Orgasm is the goal of all sexual activity

Media around sex generally assume that the point of sex is the achievement of orgasm. This can be particularly seen in broadcast media depictions of sex where sex is over once either both people involved, or one person (usually the man) has reached orgasm (See All examples are young, heterosexual, white, able-bodied & conventionally attractive couples). Sex which doesn’t end in orgasm is generally only presented in the media as a problem which needs to be fixed. Most frequently it is seen as a physical problem requiring drugs or other physical treatments.

This goal-focused representation – requiring people to have orgasms for ‘successful’ sex – contributes to the very problem that it purports to be concerned with. Perhaps the main reason that people struggle to reach orgasm is that they feel under pressure to do so (in order to be successful, or normal, or to make their partner feel good). They are therefore likely to feel anxious, creating they very situation under which it is most difficult to orgasm. Rather like falling asleep, reaching orgasm is something which is much more difficult the more you are trying to do it. Also it can be very hard to ‘give’ an orgasm to another person: often they need to stimulate themselves in some way, at least initially to show you how their body works. So depictions where one person gives another easy orgasms can result in feelings of failure. Additionally this kind of media representation excludes all the many diverse kinds of sexual practice which are possible which have different goals than orgasm, or where orgasm is a more incidental part of what happens for one or more people. Genital issues (such as not getting erections) can be a sign of medical problems such as heart disease and diabetes, so it is worth getting a check-up. However, overly ‘medicalising’ these issues fails to take account of the other – often more common – reasons that people struggle with sex, for example feeling unable to ask for the kind of sex they really want, feeling under pressure to perform, or not actually wanting sex.

It would be better if media depicted a range of physical and more psychological sexual practices, which may or may not involve one or more people reaching orgasm (see proper sex item for examples). Particularly it would be good to see examples of people having sex, not having orgasms, and still being happy with the experience. In articles and documentaries about people who want orgasms and aren’t having them, it would be good to see awareness of the ways in which performance pressure and anxiety function to make orgasm difficult, as well as suggestions for how people can tune into what really turns them on, communicate about this with partners, and enjoy sexual fantasies and activities without the pressure to get or give orgasms.

 

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