Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women Revised and Expanded

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9780130727114: Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women Revised and Expanded

Are you shy or self-conscious when it comes to sex? Do you want to learn how to enhance the pleasure you derive from sex? The revised and expanded edition of Becoming Orgasmic provides a program designed to help anyone overcome the myriad obstacles to complete sexual satisfaction.

Whether married or single, young or old, the program presented in these pages will help you feel comfortable with yourself and your ideas about sex and enable you to grow as a person. Becoming Orgasmic will help you:

-Evaluate your sexual history and put it in perspective
-Explore your body through touch
-Understand the effects of pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause on sexual desire and response
-Be comfortable with your body and yourself as a woman
-Share self-discovery with your partner
-Find techniques to try if something turns you off
-Overcome the fear of orgasm
-Learn how to bring yourself to orgasm
-Practice safe sex in today's world—precautionary measures, social expectations, personal values, and choosing a partner in the age of AIDS

A personal and sensitively written book that is also informative, Becoming Orgasmic is designed to make you feel good about your sexuality and yourself.

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About the Author:

Julia R. Heiman, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the University of Washington Medical School. Joseph LoPiccolo, Ph.D., is professor and chairman of the psychology department at the University of Missouri. Both have extensive experience in treating sexual and marital problems.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Getting Involved

Where are you at this particular time in your life? You may be single, married, separated, divorced, or widowed. You may have several children or none at all. You may or may not be involved in a sexual relationship with someone. You may be under thirty, over sixty, or somewhere in between. There may be many difficulties in your life right now, or things may be pretty satisfying.

All of us, wherever we are in our lives, have emotional needs for closeness, intimacy, affection, and sexual gratification. While for most of us our emotional needs are more important than sexual gratification, even the strongest of emotional relationships can be disrupted by sexual problems. For many women, inability to become fully aroused and inability to experience orgasm are major sources of personal frustration and relationship distress. This book is designed to help you address these problems.

As you begin to look through this book you will probably have mixed feelings. Perhaps you are wondering if this book really is for you. You may be worried about whether or not you will get everything you want from it. On the other hand, you may feel unsure about exactly what you do want for yourself sexually or whether you are putting too much emphasis on sex as a problem. You may feel enthusiastic -- or very hesitant -- about beginning. Perhaps you are tempted to find a magic formula for changing. One thing we are fairly certain of is that you probably feel you want something different for yourself. You want to grow and explore your potentials, and you see the enhancement of your sexuality as part of this exploration.

That's why we refer to this book as a sexual and personal growth program. Specifically, this program is designed to help women who have not yet experienced or who have difficulty experiencing orgasm. We have developed the contents of the book from successfully treating, in sex therapy, numerous women with a variety of problems, fears, and potentials.

Orgasm is certainly a satisfying aspect of sexual growth. And yet, as you proceed through the following chapters, you will find that orgasms are not an isolated part of your sexuality. Orgasmic response depends on many things. Of course, it depends on sexual arousal, but feeling sexual can be influenced by your ability to feel comfortable with yourself, with your ideas about sex, and with your ideas about men and women. Thus, growing sexually has a lot to do with general personal growth. This book offers you a framework for learning more about your sexual feelings, changing those that you choose to change, and deciding how you want your sexuality to continue to develop and fit into the rest of your life.

Perhaps you've already read books and magazine articles on sexuality, and you've tried to make changes. You may have even attempted to put into practice certain ideas of your own that you thought would help.

It's important to remind yourself that as recently as twenty-five years ago, orgasms were not considered to be very important to women's sexual enjoyment, though they were considered to be directly linked to more general personality qualities. Thus, a nonorgasmic woman was likely to be labeled "frigid," implying a pervasive problem -- something quite deeply wrong and automatically requiring extensive therapy. Then, beginning around the 1960s, these views were challenged and a new standard appeared, this time fostering a supersexual image: Orgasm is a must. As a result, in order to feel sexually adequate, many women began to feel pressured to be instantly, regularly, or even multiply orgasmic.

Women we've seen in sex therapy often come to us feeling like failures because the sexual techniques they'd tried didn't work for them. Perhaps you've felt at times that if you could just do things the right way, you'd be orgasmic. It's natural to feel this way at times, to put pressure on yourself -- to try harder. However, doing this makes orgasm practically impossible. Rather than looking forward to and enjoying sex, you may find yourself wanting to avoid it or getting it over with as soon as possible. There may have been times when you've faked an orgasm in order to protect your self-image and your partner's opinion of you.

We hope that reading this book will help you take the pressure off yourself. We have tried to make this experience more than just a conglomeration of techniques. Sexual growth is not a series of steps or techniques toward a goal. It is a process that involves all of you. It involves your attitudes, thoughts, and feelings as well as your body. Learning to become orgasmic or more readily orgasmic is only a part of the process of lifelong sexual development. However, it is likely that you have some specific concerns about changes you want to make. We'd like to share with you a few of the questions that women more frequently have.

Will I ever have an orgasm? If you've never experienced orgasm, it's natural for you to worry that you may never have one. One woman in therapy said, "I used to go to parties and look at the other women. I would be sure that I was the only one there who couldn't have an orgasm." Actually, the fact that you may not have had an orgasm yet is not unusual. Currently, about 15 to 20 percent of the cases seen in sex therapy involve women who have never experienced orgasm. An even greater percentage of cases involve women who are orgasmic but who experience difficulty reaching orgasm some of the time or are unable to have orgasms with their sexual partners.

Many factors may be influencing why you haven't yet experienced (or rarely experience) orgasm. For instance, your family's religious and moral values may have strongly shaped your own attitudes about sex. Your positive or negative feelings about yourself as a person and as a sexual being may be conflicting with your attempts to feel more sexually satisfied. Your feelings about your present or past relationships with men, both on emotional and sexual levels, are likely to be important. How comfortable you are with your body and how familiar you are with sexual responsiveness and techniques may also influence whether or not, and how often, you are orgasmic. And there are also other possibilities, many of which we will discuss in the following chapters. It is possible to deal with those attitudes and feelings that are making it hard for you to experience orgasm. You can learn things about yourself and your sexuality that will make orgasm possible.

What will it mean to be orgasmic? Change usually involves some uncertainty, and you may be concerned about the changes that becoming orgasmic may make in your life.

Many women have concerns of this sort, which often reflect mixed feelings about being a sexual woman. Movies and books typically present female sexuality in ways that have an unappealing edge: the message that the sexy woman is at best not worthy of respect and at worst evil and dangerous.

Also, our parents, who serve as models in so many areas, often hide their own sexuality from us. (Do you remember being surprised when you realized that your parents had intercourse?) Unfortunately, then, women often grow up with very few models for female sexuality whom they respect and want to be like.

So it's not surprising that you may feel some conflict about wanting to change sexually. Most women share some of these feelings. Right now, it is important for you to trust yourself enough to begin to explore who you are and where you might want to change. Becoming orgasmic will not make you into a different person in terms of your basic sexual values and moral beliefs. What becoming orgasmic will do is facilitate a more rewarding expression of your basic sexual and emotional feelings and needs.

Will becoming orgasmic improve my relationships with men (or with my partner or husband)? If your relationship is a good one, you will probably find that becoming orgasmic will give you a more complete sense of pleasure and satisfaction from sex. However, becoming more sexually responsive or orgasmic will probably not improve other serious conflicts in the relationship. Sometimes it's difficult to gauge the degree to which problems in the sexual area affect a couple's other problems. One way to begin sorting this out is to ask yourself: If sex were no problem, would there still be other serious conflicts in our relationship?

Also, try thinking about your reasons for wanting to become orgasmic. Do you want to learn to enjoy your body and its responses for yourself or for the pleasure it can give your partner? You stand a much better chance of reaching your personal goals if you are attempting to grow because of your care for yourself first and your care for someone else later. Learning to understand and have some influence over your body enables you to begin to enjoy sex for the sensory and emotional experiences it can provide you. This involves taking responsibility for your own sexuality, something we will talk about in more depth later on.

GUIDELINES FOR USING THIS BOOK

This book was designed so that you can use it in the way that is best for you. The first part of the book (chapters 2-8) deals with exercises and learning experiences you can do on your own. The second part (chapters 9-13) deals with how to improve your sexual relationship with your partner. Each chapter builds on the information and exercises in the preceding chapters. For this reason it's best that you begin with chapter i and progress through the chapters, trying the exercises in the order they are suggested. Some of the exercises are optional, and at certain points you will be able to skip ahead or go back to previous exercises so that you can progress in the way that is most meaningful to you. If you are already orgasmic, we still suggest you read through all the chapters and try the exercises. Changing old patterns, examining your attitudes and feelings, and having some new learning experiences are equally important for you. The material in the chapters will help you do this.

We've included lots of information about sex, particularly about female sexuality, as well as comments that women have made, and common thoughts, fears, or experiences. Often we give you some questions to think about -- questions that have been helpful to others. These are questions that we found are important to ask the women we have seen and are now seeing in sex therapy. We hope that they will help you get as much as possible out of each chapter. Doing the various exercises is important, but your personal reactions to the experiences are especially meaningful for your growth. Sexuality involves your thoughts and feelings as well as your body, and change comes from exploring new ways to think and feel as well as new things to do with your body.

Each exercise requires that you have some time to yourself -- time when you can be assured of privacy and are free of any responsibilities (at least temporarily). A good idea is to set aside an hour or so for each exercise when you can be sure you will be undisturbed by business, children, friends, the phone, or your partner. If you have children, you might want to take advantage of times when they are in school or in bed. Exchanging baby-sitting with a friend or neighbor on a regular basis has worked for some women. If you have a partner or spouse, ask his help in making these individual sessions possible.

Take your time, and read each section through before doing the exercises described. Become familiar enough with what you will be doing so you don't have to keep referring to the book as you do a particular activity. Try to think about the questions at the end of the suggested activities while your reactions are fresh in your mind.

We suggest the amount of time you should spend on each exercise and also the number of times to try each during the week. You may find you need more or less time than we suggest. That's fine. What's important is to find a comfortable rate of progress. At the beginning, plan on around four to nine weeks for chapters 2-8 and three to six weeks for chapters 9-13. Try to have at least three individual sessions a week when you try the exercises in the book and practice what you've learned. You may find that unforeseen circumstances interfere at times. That happens. Try as much as you can to keep up some sort of schedule for this program. This is important because of the nature of what you'll be learning and exploring. Each new experience builds on previous ones and makes learning easier. Also, at times you may be tempted to give in to the part of you that resists further change. You will find that having a schedule for progress gives you a little push to help overcome these natural fears about changing.

You are not every woman. You are yourself. You will have your own unique process of sexual growth. Some of the exercises we describe may benefit you a great deal, some may not, and others may initially sound simplistic and even silly. Laugh about them, but try them, too -- we've seen women make unexpected discoveries.

Some suggestions may sound easy -- for example, taking a personal sexual history. Yet you may find that you postpone trying it or, when you do try it, that you feel somewhat irritable and want to stop. On those exercises with which you may find it too uncomfortable to proceed, we will be giving you specific ideas about what you can do. Two general guidelines that you will find helpful when confronted with an impasse are: First, accept your response, do not judge it. Your negative response is an honest one and is there for a reason; to blame yourself is a waste of energy and self-defeating. Second, get acquainted with, rather than avoid, the negative feelings that are behind your negative reaction. You may need to name the feeling (is it anger? fear? shame?) first and then examine it (where in your experience does it come from? what memories or fantasies are tied to it?).

The shift we want to encourage within you is away from the critic who chants, "What's wrong with you, how have you failed this time?" and toward the curious explorer who asks, "That's interesting, what's going on here?"

We've mentioned that anticipating change can be frightening because it means interrupting comfortable, predictable (although often unsatisfying) patterns and risking potential disappointment as well as potential satisfaction. Change is also irregular. If you have ever tried to change other areas of your life -- by dieting, learning how to dance, learning how to talk in front of a group of people, teaching yourself to be better at ice-skating, swimming, or tennis -- you have probably found that improvement occurs with stops and starts. To prevent giving up during the difficult moments, it is important not to expect huge changes all at once. Growth, whether physical or emotional, is a series of small and uneven steps, so it's important to enjoy each small change, experience it fully, and resist the temptation to devalue the change and yourself by worrying about how much further you have to go. It's very important to acknowledge whatever gains you make and to take credit for them.

Relax. Give yourself time. The exercises, questions, and learning experiences we've included in this book are not tests of your ability that you can either pass or fail. Rather, they give you a chance to learn about yourself in ways that can not only enrich the sensual-sexual aspect of your life but other areas of your life as well.

Before you go on and actually begin the program, we'd like to recommend strongly that you have a gynecological exam if you haven't had one in the last yea...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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