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Anorgasmia, the impossibility of reaching ecstasy

August 8 was International Female Orgasm Day. However, many women are unable to achieve it, and not for physical reasons: it is the orgasmic gender gap, which is rooted in psychological issues, ignorance of the body and even cultural expectations

Orgasmo
A woman enjoying herself in bed.kamisoka (Getty Images)

Men and women come into the world with the essential toolkit for life — but not for society, which is the human interpretation of existence, and it is full of additives, sweeteners, artificial substances and preservatives. When depressive people feel that life is meaningless, they undoubtedly mean society. The same thing happens in sexual matters: we are all perfectly equipped for pleasure, but sometimes we are unable to access it. It is like trying to find a file in your computer which, although you know is there, has no desktop shortcut, and you just cannot locate the folder that contains it.

The case of female anorgasmia is similar. Healthy women, with their genitals and clitoris in perfect condition and with no history of sexual trauma, do not reach climax. A recent study by The Journal of Sexual Medicine states that 42% of women in the United States do not experience orgasms. What is not working? Is it their bodies or their minds, or is the environment the problem?

First let’s rule out the organic causes, which do exist, but are not the most frequent. “There are certain pathologies and drugs that can hinder orgasmic discharge,” says Francisca Molero, a gynecologist, sexologist, director of the Ibero-American Institute of Sexology and president of the Spanish Federation of Sexology Societies. “This would include those that affect mental health, neurological, vascular, neuroendocrine and metabolic diseases, and even those that affect the musculoskeletal level. The most frequent are anxiety, depression and their treatments; pathologies that compromise arousal, such as hypertension, diabetes or those related to pelvic or genital pain; and, of course, pathologies of the pelvic floor, a very important structure when it comes to feeling genital sensations.”

The body is the vehicle that takes us to pleasure thanks to the motor and psychomotor learning that develops from birth and allows us to experience the bodily intensities from which emotions and pleasure come. This development is physiological, prior to the cognitive capacities that enable us to do many things such as speaking. Thus, not knowing how the body works is another of the most common and basic causes of anorgasmia.

“In the past, the prevailing morality penalized self-exploration and sensuality,” explains Molero. “The new generations, fortunately, have not been subjected to this, but there is still a lot of ignorance and people are very impatient. There are women who only reach orgasm through masturbation and in a very specific way, which complicates things when they’re with someone. Others use the vibrator as a shortcut and avoid exploring themselves further, acknowledging sensations and enjoying the ride. Or they do it without desire. And some have such high expectations regarding what an orgasm should be that, when they experience it, they don’t acknowledge it as such. People used to say that if someone wasn’t sure if they had had orgasms or not, then they had not. But in consultation we see that this possibility exists,” points out the gynecologist.

We are heads that, most of the time, carry an anatomy, without worrying much about what happens below the neck. Still, we aspire to reach ecstasy in record time. Elena Capello is a psychologist at the CEPSIM Psychology Center in Madrid, Spain, who treats, among other things, problems of anorgasmia. “Having a good relationship with one’s body is essential for good sex. On one hand, some people are dissatisfied with their physique for aesthetic reasons, because it doesn’t meet a canon of beauty that is constantly demanded,” she points out, “but, regardless of this condition, most people are highly disconnected from their body. They didn’t teach us to dialogue with it, to listen to it, to recognize the stimuli it sends, to know when we are excited or when we feel desire. We only take care of our body when there’s a disease, and physical education doesn’t go beyond a series of sports that are designed to compete.”

A couple having sex.
A couple having sex.Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy (Getty Images)

Focusing on the body more than necessary has always been punished; exploring yourself went from being a sin to being a cause of shame. “Some women who find it difficult to reach orgasm say that, as children, they were caught by a family member while they were touching themselves or looking at themselves in the mirror, which made them feel a lot of shame. It is like a small trauma that remained there and that is an obstacle for pleasure that has to be worked on,” says Francisca Molero.

The body is the object of study of Sexocorporel, a sexological approach created by Jean-Yves Desjardins (1931-2011) and which starts from the premise that everything that happens in our physiology is correlated to the cognitive emotions. Claude Roux-Deslandes is a doctor, sexologist and disciple of Desjardins who lives in France, where she puts into practice and teaches the principles of this discipline. To understand the question at hand, Deslandes explains that we must distinguish between orgasmic discharge and orgastic discharge. “With the orgastic discharge, the threshold of arousal and sexual tension required for orgasm is reached mechanically, but emotion and cognition are lacking,” says Roux-Deslandes. “Therefore, the proper arousal curve is reached, but there is no orgasm, as more elements are needed for it to occur. This is what happens, for example, to rape victims. Their bodies respond to stimuli, and they can experience an orgastic discharge, but due to the trauma they are experiencing, they do not reach orgasm.”

Roux-Deslandes talks about the verbs of eroticism that must be used and conjugated in order to experience the variety of orgasmic sensations: “To reach orgasm, one must know how to use the body with its laws, as in all body arts, in a certain way, because everything is physiological, and body and mind are closely connected. There are women who know how to do this naturally, but others must learn, or relearn, if they blocked it due to trauma. You have to know how to breathe and, above all, exhale (synonymous with letting go). You have to know how to move the pelvis in a certain way, especially playing with the pelvic scale, and that the movement reaches the shoulders and head. You have to combine slow and fast rhythms, and you have to use the five senses to eroticize the body. Laughter also helps a lot because when we laugh, or cry, we are letting go of emotions. Above all, you have to get used to playing with your body,” says the French sexologist. Knowing how to use the body, we heal the mind — and vice versa, because problems are reflected in both areas, which are closely linked. This is why the approach to anorgasmia is almost always multidisciplinary.

Another aspect that has to be taken into account regarding this disorder has to do with attachments. “To simplify it, we call attachment to how secure or insecure one feels in any type of relationship with another person,” points out Elena Capello, “and we learn that in the family. There are secure and insecure attachments, which are three: avoidant, typical of people who find it difficult to socialize, who avoid showing themselves and connecting with others to avert danger. The second is the anxious or ambivalent one, experienced by those who need others but don’t quite trust them and, therefore, are constantly looking for signs of their loyalty. Disorganized attachment is the kind shown by those who have suffered violence in their childhood. They learned that social relationships imply abuse, and they live in fear, but at the same time they need them. A woman who built an insecure attachment in her childhood due to the environment in which she grew up, will have a harder time trusting her partner, letting herself go, opening up to the other, losing control — requirements very much in line with the conquest of the coveted orgasm,” says Capello.

In fact, if there is a word that is opposed, by nature, to pleasure and ecstasy, it is “control.” And if there is an anorgasmic personality profile par excellence, it is that of a controlling, self-demanding, rational woman with little connection to her own body. In this sense, social models can be quite restrictive; from the women who were supposed to remain virginal and pure until marriage in the days of our parents and grandparents, to the superwoman who must excel in all areas of life: work, economic, family, social and sexual.

“I have been working in a center for more than forty years,” says Roux-Deslandes, “and lately I see that young women are at risk of not letting go. They are given more and more responsibility in the sexual relationship. On the matter of consent, for example — which is fine and essential in an encounter — they feel that they are the ones who must handle this issue, make sure there are no sexist or violent behaviors. There may be women who can balance this task with letting go, but for many it means being alert and not losing control at any time. I believe that this aspect, which is so necessary, has been poorly explained to the new generations.”

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