Orgasm Control and Chastity in BDSM

Updated: Jul 8

Some BDSM practices revolve around controlling orgasms, either by suppressing them or by triggering them at the whim of the dominant

chastity belt
Chastity Belt Rendering by Vickie Shan, Wikimedia Commons

Permission to orgasm

The most basic method of orgasm control is to establish that the submissive cannot orgasm unless she is given permission by the dominant. The submissive will beg for release for a while, until the dominant finally allows it. The permission could be given on the condition that the submissive does or says certain things, like accepting spanks or other forms of pain, or saying degrading things about themselves. Male dominants usually allow female submissives to cum relatively soon. Male submissives are not so lucky.


For many dominant-submissives couples, permission to orgasm is always required when they are together. Some dominants may even require it when they are apart. There may also be a schedule for when the submissive is allowed to have an orgasm.


Because orgasm is so difficult to control, breaking this rule is often a cause for punishment.


A drawback of this practice is that many women find it difficult to get to orgasm, so if they are denied the opportunity when the time is right, they may never be able to do it. In this case, the dominant may quickly grant permission, but still have the rule in place so that he knows when she is going to orgasm - perhaps to facilitate it. Also, voicing out an incoming orgasm is slightly humiliating and a way to signal submission. With some playful training, this could even become a way to facilitate orgasms.


Edging

Edging is a sexual technique that consists of repeatedly coming close to orgasm without letting it happen, leading to long sessions of masturbation or intercourse. It has been reported to increase pleasure and trigger a more powerful orgasm when it is finally allowed to happen.


Edging is practiced mostly by men, often when masturbating alone. However, in BDSM it is directed by the dominant during a scene. It can be done to both men and women. The reason why edging is more common in men is that the orgasm is normally associated with ejaculation, so it is easy to know when it has taken place. In women, strong arousal, pleasure and orgasm can become blurred while edging.


Edging requires that both the submissive and the dominant can recognize the point of orgasmic inevitability, so that sexual stimulation can be stopped before reaching it. This may require some training.


Orgasm denial

Orgasm denial is similar to edging in that the submissive is sexually aroused, often close to orgasm, but climax is never allowed to happen. The BDSM scene ends without the submissive having reached sexual release. This causes him or her to continue in a mental space of submission and of baseline sexual arousal.


Orgasm denial also conveys the message that sexual release is a privilege of the dominant, which is denied to the submissive. Or perhaps it is reserved as a reward.


Both edging and orgasm denial work well when coupled with bondage, because this ensures that only the dominant can sexually stimulate the submissive.


Again, orgasm denial can be problematic for women who have trouble climaxing. Ironically, for these women, it may also be a psychological relief by taking the pressure of the social imperative to orgasm. Then they may find it easier to climax when allowed to do so. Just putting orgasms under the control of the dominant can ease the ongoing insecurity and frustration caused by the difficulty to climax. When sexual frustration becomes part of the game, it loses its bite.


Still, sexual control games that encourage orgasms may be more appropriate for these women.


Ruined orgasms

A ruined orgasm is one that occurs in such a way that it brings little or no pleasure.


The basic way to do this is to provide sexual stimulation until past the point of orgasmic inevitability. Then the stimulation is stopped, so the orgasm occurs but in a blunted way, bringing little pleasure. In men, this means an ejaculation devoid of pleasure. Since it is followed by a refractory period, even the sexual desire goes away.


Ruined orgasms produce a sexual frustration that is even more intense than orgasm denial. Orgasm denial maintains and even increases sexual desire, while a ruined orgasm leaves the man in an asexual state of no pleasure and no desire.


Ruined orgasms are easier to give to men than to women because the female body has more resources to produce a satisfactory orgasm. The thighs can be clenched together to stimulate the clitoris. Even if this is prevented by tying the legs apart, pelvic muscles can be contracted in an almost invisible way. Orgasm can take place purely in the brain, without any genital stimulation.


Therefore, a better way to ruin an orgasm is to deliver pain while the orgasm is occurring. But, be warned that pain would just increase pleasure in many masochists. In that case, mental distractions - like the dominant talking or having to answer questions - can work better.


Ruined orgasm can have strong effects on women. They can even be painful.


“I’m female and I have ruined orgasms from edging more often than I want. […] You climb that mountain only to find there’s no peak and you’re absolutely done for a while because you can’t edge more (too sore). It’s like sitting down to your favorite meal only to find you can’t taste it, and it still gives you heartburn.” Anonymous, Fetlife.


Torment after orgasm

Many dominance-submission practices are done with the implicit knowledge that the submissive is going to be sexually aroused by them. So, even if there is sexual denial, they will satisfy his ongoing sexual desire. However, if a man is made to ejaculate before any action starts, his refractory period would deprive him, not just of any further sexual satisfaction, but even of the sexual desire that motivated him to engage in the scene to begin with. Spankings, canings and floggings would be just pure pain. Sexual service would be done for the sole satisfaction of the dominant.


If the ejaculation entailed a ruined orgasm, the entire scene would give the submissive no sexual pleasure whatsoever.


Torment after orgasm works better for men than for women, because most women lack a strong refractory period. Still, making a female submissive climax before doing nasty things to her would deprive her of some of the kinky pleasure she might have obtained otherwise.


Conditioned orgasm

The technique of conditioned orgasms is based on the experiments of Ivan Pavlov on classical conditioning. He observed that dogs salivate when given food. He rang a bell while feeding them, and found that, after some repetitions, the dogs salivated just by ringing the bell. Here, food is called the unconditioned stimulus - it naturally induces salivation - and the bell sound is called conditioned stimulus - it only induces salivation after being coupled with the unconditioned stimulus. This basic experimental design was repeated many times, in different animals species and using different unconditioned and conditioned stimulus.


Some savvy dominant came up with the idea that it might be possible to condition women to orgasm. The unconditioned stimulus would be sexual stimulation of the clitoris or the vagina, and the conditioned stimulus would be a special word said by the dominant. However, other things can be used as conditioned stimuli, like showing a particular object, or hitting in a particular way.


Does it work? You would think that scientists would have tried this, but I could only find two fairly old studies, which somehow seemed to miss the point. The first (Letourneau and O'Donohue, 1997) was done in women, using erotic videos and an amber light as unconditioned and conditioned stimuli, respectively. As measures of sexual arousal, they used subjective ratings and vaginal pulse amplitude. The women said that they had become aroused by the amber light. However, there were no significant differences with control women, who were exposed to both the videos and the amber light, but at different times. I think that this control may not be valid because the control women still associated the amber light and the videos, albeit indirectly: they both occurred during at the doctor’s offices during the experiment. If both groups became conditioned to the light, this would render the statistical comparison between them not significant.


The other study (Kantorowitz, 1978) was done in men (8 subjects), who were shown three pictures of naked women during the plateau, resolution and refractory phases, respectively, of masturbation sessions. They measured penile tumescence - the level or erection - with which they responded to subsequent presentations of the three pictures. While the photos had the same erotic power at the beginning of the experiment, after conditioning those that were paired with the plateau phase produced more tumescence and were found more erotic than those paired with the refractory period.


A later review paper (Khan et al., 2011) suggested that orgasmic conditioning could be used “for treatment of paraphilias like fetishism and pedophilias.” This sounds too much like conversion therapy for my taste. It would be nice if this could be used to treat pedophilia, which causes lifelong trauma to abused children. But why do they want to eliminate fetishisms, which are mostly innocuous?


What I hear in the BDSM community is that orgasmic conditioning works, at least in women. My impression is that only women who orgasm easily can be conditioned to climax on command, but other women can become very aroused when they hear the trigger word.


Forced orgasms

Forced orgasms are practiced on multi-orgasmic women, taking advantage of the fact that they have no refractory period. Typically, the woman is tied up and make to orgasm again and again by stimulating the clitoris with a vibrator, the vagina with a dildo, or whatever works for her. Past a certain point, the orgasm is no longer desired and, ironically, is experienced as unpleasant. This may be because of physical exhaustion or because she feels like she is losing control.


As with other techniques of orgasm control, the dominant uses this one to emphasize his control over the body and the mind of the submissive.


I have heard some submissive women reporting that they reach altered states of consciousness through forced orgasms.


Chastity

Chastity is refraining from sexual activity, which is important for many religions that consider sex immoral. It is also associated with the virtue of temperance in some philosophies, which extol chastity as a method to develop self-control.


In BDSM, chastity is another way by which a dominant exerts control over the submissive by controlling his or her sexuality.


Chastity in BDSM has a different meaning than in religion. Since kink has a sexual component, a submissive in chastity does not completely refrain from sexual activity, only from some aspects of it. Most often, chastity is understood as just refraining from orgasm. Indeed, the submissive may be sexually stimulated without allowing the release of orgasm in order to increase sexual desire and frustration.


Male submissives may be allowed some types of orgasms - like prostatic orgasm from anal sex - but not ejaculation. Female submissives may be used for the sexual pleasure of the dominant - by being fucked vaginally or anally, for example - while not being allowed to climax from this. Likewise, male and female submissives may be ordered to perform oral sex - and may derive pleasure from it.


In its milder forms, chastity is demanded for short periods of times in order to increase the sexual desire of the submissive before a sexual encounter with the dominant. Using this enhanced desire as a foundation, the submissive can then be manipulated with edging, conditioned orgasm, forced orgasms, and other forms of sexual control.


In its more strict forms, the submissive is made to live in chastity for long periods of times, months, years, or for as long as the DS relationship lasts.


BDSM chastity has become enormously popular lately, judging from the increase in advertisement for the devices used to enforce it: penis cages for men and chastity belts for women. However, chastity is often practiced just by trusting that the submissive will not masturbate.


Many people practice chastity alone, without a dominant ordering them to do so. They do not do it as part of a religious practice, but because it arouses kinky feelings in them.


Penis cages

Penis cages are metal or plastic devices that wrap around the penis, locking it and the testicles with a padlock or with a built-in lock. The cages are made of bars or have a hole to allow urinating. The cage is small and curved to make an erection painful and impossible.


Penis cage
Cock cage, by Gentle07. Wikimedia Commons.

Some cages even have spikes inside. Others are extremely short in order to compress the penis into the pelvis, making it look like a clitoris to add humiliation (“sissification”). In FemDom, it is common to make fun of the man for having a small penis, or by calling his penis a clit.

Micro penis cage
Micro penis cage, by Pantyman75, Wikimedia Commons

By wrapping tightly behind the testicles, penis cages are impossible to remove once locked. The key is given to the dominant partner or, in cases where chastity is done outside a DS relationship, to an intimate friend called the “keyholder”. Modern penis cages have an electronic lock than can be operated at a distance from a cell phone or a computer. The news recently reported that some of these devices had been hacked, and the hacker demanded a payment in order the release the penis of the unfortunate owner.


For uncircumcised men, an alternative to penis cages is a piercing in the prepuce that traps it over the glans, preventing erections.


Chastity belts

It is not clear to what extent the chastity belts worn by medieval and renaissance women were actually used. However, devices inspired by them are commonly used in BDSM, both by women and men.


In women, their primary function is to prevent vaginal penetration. They are also supposed to prevent masturbating by stroking the clitoris. However, there is some controversy about whether a determined woman can get around this. It is possible to insert the back of a spoon or even a finger around the belt to reach the clit. Many women can also masturbate by clenching the thighs.


The typical chastity belt has two straps. One cinches the waist. The other, attached to it at the front and the back, covers the crotch. This second strap has a plate that covers the pubis, with holes for urination. A hole over the anus permits defecation. Some chastity belts allow the attachment of dildos and butt plugs to their inside.


Like penis cages, chastity belts lock with a padlock or built-in lock, or even with a remotely controlled mechanism. Of course, once the belt is open, the submissive has to be convinced to put it back on.


More complex chastity belts have additional straps that go around the top of the thighs. Others look like shorts, with straps around the waist and the thighs and tough fabric in between, and a plastic plate covering the pubis. These are medical devices similar to straightjackets. They are more effective than conventional chastity belts to prevent masturbation by stroking the clitoris. However, this type of chastity belts need to be unlocked for urination and defecation.


Prolonged wearing of chastity belts may produce chafing of the skin by constant rubbing of the metal straps, and urinary tract infections from improper cleaning.


Why do people submit to orgasm control?

We can find some common themes in all these methods of sexual control:


  • surrendering sexual satisfaction to the dominant,

  • being used sexually without sexual reward,

  • self-denial of sexual pleasure,

  • using sexual desire and sexual pleasure to control the body and the mind,

  • increasing sexual desire without fully satisfying it,

  • erotization of sexual frustration.


We live in an increasingly sex-positive culture where everybody is supposed to be able to find sexual satisfaction. And the BDSM community is at the center of this sex-positive culture. So why do kinky people enjoy depriving themselves of sex?


First of all, this proves that there is a BDSM desire that is different from sexual desire, although associated with it. Many kinky people develop fantasies about being spanked, tied up or subjugated from a very early age, and these go beyond the purely sexual. The desire for kink arises from psychological urges different from the sex drive. Perhaps they are rooted in mental tensions about desire, social interactions, shame, guilt, envy and frustration.


One of the main drives for the desire for sexual subjugation is to seek relief from societal pressures for sexual accomplishment. Men are supposed to be better if they have a large penis, develop powerful erections, thrust powerfully during intercourse, and give women orgasms. One way to conjure the fear of not achieving these things is doing exactly the opposite: locking their erections away in a cage that makes their penis look small, and renouncing intercourse. Similarly, women base their sexual prestige on having numerous and powerful orgasms. So renouncing orgasms, or having them being controlled by somebody else, becomes a way to rebel against this pressure that threatens their self-image.


There is also a basic contradiction in the dominance-submission dynamic. The submissive is supposed to serve and obey, but often ends up being the one being served by the dominant, who pleasures her and caters to her kinky desires. By denying orgasms to the submissive, both partners prove to each other that the relationship is truly about service and surrender.


A lot of the current popularity of chastity may also be related to the NoFab culture, and beliefs about preserving sexual energy and the supposed benefits of abstaining from masturbation.


There are also elements of psychological masochism in sexual control. Contrary to the traditional beliefs of psychologists, these may not be unhealthy at all. If confronting negative emotions in a positive way is healthy, then there is nothing wrong with dwelling on feelings of subjugation, humiliation, envy and frustration. It is healing to turn these emotions into something positive by endowing them with an erotic charge.


Ultimately, what comes into play here are crucial existential issues. Our self-image, of body and mind. Our inability to live up to the expectations that we and others place on ourselves. Our relationship with our desires and our inability to fulfill them. The mirage of sexual pleasure, that comes and goes and still leave us unhappy. By giving up control, we renounce of these things and find ourselves free from them.


References

Kantorowitz DA (1978) An experimental investigation of preorgasmic reconditioning and postorgasmic deconditioning. J Appl Behav Anal 11:23-34.


Khan MH, Mukhtar MZ, Bajwa M, Alwi M, Gul M, Niaz S (2011) Role of orgasmic conditioning and reconditioning in psychiatry. European Psychiatry 26:1546-1546.


Letourneau EJ, O'Donohue W (1997) Classical conditioning of female sexual arousal. Arch Sex Behav 26:63-78.


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