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Naming the Feeling of Orgasm

Mastering the Mystery of Orgasm Series – Week 1

What is an orgasm and what does it feel like? What happens when the body takes over in ecstatic release? How do we live in that body and conjure the moments that resemble a kind of grace that is bestowed? We know we didn’t make something happen so much as let something happen in us. Anais Nin once described her orgasm like this: “Electric flesh-arrows ... traversing the body. A rainbow of color strikes the eyelids. A foam of music falls over the ears….”

What words would you use?

This month, we are going to dive deep into the mystery of orgasm, learning about its physiology, wondering about the space of surrender, and hopefully approaching our desire with more curiosity and openness. It is a challenge to think about anything for which we have limited language or experience. Too many sexual conversations proliferate in video content on PornHub, but never make it into our own bedrooms. Expanding our capacity for our own unique, mysterious orgasmic experience is less a vicarious experience than it is an internal exploration.

To begin, let's consider the word orgasm, derived from the Greek word orga which means explosion, which aptly captures the burst of pleasure and sometimes parallel release of pain, bliss, or a total emotional and physical release. The French knowingly call the experience le petit mort, or small death, because the moment of orgasm creates such a complete letting go that the brain center that controls anxiety and fear is literally switched off. Take this as a first essential guide post on the journey ahead – that orgasmic release cannot arise in a brain that is distracted with anxiety or fear.

One helpful way to approach orgasm is to realize that yours are as unique as your fingerprints. Said another way, no one else will travel exactly the same path towards orgasm or have the same release as you will. Which brings us back to where we began. What colors, sensations, images, visceral twitches, maybe even painful releases have occurred when you let go completely into your orgasm? Take some of this open time to consider making lists, even mental ones, of what kind of mental, visual, auditory sensual stimulation, and intensity contributed to your orgasm.

Because our individual orgasmic experience is often unpredictable and overwhelming, many among us don’t have any concrete ideas or ability to language our experience. Interestingly, research shows that our confusion about our orgasmic experience goes both ways. Some women claim having an orgasm, but show no bodily response; while other women who do have classic physiological responses like vaginal contractions and heart racing believe that nothing has happened. The modern mythology, now inundated by pornographic imagery of orgasm, looms so large that many of us are not even sure how to identify our own.

This seems the best place to begin the journey.

Make a list of what you know about your own arousal and orgasmic response since the first time you can remember. The exercise of naming what happened to you will help you learn to recreate and enlarge it.