The Myth Of The Male Orgasm

The Myth of the Male Orgasm

My friend Alex's "first time" story is rather typical: equal parts awkwardness and pleasure finishing with a big, faked orgasm.

"At some point I realized that as pleasant as the sensation was, this particular stroking motion from intercourse wasn't going to lead me to an orgasm," Alex explains. "So when it seemed like the right time, I grimaced, made some appropriate noises, and no one was the wiser."

What makes this story atypical is that Alex is a man.

That men reach orgasm easily and definitely whereas women work long and hard to get there (if they get there at all) is a myth, according to sex educator Carol Queen, director of San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture.

"Some women can get turned on and come just as quickly as any man; and plenty of men take a long time to get aroused enough to go forward with direct genital contact, need extra sources of mental or physical stimulation to get that turned on, and have difficulty achieving orgasm during partnered sex," Queen says.

Sexual responsiveness between partners varies for reasons ranging from skill and technique to psychology and anatomy. I have been in sexual relationships with men in which I could readily climax through vaginal intercourse, but I also had a long-term relationship with a partner — I'll call him Eddie — whose anatomy and mine rarely conspired to bring either of us to orgasm the old fashioned way.

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For women, the inability to climax during intercourse is now widely accepted as "normal," but according to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychological Association's bible, my ex-boyfriend Eddie would be characterized as having a classifiable disorder known as Male Orgasmic Dysfunction, defined as an inability to climax "despite adequate sexual desire and arousal."

The manual cites the case of a man called "The Professor" as a typical example of this dysfunction: "He had no trouble in attaining and maintaining an erection and no difficulties in stimulating his partner to her orgasm, but he could never be stimulated himself to ejaculation, and would finally give up in boredom. He has always been able to reach ejaculation by masturbation, which he does about twice a week; but he has never been willing to let a partner masturbate him to orgasm."

And there, pun intended, is the rub, or rather the lack thereof. Perhaps the real dysfunction here is the shame that prevents the professor from sharing masturbation with a partner. Which is exactly how Eddie and I dealt with our poor pelvic fit. Where thrusting failed, fingers came in quite handy; we had twenty between us, after all.

To complicate matters further, Queen likes to point out the second great myth of the male orgasm: the assumption that ejaculation equals orgasm.

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"In fact, orgasm and ejaculation are two different things," she says. "Orgasm is the peak of sensation, centered in the brain, but often felt as genitally-focused, that often comes with a series of pleasurable muscle contractions. It is often accompanied by ejaculation, but some guys ejaculate almost as a reflex, without that erotic peak of feeling, while some men can feel that peak or climax sensation, sometimes more than once, and never ejaculate."

I watched a live demo of an ejaculation-free male orgasm during a tantric massage class. The accompany shuddering and flushing made the orgasm unmistakable, yet it indeed produced no fluid. What's more, it happened while the subject was at, shall we say, no more than half mast. It was an impressive demonstration to say the least, and made me wonder if men experience "event-free" orgasms of the kind Queen describes without notice.

My friend Alex felt a great deal of anxiety about his inability to climax during intercourse, which persisted for years. Instead of just continuing to "fake it," Alex looked for other ways to express himself with a partner. This led him to discover a broader range of experiences and sensations — including, eventually, plenty of partnered orgasms. In time, he even found himself occasionally climaxing during intercourse, "but by then it no longer seemed like such a big deal."

"The experience made me a better lover," Alex says. Now in his forties, Alex is that rare guy who can hang with the girls and discuss the virtues of the Hitachi Magic Wand vs. the Rabbit without blushing. You may laugh, but name-dropping the latest model vibrator has to be one of the greatest "sensitive guy" pickup strategies ever invented.