Back in 2008 when the innocence of youth was sullied by the banking crisis, the Are You Afraid of the Dark? of investigative journalism shows, 20/20, aired parts of a documentary called Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret, sparking a firestorm of internet commenting controversy. Orgasms during birth? You mean, yet one more creepy birthing anecdote moms can blurt out at family dinners when they’re bored with polite conversation? Um, no thanks.
Viewers worried that encouraging women to orgasm during childbirth would further fetishize childbirth, motherhood, and the all-powerful Cult of Babies, a legitimate concern given the fact that New York Times micro-trend articles are still wreaking havoc on the urban reader’s sense of cultural hipness. We don’t need tons of expecting mothers hoping to achieve orgasms during natural birth and instead experiencing the spine-twisting pain of unadulterated contractions.
And yet, according to a Daily Beast article that bravely revisits the controversial territory of orgasmic births, orgasms do happen during labor, because childbirth is the closest thing next to watching True Blood or reading The Secret History that people have to experience the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries. According to author Lizzie Crocker, a new study published recently in the journal Sexologies assures us that orgasms do, in fact, occur during childbirth. At least, in France they do. Who knows what the rest of the sexually unenlightened world is like?
The study, conducted by French psychologist Thierry Postel and published in the journal Sexologies, is one of the first to attempt to nail down numbers when it comes to women experiencing intense pleasure during birth. Of the 956 French midwives to whom Postel reached out, with an online questionnaire about orgasmic birth, he received 109 completed surveys from midwives who had collectively assisted 206,000 births. The midwives reported 668 cases in which mothers said they’d felt “orgasmic sensations” in birth, 868 cases of mothers demonstrating signs of pleasure, and nine mothers confirming they had full-blown orgasms.
“Full-blown orgasm” would be a great epithet for a minor hero in The Iliad, by the way, but we digress. The point is, childbirth is an intense physical experience, and intense physical experiences can mean a mélange of both pleasure and pain, or, in terms of Hollywood’s real-life Cenobite Mel Gibson, pleasure from pain. Debra Pascali-Bonaro, the childbirth educator who made the controversial Orgasmic Birth documentary, insisted that orgasm is a complicated physical phenomenon, and that the intensity of childbirth can sometimes make orgasm possible:
The word ‘orgasmic’ can be used to describe food or a number of experiences, but in the film we use it to describe the heightened physical and emotional response during birth that is in line with pleasure. One of the purposes of the film is to broaden our vocabulary on birth with words like bliss, ecstasy, joy, transformation. It’s broad enough to also include women that actually do have an orgasm, but that certainly shouldn’t be a performance standard!
Pascali-Bonaro’s assertions of primal childbirth pleasure have some scientific credence beyond Postel’s recent survey-study. According to Rutgers University psychology professor and resident sexpert Barry Komisaruk, vaginal and cervical stimulation can elicit “many different qualities of sensation.” One of Komisaruk’s experiments even involved putting a finger-compressing mechanism on women during childbirth. That experiment found that women became less sensitive to the experimentally-induced pain during labor, and subsequent experiments uncovered a similar phenomenon, namely, that orgasm increased a woman’s pain threshold by 100 percent.
Still, everyone’s experience is different because we’re all snowflakes. For every New York woman who gives birth in a Zen center, experiences an orgasm, and the reports back to the Daily Beast, “I’ve never been so high in my whole life... (It looked like I was doing a cross between belly dancing and pole dancing and some animalistic dance),” there’s a woman going into labor in New Jersey thinking about how completely shitty it would have been to live in an era when women had to dig their own birthing trenches in the wilderness and hope that they got through labor before all the woodland creatures caught the scent of afterbirth.
Can Women Orgasm During Childbirth? [Daily Beast]
Image via Natalia Darydova/ Shutterstock.