or laughter, or there’s a storyline that comes to an end, or a particular kind of complicated sex act that can be accomplished then these can all act as a climax. And not all sex has to have a climax either – things don’t have to build to a crescendo like ‘A Day In The Life’. Sex can just slowly tail off or fade out.
All of this advice is for people struggling with orgasms but we also think it would be useful advice for people who are not struggling with them. If you’re the kind of person that can have these reliable/reproducible orgasms every time (like someone who can knock one out in 2 minutes) then you may sometimes feel that it’s getting a bit stale. So spend a bit of time not trying to have an orgasm and instead focus on these warm or hot feelings and try to enjoy those. This might open up a whole new set of sensations, thoughts and feelings for you. You could try different kinds of breathing, different kinds of touch, different thoughts.
Also if you are able to slow down and pay attention you may start finding that the nature of your orgasms is different each time. Even to the point where you start to question ‘what even is an orgasm’ to you. This goes for either ends of the spectrum, where there might be low-key pleasant feelings that might result in something resembling an orgasm. However at the other end you might be experiencing such hot feelings for a long period of time that you might not even be sure how to describe it. What even is an orgasm?
Another thing we need to decouple is that orgasms are not the same as ejaculation – for all bodies. This may be true for many folk. However, many people can ejaculate but not feel orgasms and many people can have orgasms but not ejaculate. If you stick to a rigid script of trying to have what a ‘real orgasm’ should be then you may feel like you really should be ejaculating, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that you or another person is orgasming. It’s not a sign of an authentic orgasm. And of course it creates a lot more pressure, a lot more shoulds, which can make orgasm even harder.
There are lots of different kinds of orgasms too: braingasms, coregasms, breathgasms. Just because they don’t involve touching genitals (or any kind of touch) doesn’t make them not orgasms. In fact ‘science’ has proven this by showing that pictures of people’s brains having different kinds of orgasms all look the same. Though at this point we’re all side eye at this kind of lab coat sexology which completely ignores the cultural contexts for sex. We critique this over at badsexmediabingo.com
Also, maybe you don’t have to have orgasms? Maybe, if you really tune into yourself you might find that actually you don’t want them and don’t enjoy them but the whole idea of an orgasm something you feel you should do. There may be many asexual folk who have been in this position of trying to have orgasms but really struggling with them. Or having orgasms but not enjoying them, as for many people they can be unpleasant, overwhelming or scary. The really important thing here is to treat yourself consensually and not make yourself do a thing if it turns out that it’s not your thing.
At this point Justin giggles when MJ calls this podcast a show/programme. Turns out Justin has confidence problems and MJ is totally owning the term. Like when they compared us both to John and Paul.
There’s tons about this in our book Enjoy Sex (How, When and IF You Want To). It’s available from these shops Amazon – Foyles – Waterstones – WHSmiths (currently 30% off) and your good local independent book shop. Please could you help us get the word out about the book by leaving a review?
© Meg-John Barker & Justin Hancock, 2017