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Will hell freeze over before I reach orgasm?

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Anonymous asks:

Hello, I have browsed your web page and didn't exactly find what I was looking for so I am wondering if you could answer my question. Yes, it is orgasm related. You see I have been sexually active for a long time. I am 17 and I have been with my boyfriend for two and a half years. He was a virgin when he met me but I wasn't.

The problem with me is: I have never had an orgasm. I know what you are going to say. "Not all women have an orgasm during intercourse." I get that, but I never had an orgasm during masturbation, or foreplay. Nothing. And now I am kind of pressuring myself to go. Well, not exactly pressuring myself, but in my mind I go: "Yes, right there, omg I am gonna come." When in truth, I am nowhere close. My brain might have just been sexually turned on to the max at that point, but I just don't go.

Heather Corinna replies:

(Anonymous' question continued) Then again, my partner isn't much of a foreplay person until recently. And I get shy or extremely embarrassed when he go down on my you know... I mean I like it, whatever he is doing down there, but I always tend to push him away after due to my embarrassment. I found that one thing I do like is: The first stroke of his fingers entering me, it always manage to stir a fire in my belly, then it dies away. It's the same with the first penetration. After that, I go "limp". I haven't tried anal, but I used to be very open to that option. Now, I don't exactly want something to go up my bum and stir with whatever is up there.

So I guess I am trying to ask, is it possible that I will come? I can already hear your answer: "many women do not orgasm from intercourse alone; there needs to be some sort of other genital (usually clitoral) stimulation going on at the same time (or before or after, as you're doing now)". The thing is how do I even get there? What do I have to do? What does my partner have to do? I would just like to orgasm once. Two and a half years, many up and downs, we probably have experienced a lot more than most people, although I am generalizing now. Still, right now the issue of me having an orgasm isn't just a want now, it is both a want and a need. So please help me, or knowledge me with this issue I am having. Thank you for everything!

You gotta know it's a bit silly to ask a question and tell us what we're going to say. It's not like we don't understand wanting to orgasm. So, adjust your ears and your expectations, okay? My own script is likely different than what you'd write for me.

I'm hearing a few different things here which are possible barriers to orgasm for you, and where this doesn't sound like it's just about not doing the right activities.

First up, putting pressure on yourself to orgasm, keeping that orgasm in the forefront of your mind is doing something sexologists call "spectatoring," and which is known to be a very common barrier to orgasm for people. What that basically means is that that focus on orgasm, that constant anticipation of orgasm, making that The Big Goal kind of distracts your body and mind from just going with the flow, and experiencing pleasure as it's going on, for it's own sake, which a person usually needs to do to stay aroused enough, and get more aroused, so they can reach orgasm.

Now, obviously, to do that you have to be able to sustain the pleasure you're feeling. You say, for instance, that the first stroke of a finger feels good, but then that good feeling sort of stops. Next time, when the good feeling starts to fade, voice to your partner that you need a little something more. That might be his moving his hand around your whole vulva more, or putting his other fingers on your clitoris and working with that while he continues with a finger in your vagina. That might mean his moving faster or slower, with fingers curved more or more straight, deeper or more shallowly, adding lube, adding an extra finger, adding your own hand to the mix...who knows, but that's the kind of stuff you just want to explore together to find the answers. Your partner or you can also use your hands during intercourse to add airtime for your clitoris, your breasts, your anus: whatever parts which feel like they amp up the whole deal during a given bout of intercourse. Same goes with when you masturbate: try mixing it up, maybe using a vibrator or a shower head on your clitoris (since both of those can tend to bring women to orgasm very quickly), maybe exploring your anus alone, since you've expressed you felt interest in that. If you have sexual activities you feel an interest in but haven't yet tried, and your partner wants to try them too, give them a shot: what gets any of us off, what really excites us is so variable that we usually have to try a lot of different things before we find out what really rocks our socks, and sometimes we'll be surprised to find out what those things are and discover they're outside the box, or different than what we expected to like or thought we should like.

As well, be sure that that "fire in your belly" is brewing hotly well BEFORE you start any sexual activities. Desire comes before arousal, and we usually need desire to get there. It's a lot easier to experience physical pleasure and orgasm when, by the time you start sexual activities, you feel the desire for them so strongly that you worry you're going to pop the second anything starts.

But throughout any of this, do your best to put orgasm out of your mind, and not bring all of this frustration to bed with you (which will also dampen arousal). Really, truly, when everything feels really, really good throughout, orgasm is a serious bonus, but a sexual experience doesn't feel like a big loss without it, either. Don't get me wrong: orgasm can be amazing, but it also only lasts for a few seconds, and without everything that led up to it being equally amazing, orgasm can be a pretty hollow victory. I can see how it would be easy to think that sounds like bull, though, if -- as this sounds like the case -- the process hasn't been very exciting for you either. But if you can get to a place where everything you're doing does feel really, really good, what I've just said there will make a whole lot more sense in context.

It also sounds like you have some body image issues to work out when it comes to being comfortable in your body with sex. If you're feeling ashamed or embarrassed in sexual activities, that's a barrier to orgasm, too. If nothing else, you can start by not calling your genitals "you know" or "down there." I know it might sound trite or hollow, but I don't feel that it is. How we speak about things influences how we experience and view things. So, whatever you want to call your vulva or your anus or your vagina, just pick names that are either accurate or that are a lot more shameless. It might help you, old school as it probably sounds, to sit open-legged in front of a mirror now and then, perhaps when you're masturbating even. Get a look at yourself, see what your partner is seeing, and try and accept that there's nothing icky or to be ashamed of when it comes to your body or your genitals. You sound like someone who could use a copy of Betty Dodson's classic, "Sex for One." It's a fantastic women's guide in terms of masturbation, and she also deals with distorted body image and genital shame issues, as well. Betty also has written "Orgasms for Two," which you and your partner might want to take a peek at, too. The work of Jennifer and Laura Berman as well as Lonnie Barbach may be of use to you. At the end of this page, I've also included a link to my book, which has some substantial material when it comes to looking at desire and what sexy is and feels like in a holistic way.

When you feel that urge to push a partner away from doing something that feels good, try and go with it for at least a few minutes longer: try and put that shame away. Shame has no place in a healthy, satisfying sex life. If you can do that a little longer each time, you'll hopefully come to a point where you can just throw that embarrassment in the rubbish bin where it belongs, or simply forget about it because you're distracted by feeling so darn good. You might throw shame a real curve ball by doing things like having the lights on during sex, or even having both of you watch yourselves having any kind of sex in the mirror. Sometimes, we just have to take those kinds of safe risks to dump our hangups.

That shame might also be part of an issue it seems you're having where you're afraid to just let go. That's another common thing that can hold people back from orgasm: a fear of what they'll look like, sound like, feel like if they just let go and get to orgasm. Most of us look pretty darn silly when we come, so it's not surprising that some folks have some social anxiety about that. But if you're with a partner who is getting off, they've let themselves be vulnerable to you in that way: you can likely trust they are safe for you to do the same with. And even if you look like a dope doing it, partners will tend not to have that impression, because a partner reaching orgasm with us is just usually pretty darn cool and exciting.

In terms of your partner, if you haven't yet had some discussion about what's going on with you with this, it's time to do that. See if the two of you can't work on better communicating when you're having any kind of sex. You say he isn't much of a foreplay person, but if he's going to have female partners, as you know, the majority of his partners will not reach orgasm without sexual activities beyond intercourse. It might help for both of you not to think of those activities as "foreplay," because what they are is sex: different kinds of sex. And they can and do happen with people who have intercourse before intercourse, during intercourse, after intercourse and some days, without any intercourse at all. (Heck, for some women and men, sometimes or always, intercourse is the "foreplay" for those other activities, not the other way round.) It does sound like your partner is open to this, given the oral sex, so you just have to be sure you're open to it, too, and talk together to understand that you probably need to take more time with those other activities and see them as whole in themselves, not just as warmups for something else.

Understand too that with women, we know that it's common for reaching orgasm to be easier for most the older we get. While sure, plenty of teens women can or do orgasm, plenty don't, too, no matter what they're doing. There are obviously a myriad of different reasons for that which vary from person to person -- from hormonal issues to body image to relationship dynamics (and often it'll take us a few partners until we find someone who really revs our engine sexually: loving someone does not automatically mean we have strong sexual chemistry or are sexually compatible) to having privacy to masturbate to just about anything you can think of -- but even if none of what I'm suggesting here winds up delivering the goods for you, that does not by any means mean you will not ever orgasm. It is highly unlikely that a person just never, ever will. It simply might take you more time to get to that point. I get that that's going to seem a bit of a conundrum if you're in and entering into sexual partnerships, so just be sure that when you do that, sexual partnership is something you want and feels right for you in terms of your own pace and timing. If you're just not enjoying yourself with partners yet, you might consider taking more time with your own two hands to find out what you like before taking it on the road with someone else. It can in some ways be a lot tougher to find out what we like when we also have to incorporate someone else's desires, sexual habits and ideas into the equation.

Those are a handful of places to start, and none of them are minor issues, so even if one or all of those suggestions do help, know it might take you a little while to get there. That's okay, even if right now, it understandably feels like a big bummer. The sticky wicket is that if you are all bummed out in your head, you're likely to stay all bummed out in your body, too. So, you've got to be sure that with any of this that you try, you have some level of acceptance that orgasm won't always happen, that it might take you longer than you want to get to that point. Your goal right now is better set at just getting more comfortable with your body, experimenting more and going with the flow of the things that feel good when you're in the right headspace to really enjoy those things. All this frustration is an extra bag that's too heavy for anyone's libido to carry: you have to unpack it and travel more lightly.

I'm giving you some extra links I hope will be helpful, including links to a couple pieces on your own anatomy which I hope will both fill you in a bit more on what's "down there," and "up there," and help you to feel a bit more ribald about the whole works.

written 31 May 2008 . updated 27 Jan 2009

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