When Orgasms Do Not Equal Pleasure: Accounts of “Bad” Orgasm Experiences During Consensual Sexual Encounters
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.
KeywordsOrgasm 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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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