Facts About Anatomy that Your Clients Need (Part 2)

Last week, I shared some useful facts about anatomy that your clients are likely to benefit from. This week, I’m back with more–this time focusing on orgasm and ejaculation for people with penises.

  • Many people with a penis can have more than one orgasm (with ejaculation) in a day. Some can have more than one orgasm/ejaculation in a sex session. If your client is distressed about reaching orgasm “too quickly,” they should know that for many, this is a possibility!
  • It is also possible to separate the orgasm from the ejaculation, and have LOTS of orgasms before ejaculating. This is an interesting mindfulness project involving awareness of levels of arousal, and there are a couple of very good books about it if you know someone with a penis who would like to explore this: The Multi-Orgasmic Man, by Mantak Chia and Douglas Abrams, 1996, and Male Multiple Orgasm, by Somraj Pokras, 2007.
  • Sometimes people use numbing agents in an attempt to avoid ejaculating “too quickly.” I’d never recommend this, as numbing agents don’t promote pleasure. They can also be passed to the partner, which completely defeats the purpose.

You may have a client who struggles with shame or embarrassment about ejaculating too quickly, or too slowly. Anxiety about sexual “performance” is very common, and anything you can do to lower anxiety and decrease any sense of “performing” will be very helpful. Focusing on intimate connection with pleasure, rather than penetration or orgasm, is an important part of lowering anxiety about sex. Normalize the fact that there is no rule book about how to have sex “right”, and that there are many ways to explore pleasure besides PIV. I’ve written many times on this blog before about building a flexible sexual relationship that doesn’t collapse when things don’t go as planned. You can read more about that here:

When Sex Doesn’t Go As Planned

Unscripting Sex for More Connection and Pleasure

Flexibility is the Key to a Satisfying Sex Life

Unscripting Sex For More Connection and Pleasure

You may have heard me use the term “scripted sex” or “linear model of sex” before. By “scripted” or “linear” I mean a concept of sex that follows a widely-accepted progression: first base, second base, third base, home.

You could add more bases, but, according to the model of scripted sex, if you are having a “good” sexual interaction, you’re moving forward from one base to another. What I mean when I say scripted sex is what most people think of as just “sex.” But in my opinion, the model of scripted sex creates a lot of mischief and bad feelings.

The scripted model of sex labels most sexual activities “foreplay,” and accepts only PIV (penis in vagina penetration) as “sex.” This means that a lot of people feel really bad or broken if they can’t have PIV or don’t want to have PIV–even though there are a whole lot of sexual activities, besides PIV, that generate pleasure and connection between partners and have the potential to lead to orgasm.

These words and ways of thinking about sex are very linear and very restrictive. They don’t leave any room for unique experiences, varying function, and perfectly normal differences between people.

What if all pleasurable sexual activities ranked the same? You could make a mutual decision in the moment about what activity you want to participate in. You could feel free to shift between activities according to what you each want or would find pleasurable in each unique moment. No meaning would be made about how things unfolded. “No PIV? Fine! What shall we do instead?”

This improvisational way of experiencing sex is more workable than the linear way in about a million ways. But it does still present some challenges. It requires some kind of verbal or non-verbal communication of desires and preferences in the moment. It also requires an ability to be flexible about expectations, and not make negative meaning about how things unfold.

For example, the scripted model creates problems when one partner wants to go from “third base” to “first base” (which is what I call downshifting). According to the scripted model, you’re supposed to go “forward”, not “backward,”–which means that people often experience a lot of negative emotions and meaning-making when their partners ask for a downshift.

“Did I do something wrong?” “Does my partner still find me attractive?” “Am I bad at (whatever activity you were just doing)?” “Am I taking too long?” These are just a few examples of very common fears that tend to rear their ugly heads when we have expectations about what sex “should” involve and how it “should” progress.

Does this ring true with your experience? Can you think of a moment when your partner asked for a downshift? What meaning did you make of it in the moment? Can you think of a moment when you asked for a downshift, and your partner made negative meaning out of the moment?

For many people, the possibility of a negative reaction to downshifting means that they hold back from expressing their preferences in the moment, for fear of hurting their partner’s feelings. But hiding your real feelings and desires during sex is a recipe for disconnection, and over time can result in diminished sexual desire overall.

A better solution is to recognize that downshifting isn’t going backwards; it is just a change of subject. If you embrace flexibility and subject changes as ways of exploring what feels best for you and your partner in the moment, rather than seeing it as a sign of failure, it can mean more connection and more pleasure, not less.

Flexibility is the Key to a Satisfying Sex Life

Most female-bodied people don’t orgasm from penetration alone and require some kind of clitoral stimulation. But sadly, it’s all too common for a female partner to believe that there’s something wrong with her because she’s not experiencing orgasm when she has penetrative sex with her partner–when in fact the only issue is that they’re not incorporating the activities and sensations that are most likely to bring her to orgasm.

When you’re working with a couple in this boat, a good start is to use psychoeducation to try and halt the negative meaning-making. Make sure they know that most people with clitorises require 20 or more minutes of direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. Also, of course, everyone’s body is different, and it can take some experimentation and creativity to figure out what feels best, and what kinds of stimulation are likely to lead to orgasm. If it isn’t easy to reach orgasm, orgasm doesn’t happen at all, or if orgasm doesn’t happen with penetration, nobody has failed. Only about 30% of women reach orgasm from just penetration, so there is really no reason to expect it. And it is always possible to shake up the sexual repertoire a bit to incorporate activities that involve more clitoral stimulation, with or without penetration at the same time.

One of the most effective remedies for orgasm difficulties is to work a bit of self-pleasure into the picture, alone and together. It is often much easier to reach orgasm from self-stimulation, and it can be a very sexy addition to partner sex. So could going to a sex toy shop, in person or online, and investigating vibrators and other toys, lingerie, or erotic literature.  Oral sex and hand-to-genital sex are both very effective ways to experience pleasure, and reach orgasm if desired.

A happy sex life requires flexibility and openness, and often a hefty dose of vulnerability. This is where things get challenging for many couples. They will need to build skill at being forthright about what feels good and what doesn’t, and get good at holding steady through the discomfort that often comes with intimate disclosures. They will have to be willing to switch up activities during sex, and accept that things won’t always go as planned. These are the kinds of relational challenges that call upon couples to grow emotionally, get curious and creative, and focus on having some fun rather than focusing on outcomes like orgasm, or penetration. It can be a challenging process, but the reward is not just better sex, but a stronger relationship. And the learning curve can include having a lot of fun!