No sexual sensitivity?
amanda replies:I'm asexual, so it doesn't bother me too much, but I do like to pleasure others sexually. I am nonbinary, and I have found that I have very low, almost no sensitivity (for pleasure, at least) in my vaginal area, breasts, or most skin. My sexual partner says I have such a small clitoris that neither of us can find it, and suggests that is why I can only feel one specific spot inside my vagina (?). I was wondering if this could be true, or if there is another explanation. I also wondered if it could be down to a lack of sexual attraction, although I cannot bring myself pleasure either, even when I want to. Thanks for any help.
It sounds like pleasure is a bit tricky to figure out - both by yourself and with a partner. Fortunately, there are solutions!
You’ve touched on something important by mentioning that you don’t experience much pleasure not only in your genitals, but also in most of your skin. It might help for us to think a bit more about what pleasure means, and all the ways people can experience it.
I’d like to invite you to broaden your definition of sexual pleasure as a full-body-and-brain experience. Much of the source of sex and pleasure isn’t between your legs - it’s between your ears. Bodies can receive signals (like touch from yourself or a partner), but whether they feel pleasurable or not has a lot to do with what’s going on in your brain. Emotions, chemicals, feelings, thoughts, and more can all influence how someone experiences touch and pleasure, and the combination is different for each person.
Getting to know your entire body, and how it feels in response to different types of touch, is another important piece of figuring out pleasure (and honestly, just a part of being human). One useful exercise is a “body scan”. If you close your eyes and direct your attention slowly to each part of your body (your toes, your knees, your pelvis, your torso....and so on), can you feel sensations? What is it like being in your body? Try touching parts of your body in different ways - lightly, firmly, with fingernails, rubbing like a massage. What are those sensations like? Do any of them feel pleasurable?
And then, focusing on your genitals: Understanding what’s going on down there through sight and touch can help put sensations in perspective. Have you ever looked at your own genitals? Grab a mirror, get curious, and check ‘em out! See if you can identify the various parts of your anatomy, including your labia, your clitoral hood and glans (you may have to pull back gently on the hood to expose the glans), and your vagina. Pleasure isn’t just about the clitoris; each of these parts of your anatomy can also be a source of pleasure.
Once you’ve found your way around with the mirror, you could try touching yourself in different ways and in different spots to see how things feel. And what’s going on in your brain is still important, too! Your thoughts may influence how touch feels. Try touching yourself just from a “curious” perspective, to see how things feel. If you have fantasies that excite you (sometimes ace folks have fantasies, too), you could fantasize and touch yourself to see if that changes how the sensations feel.
Clitorises come in all shapes and sizes, so yours isn’t necessarily smaller than the average; it may just appear that way to your partner. The clitoral glans -- that's one of the parts of the clitoris we can see externally, and isn't all of it by a long shot! -- stays tucked away underneath the clitoral hood, a fold of skin that protects it. And when you become physically aroused, the whole of the clitoris actually fills with blood and swells up, so it becomes larger and the visible parts usually become more exposed from under the hood. Some people find that direct stimulation of the clitoral glans itself is quite intense, and prefer to have it touched through the skin of the hood; you could experiment and see if either way feels different and/or more pleasurable to you. Sensitivity can also change as you become more aroused, so notice whether that changes as you touch yourself. You can also see if you like to have other parts of your clitoris stimulated: to find out more about those, this piece gives that information, and you can find more in one of the links I give at the bottom of this page, too.
Many people with clitorises find that sex toys can make a world of difference when it comes to feeling sexual pleasure. If you’re able to, you could consider experimenting with a vibrator - not necessarily with the expectation that will feel pleasurable, but just as another type of sensation that might help your body wake up. You can buy a vibrator discreetly online, or you can DIY your own sex toy with some easily accessible household items.
As for whether lack of attraction could be part of why you aren’t experiencing pleasure? It’s possible, for the same reason: what’s going on in your brain is just as important as what’s happening to your body. One theory of how sexual arousal and pleasure work is the Masters and Johson sexual response cycle. According to these two sex scientists, the first stage of this cycle is desire, which leads to arousal and orgasm. All of these stages should be pleasurable in their own way. If you aren’t feeling sexual desire, then touch may not feel pleasurable; your brain isn’t in a “sexual” place, your body isn’t physically aroused, and therefore touch may not be interpreted by your brain as pleasurable. That said, people aren’t absolutely stuck to the order of those stages. For example, using a vibrator with intense and focused stimulation might allow someone to skip past the desire stage into physical arousal and pleasure.
As you can see from all the open-ended questions above, a lot of this process is about experimentation and being curious. It’s important that you be kind and gentle to yourself as you explore. Try new things, notice how you feel and what happens, and be proud of getting to know yourself.
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