Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros15Linguistique féministeCréationsOrgasm. On the flux and flow of a...

Linguistique féministe
Créations

Orgasm. On the flux and flow of a term through times and spaces

A video essay, 23 min, with an annotated text version, 2023
Orgasme. Sur le flux et reflux d'un terme au cours du temps et de l’espace. Un essai-vidéo, 23 min, accompagné de sa transcription annotée, 2023
Christina Goestl

Résumés

Mon essai vidéo fait le récit de la construction du terme orgasme au cours de l'histoire de l'Occident. Anciennement, le terme orgasme avait plusieurs significations – en gonflement et en état d’excitation, excitation intense ou violente. Les textes antérieurs au dix-neuvième siècle décrivent l'excitation et mentionnent l'éjaculation, mais n'utilisent pas le terme orgasme. Au dix-neuvième siècle, le terme est de plus en plus utilisé avec une connotation sexuelle. Ce n'est qu'au vingtième siècle qu’orgasme devient un terme exclusivement sexuel. Dans le contexte de ce développement linguistique, l’orgasme devient un paramètre qui se voit assigner dans la société une fonction productive. Ce développement linguistique a depuis toujours été critiqué en tant que construction physiologique normative, dont la fixation sur les organes génitaux et la fonction réduit notre compréhension des plaisirs et des joies des corps sexuels. En retraçant l’histoire du terme à travers le temps, la question se pose de savoir comment le plaisir était abordé avant que le terme orgasme ne développe sa signification et sa pertinence actuelles. Quelles perceptions, idées et descriptions du désir peut-on trouver à une époque où le terme est encore absent ? Existait-il des notions de plaisir entièrement différentes qui restent à découvrir ? Et si tel est le cas, qu'ont-elles en commun avec les concepts féministes et queer contemporains, et quelles inspirations offrent-elles ?

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1

Orgasm. On the Flux and Flow of a Term Through Times and Spaces
Crédits : Christina Goestl

  • 1 I wish to thank my English language editor, dan*ela beuren, for her great support in writing thi (...)

2Hi everybody, nice to have you here. Today I want to talk about
Orgasm. On the Flux and Flow of a Term Through Times and Spaces
Christina Goestl, 20231

3I’ll start with some background information:

  • 2 Christina Goestl, Clitoral Matter. On the Politics of Sexual Pleasures in Western European Cultu (...)

4The inspiration to look into the history of the term started in the course of my research project “Clitoral Matter”2, in which I’ve tracked the history of knowledge production from a queer feminist perspective. In secondary literature quotes I repeatedly stumbled upon a notion of “orgasm” that was NOT to be found in the original sources. Instead, there's a whole landscape to explore when it comes to language about bodies and pleasure.

  • 3 Examples are the Hawaiian language, see Max Kenneth, The Philology of the Orgasm. Nassau Weekly, 20 (...)

5“Orgasm” as known today is a Western invention dating from the early twentieth century. Its definition and the concept constructed around it have been spread into the world on a colonial campaign, with the pretension to be universal. But that is not true. Many languages spoken in this world have no term similar to “orgasm”, or have terms that could be understood as “orgasm”, but have a wholly different “flavour“3.

  • 4 Peter Cryle, The Telling of the Act. Sexuality as Narrative in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century F (...)

6In this video, I focus on history written in the Western world. To outline my motives I’d like to quote Peter Cryle, Emeritus Professor of Humanities and researcher specialising in modern French literature, who frames his intentions beautifully in his 2001 book “The Telling of the Act”. He writes that he wants “[…] to contribute substantively to a history of sexuality and to engage in historically based critique of some of the universalist assumptions at work in sexological talk”4.

7If you look up the word “orgasm” in a dictionary you will learn that an orgasm is “the moment of greatest pleasure and excitement in sexual activity”5. In this description two words leap to the eye: “greatest” – as a value attributed to “pleasure and sexual activity”, and “moment” - a reference to time. There is a history to how this definition came about.

  • 6 Ernest Weekley (British philologist, 1865-1954) An etymological dictionary of modern English, Londo (...)
  • 7 Ernest Klein (Hungarian-born Romanian-Canadian linguist, 1899-1983), A Comprehensive Etymologica (...)

8The term “orgasm” has Greek roots. The traditional meaning of the term is “to swell and be excited6, intense or violent excitement”7. The term was handed down in lexicons and encyclopedias of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with reference to its Greek roots.

  • 8 Walter Charleton (natural philosopher and English writer, 1619-1707), The darknes of atheism dispel (...)
  • 9 Randle Cotgrave (English lexicographer, died c. 1634), A Dictionarie of the French and English T (...)
  • 10 Isaac-Casaubon (Doctor in Physick (as mentioned in the preface), French classical scholar and philo (...)
  • 11 Walther von Wartburg (Swiss philologist and lexicographer, 1888-1971), Französisches etymologisches (...)
  • 12 Ernest Klein, p. 1094 (also: violent exitement”); Albert Villaret (German military physician, 1847 (...)

9“Orgasm” is explained as a heating up that shows in angry outbursts8, extreme fits9 but also pleasant fury10, a boiling up of bodily fluids, a “vital excitement in one or more parts of the body”11, a “bursting with moisture and juices”, “sensual excitement and tension”12.

  • 13 Johann Heinrich Zedler (bookseller and publisher, 1706-1763), Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexic (...)

10Orgasm is caused by what “drives the spirits of life into a movement”, which can be hard work, or giving birth, as well as dancing or riding, a violent confrontation, “when menstruation approaches in women causing their veins to swell and their backs to hurt”, when animals go into heat, when humans are lusty and women’s and men’s semen start boiling, and in case of illness13.

  • 14 James Nihell (Ecuyer, Conseiller-Médecin du Roi, 1708?-1759), Traité des eaux minérales de la ville (...)

11Even rivers can orgasm, by showing “irregularity in all directions”14.

  • 15 “Orgasmus des Blutes” (orgasmus sanguinis) in Ludwig Rintel, Versuch über die Krankheiten und organ (...)

12In its multitude of manifestations, orgasm has been understood as a process embedded in a coming and going of varying intensities, but never as a “moment” – think of orgasm caused by suffering from high fever for a couple of days. Except in dictionaries, the term is hardly found. Here and there it appears in medical texts about diseases15, but it was not used in connection with sexualities, neither in scientific nor in erotic texts.

  • 16 This expression is found quite frequently, as in Thomas Cooper (English bishop, lexicographer, theo (...)
  • 17 Jean Riolan (French anatomist, 1580-1657), Encheiridium anatomicum et pathologicum (Nicholas CULPEP (...)

13What is to be found are many texts by natural philosophers extensively writing about the “carnal lust of the body”16. Physiology and the interplay between body parts during sexual activities were studied – how, for example, the clitoral “[l]igaments are chased and heated, and the Tickling is extended as far as the Womb [...]”17.

  • 18 Giles Jacob (English legal writer, 1686-1744), Tractatus de Hermaphroditis: or, a Treatise of Herma (...)

14Not only did women’s sexual pleasures and satisfaction play a central role, but detailed descriptions of “amorous Adventures” telling about “erection and falling” of both clitorises and penises, ejaculation of both women and men, the “pleasure in the Embraces” of Hermaphrodites and Tribades with supersized clitorises have been handed down. Stories of sexual revelries between women, accompanied by flogging and drinking before and “after their Sportings were over” were told18.

  • 19 Hans Folz (German wound physician, writer and Meistersinger (mastersinger), 1435/1440-1513), quoted (...)

15No mention of “orgasm” but of bodily appetites, corporeal cravings, sexual actions in many variations, carnality that rises directly from flesh and bones – with the plural used extensively. Neither was there necessarily a goal to be achieved: “In the ideal case of erotic consent [...] sexual desire [...] leads a continuum of pleasure across to the moment when it is quite enough for the participants” writes the German physician, writer and “Meistersinger” Hans Folz in the late fifteenth century19.

  • 20 “l'orgasme vénérien”, Félix Roubaud (French physiologist, 1820–1878), Traité de l’impuissance et de (...)
  • 21 In X. Jacobus (French army surgeon, 1837-1890), Amour aux colonies. Paris, 1893, p. 100, we find th (...)

16Around 1835, the term “orgasm” in the sexual sense as we know it today began to appear in writings. To distinguish it from its use in other contexts, it has been called “venereal orgasm”20, “sexual orgasm”, and “erotic paroxysm”, as for instance in “the paroxysm of lust reaches its apogee”21.

17The notion of anger, rage and bitterness disappeared, but still, the term continued to be used in an extended sense for another 100 years: as a medical condition of any organ, a sexual event, and the supposed culmination ending a sexual event. In a text from 1876, the French physician Félix Roubaud used the term orgasm in all these meanings: he described orgasm of the genitals accompanying angina; the superior potential for orgasm in women due to the sheer volume of the bulbs of the clitoris, the “great number of nerves concentrated in such a small space”, and women’s “great general sensitivity”; and he vehemently opposed the assumption that spermatic ejaculation of men marks the end of venereal orgasm22.

  • 23 Venus is commonly mentioned in reference to sexual activities, for example by Giles Jacob, Tractatu (...)
  • 24 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 242.
  • 25 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 216.
  • 26 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 278. John Cleland (1709-1789), renowned as the “most (...)

18The transition from “sexual orgasm” as part of the “Pleasures of Venus”23 to THE orgasm as a distinctive event was also reflected in the erotic-pornographic literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Peter Cryle – whom I’ve already introduced – explored the “more-or-less climactic story of climax”24 in French erotic literature as a “thematic contest between gradations and directness”25. Until the end of the nineteenth century the erotic narrative was not concerned with orgasm, perhaps not even eroticism or desire, but - vivacity and languidness, teasing and losing oneself, tableaus and gradations26.

  • 27 “Masculine finishing power has the greatest difficulty in overcoming feminine staying power, even w (...)
  • 28 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 273.

19Gradually, the erotic narrative became a climatic narrative: a seductive style with refinement gave way to quick conquests. Gradations were seen as bagatelles, as weakness in men, and later as unhealthy deviations. An “action” – an open-ended movement – became a completed “acte sexuel”. Where once women’s staying power was celebrated, by the end of the nineteenth century it was condemned and pathologised27. Where fictional texts preferred to speak in the plural, indicating a “set of variations that once made up erotic culture”28, there was a shift from the plural to the singular. Successively all sexual activity was put into relation to one pivotal event, namely THE orgasm.

  • 29 As many scholars have noted, the understanding of sexuality shifted at the turn of the eighteenth t (...)
  • 30 Commonly known as “PIV (penis-in-vagina)” or, in sexual medicine, “PVI (Penile-vaginal intercourse) (...)

20In science, at the turn of the twentieth century, the project of categorising and classifying sexuality gained momentum, driven by physicians, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and members of the new specialisation sexology, supported by behavioural and evolutionary theory and psychology29. THE orgasm became a serious matter – a sexual function, a purpose of sex, and the ultimate goal of vagina-penis interaction30.

  • 31 Ellis also uses the term “detumescence” beside the term “sexual orgasm”. Henry Havelock Ellis (phys (...)

21In 1903, the English physician Henry Havelock Ellis wrote orgiastically: “Of all the physiological motor explosions, the sexual orgasm [...] is the most massive, powerful, and overwhelming. So volcanic is it that to the ancient Greek philosophers it seemed to be a minor kind of epilepsy.”31

  • 32 “Von welchen Umständen beim weiblichen Geschlecht das Gefühl der Befriedigung abhängt, ist schwer z (...)
  • 33 Henry Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, quoting “Ferenczi, of Budapest (Zentralblat (...)

22Contrary to the findings of their precursors, scientists now considered women’s sexual pleasures and satisfaction “difficult to determine”32. Their “retarded orgasm”33 posed a problem. To complicate matters further, the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud compartmentalised women's genitalia: He invented the clitoral orgasm for beginners and the vaginal orgasm for the mature – a construct that has haunted us ever since and, fortunately, has been extensively criticised by feminists and friends of carnal pleasures.

  • 34 Magnus Hirschfeld (German physician, sexologist, sexual rights activist, 1868-1935), Die Homosexual (...)

23And fortunately, despite the depressing misogyny of the time, there are also delightful stories to be discovered: Magnus Hirschfeld, one of the founders of sexology, tells of the orgiastic adventures of an artistic cyclist: triggered by the sheer pleasure of seeing her “jersey-clad female colleagues”, she publicly orgasmed while doing her laps34.

  • 35 Ferdinand Karsch-Haack (German Zoologist, 1853-1936), Das gleichgeschlechtliche Leben der Naturvölk (...)

24In a book by the German zoologist Ferdinand Karsch-Haack from 1911, I found a phrase unusual for that time. He writes: “The salvation FROM orgasm with the help of the hand or a tool […] The Tribade, who redeems herself FROM orgasm by licking the pubic of her lover, is a Cunnilingus.”35 The common view of the times was “salvation BY orgasm”.

  • 36 Wilhelm Reich (Doctor of Medicine, Psychoanlyst, Austria/US, 1897-1957), Die Funktion des Orgasmus: (...)
  • 37 Alfred Kinsey et al., The Kinsey Reports: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, 1948.
  • 38 Masters and Johnson’s sexual response cycle paved the way for the pathologization of sexual “dysfun (...)

25In the 1920s, another Austrian, the physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, posited a link between health and sexual satisfaction through coitus and orgasm36. Kinsey's behavioural studies in the 1950s and 1960s turned orgasms into data-based facts37. In the 1960s orgasms entered the laboratory. Masters and Johnson poured their data into a formula they called “the sexual response cycle”, thereby providing a manual of how to orgasm38.

  • 39 Since no single empirical measure can be expected to display all the facets of sexual practices, th (...)

26Orgasm and its benefits for health, social life and society were scientifically proven. It had become a normative concept with (supposedly) liberating capacities, and thus “the moment of greatest pleasure and excitement in sexual activity”. Since then, orgasm has been the evaluation measure of sexual satisfaction – the proof of sated desires, or, to use the terminology of algorithms and Big Data: orgasm has become the correlations proxy of healthy, happy sex39.

27All this did not go uncontested.

  • 40 The concept is heavily gendered, hence the talk of an “orgasm gap” between men and women. See for e (...)
  • 41 “It is rare to find an account in which sexuality is treated as an autonomous set of functions and (...)

28From the beginning, there has been fierce criticism of the so-called “orgasm paradigm”40 or “orgasmic imperative”: it was rejected because it transformed sexual pleasure into an achievement-oriented and success-oriented sexuality, similar to what was already the case in the ideology of “sexuality for procreation” – an ascribed function serving to legitimise sexualities41. Pleasure alone seems insufficient, and the individual is called upon to self-optimise.

  • 42 Tilmann Walter, Plädoyer für die Abschaffung des Orgasmus.

29The German scientist Tilmann Walter, who works on the history of sexualities, formulated a “Plea for the Abolition of the Orgasm”, which is the title of his essay published in 1999. His etymological approach has substantially inspired my work. In his view, dragging sexualities into the lab is a fundamental error in thinking42.

30Many met THE orgasm with willful ignorance, and by that I mean not only the “Who gives a fuck!” faction, but also feminist scholars, theorists and pleasure practitioners who see the concept as far too limiting and useless in dealing with sexualities, and orgasm as one micro-event among many.

  • 43 Annamarie Jagose, Orgasmology. Duke University Press, 2013.

31An overview of the pros and cons of theorists in the discourses of the orgasm in the twentieth century is offered in the book “Orgasmology”, published by the feminist scholar Annamarie Jagose in 201343.

32Still, the concept of “orgasm” as a cultural agenda is firmly established. There are tons of “orgasm” guides and self-help books. The orgasm has never left the lab and is widely studied in sexological, medical-sexological, biological, psychobiological, neurological and bio-neurological research. There is so much more to say on the topic, but that would be material for another time.

33So, there it is, “THE orgasm”, only about 120 years old, another addition to a variety of possibilities of embodied sexual experiences!? The lack of terms, the weight of terms. Is there a way, to dissolve the weight imposed on the term “orgasm”? By excessive use of the term “orgiastic”, perhaps?

34Some thoughts in conclusion:

  • 44 With inspirations from, among others, Jonas A. Hamm, Trans* und Sex. Gelingende Sexualität zwischen (...)
  • 45 Inspired by James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games. New York: The Free Press, 2020.

35There are sexualities - always in the plural.
Possibly there are orgasm-s.
There are orgasmic experiences and sexual excesses
(which in BDSM contexts not necessarily equals orgasms).

There are sexual actions outside the gendered interpretation
– as renegotiated by queer and trans movements
44.
Body parts can be re-coded and embodied situationally.

There is pleasurable wandering, and graded jouissances.

There is “having sex” but also “being on sex”
– beyond function and desire
.
There are bodies in motion driven by pleasure.
There are pleasures driving bodies into motion.
There is skin that wanders and wonders.
There are sexualities that live in space, and not in time.
There’s pleasure, play, and possibilities
45.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

BAUER, Robin. (2014). Queer BDSM Intimacies: Critical Consent and Pushing Boundaries. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

BLANKAART, Steven. (1684). A physical dictionary; in which all the terms relating either to anatomy, chirurgery, pharmacy, or chymistry, are very accurately explain'd. London.

BLOCH, Iwan. (1908). The sexual life of our time in its relations to modern civilization. London.

CADDEN, Joan. (2004). Trouble in the Earthly Paradise: The Regime of Nature in Late Medieval Christian Culture. In Lorraine DASTON & Fernando VIDAL (Eds.), The Moral Authority of Nature (p. 207-231). The University of Chicago Press.

CARSE, James P. (2020). Finite and Infinite Games. New York: The Free Press.

CHANG, K-Ming. (2020). Bestiary. New York: One World.

CHAPERONE, Sylvie. (2007). From anaphrodisia to frigidity: landmarks in history. Sexologies, 16, 189–194.

CHARLETON, Walter. (1652). The darknes of atheism dispelled by the light of nature a physico-theologicall treatise. London.

CHIANG, Anita Yen, & CHIANG, Wen-yu. (2016). Behold, I am Coming Soon! A Study on the Conceptualization of Sexual Orgasm in 27 Languages. Metaphor and Symbol, 31(3), 131-147. https://doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2016.1187043

CHUN, Wendy H.K. (2021). Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition. MIT Press.

CLELAND, John. (1776). Dictionary of Love. London.

COOPER, Thomas. (1578). Thesaurus linguæ Romanæ & Britannicæ tam accurate congestus. London.

CORVISART, Jean-Nicolas. (1806). Essai sur les maladies et les lésions organiques du coeur et des gros vaisseaux. Paris.

COTGRAVE, Randle. (1611). A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues. London.

CRYLE, Peter. (2001). The Telling of the Act. Sexuality as Narrative in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century France. Cranbury, London: Associated University Press.

CRYLE, Peter. (1992). Gendered Time in Erotic Narrative: Finishing Power vs Staying Power. Romanic Review, 83, 131–48.

DOORDUIN, Tamar, & van BERLO, Willy. (2014). Trans people’s experience of sexuality in the Netherlands: a pilot study. Journal of Homosexuality, 61(5), 654–672. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2014.865482

DSM-IV (1994). American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Arlington, VA.

DSM-5 (2013). American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Arlington, VA.

ELLIS, Henry Havelock. (1927). Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Volume III, Analysis of the Sexual Impulse, Love and Pain, The Sexual Impulse in Women. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged.

FERENCZI, Sándor. (1910). Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse. ht. 1 and 2.

FINIZIO, Aurelio. (1842). Mémoire sur la grossesse, considérée sous le rapport physiologico-pathologique. Paris.

FRITH, Hannah. (2015). Orgasmic Bodies. The Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, UK.

GEORGIADIS, Janniko R., & KRINGELBACH, Morten L. (2012). The human sexual response cycle: Brain imaging evidence linking sex to other pleasures. Progress in Neurobiology, 98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2012.05.004

GERVAISE DE LATOUCHE, Jean-Charles. (1748). Histoire de dom B*****. Francfort.

GOESTL, Christina. (2022). Clitoral Matter. On the Politics of Sexual Pleasures in Western European Cultures. In Emma REES (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Gender, Sexuality and Culture (p. 145-164). London: Routledge.

GUINDANT, Toussaint. (1768). La Nature opprimée par la médecine moderne, ou La nécessité de recourir à la méthode ancienne & hippocratique dans le traitement des maladies. Paris.

HAMM, Jonas A. (2020). Trans* und Sex. Gelingende Sexualität zwischen Selbstannahme, Normüberwindung und Kongruenzerleben. Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag.

HAUTESIERCK Richard de, & CLAUDE, François Marie. (1779). Manière de connaître et de traiter les principales maladies aiguës qui attaquent le peuple. Paris

HIRSCHFELD, Magnus. (1914). Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes. Berlin.

HUNT, Lynn. (1996). Pornography and the French Revolution. In Lynn HUNT (Ed.), The Invention of Pornography. Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500 – 1800. New York: Zone Books.

ISAAC-CASAUBON. (1655, published posthumously). Anthropologie abstracted: or The Idea of Humane Nature reflected in briefe Philosophicall, and Anatomicall Collections. London.

JACOB, Giles. (1718). Tractatus de Hermaphroditis: or, a Treatise of Hermaphrodites. Project Gutenberg Ebook, first published: London.

JACOBUS, X. (1893). Amour aux colonies. Paris.

JAGOSE, Annamarie. (2013). Orgasmology. Duke University Press.

KARSCH-HAACK, Ferdinand. (1911). Das gleichgeschlechtliche Leben der Naturvölker. München.
KENNETH, Max. (2005). The Philology of the Orgasm. Nassau Weekly, Princeton.

KINSEY, Alfred et al. (1948). The Kinsey Reports: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia.

KLEIN, Ernest. (1966). A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The English Language. Amsterdam.

KOMISARUK, Barry R., BEYER-FLORES, Carlos, & WHIPPLE, Beverly. (2006). The Science of Orgasm. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

KOMISARUK, Barry R., & WHIPPLE, Beverly. (2011). Non-genital orgasms, Sexual and Relationship Therapy. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 26(4), 356-372. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2011.649252

KRAFFT-EBING, Richard von. (1907). Psychopathia sexualis 13. vermehrte Ausgabe. Stuttgart.
LA FONTAINE, Jean de. (1655/1896). Nouveaux Contes. Paris.

LEMMEY, Huw, & MILLER, Ben. (2022). Bad Gays. A Homosexual History. London, Verso.

LINDNER, S. (1879). Das Saugen an den Fingern, Lippen etc. bei den Kindern (Ludeln). Eine Studie. Jahrbuch für Kinderheilkunde und physische Erziehung, 14. Leipzig.

MARHOEFER, Laurie. (2022). Racism and the Making of Gay Rights. A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love. University of Toronto Press.

MASTERS, William H., & JOHNSON, Virginia E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Boston.

MOLL, Albert. (1898). Untersuchungen über die Libido sexualis. Erster Band. Berlin.

NERCIAT, André-Robert Andréa de. (1803). Le Diable au corps.

NIHELL, James. (1759). Traité des eaux minérales de la ville de Rouen, où l'on établit la nature & les principes de ces eaux. Rouen.

PIGAULT-LEBRUN. (1800). L'Enfant du bordel. Paris.

PUFF, Helmut. (2004). Nature on Trial: Acts “Against Nature” in the Law Courts of Early Modern Germany and Switzerland. In Lorraine DASTON & Fernando VIDAL (Eds.), The Moral Authority of Nature (p. 232-253). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

REICH, Wilhelm. (1927). Die Funktion des Orgasmus: Zur Psychopathologie und zur Soziologie des Geschlechtslebens. Wien.

RINTEL, Ludwig. (1814). Versuch über die Krankheiten und organischen Verletzungen des Herzens und der grossen Gefässe. Berlin.

RIOLAN, Jean. (1665). Encheiridium anatomicum et pathologicum (Nicholas CULPEPER & William RAND, Trans.). London: Peter Cole.

ROUBAUD, Félix. (1876). Traité de l’impuissance et de la stérilité chez l’homme et chez la femme, comprenant l’exposition des moyens recommandés pour y remédier. Paris.

SMITH, William Tyler. (1858). The modern practice of midwifery: a course of lectures on obstetrics delivered at St.Mary's Hospital, London. New York.

TRAUB, Valerie. (1995). The Psychomorphology of the Clitoris. GLQ, 2, 81–113.

TUANA, Nancy. (2004), Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance. Hypatia Special Issue: Feminist Science Studies, 19, 194–232.

VARLEY, John. (1984). Picnic On Nearside (originally published as The Barbie Murders and Other Stories in 1980). Berkley Books.

VILLARET, Albert. (1888). Handwörterbuch der gesamten Medizin. Stuttgart.

VIRICEL, Jean-Marie. (1798). Mémoire sur l'art de préparer les malades aux grandes opérations. Lyon.

WALTER, Tilmann. (1999). Plädoyer für die Abschaffung des Orgasmus. Lust und Sprache am Beginn der Neuzeit. Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung, 12(1), 25-49.

WARTBURG, Walther von. (1958). Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Eine darstellung des galloromanischen sprachschatzes. Basel.

WEEKLEY, Ernest. (1921). An etymological dictionary of modern English. London.

ZEDLER, Johann Heinrich. (1731–1752). Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon Aller Wissenschafften und Künste, Welche bishero durch menschlichen Verstand und Witz erfunden und verbessert worden. Halle-Leipzig.

Haut de page

Annexe

Text inserts

12:17 “highest O complete O real, non-simulated O spontaneous O… Part one of my compilation of intensifiers (1898–1920), in the words of Albert Moll, Henry Havelock Ellis, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Iwan Bloch, et al.

13:12 “slow at producing O minature O childish O…Part two of my compilation of intensifiers (1898–1920), in the words of Richard von Krafft- Ebing, Henry Havelock Ellis, and Sigmund Freud.

17:15orgastically ill: Wilhelm Reich, orgastically inadequate: William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson. On disorder, dysfunction: Both terms are included in DSM-IV (1994), reflecting the ongoing debate about whether the problem is medical (“dysfunction”) or psychological (“disorder”). In DSM-5 (2013), “Female orgasmic disorder” is listed as part of “female dysfunction”, while “Male orgasmic disorder” has been changed to “Delayed ejaculation”. Almost every scientific article emphasizes the high symbolic value of orgasm as an embodied sociocultural event rather than a biological response.

19:19 “the concept of ‘orgasm’ as a cultural agenda is firmly established …
Part three of my compilation of intensifiers (twentieth and twenty-first centuries), with quotes from science, popular science, porn and popular culture, as well as additions from personal experience.

Images

01:05 The Mercator projection with Tissot's indicatrices:https://upload.wikimedia.org/​wikipedia/​commons/​8/​87/​Tissot_mercator.png

01:19 Gall–Peters cylindrical equal-area projection with Tissot's indicatrices of deformation: https://en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​Gall%E2%80%93Peters_projection#/​media/​

03:05 Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The English Language. Amsterdam, 1966.

03:19 Randle Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues. London, 1611.

03:42 Albert Villaret, Handwörterbuch der gesamten Medizin. Stuttgart, 1888, p.439

04:00 Steven Blankaart (Dutch physician, iatrochemist, and entomologist, 1650-1702), A physical dictionary; in which all the terms relating either to anatomy, chirurgery, pharmacy, or chymistry, are very accurately explain'd. London, 1684, p. 153: “Orgasmus, is an Impetus and quick Motion of Blood or Spirits; as when the Animal Spirits rush violently upon the Nerves.https://wellcomecollection.org/​works/​ap67skrn/​items?canvas=15

04:16 Walther von Wartburg (Swiss philologist and lexicographer, 1888-1971), Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Eine darstellung des galloromanischen sprachschatzes. Basel, 1958, p. 412 (quoting Cotgrave 1611, Trév 1721 …), https://lecteur-few.atilf.fr/​index.php/​page/​lire/​e/​12839

04:29 Toussaint Guindant (physician), La Nature opprimée par la médecine moderne, ou La nécessité de recourir à la méthode ancienne & hippocratique dans le traitement des maladies. Paris, 1768, p.392: “Orgasme.Turgescence, gonflement de sucs & d'humeurs.” [“Turgescence, swelling of juices & humours.” my translation]. https://gallica.bnf.fr/​ark:/12148/​bpt6k9685485h

04:38 James Nihell, Traité des eaux minérales de la ville de Rouen, où l'on établit la nature & les principes de ces eaux. Rouen, 1759.

04:48 Jean-Nicolas. Corvisart (French physician, 1755-1821), Essai sur les maladies et les lésions organiques du coeur et des gros vaisseaux. Paris, 1806.https://archive.org/​details/​essaisurlesmalad00corv/​page/​n1/​mode/​2up

05:20 Jean-Charles Gervaise de Latouche (French writer and lawyer, 1715-1782), Histoire de dom B*****. Francfort, 1748. https://gallica.bnf.fr/​ark:/12148/​bpt6k1513537b/​f1.item

05:33 Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1470/82 - c. 1534), Enée et Didon, ca. 1524. The Italien engraver Marcantonio Raimondi created I Modi (The Ways), also known as The Sixteen Pleasures, a famous erotic book of the Italian Renaissance depicting sixteen sexual positions. https://en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​I_Modi
Agostino Carracci (Italian painter, 1557-1602), The Satyr and his Wife, ca. 1590

06:01 Le diable de Papefiguière, illustré par Charles Eisen (French painter and engraver, 1720- 1778), in Jean de La Fontaine (French fabulist, 1621-1695), Nouveaux Contes. First published Paris, 1655, edition 1896. https://www.metmuseum.org/​art/​collection/​search/​681545
06:35 Jean-Charles Gervaise de Latouche, Histoire de dom B*****. Francfort, 1748.

06:53 Book cover of Jean de La Fontaine, Nouveaux Contes.

07:19 Sammelhandschrift, (Nürnberg?, 1400), ÖNB (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) Sammlung von Handschriften und alten Drucken. https://digital.onb.ac.at/​RepViewer/​viewer.faces? doc=DTL_4850105&order=1&view=SINGLE

07:33 Erste Seite aus der Handschrift mit Meisterliedern von Hans Folz (1450-1515). Abb. aus Hans Folz, Meisterlieder, c. 1496, fol. 1r., Historisches Lexikon Bayerns.
https://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/​Lexikon/​Datei:Folz_Meisterlieder.jpg, (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

08:45 André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat (French novelist, 1739-1800), Le Diable au corps. 1803. https://gallica.bnf.fr/​ark:/12148/​bpt6k1520681f/​f1.item

09:03 André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat, Le Diable au corps.

09:21 André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat, Le Diable au corps.

09:40 Pigault-Lebrun (Attribué à), (French novelist, playwright, and Epicurean, 1753-1835), L'Enfant du bordel.Paris, 1800. https://gallica.bnf.fr/​ark:/12148/​bpt6k1520687x/​f1.item

10:01 Pigault-Lebrun, L'Enfant du bordel.
Translation by Lynn Hunt with the additional note: “This scene captures the gender-play potential of pornography. Here the male hero is disguised as a woman in order to seduce a lesbian.” Lynn Hunt, Pornography and the French Revolution. In Lynn Hunt (Ed.), The Invention of Pornography. Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500 – 1800. New York: Zone Books, 1996, p. 337.
A side note: the term “lesbian” did not yet exist at the time of the book's publication and – as Valerie Traub analyses in detail – tribades are
not lesbians: they appeared under specific textual and social conditions. Valerie Traub, The Psychomorphology of the Clitoris, GLQ, 2, 1995, 81–113, p.220. For my exploration of the use of the various terms see: Christina Goestl, 'Clitoral Matter. On the Politics of Sexual Pleasures in Western European Cultures’.

10:50 Pigault-Lebrun, L'Enfant du bordel, endpaper.

11:49 adapted from: Barry R. Komisaruk & Beverly Whipple, 'Non-genital orgasms, Sexual and Relationship Therapy', Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 26:4, 356-372, 2011.

12:59 S. Lindner (Budapest?, German paediatrician?), 'Das Saugen an den Fingern, Lippen etc. bei den Kindern (Ludeln). Eine Studie', Jahrbuch für Kinderheilkunde und physische Erziehung, 14. Leipzig, 1879, p. 68. English translation: “The sucking of the fingers, lips etc. by children (pleasure-sucking)”

13:58 Nicholas Edward Kaufmann's Cycling Beauties, ca. 1890.
Nicholas Edward „Nick“ Kaufmann was a US trick cyclist who toured Europe, lived and died in Berlin (1943), and trained roller skaters for vaudeville.

15:17 Masters and Johnson, Human Sexual Response. Boston, 1966.

16:02 Barry R. Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores, & Beverly Whipple, The Science of Orgasm. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2006.

16:00 Barry R. Komisaruk & Beverly Whipple, Non-genital orgasms, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 26:4, 356-372, 2011.

16:25 Anita Yen Chiang & Wen-yu Chiang, Behold, I am Coming Soon! A Study on the Conceptualization of Sexual Orgasm in 27 Languages. Metaphor and Symbol, 2016.

18:17 Georgiadis, J.R. & Kringelbach, M.L., The human sexual response cycle: Brain imaging evidence linking sex to other pleasures. Progress in Neurobiology, 98, 2012, p. 55.

20:00 K-Ming Chang, Bestiary. New York: One World, 2020, p. 68, 74, 75.

20:31 Annie Sprinkle, Models of Orgasm. Illustration by Erika Lopez. On Our Backs, 2002. In early 2000, Annie Sprinkle came to Vienna. Among other events, she hosted a “power orgasm” workshop, where she also distributed a copy of this newspaper article. We, the participants, collectively orgasmed in the dim light of a theater hall. It was a blast! For me, anyway – I've always had a penchant for autoerotic sex in public.

All weblinks: last visit February 2023

Haut de page

Notes

1 I wish to thank my English language editor, dan*ela beuren, for her great support in writing this text, and Elke Raab for her expertise on French sources. A big thank you also goes out to my beta testers for encouragement, and my friends for love, inspiration, and warm support.

2 Christina Goestl, Clitoral Matter. On the Politics of Sexual Pleasures in Western European Cultures. In Emma REES (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Gender, Sexuality and Culture (p. 145-164). London: Routledge, 2022.

3 Examples are the Hawaiian language, see Max Kenneth, The Philology of the Orgasm. Nassau Weekly, 2005. http://nassauweekly.com/the_philology_of_the_orgasm/, as well as the Atayal and Seediq languages spoken in Taiwan, see Anita Yen Chiang & Wen-yu Chiang, Behold, I am Coming Soon! A Study on the Conceptualization of Sexual Orgasm in 27 Languages, Metaphor and Symbol, 31:3, 131-147, 2016.

4 Peter Cryle, The Telling of the Act. Sexuality as Narrative in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century France. Cranbury, London: Associated University Press, 2001, p. 364.

5 Cambridge Dictionary: Meaning of orgasm in English, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/orgasm

6 Ernest Weekley (British philologist, 1865-1954) An etymological dictionary of modern English, London, 1921, p. 506: “Orgasm. F. orgasme, “an extreme fit, or expression of anger” (Cotg.), from G. òpyâv, to swell, be excited”. [(Cotg.) = Randle Cotgrave]. https://archive.org/details/etymologicaldict00weekuoft

7 Ernest Klein (Hungarian-born Romanian-Canadian linguist, 1899-1983), A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The English Language. Amsterdam, 1966, p. 1094. https://archive.org/details/AComprehensiveEtymologicalDictionaryOfTheEnglishLanguageByErnestKlein

8 Walter Charleton (natural philosopher and English writer, 1619-1707), The darknes of atheism dispelled by the light of nature a physico-theologicall treatise, 1652, Chapter VII. Of the Liberty Elective of Mans Will, Sect. III: “Because there are many Virtuous Persons, who having learned and practised that that noblest militia of conquering themselves, can command themselves even in the highest orgasmus and fervour of their passions;”. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A69728.0001.001

9 Randle Cotgrave (English lexicographer, died c. 1634), A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues. London, 1611. http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/cotgrave/678.html

10 Isaac-Casaubon (Doctor in Physick (as mentioned in the preface), French classical scholar and philologist, moved to England, 1559-1614), Anthropologie abstracted: or The Idea of Humane Nature reflected in briefe Philosophicall, and Anatomicall Collections, 1655, Chapter V., Of Generation: “For Femalls have instruments officiall both to spermification and Emission; are invited to, and act Congression with the same libidinous orgasmus, and pleasant fury, that the Males do: and their Seminary Emissions ahve been discovered to the ocular scrutiny of many. Neither do Male and Female differ in specie, but sexu.”

11 Walther von Wartburg (Swiss philologist and lexicographer, 1888-1971), Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Eine darstellung des galloromanischen sprachschatzes. Basel, 1958, p. 412 (quoting Cotgrave 1611, Trév 1721 …). https://lecteur-few.atilf.fr/index.php/page/lire/e/12839

12 Ernest Klein, p. 1094 (also: violent exitement”); Albert Villaret (German military physician, 1847-1911), Handwörterbuch der gesamten Medizin. Stuttgart, 1888, p.439. https://archive.org/details/Villaret1888Handwoerterbuch

13 Johann Heinrich Zedler (bookseller and publisher, 1706-1763), Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon Aller Wissenschafften und Künste, Welche bishero durch menschlichen Verstand und Witz erfunden und verbessert worden. Halle-Leipzig, 1731–1752, p.1870, https://www.zedler-lexikon.de/
Helmut Puff calls this book “one of the leading dictionaries of the early Enlightenment”. Helmut Puff, Nature on Trial: Acts “Against Nature” in the Law Courts of Early Modern Germany and Switzerland. In Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal (Eds.), The Moral Authority of Nature (p. 232-253). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004.

14 James Nihell (Ecuyer, Conseiller-Médecin du Roi, 1708?-1759), Traité des eaux minérales de la ville de Rouen, où l'on établit la nature & les principes de ces eaux. Rouen, 1759, p. 180, chapter “Expostition de Termes”: “Orgasme. Suspension, irritation, irrégularité en tout sens.”
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k9766846s/

15 “Orgasmus des Blutes” (orgasmus sanguinis) in Ludwig Rintel, Versuch über die Krankheiten und organischen Verletzungen des Herzens und der grossen Gefässe. Berlin, 1814, p. 386. https://archive.org/details/versuchberdiekra00corv/mode/2up.
Other sources describe “l’orgasme nerveux”, “l'orgasme vasculaire”, “l'orgasme lymphatique” (Aurelio Finizio, Mémoire sur la grossesse, considérée sous le rapport physiologico-pathologique, … Paris, 1842), “orgasme de l'estomac” (Richard de Hautesierck, François Marie Claude, Manière de connaître et de traiter les principales maladies aiguës qui attaquent le peuple. Paris, 1779), “l'orgasme fébrile” (Jean-Marie Viricel, Mémoire sur l'art de préparer les malades aux grandes opérations, Lyon, 1798).

16 This expression is found quite frequently, as in Thomas Cooper (English bishop, lexicographer, theologian, and writer 1517?-1594), Thesaurus linguæ Romanæ & Britannicæ tam accurate congestus… London, 1578, part VE: “Cic.The goddesse of wanton loue. ¶Venus. Ter.Carnall lust: lechery. [...] Cic.To be a lechour: to vse carnall ← lust → of the body.https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A19275.0001.001/

17 Jean Riolan (French anatomist, 1580-1657), Encheiridium anatomicum et pathologicum (Nicholas CULPEPER and William RAND, Trans.). London: Peter Cole, 1665, p. 82. https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-2751056R-bk

18 Giles Jacob (English legal writer, 1686-1744), Tractatus de Hermaphroditis: or, a Treatise of Hermaphrodites. London, 1718. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13569

19 Hans Folz (German wound physician, writer and Meistersinger (mastersinger), 1435/1440-1513), quoted by Tilmann Walter, Plädoyer für die Abschaffung des Orgasmus. Lust und Sprache am Beginn der Neuzeit. Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung 12 - 1, p 25-49, Stuttgart, 1999. The full quote in the original: “Das sexuelle Begehren [...] führt im Idealfall erotischen Einvernehmens aber ein Kontinuum der Lust hinüber zu dem Zeitpunkt, da es den Beteiligten „recht wohl genügt“ (Folz, 2. Hälftel 15. Jh./1961: 26)”. In a footnote Tilmann adds: “[...] this formulation is quite unique in its kind.”
Around five centuries later, in the short story “The Funhouse Effect” U.S. science fiction author John Valery writes: “They didn't actually finish making love; they sort of tapered off, like we used to do before orgasms became a factor.“ John Varley,
Picnic On Nearside (originally published as The Barbie Murders and Other Stories in 1980). Berkley Books, 1984. https://varley.net/

20 “l'orgasme vénérien”, Félix Roubaud (French physiologist, 1820–1878), Traité de l’impuissance et de la stérilité chez l’homme et chez la femme, comprenant l’exposition des moyens recommandés pour y remédier. Paris, 1876. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5752711w.texteImage

21 In X. Jacobus (French army surgeon, 1837-1890), Amour aux colonies. Paris, 1893, p. 100, we find the term “genuine orgasm”, p.238, https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-0100771-bk
Another expression is “sexual paroxysm, sensorial orgasm”, used by William Tyler Smith (English obstetrician, 1815-1873), The modern practice of midwifery: a course of lectures on obstetrics delivered at St.Mary's Hospital, London. New York, 1858, p.58: The sexual ‘paroxysm’ in the female was fully recognized by John Hunter, and is as distinct as that of the male. It begins in the clitoris, and ends in an orgasm or paroxysm of sensation. [...] Of the existence of the sensorial orgasm there can be no doubt, and its absence constitutes impotence in the female.” https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-67360110R-bk

22 Félix Roubaud, Traité de l’impuissance, p. 129, 38, 245, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5752711w.texteImage
For more on Roubaud, see: Sylvie Chaperone, From anaphrodisia to frigidity: landmarks in history.
Sexologies, 16, 189–194, 2007.

23 Venus is commonly mentioned in reference to sexual activities, for example by Giles Jacob, Tractatus de Hermaphroditis, or Thomas Cooper, Thesaurus linguæ Romanæ & Britannicæ. On “The dark side of desire—vices such as lust, jealousy, bribery—so visible in the realm occupied by Venus, seems isolated from the well-ordered feelings and behavior over which Nature presides.”, see: Joan Cadden, Trouble in the Earthly Paradise: The Regime of Nature in Late Medieval Christian Culture’. In The Moral Authority of Nature, p. 210.

24 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 242.

25 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 216.

26 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 278. John Cleland (1709-1789), renowned as the “most skillful eighteenth-century English pornographer” and author of Fanny Hill (1748), comments: “Our senses love to be prepared.” John Cleland, Dictionary of Love. London, 1776, chapter “Gradation”.

27 “Masculine finishing power has the greatest difficulty in overcoming feminine staying power, even when competing, so to speak, on its own terrain, in erotic fiction written largely by men and for men.” Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 19. See also: Peter Cryle, Gendered Time in Erotic Narrative: Finishing Power vs Staying Power. Romanic Review 83, 131–48, 1992.

28 Peter Cryle, 2001, The Telling of the Act, p. 273.

29 As many scholars have noted, the understanding of sexuality shifted at the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century from something one does (behaviour) to something one is (identity).

30 Commonly known as “PIV (penis-in-vagina)” or, in sexual medicine, “PVI (Penile-vaginal intercourse)”.

31 Ellis also uses the term “detumescence” beside the term “sexual orgasm”. Henry Havelock Ellis (physician, UK, 1859-1939), Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Volume III, Analysis of the Sexual Impulse, Love and Pain, The Sexual Impulse in Women. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 1927.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/13612/13612-h/13612-h.htm

32 “Von welchen Umständen beim weiblichen Geschlecht das Gefühl der Befriedigung abhängt, ist schwer zu ermitteln.” Albert Moll (German psychiatrist and, together with Iwan Bloch and Magnus Hirschfeld, the founder of modern sexology, 1862-1939), Untersuchungen über die Libido sexualis. Erster Band. Berlin, 1898, p.14. https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_JZsaAAAAYAAJ

33 Henry Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, quoting “Ferenczi, of Budapest (Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, 1910, ht. 1 and 2, p. 75)”. Sándor Ferenczi (Hungarian psychoanalyst, 1873-1933).

34 Magnus Hirschfeld (German physician, sexologist, sexual rights activist, 1868-1935), Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes. Berlin, 1914, p. 322.
For a critical reading of Hirschfeld and the early sexologists, see: Laurie Marhoefer,
Racism and the Making of Gay Rights. A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love. University of Toronto Press, 2022; Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller in conversation with Laurie Marhoefer in “The Bad Gays Podcast”: https://badgayspod.com/episode-archive/special-episode-magnus-hirschfeld. Hirschfeld and his contemporaries are also discussed in their book Bad Gays. A Homosexual History, Chapter 8: The Bad Gays of Weimar Berlin, London, Verso, 2022. Highly recommended for all those interested in a thoroughly reflected queer history!

35 Ferdinand Karsch-Haack (German Zoologist, 1853-1936), Das gleichgeschlechtliche Leben der Naturvölker. München, 1911, p. 16. Karsch-Haack was a member of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK), co-founded by Magnus Hirschfeld, which was the first gay rights group worldwide (Berlin, 1897-1933). In keeping with his time, place and concern, he wrote a comprehensive work on the spread of homosexuality all over the world to demonstrate its universality. For context, see Laurie Marhoefer, Racism and the Making of Gay Rights. Regarding the book's title, she explains that “[t]he distinction between ‘cultural peoples’ (Kulturvölker) and ‘natural peoples’ (Naturvölker) was common among German-speaking anthropologists.”, p. 45.

36 Wilhelm Reich (Doctor of Medicine, Psychoanlyst, Austria/US, 1897-1957), Die Funktion des Orgasmus: Zur Psychopathologie und zur Soziologie des Geschlechtslebens. Wien, 1927.
https://archive.org/details/DieFunktionDesOrgasmus/mode/2up

37 Alfred Kinsey et al., The Kinsey Reports: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, 1948.

38 Masters and Johnson’s sexual response cycle paved the way for the pathologization of sexual “dysfunctions” (low desire and lack of desire, lack of arousal, and difficulty orgasming). Subsequently, the concept was further developed and expanded, based on the idea that women's sexual response is more complex than men's: Helen Singer Kaplan included emotional aspects and Rosemary Basson developed a circular model. Masters and Johnson, Human Sexual Response. Boston, 1966. https://archive.org/details/humansexualrespo00will

39 Since no single empirical measure can be expected to display all the facets of sexual practices, the orgasm per adult is judged to be the best measure among those collected in cross-sectional surveys. More orgasms, better sex; and/or: more orgasms, less unsatisfying sex.
I learned about the expression “correlation proxy” in Wendy H.K. Chun’s thoughtful and highly inspiring talk “Authenticating Figures: Algorithms and the New Politics of Recognition” at the 11the International New Materialism Conference – New Materialist Informatics, 22-25 March 2021, online.

40 The concept is heavily gendered, hence the talk of an “orgasm gap” between men and women. See for example: Hannah Frith, Orgasmic Bodies. The Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, UK, 2015, p. 148.

41 “It is rare to find an account in which sexuality is treated as an autonomous set of functions and activities only partially explained in terms of reproductive functions.” Nancy Tuana, Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance. Hypatia Special Issue: Feminist Science Studies, 2004, p. 219.

42 Tilmann Walter, Plädoyer für die Abschaffung des Orgasmus.

43 Annamarie Jagose, Orgasmology. Duke University Press, 2013.

44 With inspirations from, among others, Jonas A. Hamm, Trans* und Sex. Gelingende Sexualität zwischen Selbstannahme, Normüberwindung und Kongruenzerleben. Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2020; and Robin Bauer, who has extensively researched and published on trans* bodies sexualities in BDSM practices, https://networks.h-net.org/node/6056/reviews/70744/crozier-bauer-queer-bdsm-intimacies-critical-consent-and-pushing#reply-70766. It is also worth mentioning in this context that “[...] the ability to achieve orgasm is generally regarded as the primary indicator of continuing erotic sensitivity of sex organs following hormonal and surgical transition-related medical processes.” Tamar Doorduin and Willy van Berlo, Trans people’s experience of sexuality in the Netherlands: a pilot study, Journal of Homosexuality, 2014, p.18.

45 Inspired by James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games. New York: The Free Press, 2020.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Christina Goestl, « Orgasm. On the flux and flow of a term through times and spaces »GLAD! [En ligne], 15 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2023, consulté le 23 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/glad/7852 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/glad.7852

Haut de page

Auteur

Christina Goestl

Christina Goestl is an artist and independent researcher. She has accumulated an extensive dossier of projects at the intersections of art/tech/science, many of them linked to a comprehensive reflection of sexualities. Her exhibitions, installations, interventions and performances have taken place in many different locations around the world: on streets, in sub-cultural venues as well as in museums and galleries, and on the Internet. www.cccggg.net

Christina Goestl est une artiste et chercheuse indépendante. Elle est l’autrice de très nombreux projets à l’intersection de l'art, de la technologie et de la science, dont beaucoup sont liés à une réflexion approfondie sur les sexualités. Ses expositions, installations, interventions et performances ont eu lieu dans de nombreux endroits à travers le monde: dans les rues, dans des lieux subculturels ainsi que dans des musées et des galeries, et sur Internet. www.cccggg.net

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0

Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search