One Woman’s Quest for an Orgasm

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By The Atlantic and WNYC Studios, The Atlantic, and WNYC Studios. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Katharine Smyth is 39 years old and has never, to her knowledge, had an orgasm. This fact didn’t worry her very much until her 30s, when a divorce and a series of dates with frustrated men made her think she might never find love again. So she embarked on a quest—diving deep into an industry designed to solve her problem, searching for a feeling that’s been a fixation of science, pseudoscience, politics, and philosophy for centuries.

“The metaphor that came to me is that it’s kind of like a Rorschach test, where it’s this abstraction that all of these doctors and scientists are projecting their own worldview upon. And it’s almost always to the benefit of men.”

This week on The Experiment: A personal quest for sexual fulfillment reveals centuries of mythmaking about female pleasure.

Further reading: The Tyranny of the Female-Orgasm Industrial Complex

Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Stef Hayes. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by infinite bisous (“Lost in Translation /2,” “Why Should I?”), r mccarthy (“Fine,” “Jyoti,” “She's a Gift Giver, She's a Giver of Gifts”), Parish Council (“Same Cake”), Safa Park (“Loose Yams”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), Keyboard (“Staying In”), water feature (“a paradise”), and Nelson Bandela (“No Dummms 6860,” “Hoop Dreams”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional music by Brian C. Chapman (“Casual Sex”) and Claude Debussy (“Prélude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune”). Additional audio from MGM Studios, Sweet Alice, Film&Clips, Fox News, Miramax, and VCX Classics.

58 episodes