• J R Fatz

Orgasms and Treacherous Toys - Improving Sexual Health

At Wishing Wellness, in my role as a licensed mental health counselor, I provide several specialty counseling services - one of those services is sex therapy for individuals and couples. Over the years, I have had similar discussions with numerous clients and couples as we worked through issues regarding sexual functioning and relationship issues. In a previous blog post, I talked generally about sexuality and intimacy in relationships. This article is more targeted and explains some thoughts about a specific situation in the ability to orgasm, or issues with changes in ability to orgasm. Even though I use females as an example (because it seems as though this specific issue impacts females more than males) the information can certainly equally apply to males. While there are many reasons why a person may have difficulty achieving orgasm, this article is only addressing the specific issue of "sex toys" and how the use of certain toys may inadvertently complicate achieving orgasm. This article includes generalizations and the information may not apply to specific people in specific situations.

In healthy situations, orgasm is an often desired end result of sexual arousal. Although a very natural process, human sexual arousal is a pretty complicated process. The act of becoming sexually aroused may be enhanced or frustrated by factors such as physical health, nutrition, stress, thoughts, emotions, mind set and setting, medications, time of day, hormones, past sexual experience, abuse or religious views. Almost anything can help or hinder our ability to be "in the mood" and become aroused.

In some particular situations, for a variety of reasons (including the simple passage of time), sexual intimacy with oneself or a partner may become "routine." What had previously been considered a "normal" sex life with typical orgasmic outcomes starts to shift and become more complicated and frustrating. This can lead to a cycle of emotions and thoughts which further complicates the process of intimacy and orgasmic outcomes.

It is a physiological feature of humans to adapt and adjust to sexual stimulation and arousal - just as it is with any other sensation or stimuli. A protective feature of our biology is to habituate to stimuli. Habituating means that over some period of time, we become less sensitive to things that once may have caused a previously heightened amount of stimulation. This includes lighting, sounds, smells, touch, responses and responses to stress. While not an uplifting example, the habituation concept is readily apparent when we think about drug addiction and the affects of drug ingestion and tolerance levels. Habituation, a primitive survival mechanism, can lead to a lessened degree of responsiveness to bad, or good stimulation, such as sexual arousal.

In some cases, as sexual arousal takes a downward turn, individuals and couples turn toward a variety of things to bring back the arousal. Different positions, places, clothing, fetishes, partners... TOYS. Sex toys certainly can have a place in helping a person's sex life. In some situations, toys can be prescribed to help a person discover their sexuality and orgasmic potential. However, in some situations, relying on toys can have an unanticipated outcome - that is what this article is about.

As I mentioned, over the years I have seen a common theme regarding a specific situation and scenario. A couple comes in for counseling and they are frustrated, hurt and unhappy with their sex life; which almost always started out great (or at least good). Now, the sex life has deteriorated to the point that the couple is considering breaking up. This almost always has to do with one, or both, of the partners, not being able to achieve orgasm anymore. Or, if they can achieve orgasm, it almost seems like a chore to get to that point. What once came easily (pun intended) is now a point of contention and frustration.

In an effort to make things better and "spice things up" people often turn to sex toys. For some couples, sex toys are a great addition to sexual activity and enhance sexual arousal.  Examples of helpful sex toys might be passive g-spot stimulators, sexy outfits, passive dildos or Yoni eggs. However, a frequent option which might require more thought, is use of an electric or battery operated vibrator or dildo.

Artificially operated vibrating devices can have a long-term unintended negative impact on orgasmic potential, especially in a couples setting. Assuming a person has previously had orgasms and the orgasmic potential is now simply lessened or harder to achieve, turning to vibratory stimulation may exacerbate or worsen the long-term potential to achieve non-vibratory orgasms. Additionally, over time, it will almost always be true that the vibratory stimulation becomes ineffective.

In situations where pre-orgasmic arousal levels are not naturally obtained, and a person turns to artificial vibratory stimulation for the arousal, the body will eventually get to a point where clitoral or vaginal desensitization occurs. This sets up a cycle that leads to longer time required with the vibratory stimulation and even greater subsequent desensitization. Pretty soon, batteries have to be bought in bulk! The clitoris (penis) and the nervous system will become habituated to the stimulation and orgasms will become more and more difficult to achieve. The cycle may worsen to a point where orgasms are almost impossible to achieve with human touch, oral stimulation or penetration. At first, vibratory stimulation might get the desired result - but in many cases I've seen, the end result is disappointment and alienation in a relationship because technology has replaced intimacy and human stimulation has become ineffective. In worst case couples' scenarios, because of the habituation issue and lack of arousal, people may get a temporary boost of arousal by seeking a new partner for excitement. The novelty of the new situation or new person brings back some initial sexual arousal potential - but very often, the long-term end result is the same; disappointment.

The good news is that in a majority of cases, the Big-O is not lost - just more elusive. A scenario such as this can almost always be helped - but it takes time to reconnect and reset the body's stimulation responses. Here are some ideas:

  • understand that arousal levels normally fluctuate     

  • together with their partner, people need changes and variety to maintain arousal & stimulation 

  • it is normal that over time, it takes longer to achieve previously obtained arousal levels

  • sexual teasing, deferment and delay, build up arousal levels & intensity

  • reestablish "normal" clitoral (penile) and vaginal sensitivity levels by avoiding intense stimulation from vibratory devices            

  • eliminate distractions - stress, drugs, time pressure, arguments, kids

  • increase facilitators - nutrition, proper weight, health, romance, non-sexual intimacy, respect

  • explore underutilized options - tantra, meditation, massage, aromatherapy, music

  • don't be afraid or embarrassed to seek professional help 

This article describes one specific type of sexual performance issue and is based on many generalizations and assumptions. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Being happy and content with one's sexuality can be an important factor in having a fulfilling life. If necessary, it can be a good idea to find someone that can help, if you have challenges in obtaining what you seek. Celebrate life!

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