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How to Have an Orgasm... or Not
I was going through one of those phases where nothing in my life seemed to be going according to plan. My cat died; the freezer broke; I’d accidentally bleached my favorite pair of jeans. I needed a pick-me-up, something to help me shake those gray clouds that stalked my every step. On a lark, I decided to consult a surefire source of comedy and bemusement for me: Glamour magazine.
In an effort to be a socially conscious and responsible consumer, I rarely spend my hard-earned money on discretionary items, especially those I suspect of being manufactured by underpaid preadolescents in developing nations. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt anyone for me to look at the pretty, pretty shoes and handbags, now does it? Plus, I really like Glamour’s sex columns.
I don’t actually need advice on how to have sex. That part I have down pat. In fact, I would go so far as to say that before the monogamy bug bit me, I was quite the connoisseur. No, I don’t read these one-size-fits-all sex advice columns to learn about how to have enjoyable sex. I read them to laugh heartily at how often they miss the spot.
Prominent sexologists cite fashion magazines (like Glamour) as unreliable (read: hilarious) sources of information about sexual and reproductive health. The article that I’ve chosen to critique (read: eviscerate) was no exception. It’s a crime against realistic sex, a vial of sexual snake oil. It’s called, “How to Have an Orgasm. Guaranteed.”
The article appeared on Glamour’s web site in August of 2009 and outlines four simple steps, alleged to enable every woman in the entire world to reach orgasm, as dictated via phone by renowned (read: self-described) sexpert, Mary Jo Rapini. Upon further research, I found that Ms. Rapini has a Master’s Degree in counseling, “clinical pastoral education,” training in nursing and theology, and a “profound spiritual presence.” Clearly, Ms. Rapini is qualified to tell all three billion or so women on the planet how to reach orgasm… guaranteed.
Good news first: The article is not all bad. The tone is friendly, clearly geared more toward a population that knows little or nothing about self-service sex. That said, when addressing this demographic, the information provided should be clear and complete. After all, we are talking about women who have either been unable or unwilling to find their own way to sexual pleasure. More complete information, provided in the same informal tone presented in the article, would go a long way toward warming these women up to the idea of sexuality as a more gratifying experience. It would also help provide these women with adequate guidance to healthily take more control of their own sexual pleasure. In short, while Ms. Rapini clearly means well, her advice is often silly and sometimes downright unhealthy.
For example, Ms. Rapini’s first suggestion is that the orgasmically challenged woman take a shower or bath and try touching her clitoris for 10-15 minutes. Languishing in a tub for too long can give some women yeast infections and cause vaginal dryness. This step could prove counterproductive to the pursuit of sexual pleasure, as chaffing, itching, and unpleasant odor may stifle one’s libido.
This advice also assumes that the reader knows where her clitoris is, which may not be the case. She attempts to address this potential lack of knowledge about one’s own anatomy in the next pointer. Her advice? Research your anatomy in a book or on the internet. She makes no suggestions as to reliable sources; apparently Googling “clitoris” will do the trick just fine.
Her third suggestion is as erroneous, albeit well-intentioned, as her first two suggestions. Ms. Rapini recommends using a vibrator. This is an excellent idea in and of itself, but she goes so far as to suggest a particular item: the Hatachi. The first problem is that the product is spelled Hitachi. I suppose it could have been worse. She could have called it a hibachi, a gaffe that could result in confusion, lawsuits, and grill marks on the hoo-hoos of already sexually repressed women. That small whoopsy daisy aside, the Hitachi Magic Wand, a marvel of modern technology, is a solid suggestion and ideal for those who are not as experienced or unabashed about their self-pleasure. The Hitachi is actually a body massager, so it’s multipurpose, and the shape is not phallic, which is better for those who might be shy about using a sex toy.
There is, however, one more small snag in Ms. Rapini’s advice: she asserts that the Hitachi is waterproof and recommends it as a bath toy. The Hitachi Magic Wand is an electrical appliance, complete with a cord that plugs right into the nearest outlet, much like the toaster or hair dryer you would take a bath with if you were looking to off yourself. The Hitachi is not a bath toy. It is not waterproof. There certainly are vibrators that are designed for play in the tub, but using this particular toy in that capacity could prove fatal.
Her fourth and final suggestion is that masturbation is fun and healthy. I am not really sure how far those words of wisdom go to help a climax-starved female find her way to the nirvana that is orgasm. It seems to just be a general platitude, though I suppose that would be helpful for someone who needed that extra nudge or was on the fence about self-pleasure.
In addition to the already mentioned shortcomings of Ms. Rapini’s advice, I believe some important information has been omitted. Reaching orgasm can be complex. Scientists could scour the globe compiling data about the different ways people prefer being touched, and I can all but guarantee that some woman somewhere would require patterns of stimulation or pressure not previously heard of. There is no universal way for women to reach orgasm, and the assertion that there is makes women who have trouble reaching orgasm feel in some way sexually inadequate.
I did not expect an article from a fashion magazine to be a comprehensive source of advice about how to achieve orgasm, but as responsible journalists… and mostly women… the staff at Glamour should exhibit more responsibility when it comes to matters of women’s sexual health. Yet, hope is on the horizon, dear readers, for this is only the first of a two-part series. In “How to Have an Orgasm... or Not- Part 2,” I will outline some steps those of you feeling left in the stone age of sexual pleasure might take toward greater satisfaction.