Fine image of a bra with its contents as a motif for the John Money pages    

The Psychology of Sex

John Money

ORGASM. In males, the typical experience is of a build-up to one big orgasmic release followed by the refractory period of the resolution phase of rest and relaxation before the next build-up can begin. The length of the refractory interval between orgasms varies from minutes to hours and is partly a function of age, partly of the novelty of the partner, and partly of individual differences that presently are unexplained. Some men have reported a series of lesser, anejaculatory orgasmic peaks, with associated anogenital muscular contractions, prior to the final big one (Robbins and Jensen, 1978).

The multiorgasmic phenomenon is prevalent also among women, far more so than among men, though not universally so. A woman is not multiorgasmic on every coital occasion, nor with each partner she may be orgasmic with. Also, a woman may on some occasions experience a series of multiple lesser orgasmic peaks without reaching the big orgasmic climax that heralds the onset of a refractory period during which the vagina dries and contracts and the body rests, relaxed, ready to drift off to sleep. Men and women both, especially as they get older, may feel erotically quite content on some occasions without arriving at the orgasmic grand finale. There are no fixed passing grades for erotic performance! Performing itself is the enjoyment, and there are many ways of performing. The variations, though partly idiosyncratic to each partner and each occasion, are especially a function of what, for what of a better term, may be called the “vibes” – the looks, movements, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, pressures, and warmths – that feedback between two partners. That is why an autoerotic orgasm is quite different from an alloerotic orgasm. It is also why oral and penovaginal orgasms differ, and likewise homoerotic and heteroerotic orgasms. Whether the different orgasmic experiences are ranked as inferior, superior, or equal, is a matter of personal idiosyncracy. The social tolerance of personal idiosyncracy used to be nil. Now it is slowly expanding. Oral sex – fellatio and cunnilingus – is no longer considered abnormal, and the same applies to various other personal and playful erotic idiosyncracies.

Some orgasms are not only different from, but better than others. Water at the end of a dry desert climb is better than water at a riverside swimming picnic. So also with orgasm: the place, the person, the frequency and the recency of orgasmic occurrence all influence the quality of the next one. So also does health, fatigue, age, sex, experience, imagery, novelty, and so forth – but above all, the mutual reciprocity of the partnership, the match for erotic versatility, movement, noise and abandon, the build-up of the proceptive phase, and possibly a drug-induced sensory enhancement.

Whatever the antecedents to an orgasm that is better than others, the final common pathway is the same. The two lovers are able to experience a feeling of unrestrained and untamed abandonment to one another. It is not necessary for them to pay attention either to what the self is doing or what the partner is doing. All the movements take care of themselves, as if reflexively. The sensations greedily absorbed by the vulva, externally and through deep interior pressure, tell the vaginal cavity how to selfishly pulsate, ripple, quiver, and contract on the penis, in order to release itself in orgasm. Reciprocally, the penis selfishly probes and presses, twists a little, withdraws and tantalizes at the portals, and sinks deeply again, it too greedily building up its own orgasmic pleasure. The two bodies writhe, unheedingly. The two minds drift into the oblivion of attending only to their own feeling, so perfectly synchronized that the ecstasy of the one is preordained to be the reciprocal ecstacy of the other. Two minds, mindlessly lost in one another. This is the perfect orgasmic experience. This is how an orgasm sighs, moans, exclaims, expires, exhausts itself into exultant repose.

John Money, Love and Love Sickness: The Science of Sex, Gender Difference and Pair-bonding, pp. 118-119. John Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, London) 1980.

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