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December 08, 2021 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily

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The female ORGASM on Prozac


e are chronically misinformed when it
comes to female pleasure — where it hap-

pens, why it happens and how. At times, even the
scientific and research communities are stumped
on the evolutionary purpose behind the female
orgasm: while some studies point at a procreating
advantage prior to ovulating periods for women
who orgasm, no firm claim can yet be made.
Female orgasms, especially in contrast to male
orgasms, are so often mystified that it becomes a
rarity, or a surprise, when they do happen.

As Linda Geddes wrote in a 2015 BBC article

“The Mystery of the Female Orgasm,” “Pressed or
caressed the right way, a woman can be transport-
ed to such ecstasy, that for a few seconds, the rest
of the world ceases to exist. But get it wrong and
pain, frustration, or dull nothingness can ensue.
It’s a stark contrast to a man’s experience; so long
as they can get an erection, a few minutes of vigor-
ous stimulation generally results in ejaculation.”

Let’s break it down even further. Merriam

Webster offers it plainly — the female orgasm is
“the rapid pleasurable release of neuromuscu-
lar tensions at the height of sexual arousal that is
usually accompanied by the ejaculation of semen
in the male and by vaginal contractions in the
female”. But do we require this for sexual satisfac-
tion? I wish Merriam Webster could also answer

There is research that hints at more relational

ideas behind women’s orgasms and their purpose
in 21st-century relationships. American psycholo-
gist Diana Fleischman stated in her 2016 report
“An Evolutionary Behaviorist Perspective on
Orgasm” that, “We (humans) have evolved to use
orgasm and sexual arousal to shape one another’s
behavior, and orgasm serves as a signal to another
person of devotion, vulnerability, and malleability,
which is, in itself, reinforcing.”

Devotion? Archetypal college sex is anything

but devoted. But Fleischmann is onto some-
thing when she describes orgasm as an enforcer
of “adaptive behavioral ends.”We are, after all,
encouraged to bookend hookups with orgasm.
But is that really the point? Is it actually enjoyable?
Who’s to say?


n any given campus, sexual experimenta-
tion runs rampant — it’s part of

college brand, à la “Animal House,”
“Superbad” or “Neighbors”: out-
of-control parties, drunk
destruction, sloppy sex.
As a freshman, this was
something you had to expe-
rience in order to feel like you
were “doing it right.”

My freshman year at the University

of Michigan, I took a seminar called Soci-
ology of the Family. We covered everything
from dating to divorce, parenthood to unpaid
labor, gender roles to domestic work. One of our
assigned readings was Lisa Wade’s “American
Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus.”
The book dives into a history of sexuality, higher
education and the risks and rewards of hookup

culture — offering pointed insights as to where
we’re headed. I’ll admit that I had initially fig-
ured this book to be another out-of-touch, flimsy
report on how heartlessly our generation has
come to regard sex and relationships. But it was
surprisingly exact.Because Wade recruited actu-
al college students to give detailed and relatively
anonymous reports of their sex lives, the book
thrums with truth.

Of the scarily accurate descriptions Wade

offers, she elaborates on the party experience
most precisely. Chapter 1 begins with a lurid
description of two women getting ready in their
dorm room: “The goal is to look ‘fuckable,’ Miran-
da said, her voice buzzing with excitement. She
and her roommate Ruby were tearing through
their tiny closets, collecting a pile of ‘provocative’
items to consider wearing to that night’s party.
The theme was ‘burlesque,’ so they were going
for a classy stripper vibe ... Miranda plumped her
breasts and contemplated her outfit, a black crop
top and a cherry red skirt with a zipper running
down the front. She unzipped it a bit from the bot-
tom and, then, a bit more.”

Throughout the rest of the book, Wade covers

everything from the history of hookups to frater-
nity culture to attractiveness hierarchies to sexual
assault to relationship woes to female and male
orgasms. Wade noted of orgasms, “In masturba-
tion, orgasms come easily and quickly to both
sexes; on average, each requires just four efficient
minutes to reach climax. Even women who never
have orgasms with male partners often do regu-
larly when they’re alone.”

She continued, “If hookup culture has an

orgasm gap—and it does—then the question isn’t
what might be wrong with women’s bodies, but
the extent to which the female orgasm is made a

It is through hookup cul-

ture that sex becomes rela-
tively lawless — and by
lawless, I mean social-
ly lawless. Gone are
the rules that require
a least a few dates
first, gone are the
rules that you even
have to know them
before you step into the
club, the bar, the

party. Sex is



ily acces-

sible to most. For those who seek convenience, it
is distinctly possible to download any number of
apps in the morning, and by nighttime, have sex.
Sex has, in this way, become cheap.

I’m not moralizing here, or at least not inten-

tionally — but as I type this, Steve Lacy’s “N Side”
seeps from my speakers and I’m wondering what
the point of sex is. Is it to prove we are wanted,
even if briefly? Is it, as Charles Bukowski might
put it, “flesh searching for more than flesh?” Is it
love? I don’t know, and I doubt I ever will. And I
should probably stop reading Charles Bukowksi.


dd on Prozac, or Zoloft, or Xanax, or Lexa-
pro or any of the other hundreds of drugs

prescribed each year to American women aimed
at combating depression and anxiety, and the
female orgasm becomes that much trickier to
untangle. Among the primary side effects of anti-
depressants is its impact on sexual function — one
Harvard Health Publishing article summarized
that these aforementioned drugs can “make it
difficult to become aroused, sustain arousal, and
reach orgasm.”

It is these articles and their statistics that swim

around my head when I make the trek to CVS to
pick up my Prozac refill. At the counter, I give my
name, birthdate, repeat my last name and its spell-
ing, sign my name, shake my head no when asked
if I have any questions about the medication, mar-
vel at the sheer length of the pharmacist’s nails as
she hammers this information into the keyboard.
I pay the $4 copay, she staples the standard-issue,
five-page leaflet of warnings and potential side
effects to my little brown bag, and I’m off.

The literature of these advisory leaflets has

always been absurdly entertaining: Remem-
ber that this drug has been prescribed to you
because your doctor has judged that the benefit
to you is greater than the risk of side effects.

Curiously enough, all that is mentioned of

side effects involving sex is: sexual prob-
lems. I suppose it’s all-encompassing!

There’s an article in The

Cut titled “Treating My
Anxiety Made My Sex

Life Worse”. In it, author
Rae Nudson explained
that of the reactions of her

Lexapro prescription, “’sexu-
al side effects’ can refer to

a wide variety of





low libi-

do, or it can

problems with

erections and lubrication, expe-

riencing less pleasure, or tak-

ing longer to orgasm than

it used to. Sometimes it

means that you still have the desire to have sex,
but you don’t have the ability to orgasm at all.”

So then, how does sex change for women

(and men) who can’t climax on their respective
medication? What is sex without climax? What
is climax? Merriam-Webster saves me yet again:
English Language Learners Definition of climax
(Entry 1 of 2) :

“the most intense point of sexual pleasure:


The most intense point of sexual pleasure. So

maybe orgasm doesn’t have to translate exactly
to a “rapid pleasurable release of neuromuscu-
lar tensions at the height of sexual arousal that
is usually accompanied by the ejaculation of
semen in the male and by vaginal contractions in
the female. Perhaps orgasm can be restructured
to mean the very moment you are kissed, or the
very moment you are kissed at that very place.
The perfect position. I don’t know if I actually
believe this, or if it’s just another thought experi-
ment told to play — but that’s why I employ the
word perhaps.

Restructuring our idea of sex so that there is

less pressure put on climaxing can make sex more
enjoyable, and for everyone. Enjoyable sex, most
often, is sex with someone you are comfortable
with, someone you care for. Hooking up, by con-
trast, is enjoyable in the way that a roller coaster
ride is enjoyable — however thrilling, you will
probably never go on that ride again, and you will
also probably never again feel the exact thrill of
riding it the first time. And it’s usually over in less
than a few minutes.

Enjoyable sex is sex that understands that

needs differ. Enjoyable sex is, to put it tritely, elec-
trifying. Your nerves fray. You feel that you can
look into their eyes. There is, surely, pleasure.

And pleasure, well pleasure is a good deal eas-

ier to achieve by virtue of its ambiguity. Pleasure
can last for more than 30, or 40, seconds. Plea-
sure can live in you as long as you can remem-
ber it. Pleasure is tracing your fingers on the soft
outline of somebody’s lips, especially if they are
red from the cold of walking over to your house.
Pleasure is meeting somebody’s line of sight and
having the rare confidence to hold it. Pleasure

is touching your pool-pruned hands to some-

body’s shoulders or raking through their
brown-when-wet hair in the shower. Plea-
sure is kissing somebody’s ear because you
know they love it when you do that. Plea-

sure is kissing somebody’s ear because you love
to do that. Pleasure is bottles and tubes clanging
over on the bathroom countertop because they
were in the way. Pleasure is not finishing the
movie. Pleasure is lifting up a pale violet dress,
but just above the hips and just after everyone
has gone to bed. Pleasure is the reliably warm
nape of your neck, that perfect blue shirt.

Pleasure is touch but it is also what comes

before touch. Pleasure is patient. If you are a
woman, or someone on antidepressants, and you
find it difficult to enjoy what we are so often told
we should be enjoying — I encourage you to think
less about climaxing and more about pleasure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 // The Statement — 4


Illustration by Megan Young
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