The Big O



A friend of mine recently brought this article to my attention and asked for my opinion on it as a sex educator. The article is about “karezza,” (from the Italian “caress”) a philosophy and practice of making love without orgasm as a way to reconnect with your partner. I’m a lot more into the second link (which is an actual karezza practitioner talking about the practice) than the first one (which is a major news network giving their perspective), but I think there are a lot of interesting points that this brings up.

The bottom line for me is that if a sex act is consensual and between adults, I’m all for it! I do think our culture is way too goal-oriented when it comes to sex, and I think it would be beneficial for all of us to focus more on the journey and not stress out so much about the orgasm(s). I also love the emphasis this practice places on building intimacy with a partner and appreciating all parts of each other’s bodies, not just the genitals. The practice of karezza was started by a pretty badass 19th century feminist, Alice Bunker Stockham, an OB/GYN who was pro-birth control, anti-corsets, and a general rock star quality person. And there does happen to be a special spot in my heart for kickass revolutionary way-before-their-time feminist activists (cheers, Hildegard von Bingen)!

Here are the issues I have with the ABC article. First of all, it’s very heteronormative and based on the assumption that everyone in the world is (or desires to be) married and/or in a long-term monogamous relationship. Taking time to focus on building intimacy in the context of an established partnership is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to meet someone in a bar (or wherever – does anyone actually meet people in bars?), take them home, and have a really hot one night stand. In which case, if it’s me, I would probably be more about the orgasms than about the building intimacy with this person who I’m probably never going to see again.

The other thing that irks me a bit about the article (and which is true of a lot of the mainstream media’s coverage of sex issues) is that this article presents karezza as a better, more enlightened way of having sex, rather than one great choice among many. There are innumerable ways that people express their sexuality, and the infinite variety of human sexual expression never ceases to astound me. And I really don’t think there is one sexual act or one way of experiencing sexuality that works for everyone. So I think it’s unproductive and potentially harmful to place sexual experiences in a hierarchy, where one is necessarily “better” than another.

If you want to have orgasm-free sex because it makes you feel connected to your partner on a deeper level, or because it fulfills your desires, or because orgasms are not really your thing, I am all for that! If you want to have orgasms, but are considering orgasm-free sex because you think it’s an objectively “better” type of sex, or because you think that’s what your partner wants, or because you get really stressed about orgasms because you’re putting too much focus on them in your life, I would suggest that you take some time to explore your own personal desires and figure out what in sex is actually important to you. It’s totally possible to have stress-free orgasmic sex – I’ve done it, and it was awesome!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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