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I can't orgasm from intercourse and we can't stop fighting about it!

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Jade asks:

I can never orgasm when having sex with my boyfriend. Not with vaginal, anyways. I only have a couple times and that's because we were doing other things. But it takes me a looooooooong time, and I think he just gets tired after awhile even though I know he tries. And then I get frustrated with MYSELF, and I know that upsets him cause he thinks I'm blaming him and he gets mad at me and we get in a fight. Ugh. I can orgasm fairly quickly when I do it myself? I don't get it. What's going on and how do I fix it?

Heather Corinna replies:

As we've said again and again and again, the majority of women do NOT reach orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone -- and never have -- and many do not find vaginal intercourse to even be all that arousing or satisfying.

There's nothing to "fix" when it comes to that -- our anatomy, on the whole, just wasn't designed for it to be the activity which does the trick for most of us, at least not all by itself. For some women, certain positions or additions can help -- like being on top and finding where you can also get clitoral stimulus at the same time, or by having your partner be behind you and rub your clitoris during intercourse with his hands -- but for a majority, orgasm just isn't going to happen from nothing but vaginal intercourse. Some men also find that they can't reach orgasm through intercourse, either.

That shouldn't make anyone angry or upset. Men and women enjoy lots of things that don't bring them to orgasm, and not being able to reach orgasm from something doesn't make it any less important, nor, if you both enjoy intercourse together, does it make it less enjoyable. Most people really like kissing, and while few people will orgasm from that alone, we rarely hear anyone getting upset about that or saying that makeout sessions are just a waste of time. The frustration you're feeling is likely coming more from a place of having unrealistic expectations that aren't being met than from anything else.

It's also normal for it to take women somewhat longer to reach orgasm from any activity than men. That, too, is just a standard difference. Mind, that is likely also partly due to women engaging in less masturbation than men (so, having less of an idea of how they might get off), and some women being less assertive than men in asking for what they know gets them off -- or feeling somehow they aren't as entitled to -- and those things very much are fixable. You say you can get off easily alone. That's normal: after all, you've had practice and there also can be less pressure alone. But if you're showing your partner what you do, it might also help him out a lot when it comes to the times it's him getting you there. As well, it's normal for it to take a few years or even more for a person to find out what works for them, and to get comfortable with their sexuality and a given partner so they can relax enough to reach orgasm more easily.

Suffice it to say, when you put all this anger, upset and frustration into the mix, you're assuring that arousal, orgasm and plain old enjoyment is going to be a lot tougher. If sex keeps ending in fights, you're going to start to anticipate that -- and your body will as well -- and that'll tend to inhibit how aroused you get, which inhibits if you'll reach orgasm and how easily. It sounds to me like the dynamic of your relationship may well be one of the biggest probalems here, and that, too, is probably something you can fix.

How about sitting down and having a long talk about this? Make a point that you two both need to commit to no more fighting around sex, and to accepting how your unique bodies work. Intercourse doesn't bring you to orgasm by itself for now, so both of you need to just let go of any idea that it will or that it should, and instead work on creating a sex life together that's about what you both enjoy and what DOES work for both of you. If you like having intercourse, even if it doesn't mean an orgasm for you, you can make clear that you still want to do that, but just need another sexual activity before, during or afterwards to cross your finish line. If you don't enjoy it, you don't have to do it, just like I'm sure your partner doesn't feel he has to do things (or he should, anyway) that he doesn't enjoy. If he didn't enjoy you using fingers or a toy to give him receptive anal intercourse, would he feel he had to do it if you liked it? If he didn't get off that way, would it equal big fights if he didn't?

You can also make clear to him what you've found out here. That your inability to orgasm that way isn't about something he is doing wrong, nor some failing on his part, but about how your anatomy is designed. The vaginal canal only has rich nerve endings in the first inch or two, and after that, it's just not a place on your body that is very sensory. Your clitoris, on the other hand, has more sensory nerve endings than any other part of the female or male anatomy -- and is also a lot bigger than most people think: the part you see on the outside is only one part, not the whole thing -- so it's unsurprising that's usually the big shakes when it comes to genital sex for women. Of course, our whole bodies have the capacity to be sexual, so any kind of sex also isn't just about our genitals, and engaging all those other parts is a big deal for men and women alike to have big-time sexual pleasure.

Finding out what's unique about a partner's sexuality is actually the fun part: it shouldn't be a drag. All that exploring and experimenting and those little discoveries we make about how some obscure thing is THE thing that does it for someone is the good stuff. Sex with a partner isn't just about product: the whole process should be exciting and fulfilling. But if we have the idea that one size fits all, that all bodies work alike, and that sex is more about taking the least time to get to an end point, we're going to miss the boat. Part of what makes partnered sex meaningful is that we're each taking that time -- and relishing that process -- to explore our partners and ourselves and discover and create a sex life that's as unique as we and our relationship is.

So, talk about all of that, okay? You might even consider going back to square one, for a while, shelving intercourse for the time being and spending more time making out, petting, with massage, with things like manual sex and oral sex -- for both of you -- so you can get back to a vibe that's more about anticipation than frustration. Once you get to intercourse again, you might experiment with different positions and angles -- as well as ways you can get other activities in there at the same time -- with a more open mind and a better spirit. You might each try writing letters to each other about what you really would like to experiment with: in "fixing" the issue, it doesn't have to be a bummer. You can work on repairing the yucky dynamics in your head and your relationship in a way that actually amps you both up rather than feeling like therapy.

It might help to check out and share these links, too:

written 26 Apr 2008 . updated 01 May 2008

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