My Journey to Orgasm & What It Got Me
In my TEDx talk, “Own Your Sexual Power,” I talked about how I was shamed by my mother for touching my genitals (and enjoying their smell) when I was eight or nine years old. What I didn’t share in my talk was that I literally stopped touching my genitals except to wash them for ten years after that, right through my sexual initiation, my initiation into dating life and growing into my young adult sexual body. That’s a long time, and a very effective three-second unintentional shaming.
Being disenfranchised from my genitals meant disenfranchisement from my sexuality.
It meant following the sexual patterns, desires and model of my partners, who were all male at that time. It meant not understanding how my own body works, and it meant a lot less pleasure.
I didn’t have any reference point and was totally in the dark about pleasure and orgasm. I had a high school boyfriend who wanted to help me orgasm and tried his damnedest to even the score with mutually pleasurable sex so we could both experience that level of pleasure, and still, I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I wouldn’t touch myself. The shame was too deep. The message too strong. “Stop touching yourself and smelling yourself!” it echoed.
One day when we were having sex, my boyfriend (who I was super in love with) was working my pussy. It felt good, but I still couldn’t get over the hump. He put my hand on my vulva and moved it a little, directing me to try it myself. What a smart guy. But I instinctively yanked my hand away because I was well-trained: girls don’t touch themselves!
The Turning Point
I went away for college and couldn’t wait to take SOC 152, the Human Sexuality course that nearly every student clamored for. On stage, in a lecture hall of roughly 900 students, my professors told us to touch our genitals to learn what felt good. It was an assignment! Being a high achiever, the spell was immediately broken, because the experts were telling me to go touch myself. So of course, I did! And after a few tries, getting stuck at that place before the hump, not being able to push over with that extra oomph into climax, finally, I had my first orgasm. I was absolutely ecstatic. I was no longer left out of the big secret. So this is what it feels like!
After some class discussion about vibrators and the success women have with them, I went home to visit my parents and saw all of their back massagers in a new light. Let’s just say they had to go searching my room for the “back massagers” several times after that. (Mom didn’t say anything.)
Then came having an orgasm with a partner. I continued to have sex that felt good and that I enjoyed as far as the connection, but which lacked the release of orgasm, which I longed to experience with a lover. It wasn’t until my senior year that I was able to have a full-on bona fide orgasm with a boyfriend to both our delight.
After that I became unstoppable. The journey to orgasm and understanding my body was profound.
It built a confidence in my ability to be the agent of my own sexuality, to guide myself in pleasure, and to meet my own desires.
It taught me to speak up for myself, that my own pleasure, needs and desires were important and worth standing for.
It helped me shine the light on the shame I had carried and let it go, because pleasure like that just couldn’t be bad.
My journey to orgasm was a wake-up call and a power boost. It was a gift far more than the pleasure it created.
So many of us are disconnected from our bodies and learn that someone else gets to control our body — not us. We become disembodied to a point of barely living in our own bodies, so disengaged from our own vessel, our own home, our own temple, that we just learn to give in, to give up our power, to “give it away.” This leads not just to dissatisfying sex, but to unhealthy power dynamics, a loss of sexual voice, and even sexually abusive situations.
We have to come home to our source of power and learn how to use our tools. We have many tools for pleasure that few of us learn, at least well into adulthood. No youth sex education program is teaching us how to use the power of our breath, voice, body, movement, muscles and anatomy to reach new levels of pleasure and power. Now, that is a shame! Imagine how that would change the world if we all learned that pleasure was our undeniable birthright.
My journey continued for years as I reached new heights, like muscles that were able to do more and more as I exercised and strengthened them. I learned that sex is actually a skill set that can be improved if I worked at it. My journey still continues today 25 years later. What a gift.
Pleasure is our birthright. It is not insignificant. It can change the quality and course of our entire lives.