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Why you should get savvy about National Orgasm Day

July 30th, 2008

Dr Petra

Tomorrow (31 July) is National Orgasm Day. Now some of you might be thinking this is a bit daft since why are we limited to one orgasm per year? Surely, a bit like Veterans Day every day should be orgasm day?

Well, National Orgasm Day isn’t really a day where everyone in the UK will suddenly combust. Somewhat predictably it’s based on a commercial event where a sex store wanted some publicity a few years back. Since then it’s been hijacked by just about anyone with a sex-related product to sell. And this year is no exception with a festival of product placement and bad sex science pinned around July 31. Take a peek at this PR site for some examples of press releases being circulated to mark the occasion.

That’s the problem with National Orgasm Day. It was never designed as a celebration of physical pleasure, sexual adventure or a means of reaching physical or emotional bliss. It was designed to sell us things. So this year sex toys, aphrodisiacs and pelvic toners are all being tagged to National Orgasm Day.

The most problematic story this year comes from a double act between a pelvic toner company and a women’s sex magazine. They have run an orgasm survey which has – unsurprisingly – shown that women apparently want to tone their vaginas and that ‘fit women are sexier’. The research isn’t reliable since it has been run through a pelvic toner site, meaning women who end up there are already interested in this issue. The questions asked in the survey don’t always seem to match the answers revealed in the press release and subsequent media coverage, while the company behind the survey has apparently based their work on outdated or incorrectly understood evidence.

While pelvic toning is important to women who have had a baby and women with urinary stress incontinence, evidence does not support it being as important for young women and those who have not had a baby. And for women who have had a baby and are encountering problems free advice is available on the NHS – including free toners if your baby is under a year old since you don’t pay prescription costs. If you wanted to buy a toner you shouldn’t do so without a checkup just to be sure you’re not suffering any problems (like a prolapse) that need different treatment regimens.

Simply encouraging women to buy pelvic toners as a means of boosting their sex life and not giving correct information to those who may have a clinical need for a toner is not sex positive practice.

Most worrying is the pelvic toner survey has remained open – which is just poor research. Either you’re running your sex survey, or it’s over and you’re analysing or presenting your findings. Your work becomes completely unreliable and unethical if you leave a survey running when you’ve already told potential participants what answers you want them to give. Unfortunately several journalists haven’t understood this and have already given the study a platform.

The result of all the various product placement and unreliable survey data makes a mockery of National Orgasm Day since we get told a lot about orgasms, but most of it is nonsense. The focus is universally on women with a subtext that women automatically find orgasms difficult, need to be coaxed into sex or buy products to rectify their ‘problem’, and that penetrative vaginal sex is the end goal of all encounters.

The entire focus of press and publicity coverage is on penetrative sex with masturbation only mentioned as a means to get you in the mood for intercourse. Wider issues of communication, confidence, negotiation, adventure and exploration are neglected. Women who don’t have vaginal orgasms are described as deficient, while the opportunity to explore variety and desire within male masturbation – or mutual masturbation – is completely lost. In short, National Orgasm Day should really be renamed ‘Women are really rubbish at orgasms aren’t they, let’s sell them something to fix that Day’.

So if you notice any coverage about National Orgasm Day tomorrow (or if you’ve seen some already) it’s worth noting that the majority of stories in the press have been put there by people who want you to buy their products. Most experts commenting on National Orgasm Day stories are doing it to promote their websites, magazines, stores or services. And most journalists writing about National Orgasm Day don’t want to do anything too raunchy, they just want to fill up some space during a slow news week.

It’s not what it should be – a celebration of sexual pleasure. Instead it’s a missed opportunity to really talk frankly about sex.

Of course orgasms are important – and we deserve better than this. So join me tomorrow on National Orgasm Day when I’ll give you some straight talking sex tips for enjoyable orgasms – without a bit of product placement or shonky sex survey in sight.

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