The semantics of success: Do masturbation exercises lead to partner orgasm?

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Do masturbation exercises assigned in preorgasmic women’s groups enable previously nonorgasmic women to achieve orgasms during partner sex? Studies by Wallace and Barbach1 and Ersner-Hershfield and Kopel2 report encouraging partner orgasmic success rates of 87% and 82%, respectively, and these figures are commonly cited in reviews of the literature. I argue that these rates are misleading because they reflect overly liberal research definitions of “nonorgasmic,” “orgasmic success, ” and “partner orgasm.” A reanalysis of Ersner-Hershfield and Kopel’s data using more stringent and intuitive criteria yields a partner success rate at 10 weeks after termination of 20% (or 47%, if women who require the use of a vibrator to have orgasm during partner sex are included as successes), as opposed to their original figure of 82%. These results suggest that masturbation training in preorgasmic womens groups is not the treatment of choice for most previously nonorgasmic women seeking partner orgasm. They also illustrate how different ideological conceptions of the meaning of sex can lead to different definitions of outcome categories and different evaluations of the same data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-14
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sex and Marital Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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