The Meaning of Orgasm

What does orgasm mean to you? Why do you have orgasms, or try to? Is it important if you do or don't? Understanding the meaning of orgasm for you can help you focus on what you are really after in the experience. Are you doing it for pleasure, for procreation, for love? Just like descriptions of orgasm, the meanings people find in orgasm vary widely. We are influenced by both our culture and by our personal experiences. And we each end up with our own take on this mysterious phenomenon.

Fact

La petit mort is a French expression often used to refer to orgasm. It literally means the small death. The meaning that this infers is that essentially a part of the self dies or is released in the experience of orgasm. And indeed many people find this to be true.

One response to the survey said, “It is the ‘small death’ that reveals the essence of aliveness. Alone, in masturbation, it can be everything from simply a means to an end (relaxation, sleep, focus) to a deep affirmation of my love for myself. Shared, it creates and strengthens the bond with my partner. There is something in it of ritual, transformation, or journey. A place outside of all regular places where I meet my lover stripped bare of everything but my most simple self."

This response touches on a number of common themes. Many of the other responses spoke to the following aspects of meaning:

• Emotional, energetic, and sexual release. Most people think of orgasms as providing some sort of emotional, energetic or sexual release. It is a letting go of pent-up energy, a flowing forth, a spilling over.

• Relaxation tool and sleep aid. Many people find that orgasms are an excellent tool for stress reduction and seek them out as a way to relax or fall asleep.

• Symbol of love, intimacy, and connection. Orgasms can also be a symbol for the profound expression of love and connection you have with a lover.

• Sexual freedom. For some, having orgasms symbolizes their sexual freedom. They are free to follow their sexual urges all the way to orgasmic bliss or release.

• Openness to deep pleasure and intensity. For some, the orgasmic experience demonstrates the ability to surrender to profound pleasure. It is a symbol of willingness to embrace the intensity of sensation and, on some level, life itself.

• Culmination of excitement and desire. Orgasms can also signify the termination of excitement and desire. Some embrace this as a wonderful state, while others may feel sad that all of the passion and the intense connection has come to an end.

• Spiritual doorway to an expanded self. For some, orgasms hold a spiritual significance and are a portal to their more expanded selves. They are a way to experience a connection to all that exists.

Essential

Whatever meaning you give to the orgasmic experience can be different depending on the kind of sexual behavior, the nature of a particular relationship, or the type or quality of the orgasm itself. It can also change through the course of your life. Your sexuality is variable and malleable.

Here are some more examples of the different meanings survey respondents give to orgasm:

“It can be an experience of pure animal consciousness, of wanting and taking and submitting and releasing. Losing myself in touch and blood and bone.”

“Having orgasms means I am open to pleasure, intensity and eroticism, that I trust my body's wisdom, and that I acknowledge my right to enjoy myself as much as I am capable of.”

“To be honest, it can be a disappointment. As wonderful as it feels, it rings the closing bell on making love (at least for a while). I often come out of the bliss state and plunge into self-doubt and recrimination.”

“It all depends on the context. If I'm by myself (which is most often), then it's a goal. I pleasure myself with the goal of having an orgasm. The orgasm itself can fill many needs—relaxation, stress relief, preparation for sleep, and even a drug. It also has a spiritual/energetic function as in Tantric sex. If I'm with a partner in a love relationship, then orgasm for me is more of an ornament—a culmination of all the affection, connection, and energetic play that comes before it. Whether orgasm comes and how soon (or how long it lasts) is secondary. This helps me be more open to the experience in all its unique aspects, which opens up my romantic, sexual, and orgasmic capabilities.”

“They show me how it is possible to go beyond myself and dissipate in the all that is. Somehow, they seem like a reward for sharing myself, either with someone else or with the universe in a certain way. When I have them on my own, I'm very intentional about it.”

“For me, it is the ultimate enjoyment of life in this body. It can take on forms of worship and symbolize uniting with the one at that moment of bliss. It can be an expression for love of the other, or love of yourself. Sometimes it is just experiencing pleasure in this physical realm.”

The meanings that people give to their orgasms are as unique and varied as the people themselves. They are windows into their souls and show the diversity within each person and among different people. It is important to allow for these kinds of personal narratives when discussing sex, for they get to the heart of the matter and display what is really essential about orgasm for many people.

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