"The pleasure of living and the pleasure of the orgasm are identical. Extreme orgasm anxiety forms the basis of the general fear of life." —Wilhelm Reich
Some of my most vivid memories of my early sex life are not of the satisfying afterglow of sex, but the opposite. It's hard to forget the times sex was more a path of frustration than pleasure, when I was still figuring out how my body responded and why it often didn't.
In retrospect, I think it was my strong intention to find pleasure that kept me coming back to try again—of being willing to live inside the questions I had about pleasure without many answers. Even now, some 30 years later, I often notice that it is this same deliberate attention—the essence of wanting to want—that gives me the courage to keep seeking out my own erotic truths.
It takes a lot of time, practice, courage, and resilience to find the keys that unlock the mysterious libido. Not only are we all different, but we are continuously different, even from the self we thought we just got to know. So there isn't one easy answer, pill, or toy that we can rely upon to consistently unlock the passionate sexual response we long for.
Many of the questions we ask are not only a moving target, but they focus our attention outward. My sexual freedom really started to open up in the development of my own curriculum of sexual education.
As I began to understand my own sexual physiology and the unique relationship between clitoral stimulation and the internal explosions of the g-spot, I also discovered a whole new range of sexual positions that really worked. The more that I followed my own curiosity and learned the vocabulary for my own pleasure, the more I was able to release the anxiety that had for so long overshadowed my orgasmic capacity.
Voltaire once said that it is the duty of all rational creatures to seek pleasure. And truly, regardless of the many painful, frustrating, or embarrassing moments we experience in the seeking of it, we all long to feel the seismic shift and profound emotional and energetic releases associated with orgasm. Still, orgasm both alone and with another remains elusive for many.
The most important revelation about orgasm is that you can't make yourself—or more importantly, anyone else—have an orgasm. And in fact, it is often our efforts to cajole them into being that makes our orgasmic potential even more inaccessible. As soon as we set orgasm as the finish line, we unintentionally invite in the performance anxiety about whether we will be able to cross that line.
This explains why so many women opt out of expecting their own pleasure and are willing to substitute the orgasmic pleasure of their partner as enough. It also offers a window into the myopic focus that many men get lost in when it comes to their sexual behavior. They too, struggle with performance anxiety and so focus all their attention on proving that they can climax, rather than experiencing the moment they are sharing.
This same performance anxiety can drive us into a sexual rut, as we get lost in the same old groove that worked like a charm before. We spend all our time trying to recreate the last time while losing the present moment entirely.
The key to everyone's orgasmic potential is twofold. The first element is learning to surrender to the body's erotic knowing rather than persisting in willful attempts to control it. The second is to bring our attention to the present moment. Surrender can only happen when we are being guided by our curiosity and open to what is actually happening.
Not surprisingly, the human brain cannot simultaneously process anxiety and sexual arousal. So giving up our ideas about how orgasm should happen—not to mention the fears about whether it will or not—is the gate to surrendering to our erotic potential.
The good news is that the more orgasms you have, the more orgasms you're likely to have in the future. So learning how to surrender also builds your trust in your sexual response and helps you let go of anxiety. Not surprisingly, many people have more success achieving orgasm alone than with their partner, but even this is a worthy practice, because the better you get at honing your own orgasmic capacity, the easier it gets to share them with someone you love.
Think of developing your capacity for orgasm as a potent form of meditation—even when you don't always achieve bliss, the practice of harnessing our attention and surrendering our will is where orgasmic potential begins.