Vaginal orgasm remains a myth

By Rebecca Zukowski

Flickr/Transillumination

During the 19th century, Sigmund Freud contributed to the budding conversation surrounding female sexuality by claiming that women became sexual because they were frustrated due to an absence of a penis.

Freud argued that clitoral orgasms were an adolescent sensation, and once women had matured they experienced vaginal orgasms, according to “Social Representations of Female Orgasm” by Maya Lavie-Ajayi and Hélène Joffe. For many years, orgasm was only seen as necessary or acceptable for women by the three major religions, only if a woman was married and trying to conceive a child, according to M.H. Colson in “Female Orgasm: Myths, Facts and Controversies.”

Although these viewpoints are no longer common, there is still a warped sense of what is acceptable when it comes to women’s sexuality in modern day America. Regardless of the many scientific contributions to the discourse of sexual experiences, myths still persist, and one of those is the vaginal orgasm.

According to Colson, a woman’s initial orgasm is always triggered by arousal of the external genital organs. However, society is still fixated on a vaginal orgasm that is appearing to not exist. One of the first scientific studies surrounding female sexuality, performed by Alfred Kinsey in 1953, suggested that the clitoris played an important role in female sexual pleasure. Lavie-Ajayi points out how modern studies authenticate the notion that the clitoris is the primary source for triggering an orgasm. These mythical vaginal orgasms are apparently much rarer than the pornography scene would like to let on.

Women are displayed all over pornography as achieving enormously pleasing vaginal orgasms from simple penetration. This depiction of orgasm gives men the wrong idea about what is pleasurable to their partner. In addition to men receiving the wrong message, women are put in a bad position as well. These animated adult-film stars are seen achieving great levels of pleasure, based on a scripted and fake experience – but many women do not realize that. Women watch or hear about these films, and potentially ask themselves, “Why does this not happen for me?”

Research points to the vaginal orgasm phenomenon as being increasingly false, but hardly anyone is talking about that fact.

Most women cannot experience a simple vaginal orgasm, but believe they are missing out on a common sexual pleasure thanks to the media’s contribution to the sexual scene. Women who cannot achieve vaginal orgasm report being concerned about their emotional health, and being seen as introverted or not open to new experiences, according to Colson. These thoughts have potential to weigh heavily on women in a society that stresses the importance of their orgasm to men, according to Lavie-Ajayi and Joffe. From every angle, sexuality is seen as a means of attracting, getting and keeping a man.

Lavie-Ajayi explained that women feel their orgasms are important to men, and believe their inability to achieve orgasm can be seen as a flaw. This feeling of inferiority subordinates a woman’s real pleasure in sexual activities, putting the pressure on to work hard, or even to fake a climax. The necessity to please a man does not leave much room for concern about experiencing actual pleasure for oneself, at least not with a partner present. Although the implied burden is there for women, some actions are being taken to discredit this myth and relieve the stress.

In 1972, Cosmopolitan magazine wrote about sexual pleasure being a woman’s right, as well as a means to discover oneself. This magazine was quickly picked up by the female market it targeted and gave some hope that women would be more assertive in the bedroom. The downside to these “empowering” articles is that many still look at sex as being about relationship preservation, pleasing a man and enhancing ones sexual availability, according to Lavie-Ajayi and Joffe. Most headlining articles relate back to what men like in the bedroom and how to “blow his mind,” so to speak. Although the sentiment was there in 1972, nothing spectacular was achieved.

It is impossible to say at what age Americans will stop believing in the myth of the vaginal orgasm, much like how children grow up to stop believing in the Easter bunny. Women need to educate themselves on sexual activity, what provides them with pleasure and what does not. If women do not play an active part in the dialogue regarding their orgasms, much of their troubles will continue.

Without caring partners who are concerned with what is pleasurable, and the safety and freedom to discuss these things without being labeled a slut, no progress can be made. Society needs the cry for equal orgasm opportunity to be heard around the world, and this can not be done using a passive approach.

Rebecca Zukowski can be reached at [email protected].