Lost Orgasms or Zero Faith

Where do all the missed orgasms go? Do they stuff themselves into pelvic bones, later to afflict the unsatisfied with bursitis? Do they congregate in the shadows, behind the bureau, say, to become part of what haunts us in the half light when we are alone and already unsettled? Maybe they fly off like the geese that passed overhead this morning while I was walking the dog, barely visible in the fog, honking their lament.

Their ultimate destination ought to depend on how close they came to deliverance, so that the ones that never even stood a chance would go to one graveyard, while the ones that shunted off to the side seconds before blossoming into shuddering, clamping pleasure would go to another, presumably more exalted, resting place. The really near misses might properly be housed in a mausoleum, one lined with stone-carved lilies and angels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offer your disappointments a bouquet of flowers now and then? I would choose red roses, even if rock n’ roll cliché resided in every soft, perfumed fold.

The sorting of failed pleasure feels like a job for Pluto, that merciless lord of the Underworld. If you recall, he’s the guy who sucked Persephone down from a field of flowers where she had been skipping along in innocent glee, a mere handful of yards from her doting mother. What a way to lose your virginity! I’ll have to go back for clues. Are there any hints that Persephone grew to enjoy her year-long subjugation? Or maybe even that she enjoyed it right from the very first bloody, hymen-breaking start?

Maybe the collective missed orgasms sail down to the Underworld and settle in the young girl’s loins, giving her one thudding, yelping orgasm after another, so that in spite of being held captive by a foul-breathed master of cruelty with no capacity to care for her, she at least has that release – or dare I say — ‘fun’?

Probably unspent female pleasure serves no purpose whatsoever — either noble or trivial. And, think about it, if it could serve some greater aim than the simple satisfaction of its participant, why would it choose a story about rape, where the mere whiff of female enjoyment can be so easily misinterpreted by male listeners, the coercive ones that want to believe in their decency but shouldn’t?

All the skewed notions, why add fuel to the fire? On the other hand, why let certain malevolent others have power over the range of my inquiry?

And while we’re talking about women’s pleasure, how about the cinematic female orgasm? You know the one – the grinding mutual orgasm that takes four seconds and requires penetration only. It’s astonishing how ubiquitous it is. Here’s one of many versions: guy shoves lover up against wall while yanking up her skirt, enters her, pumps four or five times to much deep-throated moaning on her part, at which point they climax together. Four seconds, four or five thrusts of his member. To watch any screen for any amount of time gives the impression that there are lots of women going commando in black pencil skirts having way more fun than I do.

Just to be clear. I have fun. Okay?

I would give almost anything to see that improbably hot detective or that leggy, single mother who looks like she just stepped off the cover of Vogue, shove her lover back, look him square in the eye and ask with unfettered disdain, “Are you kidding me? That’s it?!”

You could call the cinematic four second female orgasm (with penetration only) a male orgasm with tits. But the better view is that the quick, ecstatic humping we see time and time again stands in as pure male fantasy, something akin to the letters published in Penthouse, which even as a fourteen year old babysitter scanning the text surreptitiously, I knew to be pure fiction.

Can you imagine the relief that would flood this planet if women came as predictability, quickly, and with as little reliance on circumstance as men did? In four seconds with penetration only, in other words? Like they do in the movies?

I know women have these kinds of orgasms, and some women have them routinely (and I hope I don’t need to point out that to assert as much would require obnoxious gloating and very personal revelations?) For the sake of discussion, let me say that at no time have I come in four seconds while being pushed up against a restaurant bathroom stall wearing a pencil skirt with no stockings or underwear on. The point isn’t whether these brief climaxes happen or not — I know someone who came while dining out and enjoying a plate of shrimp, for God’s sake — but why that’s all we ever see, time and time again… the one version that just happens to be congruent with male fantasy.

I’m reading a well-written debut novel that features a lot of sex. In chapter after chapter, we are treated to a whole range of ways to have it, to enjoy it, and to be hurt and baffled by it. The protagonist is a privileged, self-destructive twenty-something who wanders through the sordid bedrooms of S&M, but also lies down in a fragrant eucalyptus grove and comes three times while enjoying the great California outdoors. At the author’s reading in Cambridge, her introducer focused a bit on the self-destructive and violent parts in a way that obscured the more subtle experiences described. Leave it to a guy to fail to mention the female protagonist’s multiple orgasms or her bland and recurring let downs.

I wish I’d said, “You don’t have to be a wanton 20-something hell-bent on self destruction to be bewildered or disappointed by sex. Hello? Anybody?!”

Instead, I raised my hand and asked if she wrote with pen or keyboard.

There was some pretty gross shit in there. But still, I’d rather read a passage about a feckless young woman being enamored with the vulnerability of a man’s ass as he walks away from their bed, even if they just shared a violent interchange that I can’t relate to at all than see that god damned four second improbable climax on the screen again. The fact that the novel’s passage is so wholly, explicitly, and credibly told from a female perspective makes it food for the soul. Scene after scene produced feelings of recognition and I doubt that I am alone in this.

The dog I walk does not look up at the passing geese. More and more I’m seasonally confused – remind me – what time of year is it?! He tugs at the leash and lunges, hackles raised, bark, bark, barking his head off at other dogs – sometimes, not always, and never for the dog walker. It’s an at least twice daily reminder that life is difficult. This is the dog I got. This is the life I got.

The embroidered pouch slung across my shoulder once held coins for wending my way – sometimes the change exacted by the ferryman in order to cross the dark river, sometimes as shiny offerings for Demeter when she missed her daughter the most. Now it stinks of beef. I offer up hot dog chunks to the dog in hopes of rewiring his canine circuitry into something friendlier, more manageable, more normal. “Please god,” I say at least twice a week. That I have zero faith in our strategies – strategies paid for with bloody dollar bills, by the way – I can only hope has no impact on their efficacy.

Arriving home, I look out over the still misty ground to what remains of the now abandoned play structure. There, I can just make out the black, spray painted letters that spell out: ‘ZERO FAITH’. Probably scrawled during one of the boy’s passages through middle school. Could be a skateboard brand. Or a song. Probably also a declaration. It makes me wonder: does misery pass through the body’s code, along with hair color and shoe size? Please don’t answer, I already know.

img_2642Notes: This was written to an ‘object prompt’ in a writing class. My object was a black cloth zippered bag embroidered with flowers.

A lament is a bit like a rant in that it resorts to stylized exaggeration. A rant uses the lens of anger and irritation, while a lament is more elegiac. In other words, don’t take this as autobiography. It’s more like sharing a dream.

The novel referred to is, “Wreck and Order” by Hannah Tennant-Moore. I plan to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon (and maybe here) and so I am ruminating about the novel. I haven’t quite finished, but can certainly recommend it. It is a stunning literary debut.

Finally, after reading this to my husband, he recommended not posting– not because it includes stuff about sex, but because it is so grim. Well, this may be unwise, but I trust all 35 of my readers to hold this a certain way.

39 thoughts on “Lost Orgasms or Zero Faith

        1. deemallon

          I wouldn’t have guessed you to be a blusher. Maybe you’ve become more modest with age? I certainly have.

        2. deemallon

          Like I said that really really surprises me. It’s interesting to learn about you.

    1. deemallon

      Hi Debbie. Thanks for commenting. Some posts you really want to hear from readers. This is one of them.

  1. saskia

    ahem=a kind of virtual blush, well it certainly is about sex…..and yes what we’re shown on screen has little in common with what we experience in our own bedrooms, or at least I may hope so!
    you mention orgasms having no purpose other than pleasure, in fact they do: the mouth of the uterus whilst contracting moves in such a way as to enable the sperm to move more effectively in the right direction – this was established I believe by a Dutch scientist who scanned a couple during intercourse in an MRI scanning device (only in Holland) or maybe I have misunderstood what you mean by ‘unspent female pleasure’
    Anyway bravo for embarking on such a sensitive subject.

    looking forward to more book reviews

    1. deemallon

      Hi Saskia. Thanks for informative comment. I think it’s been demonstrated that orgasm can alleviate menstrual cramps, too. But I meant the “unachieved orgasms”. Hard to figure what their purpose might be.

      1. Nancy

        To build a tolerance to frustration? That could be a purpose perhaps? Ya know, all that patience is a virtue…so while waiting for the “one”?

  2. Liz

    Wow … lots to chew on here. I must confess to being far less charitable about orgasms that go missing in action. I’d assign them to Dante’s ninth circle of hell (treachery). Not that I’m bitter …

    1. deemallon

      We are both thinking that Hell might be a good place for them. I used to be bitter about a lot of this stuff. Less so now. But I love to read the word “bitter” while discussing sex because it is real and part of it all.

    1. deemallon

      different for sure. Part of the challenge. Love the term “wide on”. Never heard it before. I love it when a post brings new stuff my way.

    2. deemallon

      Another addendum. Just read this quote is Susan Sontag’s: “If only I could feel about sex as I do about writing! That I’m the vehicle, the medium, the instrument of some force beyond myself.”

      1. Mo Crow

        the sexiest film I have ever seen is “Performance” with Mick Jagger & Anita Palenberg, especially the scene when Anita Palenberg says, “I make things happen”… she was (& still is) a major inspiration

  3. ravenandsparrow

    Whew! This is brave, Dee….and refreshing. I am thinking of that empty side-slipped feeling when an oncoming orgasm suddenly disappears. I’ve never had any place to describe or complain about it before.

    1. deemallon

      “Side-slipped” is such a good way to put it. I’m glad to be discussing this. As with most frustrations it is always better not to feel alone.

      1. Kayo

        So happy to be able to “re-read” this awesome lament and see it out there in the blogosphere!
        Right on, sister!

  4. snicklefritzin43

    Great, open, expressive post. Some phrases found the blush in these septuagenarian cheeks and a broad remembering smile. Thanks, Dee, for putting such a fine post before me today.

  5. Nancy

    Yes to that 4 second male focused crap. Yes to the bit of blushing many mentioned, with a bit of a squirming too. Memories, some missed, some not. Somehow though, although yes -brave to put this out there…somehow though, I would expect nothing less from you. You usually do ‘speak your mind’ on so many subjects…and you share your hard stuff, often on some very personal matters. I guess, as i write this, I discover that I think of you as brave all the time. xo
    PS Bless you for your good heart with Mr. Finney. I would not have that in me.

    1. deemallon

      Brave? I don’t know. But thank you. In rereading this post this weekend, it was satisfying to note that Finn has gotten A LOT better.

  6. Diane Hartmus

    Somehow missed this the first time. Perfect timing for me to see it now. As I was reading it I wondered if it was Hannah’s novel you were describing.
    Very impressiive piece Dee. I love the theme of womens’ missing orgasms. Got me thinking about all the ways/reasons they are missed. Inept lovers are certainly one cause, but as a solo mom, I know laundry and food shopping and child chauffeuring also play a role.

    Thanks for sharing this. It is so good, and hit me hard…in the best way.

    1. deemallon

      Thanks Diane. Did you read Hannah’s book? And yeah, laundry parenting etc plus sometimes the need for connection – can make us circumstance reliant.

      1. Anonymous

        I did read Hannah’s book. God her writing… so good. The topic was hard… do i know too much of her life? I winced a lot. Wondered what was from experience.
        I look forward to her next one.
        The orgasm piece really has played in my mind. Have you submitted it anywhere? It’s damn good.

        1. deemallon

          I haven’t. Lots of places will disqualify for having “published” on blog. But I will look. Submitted a chapter of my manuscript today to a contest, tho. Baby steps.

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