Searching for a Unified Theory of Orgasm: Part Three

Clarisse Thorn continues her journey toward a fulfilling sex life.

This is the third post in a four-part series from Clarisse Thorn that we’ll be posting over the next two weeks. It’s divided up into eight sections, and we’ll be posting two at a time. You can check out Clarisse’s original post, in its entirety, at her personal site.

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V. Men’s Perspective

The gendered societal pressures that affect men are worth discussing, and worth analyzing, and I often do just that. There is undeniable pressure on men to “perform” sexually, for example. I try to have sympathy for men who feel this pressure — but it is difficult sometimes, because its major effect on my life has been to silence me. To make me feel as though I couldn’t ask for anything sexually. As though I couldn’t express my needs without hurting my boyfriend’s feelings or making him angry.

And even now, when I talk about this stuff, I am as vague as I possibly can be about the exact timeline. The last thing I want is for people who know me to read this and know exactly when I started having orgasms. I don’t want anyone to know exactly which partners “couldn’t perform”. Because I know those men might feel it as a social punishment, and as much as I hate the dynamics at work, I can’t hate the men who were part of them. They had their own social anxieties and their own blind spots and if I didn’t understand what was wrong, how could they?

I recently had dinner with a former partner. At one point we found ourselves having a very explicit conversation, and I mentioned that I’ve figured out how to come. He looked sad and apologized: “I’m sorry I was never able to get you there.” I had no idea what to say.

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VI. S&M, Redux

I finally came into my BDSM identity around age 20. At first, when I was faced with the fact that I wanted to be hurt until I cried and begged for mercy, I freaked out. I had no idea what to do about BDSM, no idea how to feel about it. The only thing I knew for sure was that I’d found something I really needed. But what did that mean for me, when I was also trying hard to be an independent, rational feminist with self-esteem and integrity?

It took me years to parse out my thoughts on feminism and BDSM, to feel comfortable with BDSM, and to talk openly and comfortably about it. During that process, I got better and better at finding partners who were interested in my sexual desires and willing to experiment. I also got to the point of reading sexuality advice books on my own, including books specifically on BDSM (I recommend The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy; here are some other resources).

And I gritted my teeth, forced down my anxiety, and looked into books about the female orgasm.

One book that came highly recommended from Amazon.com was Lonnie Barbach’s For Yourself. By the time I was halfway through the first chapter, I was crying because what she wrote felt so true. At the end of the first chapter, I put it down and was never able to pick it up again. Barbach wrote compassionately about experiences very similar to mine — for instance: [Are you afraid to talk to your partner about your problem] because you’re embarrassed to ask for what you want at a particular time; afraid your partner will refuse, get angry, or feel emasculated?

But she also ended the first chapter this way: You have to assume responsibility and be somewhat assertive. Our culture has taught us that a woman should depend on a man to take care of her, which means she can blame him for any mistakes. It’s nice to be driven around in a car, but it’s also nice to be able to drive yourself so you can go where you want to, when you want to. But to do that, you’d have to assume some responsibility.

It was the same “let go” and “keep trying” advice I’d been coming across for years, except that now it was wrapped up in a nice package of assumptions about me: implications that I wasn’t assuming responsibility or being assertive. I felt like she was telling me that I chose to depend on a man to take care of me.

Maybe it would have been okay if the rest of the chapter hadn’t been so miserably true, but the combination of reading a bunch of truth about how I was feeling — then being told that I wasn’t trying hard enough, that I was choosing to avoid responsibility …. It was toxic.

I also had the bright idea of asking my gynecologist. The doctor rolled her eyes as I spoke, then told me that the problem was obviously my partners. When I insisted that I needed more guidance, she referred me to a center that gave orgasmic dysfunction “evaluations” at $1,500.00 a pop. I was earning $7.50 per hour at the time. I didn’t go.

I got up my nerve and talked to my mother, who had been extremely helpful and caring when I came out to her about BDSM. During the BDSM conversation, I’d been scared — then I felt immense relief as Mom told me that there was nothing wrong with me, and reassured me that I wasn’t “giving up my liberation”. When it came to orgasms, though, she seemed unsure of what to say. She did at least tell me that she, too, couldn’t come easily, which made me feel a little better.

Most helpful was the therapist I found on the Kink Aware Professionals list — a list of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who believe they understand alternative sexualities such as BDSM. I tried one therapist who didn’t seem to get it, but the second therapist I saw was wonderful. He helped me through an enormous amount of my BDSM anxiety. The orgasm problem was thornier, but he didn’t make any assumptions, and he did listen carefully, which was more than most people did.

My therapist gently encouraged me to get a second opinion about my how my body worked, from a new gynecologist. Irrationally, I didn’t. I suppose I still felt crushed by how the first gynecologist had reacted. I also hoped I’d learn to come as I explored BDSM more — which turned out to be true.

Read the full, original post here.

—Photo AlannaRalph/Flickr

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About Clarisse Thorn

Clarisse Thorn is a feminist sex writer who has given workshops all over the USA. She wrote a book about masculinity, dating dynamics, and sex theory called Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser; she’s also got a best-of collection called The S&M Feminist. Recently, she released an anthology about sexual assault in virtual worlds called Violation: Rape In Gaming. Clarisse has also explored fiction with short stories like The End Of An Age: A Ramayana. To stay up-to-date with Clarisse’s work, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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  3. [...] [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ] /* post_widget("#but1"); Filed Under: Sex & Relationships Tagged With: B&D, BDSM, clarisse thorn, masturbation, orgasm, S&M, Sex and Relationships, sex education, sexual identity, sexual orientation, vaginal pain About Clarisse ThornClarisse Thorn is a feminist sex writer who has given workshops all over the USA. She wrote a book about masculinity, dating dynamics, and sex theory called Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser; she's also got a best-of collection called The S&M Feminist. Recently, she released an anthology about sexual assault in virtual worlds called Violation: Rape In Gaming. Clarisse has even explored fiction, with short stories like The End Of An Age: A Ramayana. To stay up-to-date with Clarisse's work, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter. [...]

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