Note: This blog is the transcript of Episode #50 of “Under 10: A Mini Podcast on Intimacy”. Listen along here.
Last episode I taught you the simple yet transformative art of give and take in conversation. This week, dear listeners, well, we’ve made it. This episode is my fiftieth installment of “Under 10”, marking a full year since the birth of this podcast. You could certainly call this a climactic moment. In celebration of the momentous occasion, this week I’m going to reveal to you a personal sexual secret. Be warned, it may not be as exciting as you expect. In fact, I think it could actually be considered anti-climactic. I hope you’ll tune in for the full episode to find out and decide for yourself. And yes, this next ten minutes is going to include talk about sex. As usual, if it doesn’t do it for you to hear an intimacy coach talking about sex, please feel free to skip this show.
So let’s start with what climax is. Non-sexually speaking, to climax is to reach the most important or exciting part of something. In a movie, for example, this is when the protagonist faces their great test of will, or when all the clues come together and the mystery is revealed. From the start of the story, there’s a steady buildup of suspense leading to the climax. Then after the plot peaks, there’s often a feeling of relief as the tension diminishes, there’s a tidying up of loose ends and finally, the credits. The climax is the high point of the story and very important for bringing everything together. It’s also a relatively short moment compared to the entire span of the plotline.
The buildup, peak and resolution that happens in the storyline in literature and movies has a clear parallel in our sex. There’s the rise of sensation, then there’s the peak, then there’s that sharp edge that the sensation goes over – known as the orgasm – then there’s the release of the buildup followed by diminished sensation or temporarily heightened then diminished sensation and then you usually cuddle and go to bed. Right? Climax in sex is associated with having an orgasm. And on the good days, when everyone who wants to orgasm does so, this is a pretty cool plot line.
But as anyone with a sexual body can attest, it doesn’t always happen according to this script. In fact, very often, one or both or all bodies may not climax, even when you want to. And here is where things can get challenging. Even though sexual climax itself typically lasts a matter of seconds, for most people, it’s really significant. Whether or not you summit the mountain, so to speak, can determine how you feel about the entire sexual experience. If you climax, you’re likely to feel satisfied and even successful. We won, you might say, as you clutch the sexual gold medal! But if you don’t cross the finish line, or if your partner doesn’t, you run the risk of feeling dissatisfied and even like you’ve failed. You may hang your head in sorrow, confusion and even shame. If I’m wrong, please write and tell me. But I don’t think I am. Most people were given this template for sex and this measure of what makes sex successful. Or not successful, as the case may be.
OK, now, I haven’t forgotten that this show is about my anti-climactic sexual admission, I am getting there. You could say that I’m in the buildup phase! It’s coming.
If you’ve ever done Conscious Orgasm training with me, you have heard this framework about climax before. It’s the starting point for most people, and it was for me. But I don’t believe a focus on orgasm as the moment of climax has to be the only way we think about sexual pleasure.
There is another way. And I’ve actually taught it to you already, throughout most of the previous forty-nine episodes, just without labeling it as a sexual pathway. It’s the possibility that there isn’t an arrival point that qualifies sex as successful. There isn’t a destination at all. There’s no “there over there” to arrive at. There’s only this moment, this very present, breathing, pulsing moment, to receive and surrender to, over and again, together. In this way, climax is one stop along the way. But the entirety of the sexual journey can be considered the orgasm. The embrace and the shivers you feel up your spine as his warm arms envelop you. Orgasm. The kiss and the trembling you feel in your heart as her lips brush yours. Orgasm. The moments of pause between you two, doing nothing but listening for what’s next, when you can hear their thumping heartbeat in your own chest. Orgasm. The rise and fall of sensation, this is how I think of orgasm. There’s no beginning. And there’s no end. Only the ongoing journey with endless fingers and toes and lips and hips and other body parts and all the feelings. There’s room to make the entire experience count. To receive something from each moment, even when what happens isn’t what you expect.
I have been having sex like this guided by this definition of orgasm for most of the last ten years. And I really can’t remember the last time I didn’t enjoy sex. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Each experience is different. Some louder and some more quiet. Some quick and some longer. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes uncontrollable laughter. There are endless textures. Each something to receive. But there’s not a measure of success or failure – ever – and this has been a conscious practice on my part. I do not bring that limited judgment into bed with me any longer. I bring approval. I bring wonder. I bring vulnerability. And I bring connection to my body. With that orientation, everything feeds me.
OK, so what’s my anti-climactic sexual secret? I hope you’re ready because here it is: I don’t try to climax. Just the opposite. I actually try not to climax in our sex. Climax is awesome. But not if I do it regularly. Climax too often makes me tired and cranky and depleted. I will happily make love every day when my partner and I are available for it. But a complete make out or love making session for me rarely involves climax. I want my body to feel the buzz all day long, all week long. Really, all the time. Climax dumps my energy. Staying with the journey of orgasm builds it. What I’ve learned from sexing this way is that when I do climax – on the days when my body and I feel ready – often it’s a pretty powerful release. I often cry. And there’s a profound feeling of restfulness afterward, as if I’ve had a cleansing. I haven’t pushed my body to climb the mountain. Instead, I’ve waited until there’s an unmistakable yearning to climb. And then I don’t resist.
Before I share with you this week’s homework, I want to remind you that if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing and you’re not yet receiving my newsletter, head on over to my website to sign up. DrJessicaTartaro.com. Once you do, I will send you my weekly podcast straight to your inbox, plus additional insights about each episode, coaching offers and personal updates that I only share with my newsletter community. I am in the process brewing up a special holiday gift that you won’t want to miss. Go to DrJessicaTartaro.com to sign up!
OK, on to the homework. For this week’s practice, pick one part of your life where you can drop the agenda to get somewhere and practice just being somewhere. If you have a sexual partner, set a timer, and for fifteen minutes, try letting go of needing sex to look a certain way. Explore being only in the moment and letting sensation expand and take you with it rather than trying to drive sensation to a particular goal. If you have kids, you might set a date with them and practice letting go of needing to play a certain role or impart a particular lesson. Instead, let the current of your togetherness with them take you, rather than you taking it anywhere. If you take walks in nature, perhaps let yourself be guided for where to turn and how long to walk rather than always taking a particular route. If you always eat the same thing, let yourself meander through your kitchen and be curious about what is in the back shelf of the pantry. There are infinite applications of this principle. Pick one and commit to it this week.
This will be my last episode of the year until 2022. Next episode will come out the first week of January. Until then, thank you so much for listening to “Under 10”. I send you blessings of ease and orgasmic delight as the year closes and look forward to resuming our weekly installments together in the new year.