When it comes to the experience of sexual climax, many people feel some performance pressure. This mental and emotional strain has been called the tyranny of the orgasm. How would you know if this tension is harming your love life? You could ask yourself these questions:
These pressures are fueled by various fears, expectations, or entitlements we often pick up from our culture. Many people harbor tensions like these in their subconscious, without ever realizing it. The longer we keep these thoughts out of mind, the more pressure they generate. Why is that? We feel the pressure to fulfill the hope or to avoid the fear, plus the pressure to avoid admitting we harbor such thoughts.
When hopes and fears like the ones listed above come into a love relationship, people can’t enjoyplayful, spontaneous sex. Instead, they often resent their partners, for using them, or for depriving them. We are made so that all pressure makes orgasm more difficult. As a result, many of these couples find themselves neglecting warm or positive exchanges, afraid of awakening desires they consider insatiable. It is tragicomic, like people leaving for a vacation who can’t relax and enjoy the trip until they get there, or worse still, until they get home. It is sad when people focus on arriving at orgasm, and miss most of the adventure of the journey.
Where do we get these toxic fears, expectations, and entitlements? They come from our contemporary media – movies, TV shows, ads, social media, and most especially from the porn industry. All paint enticing but deceptively misleading pictures of recreational sex. Portrayals of recreational life without showing relationship responsibilities are everywhere on television programs and ads, and throughout social media. Portraying sex without relationship responsibilities is what pornography does. It pimps out our genitals to hijack our brains. Electronic brain scans of people on meth and cocaine look astonishingly similar to brains during orgasm. A romantic sexual climax is the natural high God wants couples to have be having together in private, to protect, celebrate, and consummate their love.
Bob Dylan was right when he told us that “everybody’s got to serve somebody.” I’ve only seen one power that can set us free from the tyranny of the orgasm without leading us into bondage to something else – believing in the liberating love of our Creator. We need to believe that God is the author of all freedom, not the push behind legalism, perfectionism, or performance pressure.
After many years trying not to think about God and sex at the same time, my clients typically have quite the struggle trying to even imagine giving their sex lives over to God. The Bible sees sexual pleasure as something God made for husbands and wives to enjoy sharing with each other. Is it possible to be loving God, the mate, and ourselves as well, all at the same time, during sex? Yes, even during sex, the mind can imagine a triangle with God at the top, and each partner as corners of the base, giving and receiving simultaneously, with both God and each other. A married person can invite herself or her partner into this mindset by making a triangle with her index fingers touching at the top, and her thumbs touching below.
Trying to be aware of God and lovemaking at the same time is hard for many to learn. It can be like two dogs fighting. One dog fights for pleasure, dominance, instant gratification, and control over the partner. The other fights for love, cooperation, gratitude, and acceptance of both partners as is. One wants to be the top dog, the master of the partner. The other dog wants to submit, and be mastered by more intelligent love and discipline.
Which dog wins? It’s always the one we’ve been feeding the most, the most attention, devotion, nourishment, and protection. We all have an ego, a dog that fights for us to have the most pleasure and the least pain in the short run. We all have a soul, a heart of hearts, and when God lives there, it wants the most love and joy and peace for the most people over the long haul. That dog has incredibly good sex, so feed it!
Verses 12 and 13 of 1st Corinthians 6 remind us of how we rationalize comfort food, and how addictive it can become. We tell ourselves that the stomach is made for food, and we have the right eat anything we want. Then we realize that not everything is good for us, and that we don’t want to be controlled by anything. These same dynamics apply to sex.
When we are craving sex or love, we can yield ourselves to the One who designed us to both give and receive at the same time. This surrendering trust is expressed practically in verses 6 and 7 of Philippians 4: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Why would we do that with our sexual requests? Because of the promised results: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” More peace means less pressure, and more orgasms.
If you are still too anxious to invite God into your sexuality, maybe first you need to learn how you can drain the tension out of your sex life. You can do it by releasing pressure into other activities that are part of the sex drive. For example, you can find other ways to release tension, to feel more attractive, to express love, to feel self‑esteem, to get a spiritual high, to feel powerful and free, to get energized and excited, to feel close and intimate, to share affection, to feel younger, to be charmed, to make someone else happy, and to shut out the world for a while, just to name a few of the good things that loving, faithful sex does. This whole process of rechanneling the sex drive into more public activities is called sublimation, and you can find tips and insights about this in another article here in this section of my blog.
A good way to gain power over the tyrant is to talk back to it, out loud. Call BS on its lies, and speak out loud the truth of what you believe. Hearing your voice loudly when the tyrant suddenly doesn’t have a real voice draws your attention back to what is true, and gives you a good feeling about it.
After all, the tyrant of orgasm is a big liar. One of the biggest and most common lies you may hear in your head (or push down into your subconscious) sounds like this: If I go without an orgasm for too long, or if my mate does, unspeakably terrible things will happen. The addicted mind yells out prophecies of doom – you will suffer, it warns, from obsessions, compulsions, insomnia, insanity, infidelity, divorce, resentment, stonewalling, inflammation of fantasy, and acting out sexually in ways that would be more harmful and shameful them ever. That is not true. That’s just the tyrant blaming no sex for all the harm that selfish and hidden sex has already been doing.
As a faith-based alternative, we can approach God, our same-sex friends, and our partner with more thoughtful communications and actions. In this way when it is necessary, we can be called into a fast from orgasm, like during absence, illness, or misunderstandings with our mate. Only then can we realize that all the frightening outcomes we just mentioned will actually subside. Just the way our cravings for junk food subside when we devote ourselves to extra prayer during a fast, the craving for orgasm subsides. When we trust God to bless us through praying in solitude and through working on our love relationships, we find our lust and self-pity give way to love and self-fulfillment.
In mental health circles, the word dysfunctional refers to people and practices that prevent our emotional needs from being met. Many of us were taught by our dysfunctional families in childhood that we should never express our painful emotions, or even feel them. Years later when we grow up and leave those homes, our addicted, tyrannized minds find ways to carry out the old traditions. The tyranny of the orgasm commands the mind’s fantasies and the body to make our genitals trigger a flood of endorphins in the brain. Doing this totally short-circuits the heart’s longings to express its needs and emotions.
What needs are we talking about here? We are all made to need what I call A-pills – Acceptance, Attention, Affection, Amusement, Approval, Appreciation, and Affirmation. As rude as a big bully in middle school who wants to take all your A-pills for himself, the tyranny of the orgasm pushes us around with threats, insults, and other intimidations we hear in our heads. All of them are lies, trying to convince us to isolate ourselves physically or at least emotionally. It wants us to act out our needs alone in fantasy instead of talking our needs out in reality, in relationship with God and our loved ones.
Pride lies to us. It tells us that if we express our needs in words, our loved ones won’t meet these needs. The lie of lust says that only this one experience of orgasm can satisfy our longings. The truth is that pushing for orgasm this way pushes God and others away from us emotionally, and guarantees that the needs of our heart will not be met. After self-administered orgasms, our longings actually just go to sleep for a short while, only to come back stronger than ever next time. The truth is that when we learn how to express our needs in words to God and others, we are much morelikely to get our needs met.