5 October 2022: Orgasms can get more elusive after prostate cancer treatment – or simply with aging. It’s sometimes called by the fancy name anorgasmia. Prostate cancer support forums carry anguished laments from both partners about survivors not being able to “finish” the way they did before. This post is about exploring alternatives to full orgasm – I call these “mini-peaks.” Or if you like, how to finish and be satisfied without “finishing.”

Sadly, the research literature I have been able to find is sharply focused on the medical-technical aspects of these challenges. Here goes with a more practical experiential approach.

Awkwardness of arousal without orgasm

Enjoying sexual arousal without orgasm is a difficult dance. Most of our bodies and minds are wired to go for that climax – and to feel deep disappointment when it doesn’t happen to ourselves or our partners. When the same situations no longer bring the same climax, it’s very confusing. What’s wrong with me, I ask, when my own flesh is less willing than my mind?

Living with my new body after prostate cancer, I am learning one step at a time, how to be sexual without necessarily being orgasmic. For me the easiest and safest learning ground is alone, in the process of self pleasuring.

Natural pleasure

This morning in the shower, I felt familiar pleasurable stirrings in my body. Some body parts feeling a little more interesting to wash than others. Do my nipples and genitals really need so much washing? My hands instinctively stroke and stimulate. I feel that gathering, gathering of energy flowing in from my extremities. The energy gathers and strums up a vibration along the core pathway between swelling genitals and nipples.

So far, all this is pretty normal. What is different is what kinds of “happy ending” are possible in an aging male body without its prostate.

Self pleasuring is normal and instinctive

The majority of people of all genders beyond the age of puberty have experienced their own self pleasuring discoveries. It’s not wrong or right, it’s just that we are given bodies that experience pleasure, and it’s natural to enhance that pleasure by touching oneself in places that feel nice. Particularly when you actually need to touch those places for another purpose – cleanliness. Then it is nice to touch a little more for the simple purpose of self pleasure.

What is different for me now, is that my body doesn’t operate in the classic male manner. Previously at times like this, my remarkable shape-shifting body would manifest an erection. A few instinctive touches would make it hard, and then I would often follow with some fist pumping ending in a different kind of shower erupting from within me.

Anorgasmia: a deeper disappointment

Now that same male organ can grow a bit chubbier, but it doesn’t often get as hard as a young man’s erection. And the nipples are more sensitive in the relative scheme of things than when my erection kind of stole the show. There is a lot of disappointment in loss of full erectile function. My hard erections are really like old friends that have deserted me after 50 years of pleasurable company.

And even the most loving and skilful caresses of these stimulating body parts doesn’t always bring orgasm as it used to. The loss of ejaculation that comes with prostate removal is a minor loss compared to the loss of erections. Losing orgasms can be an even deeper disappointment and calls for a change in mindset.

Self pleasure without fixed outcomes

After nearly a thousand days to get used to my new body, I am noticing new possibilities. This morning in the shower, I just followed my instinct. Marvelling at how eager and pointy those little nipples are. Noticing that they are supported by the tiniest swelling of breasts, and the whole area simply feels lovely and exciting. And I have learned to luxuriate in that enjoyment. Previously I would have been distracted by the absence of a harder erection – or yearning for the bigger abundance of a woman’s breasts. I can love my own body just how it is.

Of course my other hand creeps down to my groin. As I am learning to be less specific, I don’t check exactly how hard I am. Rather I just enjoy my fingers touching those exquisitely sensitive places, and the huge joy of swelling. It’s the essence of potential.

Getting used to mini-peaks without orgasm

I let my body lead me. The frequency of my fingers rubbing and caressing the sensitive gets a bit quicker. More urgent. There is an ancient feeling all over, a bit like the gathering of a storm. Or a crowd running towards a gift from heaven that has just landed in the village square.

My blood quickens. My sensitive bits swell. There’s a kind of crescendo building. My lower hand naturally shifts towards the age-old pumping action – only to find the organ is still too soft for that.

I look down now and see it is really only half way to full erectness. This is the crucial moment where disappointment can come crashing into what was a very enjoyable moment.

But there is still a kind of peak. I consciously keep my attention on that, and enjoy the crescendo without the hardness or the pulsation or any of the conventional measures of orgasm. I am calling it a mini-peak. When I stop comparing it with the old ways, it is simply a joyful, lovely, satisfying experience of pleasure in my body, in my mind, in my heart and in my soul.

Alternatives to full orgasm in relationship

This feels like a way forward for me – and for us in my relationship with my wife. I believe she has already mastered her version of the art of mini-peaks. After more than 50 years of ready orgasms just bursting out of my physiology, I am needing to catch up on her learning and adaptation.

Somehow it is more of a struggle for me to give up my reliance on orgasms. I have to keep reminding myself that any kind of intimacy is a gift to be celebrated. I will be looking for ways to be deeply satisfied by mini-peaks in my relationship with her too.