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How Orgasms Work

        Health | Sexuality

The Big No
Roughly 30 percent of men and women have encountered anorgasmia.
Roughly 30 percent of men and women have encountered anorgasmia.
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For the record, orgasms aren't explicitly required in order for people to enjoy sex. Consider, for instance, the small group of female Temple University students who said that faking orgasms enhanced their arousal [source: Welsh]. They probably weren't just putting on a happy face for researchers, because as much as orgasms are a symphony of purely physiological responses, people's states of mind play a first-chair role as well [source: Mah and Binik]. Moreover, it's helpful to remember the strong correlation between partner emotional intimacy and sexual satisfaction; healthier relationships predict happier sexual outlooks, regardless of whether partners orgasm each time [source: Kinsey Institute].

Nevertheless, sexual culture has long prized the orgasm as the pinnacle of pleasure, but many women especially have never reached those heights. Indeed, 10 to 15 percent of adult females haven't experienced an orgasm, thus meeting the clinical definition of primary orgasmic dysfunction, also known as anorgasmia. Even more -- 33 to 50 percent -- wish they could climax more often [source: MedlinePlus]. Although female sexual dysfunction is more readily pathologized, women aren't alone in feeling frustrated in the bedroom. Up to 31 percent of men also report sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation [source: WebMD].

Hormonal imbalances, chronic disease and medications, such as antidepressants, certainly sap people's sex drives, but orgasmic dysfunction is highly treatable [source: MedlinePlus]. To alleviate the anxiety associated with sexual contact, therapists may initially recommend patients get to know themselves first [source: Thomas]. By practicing solo masturbation, people suffering from anorgasmia may better understand the specific physical and mental prompting their bodies desire. Also, in relationships, sexual dissatisfaction may be symptomatic of a lack of communication, rather than a lack of physiological potential. For instance, psychologists at the University of Utah compared communication styles among couples that were and weren't dealing with anorgasmia; those struggling in the bedroom were the most uncomfortable discussing sex and enumerating intimate needs to partners [source: Kelly, Strassberg and Turner].

In that light, we shouldn't fret the possibility of not finding an orgasm; that happens to almost everyone at some point. What deserves more attention and relish, in the end perhaps, is the mental and physical duet that ushers us toward that final, toe-curling cymbal clash.


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