PSYCHOSOCIAL FACTORS RELATED TO WOMEN’S ORGASM
Age, education, social class, religion, personality, and relationship issues are the psychosocial factors most commonly discussed in relation to female orgasmic ability. Laumann et al. (60) found only the youngest group of women (18 – 24 years) showed rates of orgasm lower than the older groups for both orgasm with a partner and orgasm during masturbation. This is likely to be attributable to age differences in sexual experience. There was no significant relation between education level and orgasmic ability with a partner, but substantial differences between education level and ability to attain orgasm during mastur- bation. Approximately 87% of women with an advanced degree reported “always” or “usually” attaining orgasm during masturbation compared with 42% of women with a high school education. The authors explained this finding as the better educated women having more liberal views on sexuality and being more likely to consider pleasure a major goal of sexual activity.
Research based on individuals presenting for sex therapy generally finds a negative relation between high religiosity and orgasmic ability in women. Sexual guilt is often used to explain this relation; the more religious a person, the more likely they are to experience guilt during sexual activity. Guilt could feasibly impair orgasm via a variety of cognitive mechanisms, in particular, distraction processes. A relation between improved orgasmic ability and decreased sexual guilt has also been reported (61). Laumann et al. (60) reported a substantially higher proportion (79%) of women with no religious affiliation reported being orgasmic during masturbation compared with religious groups (53 – 67%). Coun- terintuitive to these relations, Laumann et al. (60) found women without religious affiliation were much less likely to report always having an orgasm with their primary partner (22%) than were religious women (e.g., 33% for Type II Protes- tant women). The authors cautioned making assumptions based on these statistics given that there were substantial differences in education levels between religious categories.
In an extensive investigation of background and personality variables and women’s orgasm, Fisher (25) found few significant associations, the most notable of which concerned the quality of the father/daughter relationship. Low orgasmic experience was consistently related to childhood loss or separation from the father, fathers who had been emotionally unavailable, or fathers with whom the women did not have a positive childhood relationship. Fisher explained this finding in terms of high arousal, presumably necessary for orgasm, creates a more vulnerable emotional state that is threatening to these women who are especially concerned with object loss. There has been no follow-up research on this finding. There have been no other personality or background variables consist- ently associated with orgasmic ability in women. A relation between childhood sexual abuse and various sexual difficulties has been reported, but reports of an association between early abuse and anorgasmia are inconsistent (62 – 64).
Relationship factors such as marital satisfaction, marital adjustment, happi- ness, and stability have been related to orgasm consistency, quality, and satisfac- tion in women [for review see Ref. (65)]. These findings are correlational in nature. Clearly, a satisfying marital relationship is not necessary for orgasm, particularly given rates of orgasm consistency in women are higher during mas- turbation than with a partner (60). A satisfying marital relationship most likely promotes orgasmic function via increased communication regarding sexually pleasurable activity, decreased anxiety, and enhancement of the subjective and emotional qualities of orgasm (65).