Q: I don’t orgasm during sex – so what?

Hi! Love your blog! I’m a 20’s straight(ish) female struggling with reaching orgasm during sex, or rather my partners’ reactions to my inability to orgasm. I am able to orgasm while masturbating, but that is a pretty long and arduous process and almost always requires the addition of a toy or porn. With a partner I am almost completely unable to have an orgasm. With a vibrator I can orgasm with my partner, but I’m not a fan of incorporating a vibrator, as the loud buzz and the general addition of a toy are mood killers for me. I’d rather just enjoy my partner. Rubbing my clit myself during sex, or having him rub it, has never worked. Only three times has oral ever worked on me. That being said I absolutely enjoy sex without having an orgasm, and am working really hard at becoming okay with the fact that orgasms are not really a part of my sex life and that that doesn’t mean I’m broken or need to be fixed. I feel like I’ve tried everything, and accepting that this isn’t actually a problem is the only solution. My partners on the other hand have seemed to struggle with this even more than me. I am always careful to express that it is not their fault, that they did a great job, that I enjoyed it, etc. but they have a really hard time accepting that. I can’t recall a single partner who’s reaction was to just accept that I know my body. Most of my partners start by wanting to try a million ways to get me off, and insist that they’ll figure it out like I’m a rubix cube they’re trying to solve, and many then go on to get sort of mad about it when none of their techniques and persistence works, and then blame it on me, claiming that it’s because I’ve been using a vibrator or because I’m not telling them what I like (I do communicate what I like frequently and openly, but those things don’t get me off) or that I need to stop spectatoring (they’ll find some sex advice about this on reddit because apparently I’m a googleable problem who never had the sense to google this shit for myself? Not sure where they get the idea that I’m not aware of these concepts). It can be really hard for me to accept this about myself when my partners are so busy trying to fill me with hope that they’re special and will fix me. And I want them to feel happy and sexy and talented and such, and I understand why me never having an orgasm can interfere with that, but it just seems that short of me communicating my enjoyment verbally and with body language as I already do there’s nothing I can do to calm them. So I’m wondering if you have any advice for how to get my male partners truly content with not giving me an orgasm and still maintain their pride. How can I make them understand that I’m happy and they are good lovers despite what they see as evidence to the contrary?

Men and women are told a lot of stories about sexuality. One of those stories is that sex is about the orgasm. There is a very clear narrative of what sex is and how it works, even if that is nothing like the actual reality of sex.

This sex happens when a heterosexual cis-gender couple come together for PIV (penis in vagina) sex. After some PIV sex, the female orgasms, and the male ejaculates. Either the female first, shortly followed by the male, or both at the same time, in perfect harmony. This story is reinforced over and over again in many different ways – through film, television, romance novels, even taking an influence on what is taught in sexual health courses. (How many of you were taught how to safely protect yourself if you weren’t having heterosexual PIV sex? Were you even taught that anything else was sex?)

PIV orgasms are one tiny little sliver of sex pie that don’t happen for everyone – even couples who are heterosexual. Yet still, many of us try to closely align with this story, because we have some very sturdy beliefs about sex that are difficult to change.

These beliefs can become even more difficult to stray from depending on what specific messages you’ve been told growing up. For instance, men may be raised to be fixers. They may associate their skill in the bedroom to how quickly and how successfully they are able to get their female partner off. If you say “I cannot orgasm” that may be seen as a challenge. It might be seen as a challenge because they cannot see sexuality through a different lens than the one they’ve been looking through their whole life. To them, it’s not just that you want to enjoy a different kind of sex. It is as though you’re giving up on sex entirely.

Of course, anyone can be a fixer. (Hello!) And it’s hard to look at a situation like this and not offer up advice. There are a lot of things you can do to improve your chances of an orgasm. There are a lot of things that can stand in the way of making the orgasm easier to obtain. And having an orgasm can really be worth the extra work we put into the bedroom. But not if it’s distracting from how much fun you have. Not if you just want to kick back and have a good time. Not if the orgasm becomes the pinnacle of your sexual experience.

If you can’t just enjoy each other, if its genuinely become a race to the imaginary finish line, whats the point? We think about orgasms as things that are “given” to other people but thats not right. We don’t give orgasms. We discover them together.

I don’t have an easy solution. How you have this conversation might vary depending on who you’re with, and what your sexual relationship is like. I have heard of some women who are in casual relationships faking orgasms because they don’t want to bother to take the time to explain to their partner what makes them feel good. To me, this is absurd. Isn’t the point of casual sex that you’re going into it to have fun? However, I can see how some aspects of this that make sense. Sometimes it’s just easier to leave the bits and pieces out that you already know are going to hold your partner up. If it’s going to take 3 hours to try and convince someone you don’t need them to freak out about their sexual ego, thats three hours you could have had sex, said goodbye, and gone out for pizza.

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In an ongoing relationship I would say that you sit down with your partner immediately and express basically what you expressed to me.

Look, this is what I want. I want to feel good. I want to feel good with you. And you make me feel good. That’s going to have to be enough. I can’t enjoy myself when you feel pressure to get me off. That’s my holdup. That’s where my struggle is. Maybe some day I’ll have an orgasm with you, maybe some day I’ll have a really good one with you, but I don’t judge my sex life on this criteria like other people do.

I can’t say for certain he will believe it. He might even still, on his own, try his damnedest. At the end of the day, that pressure is going to be on him.

Here’s one last thing, and if you don’t want that unsolicited advice, maybe just skip it. You don’t have to just become OK with not being able to orgasm during sex. You’re not broken, you don’t need to be fixed, but this isn’t necessarily how its always going to be either. Look at it like a long game. This is just one level. Maybe the next level will prevent new excitements and challenges. Roll with the punches. Keep exploring. Communicate openly. And see where it takes you. Whether thats to partner-shared orgasms or just way better more satisfying sex, either way, you win.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

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