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I didn't feel a thing with fingering: is there something wrong with me?

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Anonymous asks:

I am 15 years old, and my boyfriend I went farther in our relationship. It was both of are first times doing anything with someone else's private parts. When he was fingering me, he used one finger for a time and I really didn't feel it, it felt boring. He then did it with two and when I told him I still couldn't really feel it, he was shocked. He then got a little frustrated I think, and tried it pretty roughly and then it started to hurt. Is there something wrong with me? I also used a dildo once, so could have that like ran down my nerve endings down there?

Heather Corinna replies:

A dildo -- or any other sex toy -- is not likely to do anything to the nerve endings within your vagina. In fact, it's completely likely there isn't a single thing wrong with you, and that nothing whatsoever has happened to your vagina to result in you feeling this way.

As we've explained many times at Scarleteen, the vagina all by itself, particularly past the first inch or so, is not rich with sensory nerve endings. Not at all. That outer third, closest to the vaginal opening, contains nearly 90% of the nerve endings of the whole vagina, meaning the back two-thirds have but 10%.

That's why, for instance, women can put in a tampon and, when it's in right, not feel it at all or even forget it's in there. That's why childbirth, even though it is painful for many women, does not feel like being run over by a semi (though it depends on who you ask: point is, if the vagina was overfull with nerve endings, it'd be a lot more painful than it already is). And that's also why, for a majority of women -- not just you -- vaginal intercourse or manual sex (fingering) that's only about the vagina does not often tend to result in orgasm or in big pleasure.

But a whole lot of people not only don't know that -- or a lot else -- about female anatomy, but many people also come of age thinking radically different things, due to some pretty unrealistic ideas about sex, sexuality and women's bodies any of us can get from the media, from friends, from family or from general cultural ideas about what sex "should" be like which stand in pretty sharp conflict to what sex actually IS like, especially for women. Even though we've known better in the fields of medical and social science for some time now when it comes to recognizing that vaginal intercourse or other vaginal entry is often more about male sexuality and sexual pleasure than it is about women's sexuality and pleasure, there are a lot of big agendas, ideas and ideals in our culture and with some folks that depend on myths to the contrary, so it's a hard bunch of misinformation to shake.

The mere facts of how that anatomy, rather than inaccurate ideas about it, is probably the biggest part of why you probably didn't feel much. But you might have felt some pleasure -- or something at all -- with a few additional things going on.

First of all, it was the first time either of you had been intimate with a set of genitals and probably sexually intimate with another person.

That given, you were probably (both) pretty nervous or anxious, probably found it pretty hard to be relaxed, and because of that, it would have been tough for you to be very aroused (sexually excited). one thing that can tend to either get in the way of arousal, or keep us from becoming as aroused as we might otherwise, is plain old nerves, which is a big part of why a whole lot of people's first sexual experiences can tend to be more of a big deal emotionally than sexually or physically.

When women become aroused, especially in a very big way, things change with our genitals, much in the same way that when men get aroused, they often will get erections. When women experience arousal -- mentally and physically -- more blood moves to our whole genital area, which makes touches there feel much more intense. The whole of the clitoris -- which isn't just external where you can see it, but also internal and involves parts of your vulva, like your labia and even your inner thighs, as well as that front third of your vagina -- gets larger, puffier and more sensitive. And your whole body gets a little different and more sensitive with arousal, not just your genitals. So, when we do other things before something like fingers in the vagina, we can tend to get more and more keyed up, and have everything feel more and more pleasurable, so long as we are also in the right headspace, with someone we really want to be with, and feel okay about whatever it is we're doing.

To be sure you get what I'm saying, I'd suggest taking a minute away from this page to go have a look at this one, where we explain all the terms for parts of the vulva, and how all those bits really work. Then you might want to have a peek over here, where we explain a basic model of human sexual response.

Once we get more familiar with our own anatomy, and partners do, we also usually discover that it matters HOW we do something, and not just in terms of if we feel relaxed with someone and okay about what's going on.

For instance, there's a spot in the vagina which is sensitive and feels good for plenty of women called the G-spot. That's pretty near the front of the vaginal canal, on the side of your vagina that's towards your belly, not your back: if you want to see for yourself with our own fingers, if you feel something that feels a bit spongy and textured, kind of like your tongue, you've probably located it. Now, let's say that area does feel good to you (and it's much more likely to if you are very aroused first). Because of where it is, and the kind of stimulation it tends to respond to, if a partner is just kind of sticking straight fingers into your vagina all willy-nilly, they could very well manage to miss it entirely. If, however, they spent some time with you experimenting with different angles and different ways they were using their fingers, they might find that spot and find ways it feels good to you. The same also goes for various kinds of speed or pressure.

Too, for a lot of women, fingering that is ONLY about the vagina, and isn't also about -- or even only about, for some -- spending lots of time outside your vagina with the clitoris, isn't anything to write home about, and may feel like nothing, or kind of awkward, or might even hurt. That's why most women's masturbation is often mostly, or even only, about the clitoris. Unlike the vagina, it has more nerve endings than even the penis does, and is the ONLY sensory organ on either the male or female body which serves no other purpose than to provide pleasure... which is pretty darn cool when you think about it.

As well, any kind of sex with a partner is something that often takes practice and good communication for it to feel great. We usually will need to spend a good deal of time -- not just hours, but days, months, years -- getting familiar with someone's unique body, and the different things that feel good and not-so-good for that individual. Even though all women have basically the same parts, we don't all work the same way when it comes to sex. So, even if your boyfriend had had other partners before, he'd still probably need to learn about YOU and your body over time to discover the things that feel good to you, rather than to those other partners. To find that out, you two need to be communicating throughout sex well and openly, so that, for instance, when he tried that one finger at first, he'd be asking how that felt, and you'd respond. Then maybe he'd try curling that finger up or down, or sliding it in deeper, or moving it faster or slower, again, all the while, asking you about it to know what to stick with or try. And in all of that communication -- because it does sound like you were trying to do that -- he would need to be pretty flexible when it came to trying things, and also when it came to not being very attached to you feeling a given way from a given thing.

And that's where what seems like another missing element comes in, and that's patience. It sounds like your boyfriend had the idea that he'd just put a finger in your vagina and you'd go batty with pleasure. That wasn't a realistic expectation on his part, even if it's understandable that he might not know that, and becoming frustrated with you because of the way your body did (or, more to the point, didn't) respond, just isn't okay.

Now, some of that is about maturity. In other words, we all need a certain level of maturity to be able to handle it when, say, we do something to a partner we think will be great, or want to be great, and they just don't experience it that way. Some people, especially younger people (or older people who haven't grown up)just may not be there yet, or sex for them may be so much more about their own personal validation, or need for approval than about shared pleasure. Your boyfriend may not yet be at a place in his personal development where he can check those kinds of feelings, set them aside, and understand that your body not responding the way he wanted to isn't really about him, and isn't some kind of personal affront or rejection so that he can focus on you and be flexible in trying different things with enthusiasm, rather than stress. So, you may want to give some thought -- knowing your boyfriend as a whole person -- to if he's really yet got the kind of maturity a person needs to be someone's sexual partner.

I am also concerned about him getting frustrated, and then getting aggressive with you. While it is possible he did that just because he thought that might feel better, I am worried about the fact that he may have also done that out of anger, out of a desire to hurt you or "make" you feel something rather than just trying someone else and not realizing it was going to hurt. So, beyond assessing if he's someone able to be patient and nature, I'd very much be sure you are considering if he is someone safe. How did he behave when you told him he was hurting you? Did he stop right away, and express real concern for your pain and discomfort? Did he apologize in earnest? Was he able to think about you in that moment, rather than himself? If not, I'd suggest stepping back from sexual activity with him at all, because not doing those things are signals that this just isn't a safe person to be sexual with.

I want to add one more thing. Now, it may just be about the language you're using, but I'm going to suggest that adding a kind of sex isn't really about "going farther in a relationship." It certainly can be about moving more into a sex life, and about going father sexually. It also certainly can be about adding a new element to your relationship deepening intimacy -- but only if that's what's really going on. In other words, sex all by itself doesn't tend to create any new depth in our relationship, or any intimacy that isn't already there in other ways. A given sexual activity all by itself is a fairly flat thing: it's what we are or are not bringing to it that matters when we're talking about the emotional and interpersonal aspects of sex. And if anyone is coming to sex without some of these things I'm talking about -- maturity, patience, the ability to have sex with someone else really be about both people, the ability to learn new things -- or if anyone doesn't feel really ready for any kind of sex, not only can it not deepen your relationship, it can also keep you FROM going farther in a relationship when it comes to getting closer in earnest.

I say that to you because you didn't address your motivation to do this, and I want to make sure that if part of it is upping the "level" of your relationship, you're aware that it simply may not do that, so that you can make your sexual choices with that firmly in mind. It's a pretty good idea to make sure our relationships and those of us in them are at a place of depth BEFORE sex, rather than looking to sex to provide that depth.

As an aside, no matter how any of us may or may not feel about age of consent laws, given your age, I want to be sure you know if you engaging in any kind of sex at all -- or certain kinds -- is lawful for the two of you in your state or country. That's sometimes a pretty big deal with some possibly heavy consequences, so it's just smart to factor that into the choices you make about sex. To find out what the laws where you are are, have a look here: http://www.avert.org/aofconsent.htm.

Now that you know all of this stuff, what I'd suggest is taking a little time to process it. First, figure out what you want, and if you feel like your relationship with this guy -- and this guy himself -- really are in the right place to handle all of this, and have things go pretty differently the next time. If you don't feel that way, then your best bet is to make clear that for now, your relationship needs to be non-sexual for now. Again, do also make sure he's a safe person for you to be sexual with in the first place. If you do want to explore things like this with him, and do feel like he can also handle them, then you can bring all of this information to him, and have a talk with him about better ways for you two to try approaching this next time. You can ask him, after all this new knowledge is passed on, if he does feel ready for this himself, and make clear that it is totally okay if he doesn't, because a person can always wait for the good stuff.

I'd include in that talk making clear that if he feels frustrated, it's important he knows that he needs to take a break and step away to manage those feelings -- or stop and just talk with you about them -- rather than continuing with sex: that helps keep you from getting hurt physically or emotionally.

Here are a few more links for you which you might also want to share with him:

written 17 Dec 2008 . updated 09 Sep 2013

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