Health Services working to help some reach the ‘big O’

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Beyond checking your heartbeat and curing your cold, Health Services now wants to help you orgasm – if you’re female, that is. An information page on female orgasm is in progress and should be posted on the Health Education Web site in a couple of weeks, said Naomi Ninneman, health educator and project coordinator.

“It’s a piece of sexual health that will help develop comfort and familiarity with your body,” Ninneman said. “We want sex to be a positive experience.”

Frequent visits from students concerned about not being able to attain the “big O” prompted the project, Ninneman added.

The Web site was compiled through the efforts of a variety of people, including students who had come to Health Services with questions about climaxing and were contacted by staff members to help with the project, Ninneman said.

She added that the site will be made public sometime this fall after revisions are complete.

Allie Wollner ’10, a columnist for post-, The Herald’s weekly arts and culture magazine, and a member of an independent study on female orgasms, was sent a draft of the page.

Wollner, who has been in contact with Ninneman for her independent study, was asked for feedback.

She said the page is “accessible yet informative” and called the idea “fantastic.”

“It’s not the most in-depth examination, but it’s absolutely a wonderful jumping off point,” Wollner wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

“I think it functions as both an explanation and a guide at different points.”

Colleen Dinn ’08, a FemSex facilitator for two semesters, said she supported the new Web site. “It is important to focus on wellness and pleasure as well as (on) the more medical aspects of sex,” she said.

As a FemSex facilitator, she said, many students came to her with questions about female orgasm, “because they felt like they had no one else to talk to.”

“There is a huge need for honest, accurate information about sex,” wrote Marshall Miller ’96, a sex educator, in an e-mail to The Herald.

He and his partner, Dorian Solot ’95, also a sex educator, are the authors of the popular book “I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide.”

Orgasm – derived from the Greek word for “to swell, to be excited” – is generally considered more difficult for women to reach than it is for men.

Famed biologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey called orgasm “an explosive discharge of neuromuscular tensions at the peak of sexual response” in his 1953 book “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.”

Some less medical definitions of orgasm include, from Paul Joannides’ book “The Guide to Getting It On,” an experience “somewhere between a hand grenade and a sunset,” and the French term “la petite mort,” or “the little death.”

Student reactions to the idea of a female orgasm Web site were mostly positive.

“All sexual pressure has been put on women, so it is a good thing,” David Menino ’12 said.

“Do they have a page on male orgasm?” asked Sarah Tolan-Mee ’09.

“My initial reaction is that I support transparency in female orgasm,” she said. “But it sounds a little strange that it would be on the health Web site.”

If health educators are going to talk about “the protective part” of sexual health, Lily Cohen ’11 said, then “why not talk about the fun part?”

When the Web site goes live, Wollner said, female students will be able to better “take control of their own sexuality and get what they want and desire.”

“Learning doesn’t stop at the classroom door – it’s always possible that female orgasm could be the climax of a Brown education,” Solot wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.