Orgasm-Free Casual Sex: We've Cum So Far, Yet So Infrequently

Research, articles, ubiquitous workshops on the female orgasm all speak to the "orgasm gap," the relative difficulty among women, compared to men, in achieving climax. And research, and articles and let's be honest, personal experience all speak to the prevalence of casual sex. But what does casual sex mean, given this orgasmically bleak landscape. In other words, what's the point of having a purely physical sexual encounter, if you don't have an orgasm? Is it worth it to "jump on it" if you're not going to get off from it? Did I just start writing like Carrie Bradshaw? Is that really relevant?

I started reflecting on orgasm-free casual sex at a workshop I recently went to with a few friends a called Grow Your Orgasm, Grow Your Power, run by Shiuan Butler. I meditated further on the subject after engaging in a study called Post-Workshop Discussion over Dinner and Drinks with Three of my Friends Who Had Attended the Workshop, (Katie Halper et al 2013). We talked about how much easier it is to orgasm with partners we know, and how much harder it was to be fulfilled by partners we don't know. The reasons for these are both mechanical and psychological:

  • practice, familiarity and exposure means that partners we know better know us better and are more familiar with our physical anatomy, idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes.
  • when we know our partners better, we feel more comfortable instructing and directing them towards the holy grail that is our orgasm.
  • the cost benefit analysis: in addition to feeling more comfortable, we are more willing to exert the time, energy and effort teaching partners about our bodies when we know them better or are in a relationship with them. It may not be worth all the effort and education when the payoff is one orgasm and not a relationship or multiple orgasms from multiple hookups. By the time we're done explaining everything, we may be too tired to actually want to have sex.
  • If, for this sample, at least, knowing our partners well is the only hope for an orgasm, what's the point of casual sex? By casual sex, I don't mean sex with low emotional stakes with someone you know well. I'm not referring to sex with a "fuck buddy." I'm referring to sex with low or no (apparent) emotional stakes, like one night stands or a few repeat encounters with someone you don't feel you know that well. I'm referring to sex for sex's sake.

    And I'm not saying there aren't women who come through casual sex with partners they don't know well. I'm sure there are women who are able to just grab the reins and ride that... situation... to completion. Or there are women who are comfortable and assertive directing partners they don't know well towards their happy place. But what about we those women who need to know a partner well to even think of having an orgasm. Let's call ourselves them No-Know-No-Go gals. What is it we NKNGs are getting or even looking for from casual sex?

  • maybe we are hoping this time will be different. After all, there is a first time for everything.
  • maybe we are insane, since one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.
  • maybe we enjoy sex with all of it's physical stimulation and pleasure even without the orgasm.
  • maybe we enjoy the physical sensation of spooning or having a body next to us.
  • maybe we enjoy the intimacy of sharing a bed.
  • maybe we need the validation that we are attractive sexual beings (I'm not saying we should need to have sex to know this, but I think, sadly, some of us do.)
  • maybe we're looking for some human connection, no matter how fleeting.
  • maybe we prefer being in relationships but, in between relationships, prefer not to be celibate.
  • maybe we prefer being in relationships and are hoping that what starts out as a casual sex turns into a relationship.
  • Believe me, I'm not judging anyone for having casual sex without an orgasm. I mean, people who occasionally live in non-orgasmic casual sex-based rentals should not be casting stones. And casual sex can be fun. But it can also be disappointing and ironically emotionally draining. And sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't be better off having casual sex with a vibrator and getting a dog to cuddle with.

    Image by Jim Cooke