CROSS-CULTURAL OBSERVATIONS: ORGASM

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 4:22

According to available data, male orgasm in marital intercourse is a universal norm. For males, the correlation between incidence of intercourse and incidence of orgasm is positive and nearly perfect. The female experience of orgasm is far more variable, not only in our own society but cross-culturally as well, and its occurrence is highly influenced by cultural values and norms, and socialization practices. As Mead pointed out, “There seems therefore to be a reasonable basis for assuming that the human female’s capacity for orgasm is to be viewed much more as a potentiality that may or may not be developed by a given culture”.

Messenger reported of the Inis Beag that “there is much evidence to indicate that the female orgasm is unknown—or at least doubted, or considered a deviant response”. In the Tepoztlan village in Mexico, wives are not expected to be passionate, and husbands refrain from arousing their wives sexually, assuming that the passive and frigid wife will be faithful (Lewis).

Mangaian women, by contrast, have a great deal of premarital experience and develop orgasmic response as a matter of course. Female orgasm is highly valued: “The really important aspect of sexual intercourse for either the married man or the more experienced unwed male is to give pleasure to his wife or woman or girl—the pleasure of the orgasm” (Marshall). Davenports East Bay Melanesian group likewise took for granted the woman’s experience of orgasm in marital coitus. They believed firmly that, once engaged in fore-play, there was nothing to prevent a woman from having orgasm if intercourse followed (Davenport).

The evidence suggests that, in general, young females take longer in coitus to reach orgasm than young males do. Therefore, in repressive societies, in which even marital sex is furtive and hurried, characterized by attitudes antagonistic to sensuality and pleasure, the incidence of female orgasm is predictably low. If sexuality is openly valued and enjoyed, emphasizing prolongation and satisfaction for both partners, the orgasmic potential of women is more likely to be realized.

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