People assume that consensual sexual sex is good if someone has an orgasm. Researchers have found that consensual sexual behavior can lead to orgasm, according to a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They called these kinds of experiences “bad orgasm experiences.”
The study also found that having orgasms in consensual sexual sex does not necessarily indicate that the sex is wanted, that the orgasm was desired, that the person was aroused, or that the sexual experience was pleasant.
Participants described three types of sexual experiences in which they experienced an orgasm:
- After being coerced by a partner into having unwanted sex (the authors call this coerced orgasm, but clarify that it was still consensual).
- After agreeing to have sex, having an orgasm (the authors called this compliant sex; participants had previously classified it as consensual).
- Feeling pressured to have an oral orgasm, or putting pressure on yourself or your partner to have one.
Although it may seem as though the experience was positive if they orgasmed, many people describe these experiences negatively even though the orgasm took place.
What could be worse than orgasm? Evidence shows that orgasm experiences can be very unpleasant.
Terms that the participants used to describe their experiences included “hollow and mechanical,” “irritating and uncomfortable,” “not a good experience” and “mental torture,” among others.
The overwhelming majority of participants reported that they found the orgasms during the encounter less pleasurable or not at all enjoyable than those in other, non-pressured encounters. For example, many participants stated that the pressured orgasm felt “weaker” or “dull,” like a physical response with no associated pleasurable sensations, and/or physically the same but emotionally less pleasurable.
Bad orgasm experiences also had negative effects on participants’ relationships, sexuality and psychological health. This was often because participants felt that having an orgasm invalidated their negative emotions, encouraged partners’ problematic behavior and/or led their partner to dismiss the participant’s expressed concerns. For example, one participant who brought up issues with a partner’s sexual conduct said that their partner responded by saying, “You enjoyed it, didn’t you?” as if the orgasm overrode the partner’s problematic behavior.
It is important to identify
Participants suggested that negative orgasm experiences were often exacerbated by stereotypes and expectations about their identities. For example, women felt pressured to orgasm in order to bolster men’s egos, and men reported feeling pressured to orgasm during every sexual encounter in order to fulfill masculinity stereotypes.
Additionally, bisexual participants reported feeling that they had to orgasm with partners of different genders to “prove” their bisexuality. Participants who were transgender and/or non-binary claimed that orgasms can trigger gender identity conflict. Some participants refer to this as gender dysphoria. However, for others, it can lead to unwanted orgasms or being forced to orgasm.
What Can We Draw Conclusions From?
Clearly, bad orgasm experiences were related to coercion, compliance, and/or orgasm pressure in ways that were contextualized by people’s relationships to identity stereotypes and experiences. The results of this study together send a clear message: Orgasm during consensual sexual sex is not always enjoyable, contrary to popular belief.
However, having an orgasm does NOT mean that it was enjoyable. Or that the negative feelings or experiences of the orgasm partner no longer matter. Additionally, people’s identity and their experiences can create additional pressures that can lead to an unpleasant orgasm experience.
In conclusion, it can be problematic and dangerous to assume that “orgasm” always means sexual desire. Sexual partners should communicate their concerns and desires even when orgasm occurs because orgasm does not necessarily mean that the sex was wanted, arousal was present, or that the experience overall was “good.”