Orgasm is highly symbolic and much personal, interpersonal, and sociocultural importance has been accorded to it. Given its significance, the absence of orgasm can be experienced as a source of personal distress and can also lead to relationship difficulties. However, previous orgasm research did not distinguish between cultural and intrapsychic orgasm scripts. The present study aimed to explore (1) how male and female orgasm are represented in Canadian culture (including Quebec culture); and (2) individuals’ beliefs, expectations, and ascribed meanings to orgasm in different-gender relationship contexts among a sample of women and men. Data from 27 interviews conducted among individuals in committed different-gender relationships (15 women, 11 men, 1 queer person; 21–68 years old), were analyzed using thematic analysis. Two overarching themes describing sociocultural representations of orgasm were developed: (1) Male sexual pleasure is innate/female sexual pleasure is acquired, and (2) Orgasm is part of (hetero)sex. Four main themes describing participants’ personal orgasm-related beliefs were also developed: (1) Orgasm is not part of (hetero)sex, (2) Orgasm is partner-dependent, (3) Orgasm is self-dependent, and (4) Orgasm is a dyadic experience. Many participants endorsed conflicting orgasm scripts and representations simultaneously. The data show several distinct, co-existing, yet conflicting prescriptive and gendered scripts, as well as personal responsibility and relationship discourses that are endorsed simultaneously by participants. This finding suggests shifts and developments in current sexual scripts. The present study’s findings can be used in future research examining sexual wellbeing and function, and relationship outcomes.


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pp. 328-342
Launched on MUSE
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