By Professor Kimberly Resnick Anderson
We live in an orgasm-focused society. Orgasm is perceived as the proverbial icing on the already tasty sexual cake. Millions of women feel “gypped” or “broken” if they are unable to achieve the coveted climax. We are so invested in the notion of orgasms that “faking” orgasms is common; most women admit to having done so at some point. And, during a recent session of sex therapy in my office, a wife disclosed to her husband that she has been “faking” orgasms throughout their entire 43-year marriage.
Despite our misguided notion that orgasm is the primary reason to have sex, when it comes to women, it is no sure thing. There are many obstacles that can undermine a woman’s capacity to achieve orgasm. I will focus on five today:
1. Illness and/or medication. A wide range of illnesses, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and spinal cord injuries can damage physiologic processes necessary to achieve orgasm. These illnesses may also affect a woman’s sense of femininity, disrupting her sexual confidence.
Medication can also affect the orgasm phase of sexual response. Blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and certain psychotropic drugs can make it difficult to achieve climax. In particular, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed class of anti-depressants and certain antipsychotics, which raise prolactin levels and are common culprits of orgasm disorders. Advice: My Girlfriend Is Afraid Of Sex [VIDEO]
2. Aging. The normal aging process can also take a toll on a woman’s ability to achieve orgasm. As we age, we have fewer hormones, especially estrogen. This can affect our neurological and circulatory functioning. As estrogen levels decline, sensations in the clitoris and nipples are decreased, causing limited blood flow to the genitals. As vascular efficiency decreases, orgasm difficulties increase.
3. Cultural messages. Many of my female patients report unresolved cultural and religious beliefs that make it difficult to achieve orgasm. Negative messages about sex often become deeply ingrained, subconsciously shaping the way we allow ourselves to respond during erotic situations. “I didn’t want to be one of those ‘bad’ girls,” a 24-year-old graduate student told me. “I denied my sexuality for so long that now I can’t take it back.”
What does it mean for a woman to achieve orgasm with a partner? It means she owns her sexuality, deserves and can allow her partner to witness her in a vulnerable state. It means she knows her own body and is not dependent on her partner for sexual stimulation and gratification. It means she can comfortably communicate with her partner about her sexual expectations and preferences.
A recent article suggested a link between EQ (emotional quotient) and a woman’s capacity to achieve orgasm. The higher a woman’s EQ (the ability to identify and manage emotions of one’s self and others), the more likely she is to achieve orgasm.
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