After reading Sherfey, I felt compelled to research this question: what do people believe about the female bodied orgasm? It’s been an interesting inquiry. I just finished collecting data for a brief survey which has yielded some fascinating results. Even now the data appear to support my initial suspicion about a pervasive belief: namely, that many people believe that women have an orgasmic ”point of no return” – as male bodies do – even if stimulation stops or changes, at least some of the time.
But according to Mary Jane Sherfey, this is physiologically impossible: ”It must be recalled that all women must be stimulated continuously, especially during the plateau and orgasmic phases, or the level of sexual tension will drop almost instantaneously. It must be recalled that contrary to the male’s, the female’s muscles of orgasmic response will not continue to contract involuntarily; hence an orgasm may be interrupted at any point.”
In a side note at the bottom of the page, Sherfey also says: ”The difference has not been explained. It would be interesting to determine if the same difference exists in animals, and if there is an actual difference in the neural end organs of the muscles or in the muscle fibers themselves.”
I attempted to find out more about the nature of these muscle fibers, but I suspect it will take an exhaustive search to uncover actual research, if any does exist.
Meanwhile, we’ve got an interesting situation. Most of the people (n=164) who took my survey were highly educated and a great many of them have had formal training in human sexuality and are even practitioners in the field. Even so, an astounding 64% answered “sometimes true” to a question which read: “females have a “point of no return” when an orgasm is inevitable, even if stimulation stops.”
What in the world is going on? Here we’ve got reams of sex advice on the one hand, and our own lived experiences on the other, and yet somehow we believe that a person with female genitals - and the muscle responses to match – is capable – at least sometimes – of completing orgasmic response without continued stimulation. Could it be that we are still so heavily influenced by the male concept of the "point of no return" - the inevitable ejaculation and orgasmic response - that we continue to apply those expectations to female bodies which do not have pelvic muscles which work in that manner?
I do want to say that I am not male bashing here – I think it makes perfect sense to figure that if your body has muscles that work a certain way, that other people, even those with different genitalia, probably function similarly. After all, we’ve all been hearing for years that “female sexuality” is “just as good as” or “just as powerful as” “male sexuality” and that the complex structure of the clitoris was extensive and worthy of as much respect and regard as a penis. After all, these organs develop from similar pre-natal tissues, and so on. However, equivalent value doesn't mean that all factors are precisely the same.
So – to restate my point – I think it’s reasonable that males, whose muscles contract involuntarily as orgasm appears inevitable, may feel – due to their familiarity with their own physical responses – that female bodies naturally do the same thing, somehow, somewhere, in the mysterious depths of impending orgasm. And because the average biological male in good sexual health usually finds that he can play around with changing sensations at the brink of orgasm – or even stop sensation all together – he may also tend to switch gears, or back off slightly, or change something when he perceives that a woman is about to tip over into orgasm. And then all of a sudden it’s back to square two, if not square one.
My survey results confirm the existence of this belief in the hands-off, female “point of no return” among cisgendered males and females. That women believe this too is surprising! I do know that as human beings we can do all kinds of wonderful things with our orgasmic potential – full body orgasms, multiple orgasms, creating a secret square inch of skin with incredible sensitivity, orgasming by just thinking about it, using hypnotic suggestions for pleasure, even engaging in subtle body sex. I know it’s not all biology and body parts.
However, I think Mary Jane Sherfey’s research, and the results of my survey show us an important piece of neglected sex education – one that could help a lot of lovers, average people who might like to know just a little bit more about how to please themselves and others. In my next blog, I'll talk more about the things you and your partner can do to make the most of your orgasmic potential.