Bigstockphoto_No_Idea_Brown_4636120 Late last week, the media buzzed about a research article that suggested that "smart" women are more likely to experience orgasm than…dumb ones? 

[If you want the quick skinny, check Dr. Petra Boynton's blog posts, in which she criticizes both the researchers (for the construction of the study and the researchers' conclusions, which are based on barely significant data) and the media (for equating Emotional Intelligence, or "EQ" with "IQ").]

My take is that women who either do not experience orgasm (anorgasmia) or who experience it infrequently have yet another reason to feel that they are sexually inadequate-or just simply inadequate. 

After all, some women aren't bothered by anorgasmia or occasions when orgasm doesn't happen.  Yet here is another article that suggests that women who don't have orgasm have some serious pathology going on.  The fact is, about 10% of women never experience orgasm.  Also, the ability to have orgasm may change with a woman's hormones or even the amount of stress she is experiencing.  Orgasm just isn't such a cut and dry affair, as it mostly is with men. 

(But even men have trouble with orgasm.  More and more men are calling my office with delayed ejaculation–just taking too damn long to come.) 

Then, women who have difficulty with orgasm are further damned by the media as having emotional stupidity.  EQ is a fairly recent concept.  EQ is your ability to manage your emotions and to understand the emotions of others.  The premise is that the better you are able to do this, the more satisfying your social interactions.

But there is much more that goes into orgasm than being able to have good social interactions with your partner.  Sure, being able to share yourself intimately with your partner might make it easier to tell your partner what you like, and to express yourself sexually.

This, however, does not bear out in my clinical experience and, I'm guessing, the clinical experience of other sex therapists and educators.  The reason one woman orgasms easily and another one finds it takes more energy if it's going to happen may not be based on EQ, IQ, personality, or even the quality of her relationship.  It may be related to lack of sex education regarding her body, her anatomy (some studies show that having a clitoris located closer to the vaginal opening helps, e.g.), and experience.  It may have to do with

sociaization–that sex is supposed to be pleasurable, and something to do for yourself, rather than for a man.  It may even have to do with religious upbringing, with women who are from more fundamentally religious backgrounds having more difficulty enjoying sex.

Part of the problem with all of this fuss about EQ is that EQ itself is not well understood, either as a concept or how it is measured.  In fact, when I read the study, as a Doctor of Psychology, I found myself thinking, "Well, okay, but how is this useful in my work with my clients?"

I just can't imagine telling a woman in my office, "So the reason you are having trouble is a low EQ."  I'd have to take the time to explain what EQ is and then spend weeks and weeks working on increasing something that is difficult to measure, or that may be so inherent to the client that the work becomes futile.  (Is every woman supposed to have as high an EQ as, say, Anne Hathaway?  And aren't many women socialized to be rather submissive, more tuned into others than to themselves?  How long would that take to change, if a woman simply wants to try having orgasm?

A better approach would be to help the woman understand her own roadblocks to allowing pleasure (anxiety, guilt), teach her about her body, give her permission to have orgasm, and instruct her in technique.  Once she has achieved orgasm on her own, she can teach her partner what to do.  Such an approach is a lot less damning, I think, than telling a woman that the cause of her anorgasmia is low emotional intelligence.

In fairness, the researchers have added a crumb of knowledge that may prove to be useful in future studies.  They are to be commended to drawing attention to the issue of anorgasmia and honored for the time they took to conduct the study. 

I have a Psy.D., not a Ph.D.  My degree is more clinically focused than research focused.  My task is to read research and critique it for its usefulness in application.  My broad recommendation, for what it's worth, is for research on sex to be conducted with great sensitivity to the complexity.  This means also being aware of the effect that research will have not only on media reports, but on the women who are reading those reports as well.