What the imams from a thousand years ago say about orgasm is basically this kind of reasoning: orgasm is for heaven what fire is for hell; if you live an ungodly life, you will receive a punishment for which the earthly experience of having burnt yourself is only a warning, just to give you an idea of what it might be. If, on the contrary, you live a good life, you will be rewarded, and the earthly experience of orgasm is to give you an idea of what it might be and a sort of insight into the paradise, so you might feel motivated for praying at 4.30 am and similar things. But of course, both fire and orgasm are merely metaphors of something that is beyond any proper expression in the language of this life.
I tend to be fixed on the vision of paradise as much as medieval Christians tended to be fixed on the vision of hell. But in earthly terms, I never had any special consideration for orgasm as such, and always thought it is an object of intense falsification, since the first feminism, in a sort of "battle for orgasm". The first ideas about it that I received, when I was a teenager in late communist / democratic transition Poland, came from the classical books of Wisłocka and Lew Starowicz, that made the revolution of that time. It was basically the idea that orgasm is something difficult and not for everybody, since many women are anorgasmic, suffer from frigidity, Coughlan syndrome, etc. I was seriously worried it might be my case. There was a strong accent on searching for symptoms of this condition in the woman, such as the famous question of C-V, or clitoris-vagina distance (supposedly, if it is too far, in anatomic terms, the woman would be definitely unable to achieve orgasms during the intercourse, for life). It was an essentialist approach, fixed on the abstract "capacity of achieving" whatsoever, inscribed in the female body, its anatomy, and paying very little attention to the subtleties of actual sexual practice that was supposed to lead to it. I think this approach reflected the essential simplicity of the local sexual culture, in which sex consisted mainly in some in-out moves; even their duration or intensity were secondary aspects that escaped the narrow framing. The idea that a woman might have an orgasm with a given partner and not with another one was just a curious hypothesis, mentioned in the margin of the main discourse. But basically, a woman was either "orgasmic" or "anorgasmic", as if predestined to either heaven or hell.
I'm by no means inclined to criticise Wisłocka's book or belittle its importance. It was indeed a revolutionary book, reliable in many things. For my 18th birthday, I also received another book, published and distributed under the auspices of the Catholic Church, where I could find the instruction how to follow the so called calendar method, today also known as Vatican roulette. There was also a hint that the woman achieves some sort of ecstasy at the moment of childbirth, more precisely when the child's head is pushed through her vagina, if she is not under the effect of strong painkillers (sic!). But in my battle for orgasm I never went as far as trying this, so I'm in no position of stating if this is true or not. About the same time in my life, but through quite a different source, I also learned there exists a kind of Meccan roulette called عزل, but luckily enough Wisłocka's book informed me quite unequivocally that coitus interruptus is not a valid contraceptive method, since also the pre-cum fluid contains spermatozoa. Alhamdulillah.
By the way, at the time, we also had in Poland a kind of book about sexual cultures of the world, including the Orient. If I remember correctly, it was Lew Starowicz who authored it. It was incredibly naive, badly written, sort of amateurish publication. I just mention it to say Wisłocka's book truly appeared as something brilliant; it had something authentic in it, something that made it into that revolutionary importance both in Poland and in a series of East European countries where it was translated. Many years later, I was deeply shocked by her biography, Sztuka kochania gorszycielki, published in 2014 by Violetta Ozminkowski. The episodes from Wisłocka's life were illustrative of the harshness of any Polish female life; I cannot claim having come close to her suffering in any moment of my own bumpy erotical biography. Her life, at least as far as Ozmnikowski depicts it, started with a regular rape at the moment of taking her virginity, and continued with the experience of regular polygamy, painful childbirth, painful divorce, painful loneliness, without mentioning the sexist context of her academic life, etc. The culminating, ending moment of the biography is the revelation of the secret behind the only erotically positive male figure, a sailor Wisłocka encountered during her vacation, educated in many brothels of the world. He was supposed to be one who gave her the first orgasmic experience and inspired the making of the revolutionary Sztuka kochania. The testimony brought about at the end indicates that guy was not even a sailor of any kind; he was merely an animator from the local tourist centre, living seasonal romance throughout each summer. He created that sailor brothel-going persona merely to fascinate lonely, frustrated women such as the future author of Sztuka kochania herself. As if it was all over an imposture, all the sexual revolution of Poland initiated by a woman who was so tragically unhappy throughout her own sexual life. We were taught about love and eroticism by someone who never truly experienced any of them.
I'm afraid Poland has changed very little since that time, and if possible, for worse. It is an extremely harsh reality, as far as I can judge (it must be taken into the account that I didn't have any close physical contact with any Polish male for more than a quarter of a century, so I'm not in a good position to evaluate whatsoever; on the other hand, the very fact that I lived in Poland for decades without experiencing any intimacy with its inhabitants is symptomatic). I include these recollections just because I've recently read a funny comment under an online article dedicated to sexual dysfunctions among Polish women. It went straight to the point, stating: "It is quite natural that Polish women suffer from sexual dysfunctions, since they make love with Poles". Nothing to add. At a given moment of some sort of intellectual crisis, I got a rather stupid habit of entering the sex chatroom provided by one of the main Internet services of the time, Wirtualna Polska. The local usages were peculiar. It was normal to start the chat with the injunction "zeszmacę cię, suko", which is an idiomatic expression without an exact equivalent in any other language I know; the literal translation would be something like "I will turn you into a piece of old cloth / into a rag, you bitch". Pragmatically, it functioned as a sort of greeting or opening formula.
No wonder I never went very far beyond those preliminaries. Obviously, the men behind the screens were weak and uncertain of their value, and very little inclined to have anything in common with an over-educated (also sexually over-educated) bitch like me. What might have happened with them across the last decade is only a conjecture of mine. But I do not doubt the usages have become even harsher, and many men became literally encapsulated in their bubbles of compulsively watched hard porn, intoxicating their imagination and in numerous cases, as I presume, rendering them unable to build up any normal relationship with any woman whatsoever. Their dream of strength, fulfilled in massive extreme right manifestations (the last one gathered a crowd of 250 000, predominantly male, participants), starts in their private capsules of hard porn. Specialised studies should be made about this.
But that was about the hell; let's talk about the heaven. As I said, for the major part of my life, I gave no special attention to orgasm as such. What I thought and experienced about it was more or less as follows: first of all, the thing is very short, barely three or four seconds, too short to make it an object of consistent aesthetic appreciation. In other words, the pleasure connected to orgasm in itself was moderate in my view; the sensation was basically reduced to a short series of contractions in the genital area; the greatness of it resided mainly in the sort of cultural importance attributed to it. It was satisfying as a sort of closing parenthesis cutting short the tension that had built up; this is why it was giving the sensation of the complete thing well done, to be appreciated afterwards as a specific sort of relaxation, usually just giving the respite to forget sex and concentrate on other matters of life.
What I recon must be told as clearly and as aloud as possible is that orgasm is in the first place a private, individual, unshared experience. Two things we should forget in the first place are all those myths about simultaneous orgasm as a sort of ideal, as well as all those old ideas about the male as the giver, the provider or whoever, of the orgasm. In my opinion, it is important to say that it is not in the power of any man to give or offer an orgasm to whoever. Perhaps, paradoxically, it is the source of the view I've criticised above, stating that it is essentially all about the woman's capacity of claiming or receiving or accepting or admitting or simply having (whatever verb we chose) an orgasm. Privately, I believe the giver of orgasm is God; yes, as radically and literally as this. If this is supposed to be a glimpse into the paradise, He concedes it to whom He chooses. It does not sound like a very orthodox lemma in any established religion, but it is my personal view.
To put it short of any further theological musings, it would be a grotesque presumption in a man to claim that he can offer or provide or give an orgasm to any partner of his; on the other hand, it is useless and unjust to make the man responsible for any lack of orgasm we might experience, if he does his duty the best he can. The rest is with... OK, yes, the rest is with God. Since it is not in the power of any woman, either, to provide, infallibly, an orgasm to herself. And of course, any woman's attempts at improving the male experience, in terms of the quality of his orgasm, are just a labour lost. By the way, I believe the insight into the quality of the male orgasm is extremely scarce; it's one of the darkest, most mysterious and least explored aspects of the sexologist science. In the everyday life, most people just make a confusion between male orgasm and ejaculation.
There is also another aspect that I would like to see more clearly, but never encountered any attention paid to it in whatever sources I tried to consult. I wonder what is the relation between achieving orgasm during the intercourse and the pelvic thrust performed by the woman; by which I mean all sorts of deliberate muscular effort displayed for the benefit of the thing going on, especially the subtle activity of the entire pelvic bottom muscular anatomy, which is quite complex. I suppose we have become very lazy, sisters, this last thousand years, delving into the passivity of an intercourse that is supposed to be received, more than actually made. But all the (contemporary western) books on the topic of achieving orgasms say that the royal way is relaxation. I'm afraid I never followed this advice. (Concomitantly with prayer), the only way of achieving an orgasm I actually know is hard work.
By the way, I'm currently reading one of those books, namely Tantric Orgasm for Women, by Diana Richardson. I kept it for many years on my shelf of erotica as a curio, although I always believed it is just an enormous New Age nonsense (at least not as dangerous as the Catholic book I'd received for my 18th birthday). I reread it now and it seems to me that I find interesting hints. Perhaps it requires considerable experience and insight to get through this kind of reading, and to be able to grasp intuitively what she is actually trying to say and in what sense it might be true. Nonetheless I find it refreshing and inspiring. Be it for the distinction that the author tries to make between female passivity and what she calls receptivity.
Many of those opinions (and habits) I used to have changed quite recently. As I've already explained, my adventure begun when I noticed an unexpected change in my physiological reactions at the approaching menopause. Also, I've already commented on the fact that nothing in the cultural transmission I had received prepared me for the fact that I might face this kind of reality at this stage in my life. If I knew, I would arrange many things differently; this is the cause of my complaint, and also the cause of my decision to provide these musings as a publicly available testimony of what life is. So, in this perspective, orgasm definitely appear to me as an aspect of maturity. Across my twenties and thirties, it was a simple (initially even not so very simple) question of having it. It is only very late in age that the experience starts to develop into something much more interesting.
Of course, it is very difficult to explain in what this change consists. Taking it quite primarily, it is longer. By curiosity, I checked in the Internet what is the official average duration of an orgasm. Google says it is 3 or 4 to 15 seconds, although a single off-road study proving that it may possibly last as long as 20 seconds to 2 minutes is also quoted. I believe to have arrived close to those 20 seconds, although a 2-minute orgasm still appears as something monstrous to me (although I feel inclined to believe that under highly specific conditions it might be real). I took the fancy of counting the seconds, which might even be a good technique to make it last longer, although of course the measurement is strongly debatable (first of all, how long is one second while you are having an orgasm?).
Another aspect may be called, if I want to create a scientific term, the locus of this experience in the body. A really good orgasm is a kind of migrating sensation that appear, as an unpredictable and unexpected wave, in different parts of the body, not just the series of contractions involving the genital area. The most beautiful I had passed through my face as a sensation that I might compare to a sudden slap of a bird's wing (kind of event that often happens in falconry). Ephemeral, surprising and sublime.
Being like this, orgasm takes on quite a different importance as a unique, unrepeatable, individualised experience to be singled out and remembered, not just a sort of closing parenthesis drawn in finer or thicker line. It starts to have a quality and a content truly to become something aesthetically appreciable. And, last but not least, something that might eventually be interpreted as a meaningful insight into a paradise.
But perhaps it might be seen as a cruelty to write such things while the majority of women may only expect their menopause exactly according to the symptoms about which I've always been informed. Yet I still believe it is important to give a stronger cultural expression to other scenarios, that are nonetheless very real, and perhaps even not so very rare as it seems to me now. I suppose that hormone replacement therapies might be redesigned to fit those alternative scenarios, rather than try to mimic the hormonal balance of younger women. Certainly, the culture would have to change profoundly, if this is ever to happen. First of all, there is the question who will be the hero to make love with such over-receptive and doubtlessly over-exigent Shakespearean queens. Till now, I'm afraid, the most liberal concession that the European societies have made to their 45+ ladies is to send them to Samburu warriors, who welcome them as wealth, offering them the same unconditional love that in earlier times they reserved to their cows.