If you’re curious about sex and sexuality, various avenues of pleasure, how to have sexual experiences that aren’t orgasm-focused, how to have and facilitate orgasms, and more, then you’re in the right place.
In this stream, sex educator Mia Little talks about pleasure, sexual intimacy, masturbation, and orgasm anarchy — “challenging the myth that sex is only a complete experience with an orgasm.”
For most of us, our sex education didn’t include anything about pleasure and orgasms. It did, however, likely include a sex-negative, cis-heteronormative view that sex is only for married people trying to reproduce. And if, god forbid, pleasure does have to enter into it, well, then — that’s for men only.
After you’re done furiously shaking your head, we can get down to business. Sex and pleasure is for people of any gender, orientation and in any relationship structure where everyone is consenting and physically and emotionally safe. Pleasure is a huge spectrum that takes on many forms: There are different types of orgasms, there’s self pleasure, sensual touch, bodily exploration, kinks and fetishes, the list goes on.
While everyone has their own definition of the orgasm, Little describes it as a “discharge of accumulated sexual excitement.” We get ideas about how orgasms are supposed to feel and what they look like from the media, porn, friends, etc. But, there’s no one way to orgasm. One of the more damaging messages we receive about the orgasm, however, is that sex is only complete after someone cums — usually the man in a heteronormative context. The idea that every sexual experience must end in orgasm creates pressure that can result in performance anxiety, as well as an orgasm gap where women in cis-hetero pairings don’t orgasm as consistently and frequently as men.
This brings us to orgasm anarchy, which teaches that sex should be centered on pleasure, not orgasm. “I want y'all to know that you can have this whole, complete experience of intimacy, of connectedness, whether it be with another human being or just with yourself — you can have that without an orgasm,” says Little. “You can also have that with orgasms.”
To experience pleasure, Little suggests practicing intimacy with yourself, whether that’s practicing mindfulness and meditation, appreciating your body and its form, or giving yourself pleasure through touch. Masturbation is a great way to figure out what brings you pleasure.
When we are experiencing pleasure, and we are wanting an orgasm, there are certain mind and body practices we can do to bring on the experience. Everybody is different, but being fully relaxed can help activate receptive feelings. Little describes the physiology of how she has penetrative orgasms: “I will start breathing in a very specific way,” she says. “And I'm clenching my pelvic floor and my core to push tension to a specific part of my body.” This can help your body receive pleasure focused in the pelvis. Of course, having a clitoral orgasm, a g-spot orgasm, a prostate orgasm, a penis orgasm, etc., all activate different sensations and parts of the body. Don’t get too focused on the mechanics, however, and try to stay present with the pleasure.
To facilitate an orgasm for a partner, go slowly and without expectation of orgasm. Again, focus on pleasure. Little suggests first masturbating with a partner to see what brings them pleasure and then to introduce those things into your interpersonal experience. Together, you can develop “a catalog of what works and what doesn’t” through lots of exploration and communication.
The things that make sex gratifying and pleasurable are different for every person. If we refocus our sexual experiences so they are not centered on the orgasm, we can be more open to a spectrum of pleasure that can ultimately be more fulfilling. So, whether you orgasm all the time, sometimes, or never doesn’t matter so much so long as you are deriving pleasure from the experiences.