He thinks it's unattractive when I touch my clitoris, but I don't enjoy sex otherwise!

When I have sex it doesn't really feel that good. For me to have an orgasm I HAVE to play with my clitoris and my boyfriend finds it very unattractive. I don't know how to stimulate my "area" right and I think the advice would be nice. I'm 18 years old and I think that it is a bad thing that this is happening to me so young! I just don't feel the "amazing pleasure" I hear other girls talk about. How do I stimulate myself to have a healthier sex drive and feel the pleasure I hear about? Thank you for the help and support!
Heather Corinna replies:

I'm going to assume that when you say "sex" you're talking about vaginal intercourse.

If your boyfriend is going to have partners with vaginas who experience pleasure with sex, he's going to have to adjust his way of thinking.

Most people with vaginas -- around 70% -- are NOT going to reach orgasm through intercourse alone, and most are not going to get a lot of sensation with intercourse alone. Much of that is just how we're built: after the first inch or two of the vaginal canal, we don't have many sensory nerve endings, and even in that first third of the vagina -- which also surrounds some of the internal clitoris -- sensation there tends to be less distinct than it is when a person is getting direct clitoral stimulus.

You are clearly in that majority. I'm not even going to go into great depth on this because we have so many people ask about this that we have a lot of existing material already on this topic I'll give you links to. Just know that nothing is happening to you that's bad, nor is there anything wrong with you or your body.

Even if it wasn't the case that you're in the majority, ask yourself this: considering the clitoris has more sensory nerve endings in it than any other part of the human anatomy, if your boyfriend had something on his body with that many nerve endings which could be that pleasurable, do you think he'd not touch it, and probably with great zeal? Do you think he'd not want to engage that part during sex? Do you think he'd try to stop doing that if you said you found it unattractive? If you have sex that's about his penis at all, that's his most comparable part (even though it's less sensitive than your clitoris is) and he already does just that. Imagine how he might react to a partner telling him that touching or engaging his penis was gross.

There shouldn't be anything "unattractive" about women experiencing or exploring pleasure and engaging any body part with a partner to achieve that to someone who claims to find women attractive. There's also no one right way for you to rub your clitoris or any other part of your body. If it feels good to you, then you're doing it right: you're the expert on what feels good to you, not your boyfriend, me or anyone else.

Your age, for the record, isn't that relevant in the way you think it is. We actually know that overall, teen and young adult women tend to achieve orgasm less often and report less satisfaction with sex than older women do. In other words, the idea that sex not feeling good is something that's about older women, not younger women, is a bit backwards. While it is possible that hormonal changes have some influence in that difference, that likely has a lot more to do with exactly the kind of thing you're talking about here. As many women get older, they get more comfortable with their bodies, figure out what works for them best -- and what is realistic and what is merely propaganda or fantasy -- shake off a lot of the shame, negativity and invisibility which so many women grow up with about female sexuality, and their partners also tend to develop more maturity and really discover -- and get invested in -- what works best for both of them.

So, while some of this issue is about your anatomy, it's also about your partner. Being very sexually aroused makes every kind of sexual activity feel more intense, but it's mighty tough to let ourselves go enough to feel highly aroused with a partner whose approval we have to worry about having like this. And if we know, in advance, we're about to be with a partner who is unaccepting or disapproving about what gives us pleasure, with someone who tends to squash our self-esteem rather than support it, then we can expect our libidos to be a bit lower than they would be if we knew we were about to be with someone who was really into our body as it is, our pleasure as it is, and who thinks that any time we are excited and doing something that feels really good, we're not only attractive, but hot as Hades.

In terms of your libido -- your sex drive, or your desire for sex (which doesn't just mean intercourse, but any activity you do or might find sexual pleasure with) -- I'm uncertain why you have a concern.

Not being able to orgasm from intercourse alone doesn't mean a person has a low sex drive. As well, there's no way to 'stimulate" ourselves, exactly, to increase sex drive. If you do feel your sexual desire is low, the things that tend to impact that most are being in generally good health, eating right, getting enough exercise, feeling good about your sexuality and being in sexual relationships which are health and happy. If any of those areas are lacking for you, then you can look into improving them, which would be wise anyway since all of those things are also ingredients for a happier, healthier life in general. As well, know too that some typical things which can also impact libido are depression, eating disorders, body image or self-esteem problems, stress, certain medications (like antidepressants or hormonal birth control), history of abuse or sexual abuse, gender dysphoria and some common illnesses, like diabetes. If in doubt, you can have a chat with your doctor, but my best is that if you're feeling low sexual desire it's probably just because your sex life right now is such a bummer due to unrealistic expectations and a partner who isn't actually encouraging you to explore your own sexuality.

By the by, we know from plenty of sound data that friends are often dishonest with friends about their sexual experiences: many peers will exaggerate their experiences. Most women are NOT experiencing "amazing pleasure" just from intercourse alone (and when some say they are having that with sex, they may not mean sex as only being intercourse). Many report it to friends or partners -- but in anonymous studies or forums tend to tell a different story -- and that likely has a lot to do with the false expectation that it SHOULD be super-duper-amazing that's based more in fantasy than in reality. Some do, and some do some of the time but not all the time, but most who are having earth-shattering pleasure are because they have more than just intercourse going on AND because they are with partners who are really invested in what pleases them both.

In a nutshell, here's my advice for you:

1) Be sure that you are only with sexual partners who are actually interested in real sexual partnership, which certainly includes exploring and accepting what activities do and don't work for a partner and what parts of a partner's body are the most sensitive. It also includes talking to you about your sexuality in a way which honors and respects both of you and which is caring and compassionate.

Be sure, too, that you're choosing sexual partners with maturity and with appreciation for the real-life body and real-life sexuality for the person they're with: if you're with someone who thinks you wanting or needing the most sensitive part of your sexual anatomy stimulated is ooky or "unattractive," chances are good that person needs to grow up a little (and maybe a lot) more before they're earnestly ready to be anyone's sexual partner. If you're going to stay with this guy, it's time to let him in on some of what I have told you today and see if he really can be the kind of partner you're likely to find satisfaction with. If he is, he's likely going to sincerely apologize for saying what he did and have a real interest in changing his attitudes so that you two can have a sexual life together that's really about both of you and about both of you feeling both pleasure and acceptance. If he shrugs this off, or has no interest in really having sex be about pleasure for both of you, about honoring both of your bodies, then I'd suggest showing him to the door and holding out for a partner who does. That's the least anyone deserves.

2)Find out what works for you best all by yourself. You may already know this, but if you don't already, masturbate, all by yourself. Take a good look at the complexities of your sexual anatomy through one of the links I'll give you at the bottom of this page. When you know what works for you, bring it to partnered sex, both with your own hands and in showing or telling a partner what to do that makes you feel best. If you find yourself with a partner who is intimidated by that, afraid of that, or thinks there's something wrong with that, move on from that person and wait for another partner who has a clue or, at the very least, is interested in getting one. But ideally, your partner should be learning from you what to do that pleases you: when you share what you find out on your own, verbally or through showing him, then he can also do whatever it is you do to your clitoris, too.

3) Let this be the very last time that you leap to the conclusion that something is wrong with you, or that you are in some way deficient, when something doesn't meet your expectations or someone else's, or when your experience of something is different than you've been told it should be, or told is what someone else wants. Seriously. Say buh-bye to doing that right this very second, with sex or with anything else. Not meeting someone else's expectations isn't usually about something being wrong with you: it's about that person's expectations either not being realistic, or about them applying standards to you which just don't fit you very well. Let others adjust their expectations to better fit you, rather than feeling like you have to conform to their ideas. After all, however you are is all good, and anyone who wants to be with you should be someone into you, for real, even when you surprise them or challenge them in some way with something they're new to. Whatever the realities of your body are, that's what they are, and positive body image is largely about accepting and honoring our bodies, even if and when they are different from the bodies of others or from anyone's ideals.

If we know anything about human sexuality at all by now, what we know is that while in some ways, we are all very alike, we're very different in just as many ways. What works for one person usually works for a bunch of other people, and also doesn't work for another bunch of people. We're all authorities when it comes to our own sexuality and our experiences are unique. Knowing, accepting and appreciating that not only is going to make us feel a lot better about ourselves (and others), it's also much more likely to lead us to sex lives that are really all about us and satisfy us than trying to conform to someone else's ideas, ideals or experiences is.

Here are some links to send you off with, along with one last pom-pom wave from me to support you in finding and having a sexual partnership that is full of delight for everything about you.

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