Please note: This piece discusses my personal sex life in a tremendous amount of detail. Family members and others who don't want to read about that stuff, absolutely positively do not want to read this piece. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
Just for a change.
Orgasms, I think we can all agree, are great. (I know -- what a controversial and groundbreaking assertion! Alert the media!) But lately, I've been thinking about the vast variety of climactic sexual experiences that aren't, technically speaking, orgasms. I've been thinking about sexual experiences that feel, in some sense, like an orgasm, or like a second cousin of an orgasm -- a shiver, an explosion of energy, a feeling of relaxation and release -- but that probably wouldn't register as "orgasm" if I was hooked up to a Masters and Johnson orgasm- measuring machine.
We have a poverty of language about sexual pleasure. And this includes a poverty of language about climactic sexual pleasure. Every time I read about the four stages of human sexual response cycle (excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution), I feel like I'm looking at a map of a forest that's only mapping out the one path from the parking lot to the main lodge, without showing any of the trails and creeks and pastures. Technically, I suppose these not-quite-climactic climaxes fall into the "excitement" or "plateau" phase of the response cycle... but that language doesn't capture the feeling of rich, complex satisfaction these other trails have to offer.
So here are some of the not-exactly-orgasmic sexual climaxes I've experienced, and the language I've come up with to describe them. If you have some of your own, please speak up about them in the comments!
Mini-gasms. When I'm on my way to coming, I'll often have a series of little mini-climaxes. They're not technically orgasms; they're not all-encompassing the way an orgasm is, and they don't make me feel satisfied, except for just a second. In fact, they actually wind me up more. But they're definitely in the same family: the "over the top of the rollercoaster" peak, the shuddering release of tension and energy. It's just a smaller rollercoaster. They're like the amuse-bouche of the sexual world: in giving a little taste of what's to come, a taste that's nowhere nearly large enough to be filling, they excite the hunger rather than satisfying it.
Not that that's a bad thing.
Thrill-gasms. If I'm really wound up -- if I've been thinking about a sexual encounter for hours or days before I have it -- I'll sometimes have a little shiver of a climax the moment my partner first touches me. Or a not so little shiver. Or several shivers. The moment after a long period of anticipation, when my body feels the erotic touch of my partner and realizes that it's finally about to get laid... it feels in an odd way like the moment after a long period of foreplay when my body finally gets to come.
Pain-gasms. All the masochists in the audience are nodding their heads. For some of us, pain -- the right kind of pain, in the right context -- can feel not only as arousing and exciting as more conventional sexual stimulation, but as climatically satisfying as well. It's like a sexual response cycle in a parallel universe: the excitement of the first few warm-up blows, the plateau of the high-flying endorphin high, the climactic shudders when the pain pushes the envelope, the rich feeling of peace and dissolving into the dark when it's all over. It just doesn't involve the involuntary rhythmic contractions of the genital muscles. (Except when it does. The parallel universes do sometimes bleed into each other. I can't be the only person in the world who's come from a beating.)
Nipple-gasms. This one is different. This one, I think, legitimately counts as a Masters and Johnson orgasm. I've even been known to ejaculate from having my nipples played with. But it has a significantly different flavor to it than a standard "genital sensation" orgasm. Coming without any physical stimulation coming anywhere near my genitals... to me, it's a radically different experience. Different enough that it needs its own name.
Think-gasms. I love this one. Walking to work; sitting at my computer at the cafe; sitting on the bus staring out the window... if I'm fiercely fantasizing about a sexual scenario, the imaginary orgasm will sometimes shiver through my real body. It's not quite like an orgasm itself (which is just as well for the other people at the cafe or on the bus). It's like an echo of an orgasm. Or a shadow of one.
Finishing off. This one doesn't quite fit into my list, as it definitely counts as an actual, no-questions genital orgasm. But I'm including it anyway, since I think our language for different kinds of orgasms is even more impoverished than our language for non-orgasmic climaxes.
This is the flip side of the mini-gasm. Sometimes when I'm having sex, I'll have a series of orgasms -- real, honest- to- Loki, Masters and Johnson orgasms, orgasms complete with the peak and the release and the coming down, orgasms that feel shattering and render me speechless -- but that don't quite leave me feeling... finished. In order to feel completely satisfied, completely done, I need to have the One Last Orgasm That Finishes Me Off. I don't know if the One Last Orgasm is physiologically different from a regular one, I don't know if it would register any differently if I was hooked up to an orgasm detection machine... but it feels radically, qualitatively different from other orgasms. Almost as different as coming feels from not coming at all.
Aftershocks. Damn, these are fun. They're almost better in some ways than the actual orgasms themselves. These are the shivering tremors I sometimes get after I've come: when I'm still feeling all open and aroused and sexual, but am totally relaxed and done with the "excitement/ plateau/ orgasm/ rinse and repeat" cycle. I don't really experience them in my genitals; I feel them more on the surface of my skin (especially if my partner is touching me just right), and deep down in the core of my body. It's almost as if my muscles and bones are having the orgasm, instead of my clit and my cunt. And they're a lot more Zen than a regular orgasm: since I've already come and am no longer straining frenetically towards that delightful but sometimes elusive goal, I can just lie back and enjoy them.
So those are a few of my trails in the woods; a few samples from my climactic cornucopia.
What are yours?