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“Rubbing, rubbing, nothing is happening!”

What can a quest to find out about the mythical ‘orgasm’ look like?

What can a quest to find out about the mythical ‘orgasm’ look like? Does Orgasming Hermione manage to find out, or does she make peace with the feeling of pleasure and stop hunting for the “Big” O? Perhaps a bit of both… 
I’ve always been lucky with my friends. Whether it was in school or in college, I’ve had a circle that I could turn to for comfort, advice and confessions. Our conversations have ranged across it all — “I can’t get myself to orgasm when I masturbate, but when he fingers me, I always do”, “duuuude, you cannot possibly not know when it happens”, “try putting the rear-end of a hairbrush inside and rubbing your clit at the same time”, and “watch your toes—when it curls, it means you are orgasming…I read it in an article”.
We were in Class 11, discussing masturbating and our first orgasms… not for the first time. 
I listened quietly, laughing at the funny anecdotes and chipping in with quips, glancing on and off at my best friend S, who I knew was in the same boat as me. Neither of us was sure whether we’d ever reached orgasm. I knew what made me feel good, but I didn’t remember feeling the explosive moment or a culmination that everyone talked about. That night, I turned to my trusted advisor, Google, with my question: “How do you know if you have orgasmed?” Google told me that when you had an orgasm, you would know. I believed Google, but still didn’t know. 
Most of what I knew at the time about sex, masturbation and the elusive orgasm was from my more ‘experienced’ friends. We did the whole talking-about-every-single-thing-that-happened and loved to discuss in great detail everyone’s first romantic and sexual encounters. One of gyaanis was M, who had studied in America for some time and so had received some sex-ed, which she imparted to us noobs with pleasure. We lapped up all the information that was shared in the group, from each other’s intense masturbation stories to the romantic escapade that one of us had and the rest of us experienced vicariously through their retelling. Sometimes, we even enacted the moments that led up to the ‘first move’. While I may not have had an orgasm myself, after all the conversations we had about climaxing, I felt I definitely knew how one should feel. 
So why didn’t I feel that intense pleasure or desire that my friends and Google described, when I masturbated? Why could I not state it, in these terms, to them either?
As close as we all were, I couldn’t bring myself to tell my friends about my orgasm confusion. Instead, I tried to work out what I needed to do on my own. I watched porn, trying to imagine what sex and orgasms would feel like. I remember trying to find the spot that made me feel best — my friends said the clit always did the trick —while also trying to put my fingers in and feel around… I felt good, but not good enough to moan and yell. I didn’t feel an urgent need to stuff something up my vagina like the unnamed girl from our school who had stolen a test tube from the chemistry lab and used it to masturbate in the girls’ toilet. The story was that the test tube was not equal to her passion and had broken in the process, causing her to pass out and subsequently get suspended. Sadly, I later found out that this salacious use of lab equipment was a rumour that circulated in many schools. 
While keeping a safe distance from test tubes and smelly public toilets, I kept hunting for that moment of desperate yearning in my own sexual escapades. My ever-helpful friends had a bhandaar of suggestions, which I now know now is technically correct, but none of their tips seemed to work. 
So I turned to S. In my circle of friends, S was not as open with everyone. She tended to keep a lot to herself and often, she would tell us things long after they had happened. However, S was my best friend and she was dating a girl, which to me meant double the chance of getting answers to my question. To benefit from their combined gyan, I asked S about her experiences with her girlfriend, A. “Have you ever been close to orgasming when A was touching you?” “When do you stop?” Much to my surprise, S was as confused as I was. She said A and her stopped when they got tired or when they just had enough... . It seemed they too were yet to discover the explosive orgasm. 
If Google had led me astray earlier, it was Google scholar that threw a curveball in our direction. In a sexuality manual we chanced upon on Google Scholar, we read that many women go their entire lives without an orgasm. It wasn’t really that big a deal, the manual assured us and left us with a new question — maybe we were anorgasmic?
It was around this time that I found my first boyfriend. We’d make out and it was exciting to be touched, but I was also never quite into it. I would watch with curiosity and envy as I used my hands and he reached orgasm, every time wondering why I didn’t experience the feelings he did. He tried his best, to be fair. He’d go on patiently, watching my face for reactions, and sometimes I’d fake it because I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t as into it as he was. I was having fun, but I just never reached that point of ecstasy that he did. I was hunting for a perfect feeling, trying to see if there was something his touch would do to me that my own didn’t do. That’s the story we’re so often told in everything from fairy tales to smutty romances — there is someone else who will wake up our sensuality. But truth be told, I preferred my own touch and I wasn’t alone. A lot of my friends felt the same way.
We broke up a few months later, ostensibly because I was moving cities to go to college but the truth was that I’d lost interest in the relationship. Before we actually broke up, I’d started to avoid getting physical with him. When we did end it, I found myself not telling my friends about the break up. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want them to know — it’s not like they’d have said or done anything unkind — and I wasn’t entirely sure how I could explain what I was feeling. I was fine, but there was something I didn’t want to think or talk about. I didn’t want their sympathy and I didn’t want to pretend I was more sorted than I actually was. So I kept the break-up to myself and went off to college. 
By this time, my orgasm confusion had brought me the conclusion that either I was asexual or the orgasm was a myth. My friend S agreed with me and we talked about how likely it was that the rest of our friends were pretending to feel something that they didn’t. In college, I found another wonderful circle of friends and during a slightly-drunk night in the comfort of our dorm room, I broached the subject of the not-so-big O with my four college besties. That night, we’d all congregated because V had just had intercourse for the first time, which made her the Oracle of the Orgasm for the rest of us. She, on the other hand, was much more of a realist. It had been fun, V said, but since it was the first time for both her and her partner, they weren’t sure if they had really “done it right.” R and N piped up saying this was common and that their friends had said sex was an acquired taste, like beer. Also like beer, it didn’t feel good the first time. 
“Isn’t that basically the same as masturbating, then?” I asked tentatively. 
“What do you mean?” 
“Well…I don’t think I’ve ever really orgasmed. I know I should just know if I have, but I genuinely don’t.” 
It wasn’t a bombshell. In fact, two of my friends nodded in agreement and said they hadn’t either. “Rubbing rubbing nothing happens only!” 
We all burst out laughing.
When our hysterical laughter had settled, our sex guru V said the same thing had happened to her and that orgasms were not necessarily That Big Moment. She said she had wondered for years whether she had orgasmed and had realized only recently that what she’d been feeling was that mythical orgasm. “Just shut up and do whatever feels good na! Itna research why do you need to do?” V said, before suggesting we all stop doing so much R & D on the subject of the orgasm. 
That thought stayed with me. Why did I need to do itna research on this? 
The subject of orgasms didn’t come up in conversation for a while after that night. Six months later, we were back in college after a summer break. One night, we gathered in Si’s room, one sasta bottle of Magic Moments, split five ways. 
“V, you were right,” I said, out of the blue. 
“I usually am, but about what?” V asked. 
I grinned. “Rubbing rubbing, something’s been happening!” 
I’d finally done it — without tracking masturbation milestones or looking up manuals, I’d just gone with the flow. I did what felt good and forgot everything else…and something happened. Later, it struck me that it had probably happened before as well, but I just hadn’t realized that this was my orgasm. I hadn’t recognised it because I was looking for my responses to match a mental picture of orgasm that I had inherited from the world around me. That marked a turning point in my relationship with my sexual self. My first identified orgasm helped me understand my body and how it responds, rather than the way I thought it was supposed to respond. It took me all this time to stop telling my body how to react and instead listen to my body when it reacted. When I listened to it, something happened.
I still feel confused when I think back to that time. Was my sexual awakening between the ages of 18-19, and not at 13-14 years like most of my peers? It felt as though I had spent all my life pursuing the orgasm the way Hermione Granger tackled the challenges at Hogwarts — through research and (too many?) conversations. Knowledge might be power, but is it enough for pleasure? Information is good, but how powerful it will be depends on self-knowledge — and that requires introspection, exploration and privacy. 
My first real orgasm was probably the first time I was truly alone with myself in my room. Neither friends nor outside thoughts encroached upon my space. And that privacy helped. I wasn’t eagerly waiting for something external, like my mental list of orgasm indicators or thinking about my friends’ experiences. Instead, I listened and spoke to my own self. 
From that moment, pleasure became something a little more intimate than it had been before and I realised that some experiences don’t become easier to understand or process by sharing. Instead, you need to spend time understanding them for yourself before you present it to those around you, no matter how close or dear those people may be. I understood why my first break-up had been something I’d kept to myself — I didn’t have the vocabulary for it and I didn’t want it to be translated through my friends’ personal experiences and their expectations of me. usually expected of me. There’s a lot of comfort in sharing confidences, but often, when I share experiences with friends, something of the intimacy and intensity of feelings can get condensed and reduced. Perhaps it’s an effect of us needing to seem more in control and ‘sorted’. The parts are that bring the most pleasure, are the most emotional — they are parts that cannot and should not be condensed or reduced. They are parts that are truly my own...something no one else will be able to truly understand.  
I still love to talk and share with my friends. We discuss our likes and dislikes in bed, we regale each other with funny incidents, we share details about our partner(s)… but there is something that I make sure I leave out. A little something, saved just for me. It’s a part of my experiences that have connected most deeply with me — a part I may not always be able to share with another person, a part that I want to keep as my own. Being able to speak about everything openly is an important part of liberation, but by the same token, being open should be an informed choice, rather than a performance. Sometimes, there are things we choose to not be open about because they speak to a relationship with our innermost feelings, and that is too delicate and intangible to be forced into words and put on display. The thrill of this knowledge — of my own pleasures, of knowing my body in a way that no one else quite does, and being able to identify my own emotions and experiences when I feel them instead of waiting for my friends to help me do so — it’s all helped me arrive at that unspoken destination.
Still, there’s a lot to be said about sharing frustrations. If  I hadn’t, my friends wouldn’t have our own little inside joke of “Rubbing rubbing, nothing is happening”. It turns out, even if it seems like nothing, something is happening. 
Orgasming Hermione is a 23 year old lover of books, films, bad humour and knee casts. She can always be spotted with a mug of tea, coffee, or sometimes even a blend of the two, in hand. 
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