Guilt and shame in sex
For men who want to know more about female sexuality and satisfying their partners during intercourse (especially if she doesn't reach orgasm easily)
Guilt and shame in sex
Adequacy in relation to sexual behavior and activity is a comparatively recent concept. This concept of sexual inadequacy in its application to both sexes has tended to replace to a large extent the guilt which the transgression of religious and moral sex laws promoted, by shame.
Though good old-fashioned guilt, which induces feelings of sinfulness, still has an influence on sexual behavior and performance, the shame which sexual inadequacy produces is an even more potent factor in our practical sex-lives.
As the influence of religion dwindles and sexual morality becomes adjusted to our new attitudes towards sexual behavior, so sexual shame will become more and more predominant, and the sexual inadequacy from which it derives will play an even more prominent role in our sex-lives.
While in all we do we measure our worthiness not by how morally or religiously good we are, but by the success we achieve in the various compartments of our lives, so shame and its twin, sexual inadequacy, will dominate our emotional and physical expression of sex.
Shame and sexual inadequacy have already invaded the realms of, and are strongly influencing, women's response to sex to an almost comparative extent that they regulate the man's sexual responsiveness.
Where the man defines adequacy as the capacity to obtain a potent erection and sustain it long enough to allow the woman to achieve orgasm, the woman defines adequacy, not in terms of tumescence - the swelling of her vaginal lips and the erection of nipples and clitoris - and time, but by her knowing how she might reach orgasm during sexual intercourse or even being able to reach orgasm at all.
An anorgasmic woman is now regarded as being sexually inadequate by most people - just as the as the impotent or partially impotent man is. Though I do receive a number of emails from men complaining of their partner's anorgasmia, I receive far more letters from women asking why I can't reach orgasm during sex.
And it is significant, I think, that when it is the men who are complaining, they nearly always do so in the terms: 'I can't bring my wife or partner to orgasm.' Not, "my wife can't reach orgasm whatever I do", but "I can't bring her off whatever I do". The man is still equating his partner's lack of orgasmic response with his own sexual prowess; in other words, he is blaming his own sexual inadequacy for her lack of orgasmic ability. And this wrong assessment is creating greatly enhanced sex difficulties.
How should a man react to his partner's anorgasmia?
Well, it seems from our research that
more men than women still decide when the penis shall be put into the
vagina, and that none of these men ask the woman if she is ready for the
final phase of lovemaking. This discovery is shocking, because
(2) When this is decided, does the woman feel that she is at the threshold of the point-of-no-return? In other words, would she reach orgasm within seconds if the sexual stimulation were continued?
When the answer to question 1 is "the man", the answer to question 2 is almost always "I would like stimulation to continue a little longer." In these cases I tell the couple that the woman is not pseudo-frigid at all, but the victim of a poor sex play technique.
I stress that the man must not put his penis into the vagina until the woman indicates she is ready, and that the woman must not give this indication until she is actually about to reach orgasm.
Nor is it simply a matter of the man getting his penis into the vagina. Whatever position is being used, the penis must be inserted with the least possible delay. This is made necessary by the fact that the woman's arousal sensations fall off very rapidly once sex play clitoral stimulation stops, and if there is a longish delay while the man fumbles about trying to get his cock in the right place, by the time he is in she may have fallen right back to the beginning of her arousal.
Then, unless he can keep his thrusting movement going for thirty minutes or more without ejaculating, he will never be able to bring her to orgasm.
This will only apply in delayed ejaculation, where a man has little or no ability to come during intercourse, or ejaculate during sex. This requires treatment since neither partner reaches satisfaction, and the woman in particular may often be sore and frustrated after an hour of more of her partner trying to reach orgasm through thrusting in her vagina during intercourse.
As soon as the decision to couple has been taken, the woman should immediately reach down with both hands, draw the vaginal lips apart with two or three fingers, and with a finger of each hand should guide the penis to the vagina entrance. (In the rear-entry sex positions, of course, the man is so poised that he can guide his penis to the vaginal entrance himself.)
If by the time his cock has got in place the woman's arousal has dropped considerably, it is absolutely essential that she should tell her partner, and he must then apply finger-clitoral stimulation while still inside her, until she reaches the point-of-no-return again.
Personally, I think it should be a rule that whenever a position for having sex allows easy access to the clitoris, the man should always continue finger-clitoral stimulation even if the woman is very highly sexually aroused when they have sex.
She can be brought to multiple orgasm in this way, for, except in a small number of women, the clitoris, unlike the penis tip, does not become excessively sensitive to touch.
I have also had cases which have proved to be not anorgasmia but poor sexual skills on the man's part. In such cases the woman nearly always complains that she takes a very long time to reach orgasm, even though her partner is a skilful lover.
More often than not, she has no standard by which to judge whether or not he is a skilful lover.
Because he has a variety of caresses, can delay his own progress towards ejaculation for a long time and does not hurry over foreplay, she decides he must be a skilful lover. Unfortunately, he also almost invariably regards himself as a skilful lover too.
In point of fact, he may be actually an unskillful lover, despite his knowing the erogenous zones which produce sexual arousal when caressed, and does indeed caress them.
It is all very well to describe the sensitive zones and the caresses to which they respond, but unless everyone realizes that these are merely general observations and general indications, no one is going to get the maximum benefit.
Sexually each of us is an individual. We may respond to caresses of the generally recognized sensitive zones, but nearly every single one of us has a personal sensitive zone to which we respond more intensely than to our general sensitive zones, or alternatively, one special kind of caress in one of the general sensitive zones may call forth a highly intense response, or we may respond most intensely to a special caress in our personal sensitive zone.
But whatever our preferences are, our partners are most unlikely to discover them of their own accord, however skilful lovers they may be. We have to tell them what we want them to do precisely, and precisely where.
As in all other aspects of sex, to be really completely successful lovers we must communicate about practical matters like caresses.
Quite a number of partners of pseudo-frigid women write to ask if masturbation can be the cause. In rare cases masturbation can cause anorgasmia.
But it is not the physical technique that is causing the trouble; for example, squeezing the thighs together is fairly common among women masturbators, and may lead to them only being able to reach orgasm this way.
The parallel is Traumatic Masturbatory Syndrome in men. Generally, though, the influence of masturbation on anorgasmia is, in fact, psychological. Some women masturbate and can only reach orgasm if they relive the experience of their first masturbation.
One woman related how, in her teens, from her bedroom window she overlooked the bathroom, and one day in summer her elder brother, on coming in from tennis, went for a shower.
The bathroom window was open, and probably not realizing that he could be seen he did not close it. Quite by chance she was sitting by the window of her bedroom and the movement in the bathroom caught her attention.
She had not seen her brother naked since he was twelve or so, and had never seen a penis in the flesh before. Fascinated, she watched him drying himself. When he had finished drying, he began to stimulate himself, and more fascinated than ever, she could not take her eyes from him.
Though she did not know what he was doing, she became aware that she was strangely excited, and as his hand moved faster over his. penis, she squeezed her thighs together, and presently became conscious of extraordinary sensations, which she had not experienced before, and which mounted to an orgasm, leaving her flushed and breathless.
That night in bed, she visualized the bathroom scene again, and as she did so realized that she was squeezing her thighs together and was inducing the same sensations she had experienced before. The following morning she repeated the process, doing so several times a day over the next week or two.
Every time she visualized her brother masturbating, and when she tried later to masturbate without the aid of the visualization, she found that no matter how tightly she squeezed her thighs together, she could not induce the orgasm sensations, let alone reach orgasm.
So each time she masturbated she had to project the picture of her brother in her mind. When she did learn that what she was doing was masturbating, and that other girls did so by stimulating the clitoris with a finger, she attempted that method.
She found, however, that no matter how long she stimulated herself in that way, she could not reach orgasm. In fact, the only way she could bring herself off was by squeezing her thighs together and visualizing her brother masturbating.
For nearly twenty years this has been the only way in which she has been able to get relief from her sexual tension.
For her purposes her brother has ceased to be her brother and has become a good looking seventeen year old boy. Never once has she achieved orgasm with a penis in the vagina, or, for that matter, by any stimulation technique any partner has applied to her.
She came to me because psychotherapy had failed. For some months she had been making love with a man of her own age, for whom she had developed sincere feelings of love. This was probably the first time in her life that she had genuinely and whole-heartedly fallen in love and yet she was unable to orgasm during sex, despite the fact that he really was an experienced and skilful lover.
She was also intelligent enough to realize that if her lover discovered that he was not bringing her to orgasm, it would upset him very much, and she was afraid it might affect his responses to their fucking, landing him with psychological issues too.
Because she had faked her female orgasm successfully so far, she was anxious lest one day he would find out that she never really had an orgasm and discover he did not, in fact, know how to make her come; and in any case, she desperately wanted to orgasm while they were having sex.
I suggested that she ought to undergo another course of psychotherapy. She was not very keen on this, because of her previous experience, and asked me if I could not think of some way of getting her to function normally. Psychotherapy is the recognized treatment for removing psychological blocks which inhibit normal sexual functioning.
In a number of cases where psychotherapy has failed I have found that a practical application succeeds. It is absolutely essential that the vicious circle in which most psychological blocks affecting sexual function revolve should be broken.
Sometimes if the circle can be broken just once, everything thenceforward operates normally; but in other cases it may be a little time before this happens, and so patience on the part of the 'patient' and adviser is a first requirement. I started by suggesting that they watch some erotic Tantra video together.
This certainly helped to sexually arouse both of them, and got them talking about sex!
As I saw this particular case, the young woman had two psychological blocks which had to be removed: one, her inability to reach orgasm by any other method of masturbation except by squeezing her thighs together; two, her inability to reach orgasm except by masturbation.
I decided to concentrate first on getting her to orgasm by some other method of masturbation, and suggested the use of a vibrator, as there are not many women who do not respond with orgasm to this method of stimulation.
Even with this she had some difficulty. If her partner used the vibrator she reached orgasm, but if she used it herself, she did not.
As soon as she began to approach orgasm she would move the vibrator away. We eventually overcame that by getting her to hold the vibrator while her hand was held firmly in place so that she could not take it away when the sensations mounted.
Once that was achieved, it was not long before she could masturbate by finger-stimulation of the clitoris.
However, she could never reach orgasm by any method of masturbation unless she visualized her brother masturbating in the bathroom.
We then went on to try to remove the second block. This proved rather more difficult. A suggestion that after the penis had been put in her she should close her legs and squeeze her thighs together almost did the trick, but not quite. This was largely due to the fact she resisted the idea of fantasizing about her brother while being fucked by her lover.
The only way in which we might succeed, I thought, was if we could somehow substitute the teenage brother - who, since the brother was now over forty and very different from the seven teen-year-old in physique and appearance, was by this time a fantasy figure - by the lover.
The only way in which I thought this might be done was if she observed him masturbating in the bathroom in somewhat similar conditions to those under which she had observed her brother masturbating that summer afternoon.
This meant that the co-operation of her lover was necessary, and, as I have said earlier, she had insisted that he should not be told of her difficulty in case it gave him feelings of sexual inadequacy and affected his performance.
However, I did eventually manage to persuade her that he could be told without this risk, if she would let me do the telling. The major obstacle confronting us was to reconstruct as closely as possible the conditions of the original incident.
Even if we found a bathroom overlooked by a bedroom window, how on earth were we going to explain matters to the tenant of the house in order to persuade him to let us use it? The problem was insurmountable, it seemed.
It was the lover who solved the problem in the end. He realized that one of the bedrooms in the flat faced the bathroom, and that if both doors were left open anyone in the bedroom could observe what was going on in the bathroom.
It seemed worth a try, and to foster the illusion as much as possible he mocked up a window in a brick wall, and placed it in the open doorway of the bathroom.
I was doubtful whether it would succeed, but fortunately my doubts proved groundless, and she was subsequently able to replace the fantasy brother with the fantasy of the lover, and by visualizing the scene of the lover in the bathroom while they are having sex she is able to achieve orgasm.
The only snag that may be involved is that I doubt very much whether she will be able to make love to orgasm now with any man but her lover; but as they are very much in love, I hope this will not have to be put to the test.
Now, this could not have been achieved but for the patience and sympathetic understanding of the partner. Some men would have undoubtedly jibbed at being required to masturbate knowing that they were being observed, even though the voyeuse was the partner.
This young man, however, did not hesitate, and it was his ready compliance in my view which was one of the major factors in the success of the undertaking. And this brings me to perhaps the most important thing the partner of an anorgasmic woman can do.
He must be prepared to co-operate fully in any program of treatment advised. He must make sure that he understands fully what the problem is, and he must be patient, sympathetic and encouraging.
When the 'patient' wants to give up, he must insist, firmly but kindly, that she does not. He must not expect any miraculously speedy results, and he must be prepared to dispel any depression in the patient that a dishearteningly long period of treatment will undoubtedly cause from time to time.
In fact, it is essential that he should understand the importance of his role, which is, put bluntly, that success or failure will largely depend, not on his sexual adequacy, but on his strength as a prop for his partner's sexual inadequacy. He must try to transfer his own sexual confidence to her.
Probably in no case of anorgasmia can he play a more positive part than in those cases where the anorgasmia is caused by an exaggerated interpretation of feminine modesty. A very large number of cases of anorgasmia result from the fact that the woman cannot let herself go sexually because she feels that to do so would make her appear immodest, wanton, unladylike.
Because, in the past, women were taught that men were the sexual aggressors to whose demands they had to submit, many conceived the notion that if they showed any interest in sexual activity they would be betraying the traditional feminine role.
While content to be used so that their partner could be sexually satisfied, they expected him to treat them with respect, to do nothing which would affront their modesty. Just to have to lie there, to receive his penis and to have him bucking about on top of them was affront enough; but to have him fingering, licking or sucking the clitoris, and especially to submit to his demands for fellatio, or to fucking in rear-entry positions was particularly degrading.
But though marital duty made them bound to submit to such demands, they could retain their self-respect by refusing to co-operate fully, i.e. by letting themselves reach orgasm. In other words, they were withholding themselves from sex - and incidentally from their partners - purely to bolster their exaggerated sense of feminine modesty.
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the attitudes towards the woman's role in sex have changed considerably, there are still a large number of women (far more, I think, than is generally appreciated) who cling to the old concept of feminine modesty as the ideal of feminine sexuality.
But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that a couple can do with one another sexually in the privacy of their home that can be depraved or can degrade either partner if both are willing to participate, and there is no good reason why they should not participate.
Somehow or other, when the woman attempts to operate her sex-life on the basis of exaggerated modesty, the man must find some way of coaxing her out of it. This is not easy, because she must not be forced into doing something against her will, for that will only lead to further trouble.
The man will know his partner well enough to know whether a direct approach or a more subtle one will be the best one; in other words, he will either come right out with what he would like them to do, or by slow, subtle suggestion and action on his part, lead her gradually up to it.
Two suggestions that are often found to be effective are these: words written on a website or printed in a book are more likely to be accepted by many women than any number of arguments put forward verbally by the partner; the use of the persuasive, 'Try it just once, please, just because you love me!' The latter is quite justifiable since, in my experience at any rate, once it is established that the act, whatever it may be, is pleasurable, the woman wonders why she made all the fuss.
I admit that the man is confronted by quite a task, but patience and cunning, directness or subtlety, according to the psychological make-up of the woman, and above all kindness, can overcome anorgasmia resulting from excess modesty. More difficult, perhaps, is overcoming the anorgasmia caused by the woman's determination to achieve full sexual gratification.
Such women are not inhibited by considerations of modesty, nor by a sense of guilt. They are quite prepared to do everything and anything suggested by the partner. Yet they rarely reach orgasm - in some cases never.
It is their excessive determination which is preventing them from having a really satisfying orgasm. Trying too hard, instead of relaxing and just letting it happen, does not work. But the difficulty in persuading them that they are failing because they are trying too hard presents quite a challenge, because such women are the victims of our old enemy, sexual shame.
They are also the victims of believing that the sexually successful woman responds to lovemaking with unfailing orgasm, sometimes simultaneously with her partner, or, with multiple orgasms. She must be a sexually successful woman, otherwise she cannot claim to be successful as a woman.
(She is like the man who is a failure as a lover unless he can bring off his partner every time they make love.) She does not mind what she has to do to achieve this success, nor how she must act and react so long as she reaches orgasm.
It is this 'how' that is her great stumbling-block to achieving the success she is pursuing. When she is making love, she concentrates on how she can arouse herself sexually and how she can most intensely respond to her partner's arousal techniques. To make things even more complicated, however, this how, which if acted upon at face value ought to have the desired effect, is in fact masking the real motive of all her efforts:
"I must have an orgasm because my best friend Helen never fails to reach orgasm every time", 'I must have as many orgasms as possible, at least as many as Helen, because I can't bear to think she is a more successful woman than me', 'I must make the bells ring and the lights flash when I reach orgasm, because Helen says she always does, and if it happens to Helen I've got to make it happen to me.'
It scarcely needs me to point out that because her mind, which controls her sexual responses, is clogged with her fierce competition with all the women she knows it cannot concentrate on providing her with the success she so desperately needs. While lovemaking, the mind should be clear of all other subjects so that it can apply itself as completely as possible to arousing the body to the achievement of the physical ecstasy which is the expression of emotional love, which, in turn, is the main reason for lovemaking.
A little further consideration of this particular situation reveals, of course, that we have once again come up against the 'vicious circle'. The woman who is determined to be successful fails because she concentrates more on avoiding failure than on achieving success. It is the fear of failure that creates the failure. That's especially true around premature ejaculation - which is easily overcome - find out the best methods to extend the duration of sexual intercourse here and develop greater ejaculatory control.
Here again, the partner, in my view, is the person to overcome this type of induced anorgasmia. He must convince her that because he loves her she should be wanting to succeed for him rather than wanting to put one over on Helen. Who the heck cares how often other women reach orgasm?
It is her response to his love, which he is trying to express through sex with her, that is the important thing. She should concentrate on making them both happy.
And what does it matter if she doesn't always reach orgasm, so long as she has been happy enough during sex? Reaching orgasm - or not - is a matter between partners; there are no competitors.
Finally, then, if a man takes the trouble to acquire the knowledge of sexual techniques, and learns the idiosyncrasies of his partner's body and sexual needs, he should not accuse himself of inadequacy if his partner fails to reach orgasm, whatever he does. He must accept the fact that she is responsible for her orgasm; there are very few anorgasmic women who cannot learn how to have an orgasm; there are even fewer who do not respond to the right treatment.