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Neither of us are reaching orgasm, but I need him to.

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Frustrated asks:

I'm 17 and I have a boyfriend of 7 months, and we're both very much in love. We had sex 4 months ago and he didn't reach orgasm and I got the sense he was frustrated so we stopped trying until last weekend. We both really wanted it but the same situation happened where he didn't reach orgasm and I feel like it's my fault and that I'm just not hot enough for him. I never reach orgasm during sex but I always enjoy it and I want to have sex but the problem is I don't want to do it if he's not enjoying himself or feels frustrated and I also don't want to come off as though I want sex all the time because I'm his first girlfriend and he hadn't done anything sexual before me - not even kiss - whereas I was not a virgin upon entering the relationship, so I don't want to come off as if I'm a rushing things all the time. After all this, my question is: What can I do to make my boyfriend enjoy sex enough to orgasm? He has never finished during sex and I get the feeling he's frustrated with it and would rather I suck him off but I always want sex when we're fooling around and I love him so much I want us both to be able to pleasure each other at the same time.

Heather Corinna replies:

Can you see your double-standard here?

You don't reach orgasm during sex, but say that you enjoy and want it all the same. Even knowing that -- assuming it's true, and not just something you're saying because you think you're supposed to -- you're presuming that because he isn't reaching orgasm, he isn't enjoying himself. It doesn't make much sense that what's true for you couldn't be, or isn't, true for him as well, especially considering that a majority of women, and some men, simply don't reach orgasm through intercourse or intercourse alone, but still want to engage in it sometimes all the same.

That's not always because the people involved don't find intercourse feels good. For men and women alike, it usually tends to be about intercourse being a far more general than specific sensation, or about a person's most sensitive parts not being stimulated through intercourse the way they can be with oral or manual sex, or through activities which engage other parts. As well, there are often extra social pressures with intercourse, like the idea that it's something all guys must enjoy or reach orgasm from (even though that isn't true), or something all people must want and like best of all.

If you feel like he's feeling frustrated -- and you clearly are frustrated yourself -- it's time to just sit down and talk about this.

Talk about the reasons why you're each frustrated, and include some myth debunking, like the fact that this may not be about not enjoying something, and probably isn't about how attractive you are or are not. Talk together about what DOES get you both off and what you DO enjoy: experiencing pleasure isn't just about orgasm, it's about the whole process. Talk about how orgasm isn't always the best way to determine that someone is enjoying themselves. You can also, in that talking, ask if he's feeling like the frequency you want sex is working out with how often he wants it, and if not, then you can step back a little bit and be sure you're not rushing him or pushing sex on him. If that means that you're not having sex as often as you'd like, you can easily compensate with your own masturbation.

I'd also suggest you bear in mind -- and talk about -- the fact that expecting any kind of sex to be expert after one or two times trying is exceptionally unrealistic, especially when you consider that for the person new to that sex, they're likely to have some anxiety and worries which tend to hinder sexual response. It's really tough to even get aroused enough to get close to orgasm when you're nervous and worried, let alone reach orgasm. And if he's picking up on you needing him to orgasm for your own validation, that's one more kind of pressure to give him anxiety. A person new to sex will often need some reassurance from their partner that it's more than okay when one or both people don't reach orgasm, when things don't work perfectly, are awkward, or that whatever pace they need with sex is just fine. It can be very stressful to be new to sex, especially if you're alone in that with a partner who isn't new to it, and/or you feel like they're frustrated with you or that you aren't doing things right. Don't forget, too, that while women are often given the idea that there's something attractive about being inexperienced and not knowing what they're doing sexually, guys are given the opposite message. So, a guy who doesn't feel like he knows what to do can get pretty darn stressed out.

Given how worried you are about his being attracted enough to you, or his nor enjoying himself, can you see how this is a place that might be common ground for you both? If you're this worried, can you see how he might be as well?

By all means, one part of sex is demonstrating and expressing how we feel about someone. And it's a given, and fine, to some degree, to experience a self-esteem bump -- to feel extra-sexy -- when a partner experiences orgasm and other kinds of pleasure in part from our own hands, mouths, genitals and other parts of our bodies. same goes with when they want to have sex of any kind with us. But if you have too much invested when it comes to your own validation through partnered sex, then it starts to become less about mutual and shared pleasure and more about fulfilling your own esteem needs, and that's not cool. And if you feel a very strong need to be validated this way, and aren't getting it elsewhere or from yourself, it wouldn't surprise me if you aren't pushing for sex more than you might be otherwise. It also wouldn't surprise me, if your esteem is particularly low, that some of your strong motivation for sex is so strong because you feel the need to be validated so acutely. Sounds to me like you might need to do a little esteem work on your own, and take less of those needs into bed with you. I also think it'd be a good idea to be sure that your standards are fair, and if you're going to explore what brings him to orgasm, you both should be exploring what gets you there as well. Again, you're talking about mutuality here, but I'm not seeing much of it.

But overall, I hear a lot of what you're sensing or presuming or guessing, and how you're worried you'll appear, and nothing about what your partner has actually expressed to you and what the two of you have talked about in regard to this. So, it's high time to get talking so that you both know what's going on and can both work together to develop more realistic expectations, be sure that for both of you, sex really is about mutual pleasure (rather than pressure or personal validation), and start having a sex life together that's pleasurable and emotionally comfortable for you both.

Here are a few links to help get you started with that talking as well as some to inform those discussions with sound ideas and expectations:

written 04 May 2008 . updated 27 Jan 2009

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