It was the umami of sensations; the gallon-of-water-after-roaming-the-desert-for-a-week of emotions. It was the delectably plump tomato; the favorite Beyoncé song; the sparkling fireworks over a blue sea; the soft cheek-grazing breeze; the warm blanket over the shoulders of experiences. It was the ultimate, joyous collision of all the delightful feelings that a body would crave at any given time, and it was the single most satisfying and gleeful few minutes of my 20 years of life. The first time I had an orgasm with another person, I swear I was floating.
Alright, I admit that this is all pretty dramatic for one, like, five-minute span of time passed in a twin XL dorm bed. Orgasms happen all the time (especially for someone like me who is certainly not one to skimp on the self love), and that they feel really good is kind of the whole point of them, so what makes this one, measly orgasm so special? Among other things, this orgasm was a stand-out because it was the first time another person had made it happen. This is especially shocking upon noting that this orgasm came (wink) nearly three whole years after the first time I had sex.
I’ve never been good at asking for what I want in bed, or being assertive and communicative about what feels good and what doesn’t feel as good, because I suffer from the lack of confidence and self-assurance characteristic of many sexually active women. There has always been a voice in the back of my head that demands my silence during sex, unless it’s an expression of pleasure--in which case, this voice convinces me, it should be exaggerated and amplified. Instead of being an active receiver of and partaker in the sexual activity, I grew accustomed to passivity for the sake of convincing my partners (all men up to the point of this historic orgasm, AKA historgasm) that I was thoroughly enjoying whatever it was that they were doing; allowing things to happen to me instead of with me or for me; allowing my body to be an object of their pleasure instead of my own. Junior year of college, I started dating a boy with whom this all began to change.
As much as he was committed to his own sexual pleasure (totally fair), he loved me and showed me what it meant to have a partner who was attentive and comforting. The more intimate we became, the more comfortable I was with him and with my own body--a confidence issue that I still struggle with to this day, and with which I anticipate struggling for basically all of eternity--which meant that I was slowly able to dictate what it was that I needed in order to feel as good as possible. When I had that first orgasm with him, it was so earth-shatteringly satisfying in part because it was a sign of personal growth. He had spent a lot of time taking care of my body, and I had been more straightforward with my own needs, being more specific about where to touch, how to touch it, for how long, etc.
A lot of factors influence an orgasm, a pattern that has been proven particularly true for women. The likelihood of reaching an orgasm can be affected by the environment, the emotional exchange, insecurities about one’s own body or sexual performance, outside distraction, and so many other factors that can be difficult to control in a sexual setting, so finally reaching one can feel like a major accomplishment--I don’t want to imply, however, that orgasms necessarily have to be the end goal of any sexual encounter, because they don’t, but I certainly enjoy them and pursue them when I can. They also often take a lot more effort on behalf of the partner, particularly if that partner has a penis, than is generally shown or alluded to in media representations of sex and orgasms. Most women and people with vaginas are not physically constructed in a manner that is conducive to penetrative orgasms. This means that foreplay, including some good oral sex and finger action that prioritizes clitoral and various vulvic stimulations, are actually necessary components of sex for most vagina-havers who want to orgasm--something you would never know if you learned about sex only from mainstream media (and unfortunately, because of the state of our sex education system in the U.S., most of us kind of did). This means that a whole lot of intimacy and communication, then, are also necessary for orgasms, which can be a challenging task for a sexually active person with a lot of insecurity, such as myself.
A lesson that I learned from this momentous sexual release over a year ago was that the rarity of my orgasms is a problem. Of course, some people just have a hard time orgasming for medical and biological reasons, but I know from personal experience that I’m not orgasm-averse. The orgasm is there, waiting to be had, but it needs to be treated like the tender little plant that it is: it must be patiently tended to and given lots of warmth and wetness, and getting a little to a lot dirty is to be expected. The partner who first brought me to orgasm helped me visualize the kind of future partner that I deserve to have--whose presence is calming, who knows how to listen and how to ask, and who cares about my pleasure as much as their o-o-o-ohhhhh-own. Ah, equal opportunity orgasms. So satisfying.
Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes