Have I got your attention now?
[Apologies to my offspring. If you don’t want to suffer through details of your parents’ sex lives, probably best you stop reading now.]
Orgasm is defined in the Meriam-Webster online dictionary as:
intense or paroxysmal excitement; especially: the rapid pleasurable release of neuromuscular tensions at the height of sexual arousal that is usually accompanied by the ejaculation of semen in the male and by vaginal contractions in the female
Honestly – they couldn’t make it sound less sexy if they tried. Do lexicographers actually have sex? The urban dictionary says:
The meaning of life. And… That awesome feeling between sex and having to go pee. Good sex leads to a good orgasm which makes you wanna go pee.
Clearly there are things this old duck still needs to learn. And apparently female orgasm is:
Often dismissed as a myth, much like the unicorn or healthy fast food, the female orgasm does in fact exist. It just takes a little skill and effort to make this elusive event appear, but most men (or women) just can’t put forth the effort.
Female orgasm = real
Three Toed Platypi = Myth
[In preparation for this blog post, I searched the internet for facts and became mesmerised by the things I don’t know about orgasm after all these years. If you want completely irrelevant and unexpected information about orgasm, try this TED talk. ]
Mystery, ignorance and a shroud of secrecy still accompanies many societal expectations of sex – a fundamental biological need in the animal kingdom. While sex without orgasm happens all the time, there’s an expectation frequently put on ourselves – or partners – that climax is essential. Which is why so many women fake it. If you ask the next woman you bump into about orgasm, a lively conversation may very well ensue.
From my own conversations with friends (and strangers) I’ve learned a lot of us are over sex, while others yearn for the deep emotional connection sexual encounters can offer. Not to mention the “intense or paroxysmal excitement” if you’re fortunate enough to have an orgasm. But I believe as we get older, the emotional connection is vastly more important for a lot of us, and it isn’t dependent on the final orgasmic hooray.
There are lots of reasons women – and men – might experience anorgasmia.
I’m only going to talk about one – because it’s the one that affects me. Medication. Specifically, SNRI anti-depressant medication. All medication has an effect – that’s why we prefer prescriptions to placebos. Side effects are unwanted consequences of medication and when we treat conditions pharmacologically, we weigh the pros and cons of our options. I’ve been on my current anti-depressant two years. At the lowest dose I struggled with orgasm, and at my current dose it is an impossibility.
[Before I go any further, I want to definitively state this has nothing to do with “technique” and isn’t about good or bad sex. It is categorically a side effect of medication.]
I won’t bamboozle anyone with how and why medications cause this particular effect, but it’s well researched and documented. Trust me. Orgasm has become a physical impossibility. In the same way a deaf person won’t complain about the volume of my teenager’s doof-doof music, my body doesn’t have the capacity to transmit the appropriate messages at the appropriate time and no amount of effort will get me over the line.
So is sex worth bothering about?
If I was single, I wouldn’t care. Without the big finale I can’t be bothered. But I’m not single. I’ve been married 25 years and there are two of us in this relationship. Sex is an important part of intimacy between couples but what constitutes healthy and normal varies for all of us.
Currently my husband and I have mismatched desires. Or to articulate that more clearly – he wants sex and I don’t. I recognise it’s an important part of our relationship so we set the time aside anyway. Regardless of sexual dysfunction, plenty of men and women have limited or non-existent libido – I’m no Robinson Crusoe here. There are also loads of people who never orgasm during sex, but can move the earth, moon and stars all by themselves. And they still enjoy sex despite the absence of a finale. I know this, because I’ve asked around. A lot. The frustration with anorgasmia, is climbing to the heady heights of swanky swirling and never dissolving into la petite mort. There’s no sating of the desire. And as my sex kitten days are now more like sex slug, finding desire is a monumental effort.
[To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a sex kitten… Maybe a sex panda once upon a time.]
The mismatched sexual desires and detonations in our marriage, means I need to weigh the pros and cons of an anti-depressant versus my husband’s needs. We both agree at this stage my sanity is more important than firing my rockets. We could choose not to indulge in afternoon delights at all, but we also agree sex offers important intimacy for both of us. I have of course discussed this with medical professionals who look across their desks at me very sympathetically, then reassuringly say it’s common and might get better with time.
I’m currently trialing a new medication for insomnia, but is also touted as having the potential to counteract adverse sexual side effects. This new miracle drug is also an anti-depressant (and I can’t for the life of me establish which class of anti-depressant). The sedation effect is immediate but in order to discover if it will counter sexual dysfunction, I need to be on it at least a month for the appropriate changes in the brain to take place. I’ve now taken it four nights. The first three were wonderful – my body was completely relaxed, I didn’t wake at all during the night, slept solidly for 8-10 hours, and woke feeling rested. These things never happen for me. I was so happy! Last night my sleep was broken but not bad, but now I notice a tremor in my hands and manic moods during the day. It’s feasible this miracle will be short lived – countering the side effect of my first medication, but presenting more significant problems.
Which brings me back to weighing the pros and cons of which pills to pop.
For now, doing the deed remains an important part of our relationship, and we both accept I won’t be left quivering with the after delights of a raucous tsunami. Perhaps one day I’ll once again dip my toes into those tantalising waters, but sex is about so much more than a shuddering conclusion. For us, it’s about mutual respect and intimacy – not just oscillating the unmentionables.
[Thanks to Thought Catalog for all the entertaining euphemisms. I’m sure the journalist in charge had a Schnoodlypoopingtime with that article.]