Did you know that some people can orgasm just from brushing their teeth? And some people have disorders that make them come dozens of times a day? How about the people you climax during yoga or weightlifting? They might seem like funny stories that occasionally pop up in our Facebook feeds, but they have profound implications about the nature of sex.
Mary Roach (who wrote Bonked) discusses a few of those nutty stories in her TED Talk "10 Things You Didn't Know About Orgasm," and provides a reason for the surprisingly frequent phenomenon - orgasms don't really come from genital stimulation. Sure, genital stimulation can signal for an orgasm's trigger (but not always), but they don't actually stem from them. They're actually triggered by the sacral nerve root in your spinal cord. The magic all happens thanks to your central nervous system.
It's a good illustration of our cultural misunderstanding about sex as a whole. Sure, sex might be the literal mashing and mixing of two bodies, but in the end, sex isn't at all really about positions or toys; it's about your whole body, all of its glorious physiology - with an emphasis on your brain. It's why so many "Tricks you can try reinvigorate your sex life!" fail, too. If your sex life with your partner has gone stale, the answer isn't a vibrator; it's the recognition that intimacy is hard, consistent work, and it usually begins with a combination of time, effort, and courage to be real.
But I'm not writing this to give a lecture on the merits of self-reflection. This is about the way we understand sex, and by default, orgasms. Just as a "penis in an orifice" definition is far too narrow to account for the broad, magical world of sexual activity, so it approaching giving and receiving orgasms simply through the lens of genital stimulation. Part of it is seduction; another part is trust. Some of it is simply finding all the different nooks and crannies that give you physical pleasure.
I, for example, can truthfully get pretty close when my partner licks or breathes in my ear, which may sound kind of odd, but it's true. I can also feel the tingles of an almost-orgasm when my partner describes his fantasies about me in explicit detail without touching me at all. Sex in a full-body, full-mind experience, and that's important to understand.
The better our understanding of sex, the better our sex will be.