pleasure

Is orgasm equality something that should be emphasized or important in all sexual relationships, irrespective of partners' gender?

Orgasm equality is discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships and gender justice (for straight cis women) a lot, and I see its value in that context. Is orgasm equality something that should be emphasized or important in all sexual relationships, irrespective of partners' gender?

AA: We are so glad you asked! I do want to start by naming my identities as a straight cis woman, which, of course, impacts how I think about this. Yes, orgasm equality is often discussed in that context, and may matter in any relational or sexual context if the partner(s) involved feel that it does. That being said, in any context, it’s important to separate the ideas of orgasm and pleasure, and that’s where we will spend our time this week.

LM: Oftentimes, we think of orgasm as the “end goal” of any sexual activity, and we believe that there can be no sexual pleasure without orgasm. In our discussion here, we want to clarify that it is possible for some people to have pleasure without orgasm, and also orgasm without pleasure. A starting point is understanding what you hope to get out of the interaction—is it to bring you pleasure, your partner(s) pleasure, or both? If it is to bring you pleasure, does that pleasure include orgasm?

AA: It’s really important to note that not everyone experiences orgasm in the same way, or to the same degree. Not everyone orgasms in every sexual experience and when, with whom, how, why, etc... Whether or not a person orgasms can be impacted by context, physiological factors, psychological factors, and many other elements. If it doesn’t bother you, not experiencing an orgasm is normal and okay, and does not preclude having a positive sexual experience. Emily Nagoski, a sex researcher and author, has developed some worksheets that can help a person think through some of the factors that may impact their sexual interactions—they might be worth checking out!

LM: Once you have a clearer understanding of your hopes for a sexual experience, it can be helpful to check in with your partner(s) about them. Because we might have different expectations or understandings of each partner’s hopes and needs in an interaction, and these might change throughout the interaction, open communication can help the interaction to be mutual.

AA: Another important thing to name is that power dynamics can impact the entire experience of an interaction, and the process of communicating with your partner(s). It may not be possible to safely communicate your needs, or your partner(s) may not be responsive. If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, know that you can always reach out to OSAPR (24-hour hotline: 617-495-9100).

LM: Thanks again for your question; orgasms, pleasure, and orgasm equality are complex and important topics and we’re glad to be able to discuss them here.

I’m interested in purchasing my first sex toy(s), but there are so many options! Where and how should I get started?

LM: Great question! When you first start looking at sex toys, the variety can be overwhelming. There are sex toys out there for pretty much every conceivable purpose, so one starting point might be thinking about what you (and/or your partner(s)) are looking for in your sex toys. Do you want a penetrative toy? A vibrating toy? Something that is made for two people to use at once? (Also, remember that how a sex toy is advertised isn’t necessarily the only way you can use it—feel free to be creative!)

AA: It’s great to begin thinking about these different questions before you decide to buy one (or more) particular toys. If you decide that you’d like to use a toy with a partner(s) it can be good to involve them early on in the conversation regarding which is the best toy for you to purchase. This will depend on how it might be used, what are both of your wants, needs, and non-negotiables and where those overlap for you both or where they do not overlap. Finding the answers will help determine which is the best to for you (and/or your partner(s)).

LM: Once you have an idea of what general type of toy(s) you’re interested in purchasing, the next step is to narrow it down to a specific product. A couple of factors may come into play at this point: price, quality, material, aesthetic, and color are just a few things you may want to consider. You can get high-quality sex toys at a range of price points, but it’s important to remember that with sex toys, in some cases low price may mean low quality, which can sometimes be unsafe. For instance, some toys on the lower end of the price range may be made of porous materials, which can harbor bacteria even after washing. However, if you’re not ready to spring for a slightly higher-end sex toy, it is possible to use condoms on your sex toys.

AA: Sex toys can come in many materials including silicone, plastic, metal, glass, rubber, and others. It’s important to think about these materials when deciding which to buy. In addition, a great option to add to a sex toy is lube! It can enhance the experience and pleasure for you and/or your partner(s). The type of lube you’ll want to use depends on the material of your sex toy: If you decide to purchase a silicone sex toy it is not recommended to use silicone lubricant as this type of lubricant can break down degrade your silicone sex toy. If you are using condoms on any sex toy it is important to make sure not to use oil-based lube as this type of lubricant will degrade the latex condom.

LM: This can be a lot to keep in your mind as you’re making your purchase. It can sometimes be helpful to go to an actual store when shopping for sex toys, where the employees will be able to help you balance all of these factors when you’re choosing your sex toys. We highly recommend Good Vibrations, a store with locations in Harvard Square and Brookline; the employees are friendly and highly knowledgeable (they’ve gone through a comprehensive training). If you’d rather not go to a physical store, you can also order from Good Vibrations online. Another great thing about Good Vibrations is that they explicitly do not gender their products and are inclusive of all identities. There are also many other places to order sex toys on the internet, including Amazon; whatever you choose, make sure to read the reviews and do your research about materials and safety.

AA: Once you’ve purchased your sex toy, have fun trying it out and getting familiar with it. If you are choosing to use the toy with a partner(s) make sure to talk with them about use before you jump into the experience. It’s always important to continually check in with your partner(s) while using your sex toy even if it’s not both of your first times using this toy. Communication is key to ensure you and your partner(s) are both continually enjoying your fun-sexy-play-time. Again as we have mentioned there are many choices to make when purchasing a sex toy. If the first toy you purchase is not working out for you it may take time and trial and error to find the right toy for you and/or your partner(s).