Literary depictions of that special moment.
July 23, 2011 3:47 AM   Subscribe

Help me find orgasms in literature.

I am looking for descriptions of orgasm in literature/fiction. First-person depictions are good, like this one from Lady Chatterley's Lover: "[she felt] pure deepening whirlpools of sensations swirling through her tissue and consciousness, till she was one perfect concentric fluid of feeling."

More general descriptions would work too, a la [Sallie?] Tisdale's "rockets, earthquakes, fireworks, full-excursion pelvic thrusting, the final engorgement...orgasm, what else?"

Songs, poems, essays -- shoot, even visual art would work if it were relatively SFW.
posted by hungrytiger to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Bad Sex in Fiction Award highlights the truly awful and unintentionally hilarious. But maybe what you really want is the Good Sex Awards?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:52 AM on July 23, 2011

Sharon Old's Ecstacy is a great depiction of a "special" special moment:

"As we made love for the third day,
cloudy and dark, as we did not stop,
but went into it, and into it,
and did not hesitate and did not hold back we
rose through the air until we we up above
timber line....
posted by SomeTrickPony at 4:42 AM on July 23, 2011

"The entire mystery of pleasure in a woman's body lies in the intensity of the pulsation just before the orgasm. Sometimes it is slow, one-two-three, three palpitations which then project a fiery and icy liqueur through the body. If the palpitation is feeble, muted, the pleasure is like a gentler wave. The pocket seed of ecstasy bursts with more or less energy, when it is richest it touches every portion of the body, vibrating through every nerve and cell. If the palpitation is intense, the rhythm and beat of it is slower and the pleasure more lasting. Electric flesh-arrows, a second wave of pleasure falls over the first, a third which touches every nerve end, and now the third like an electric current traversing the body. A rainbow of color strikes the eyelids. A foam of music falls over the ears. It is the gong of the orgasm. There are times when a woman feels her body but lightly played on. Others when it reaches such a climax it seems it can never surpass. So many climaxes. Some caused by tenderness, some by desire, some by a word or an image seen during the day. There are times when the day itself demads a climax, days of which do not end in a climax, when the body is asleep or dreaming other dreams. There are days when the climax is not pleasure but pain, jealousy, terror, anxiety. And there are days when the climax takes place in creation, a white climax. Revolution is another climax. Sainthood another."

Anais Nin, Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 2

"In a sense Van Norden is mad, of that I'm convinced. His one fear is to be left alone, and this fear is so deep and so persistent that even when he is on top of a woman, even when he has welded himself to her, he cannot escape the prison which he has created for himself.

'I try all sorts of things," he explains to me. 'I even count sometimes, or I begin to think of a problem in philosophy, but it doesn't work. It's like I'm two people, and one of them is watching me all the time. I get so goddamned mad at myself that I could kill myself… and in a way, that's what I do every time I have an orgasm. For one second like I obliterate myself. There's not even one me then… there's nothing… not even the cunt. It's like receiving communion. Honest, I mean that. For a few seconds afterwards I have a fine spiritual glow… and maybe it would continue that way indefinitely – how can you tell? – if it weren't for the fact that there's a woman beside you and then the douche bag and the water running… all those little details that make you desperately self-conscious, desperately lonely. And for that one moment of freedom you have to listen to all that love crap… it drives me nuts sometimes… I want to kick them out immediately… I do now and then. But that doesn't keep them away. They like it, in fact. The less you notice them the more they chase after you. There's something perverse about women… they're all masochists at heart.'"

Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
posted by Houstonian at 5:07 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

A handy one from Neal Stephenson's <>Quicksilver, containing both the author's and the character's views of the critical moment. Protagonist lost half his dick in a venereal-disease related accident, hasn't been able to come since then, and is now, for the first time, being fisted:
Suspended between Eliza’s two hands, like a scale in a market-place, Jack could feel his balance-point shifting as quantities of fluids were pumped between internal reservoirs, all in preparation for some Event. Finally, the crisis - Jack’s legs thrashed in the hot water as if his body were trying to flee, but he was staked, impaled. A bubble of numenous light, as if the sun were mistakenly attempting to rise inside his head. Some kind of Hindoo apocalypse played out. He died, went to Hell, ascended into Heaven, was reincarnated as various braying, screeching, and howling beasts, and repeated this cycle many times over. In the end he was reincarnated, just barely, as a Man. Not a very alert one.

“Did you get what you wanted?” she inquired. Very close to him.

Jack laughed or wept soundlessly for a while.

“In some of these strange Gothickal German towns,” he at last said, “they have ancient clocks that are as big as houses, all sealed up most the time, with a little door where a cuckoo pops out upon the hour to sing. But once a day, it does something special, involving more doors, and once a week, something even specialer, and, for all I know, at the year, decade, and century marks, rows of great doors, all sealed shut by dust and age, creak open, driven by sudden descent of ancient weights on rusted chains, and the whole inner workings of the thing unfold through those openings. Hitherto unseen machines grind into action, strange and surprising things fly out—flags wave, mechanical birds sing—old pigeon-shit and cobwebs raining on spectators’ heads—Death comes out and does a fandango—Angels blow trumpets—Jesus writhes on the cross and expires—a mock naval battle plays out with repeated discharge of cannons—and would you please take your arm out of my asshole now?”

posted by Pallas Athena at 6:13 AM on July 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

There are several in Lolita. I can't find the text online, though, and I don't have the book in front of me.
posted by phunniemee at 6:54 AM on July 23, 2011

The One Second Film is, I think, defunct. I probably still have the animated gif I made of it, though I can't legally share it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:35 AM on July 23, 2011

Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God and The Diviners. They are about two women from the same community: one the daughter of the town undertaker who drank himself to death and the other taken in by the man who ran the garbage dump after her parents died of polio. The way the orgasms are experienced are described accordingly.
posted by brujita at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2011

I just read this book The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau and here is its orgasm scene:
Jamie’s back was flat against the fence slats. Flip leaned into her, hard and deep as if he were going to iron her with his chest and crotch while he kissed her. Jamie imagined splinters in her back and how that detail would add to the story she would later tell Tammy and Debbie. In her head she narrated each move Flip made, edited it, and rewrote it if it didn’t sound interesting or funny enough.

And just as Jamie was noting the repetitive drumbeat that Flip used when fluttering his hand in her crotch, she unexpectedly felt as if she were burning like a eucalyptus fire. A spectacular, beautiful eucalyptus fire. A fire so rich with heat and flames that Jamie couldn’t escape into the running narrative in her head—she was suddenly centered in her own body, like a stacking cup that fit perfectly into the cup outside it.

Flip lifted Jamie’s right leg, put himself inside her, and the fire spread, exploding like ignited oil.

And then, in an instant, Jamie understood why sex was such a big deal; why it made marriages and broke them up again; why most graffiti in public bathrooms was about sex; why Dog Feather read Knockers and loved Betty’s breasts; why Allen loved Betty; why Leon hung around the house like a mosquito you couldn’t pin down long enough to catch; why Tammy and Debbie thought they were in love; why Flip wanted to do it right then and right there.

A plunging shudder ran through Jamie; she lost vision and her knees buckled. She feared she might gasp, or weep, or laugh. But she didn’t. She went limp in Flip’s arms. Flip kissed Jamie’s forehead, which was covered in dewy sweat, like a layer of velvet. He told Jamie he loved her. She said she loved him too. And she knew, right then, that she’d be happy to be alone on an island with Flip, with no audience to help discern her feelings. He alone could sustain her. The orgasms would sustain her. Sex like this was better than having colorless sex that led to neon stories. It was better than cracking up with her friends.

They stood there, bodies suctioned together, as still as the air. Flip’s skin smelled musky, like sun-induced sweat, and as- tringent, like the eucalyptus. The music from the party sounded far away, as if it were music from another town, another era. For the first time, Jamie actually felt connected to Flip and she wondered if that connected feeling was the soul of true love. And then she heard the hooting laughter of her mother, and the gauzy cloud of love cracked open and plunged her back to reality.
Not sure how much of this context you wanted, but I thought I'd share the whole thing and err on the side of too much.
posted by pupstocks at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have no idea where this is, but I recall an essay by William Gass where he laments that the "leap of sperm" is an experience that has been woefully neglected by literature.
posted by jayder at 8:47 AM on July 23, 2011

I'm unable to find the full quote online from Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, where he describes Robert Jordan and Maria making love in the heather, but here's the most famous part of that passage:
For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.
posted by mosk at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2011

Molly Blooms soliloquy in Ulysses comes to mind:
"O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down Jo me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes"
posted by Lisitasan at 9:18 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Girls Lean Back Everywhere is a fascinating academic discussion of these passages of text and the history of laws that have prevented/allowed their publishing. Obviously, there are a number of quotes, citations, references, and see-alsos.

I read that for a class on obscenity in the English department. God, I miss college.
posted by doteatop at 9:37 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Woman, from her perspective:

"I had it now, I felt it now, and, beginning to drive, he soon gave nature such a powerful summons down to her favourite quarters, that she could no longer refuse repairing thither; all my animal spirits then rush'd mechanically to that center of attraction, and presently, inly warmed, and stirr'd as I was beyond bearing, I lost all restraint" --FANNY HILL (John Cleland)

"It was Heaven. I was the earth, the mountains, the tigers, the rivers that flowed into the lakes, the lake that became the sea. He was thrusting faster and faster now, and the pain was mingled with pleasure, and I could have said: 'I can't take any more', but that would have been unfair, because, by then, he and I were one person." --Eleven Minutes (Paulo Coelho)

Woman, from his perspective:

"The cloth of her habit caught against the velvet of his coat. She threw back her white neck, swelling with a sigh, and faltering, in tears, with a long shudder and hiding her face, she gave herself up to him." --Madame Bovary (Flaubert)

Some, ahem, less-than-complimentary yet humorous accounts, of men, from a woman's perspective:

"Suddenly he heaved himself over between her legs, fumbled himself into her, thrust away a few times - no more than six at the outside - and then, with a terrific gasp to tell her that it was now (which she countered with some cries and pants of her own), he collapsed on top of her. The whole business, from the moment he folded the paper, had taken perhaps eight minutes." --Songs (Julian Fellowes)

"Had she pulled on the wrong thing? Had she gripped too tight? He gave out a wail, a complicated series of agonised, rising vowels, the sort of sound she had heard once in a comedy film when a waiter, weaving this way and that, appeared to be about to drop a pile of towering soup plates." --On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)

And this lovely one, for redemption, a man's experience, from his own perspective:

"He held her by the hip and strained up to her, rising off the bed and reaching in her, saying Megha, and she rolled down to meet him, and at the closest point of their meeting he felt the spill, ecstatic and alive, and in a last moment of thought he asked, is this me? Is this you?" --Love and Longing (Vikram Chandra)
posted by misha at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! And in the interest of equity, here is a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written with his lover, Thomas Jefferson Hogg*, supposedly as a joke, and published under pseudonyms:

"Soft, my dearest angel stay,
Oh! you suck my soul away;
Suck on, suck on, I glow, I glow!
Tides of maddening passion roll,
And streams of rapture drown my soul.
Now give me one more billing kiss,
Let your lips now repeat the bliss,
Endless kisses steal my breath,
No life can equal such a death.”

*I know. Poor man. I would have changed my name.

And Sappho, to her lover, from the poem "Ode to a Loved One" (I admit, 'orgasmic' might be a stretch here, best I could find:

"...'Twas this deprived my soul of rest,
And raised such tumults in my breast;
For, while I gazed, in transport tossed,
My breath was gone, my voice was lost;

My bosom glowed; the subtle flame
Ran quick through all my vital frame;
O'er my dim eyes a darkness hung;
My ears with hollow murmurs rung;

In dewy damps my limbs were chilled;
My blood with gentle horrors thrilled:
My feeble pulse forgot to play;
I fainted, sunk, and died away."
posted by misha at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2011

I came on here to second the suggestion for Lolita:
Under my glancing fingertips I felt the minute hairs bristle ever so slightly along her shins. I lost myself in the pungent but healthy heat which like summer haze hung about little Haze. Let her stay, let her stay...As she strained to chuck the core of her abolished apple into the fender, her young weight, her shameless innocent shanks and round bottom, shifted in my tense, tortured, surreptitiously laboring lap; and all of a sudden a mysterious change came over my senses. I entered a plane of being where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What had begun as a delicious distension of my innermost roots became a glowing tingle which now had reached that state of absolute security, confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life. With the deep hot sweetness thus established and well on its way to the ultimate convulsion, I felt I could slow down in order to prolong the flow. Lolita had been safely solipsized. The implied sun pulsated in the supplied poplars; we were fantastically and divinely alone; I watched her, rosy, gold-dusted, beyond the veil of my controlled delight, unaware of it, alien to it, and the sun was on her lips, and her lips were apparently still forming the words of the Carmen-barmen ditty that no longer reached my consciousness. Everything was now ready. The nerves of pleasure had been laid bare. The corpuscles of Krause were entering the phase of frenzy. The least pressure would suffice to set all paradise loose. I had ceased to be Humbert the Hound, the sad-eyed degenerate cur clasping the boot that would presently kick him away. I was above the tribulations of ridicule, beyond the possibilities of retribution. In my self-made seraglio, I was a radiant and robust Turk, deliberately, in the full consciousness of his freedom, postponing the moment of actually enjoying the youngest and frailest of his slaves. Suspended on the brink of that voluptuous abyss (a nicety of the physiological equipoise comparable to certain techniques on the arts) I keep repeating chance words after her--barmen, alarmin', my charmin', my carmen, ahmen, ahahamen--as one talking and laughing in his sleep while my happy hand crept up her sunny leg as far as the shadow of decency allowed. The day before she had collided with the heavy chest in the hall and--"Look, look!"--I gasped--"look what you've done, what you've done to yourself, ah, look"; for there was, I swear, a yellowish-violet bruise on her lovely nymphet thigh which my huge hairy hand massaged and slowly enveloped--and because of her very perfunctory underthings, there seemed to be nothing to prevent my muscular thumb from reaching the hot hollow of her groin--just as you might tickle and caress a giggling child--just that--and: "Oh it's nothing at all," she cried with a sudden shrill note in her voice, and she wiggled, and squirmed, and threw her head back, and her teeth rested on her glistening underlip and she half-turned away, and my moaning mouth, gentlemen of the jury, almost reached her bare neck, while I crushed out against her left buttock and last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever known.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. 1955.
posted by therewolf at 1:14 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

E.E. Cummings' "she being Brand" uses an extended automobile metaphor.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:44 PM on July 23, 2011

Leopold's orgasm, also from Ulysses:
She would fain have cried to him chokingly, held out her snowy slender arms to him to come, to feel his lips laid on her white brow, the cry of a young girl's love, a little strangled cry, wrung from her, that cry that has rung through the ages. And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft!
posted by jweed at 11:31 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

William Gibson's 'Neuromancer':
Now she straddled him again, took his hand, and closed it over her, his thumb along the cleft of her buttocks, his fingers spread across the labia. As she began to lower herself, the images came pulsing back, the faces, fragments of neon arriving and receding. She slid down around him and his back arched convulsively. She rode him that way, impaling herself, slipping down on him again and again, until they both had come, his orgasm flaring blue in a timeless space, a vastness like the matrix, where the faces were shredded and blown away down hurricane corridors, and her inner thighs were strong and wet against his hips.
posted by chmmr at 2:13 AM on July 24, 2011

The Earl of Rochester comes prematurely, from The Imperfect Enjoyment:
But whilst her busy hand would guide that part
Which should convey my soul up to her heart,
In liquid raptures I dissolve all o'er,
Melt into sperm, and spend at every pore.
A touch from any part of her had done't:
Her hand, her foot, her very look's a cunt.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:25 AM on July 24, 2011

Too long to quote here, but the first several chapters of Tristram Shandy describe the narrator's conception.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2011

Rochester again, from Song To Chloris:
Now piercéd is her virgin zone;
She feels the foe within it.
She hears a broken amorous groan,
The panting lover's fainting moan,
Just in the happy minute.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:14 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

These are really great. My favorites are the Henry Miller, the Nabokov and the Anya Blau and the Chandra. Well, and all of them. "The panting lover's fainting moan"? Awesome.

Thank you, mefites (and I'd love to see more) !

Also, jayder, the Gass essay is here, though there's a paywall around the bulk of it.
posted by hungrytiger at 7:12 PM on July 24, 2011

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