Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 8, pp 2435–2459 | Cite as

When Orgasms Do Not Equal Pleasure: Accounts of “Bad” Orgasm Experiences During Consensual Sexual Encounters

  • Sara B. Chadwick
  • Miriam Francisco
  • Sari M. van AndersEmail author
Original Paper


Orgasms during consensual sex are often assumed to be wholly positive experiences. This assumption overshadows the possibility that orgasm experiences during consensual sex could be “bad” (i.e., negative and/or non-positive). In the present study, we employed an online survey to explore the possibility that orgasm experiences could be “bad” during consensual sex by asking participants of diverse gender and sexual identities (N = 726, M age = 28.42 years, SD = 7.85) about a subset of potential bad orgasm experiences. Specifically, we asked participants whether they have ever had an orgasm during coerced sex, compliant sex, and/or when they felt pressured to have an orgasm (i.e., orgasm pressure). We also asked participants who had such an experience to describe it, resulting in qualitative descriptions from 289 participants. Using mixed quantitative and qualitative analyses, we found compelling evidence that orgasm experiences can be “bad” during consensual sex. Specifically, many participants described their experiences in negative and/or non-positive ways despite orgasm occurrence, reported that their orgasms were less pleasurable compared to other experiences, and suggested that their orgasm experiences had negative impacts on their relationships, sexuality, and/or psychological health. Participants also suggested that social location shaped their bad orgasm experiences, citing gender and sexual identity, gender identity conflict, race/ethnicity, and religion as important to their perceptions of and responses to their experiences. Results directly challenge the assumption that orgasms during consensual sex are always and/or unilaterally positive experiences.


Orgasm Gender Sexual pressure Coercion Compliance Feminist science 



This study was funded by faculty discretionary funds.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara B. Chadwick
    • 1
  • Miriam Francisco
    • 2
  • Sari M. van Anders
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Departments of Psychology and Women’s StudiesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of EnglishUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Psychology, Gender Studies, and NeuroscienceQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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