© 2015

Orgasmic Bodies

The Orgasm in Contemporary Western Culture


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Hannah Frith
    Pages 22-42
  3. Hannah Frith
    Pages 43-62
  4. Hannah Frith
    Pages 63-82
  5. Hannah Frith
    Pages 127-146
  6. Hannah Frith
    Pages 147-162
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 163-192

About this book


Orgasmic Bodies explores how bodily experiences of orgasm are worked up as present/absent, complicated/straightforward, too slow/too fast, fake or real, in the doing of masculinities and femininities. Engaging with both science and popular culture it examines the meanings given to orgasmic bodies in contemporary heterosex.


heterosexuality orgasm postfeminism magazines sexuality embodiment culture gender information pornography production reproduction science women

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrightonUK

About the authors

Hannah Frith teaches critical psychology at the University of Brighton, UK. Her research examines interrelationships between identity, embodiment and sexuality, including negotiating sexual refusals, clothed identities, a changed appearance, the mediation of dying, and makeover television. She co-edited Critical bodies: Representations, identities and practices of weight and body management (Palgrave Macmillan).

Bibliographic information


'Hannah Frith's outstanding examination of the historical, biological and cultural 'meanings' of heterosexual orgasm exposes our deep-seated assumptions, prevailing anxieties and hopeful pleasures regarding orgasms. Eloquently reviewing the different theoretical approaches attempting to 'make sense' of this intimate embodied experience (from Freud and Masters and Johnston to feminist poststructuralist theory and even covering the new biomedical push to market 'pink Viagra'), Frith's 'orgasm is not a 'natural act''. She cleverly demonstrates how popular cultural texts such as Cosmo and Men's Health, which claim to 'inform' readers about the 'truths' of female and male orgasmic experience, actually do more to highlight the inconsistencies and uncertainties of people's understandings and experiences of sexual pleasure. Indeed, Frith's analysis reveals how much 'work' and what kinds of 'performances' must go into producing 'authentic' and 'faux' orgasms in heterosexual contexts. Importantly, Hannah Frith brings previous scholarship on the orgasmic imperative up to date by turning to the pleasures of the new neoliberal postfeminist female sexual subject. Written in a beautifully accessible and engaging way, Orgasmic Bodies is the book 21st century Sexuality Studies has been waiting for.' - Associate Professor Annie Potts, Head of Cultural Studies, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

'In Orgasmic Bodies, Hannah Frith makes the already-complicated and treacherous terrain of orgasm even more deliciously complex and nuanced. As a distillation of cultural anxieties, personal pleasures, deep power imbalances, and bodily possibilities, Frith's analysis of orgasm pushes us to understand and evaluate gender relations and erotic thrills such that we as readers shudder with delight and terror in equal measure. This is the social science book on orgasm we have all been waiting for.' - Breanne Fahs, Associate Professor of Women and Gender studies at Arizona State University, USA and author of Performing Sex and The Moral Panics of Sexuality