Dear Patrick: I know that women can have multiple orgasms, and I have happily given my lovers two, three, or four orgasms during long sessions of loud and sweaty lesbian sex. But my latest girl is about to lay me out! Can you tell me if there is a limit to how many orgasms your partner has a right to ask you to give her? There just doesn’t seem to be any end to how many times this girl wants—needs!—to come. If I tell her I am tired or I am finished for the night, she gets pretty angry. She claims that her other lovers didn’t have any problem keeping up with what she calls her “passionate nature.” I am just about ready to tell her to go back to one of her exes if they were so damn good in bed. Because I need a little sleep, do you hear what I am saying?
Dear Exhausted Butch: When Masters and Johnson confirmed that the clitoris was the central organ in women’s sexual pleasure, they also began to observe women having multiple orgasms when they masturbated in their laboratory. This may seem a bit quaint today, but it’s important to remember that once upon a time, there were reputable scientists who claimed that women only had vaginal orgasms—or were not capable of ANY sexual gratification! In their practical American way, Masters and Johnson thought that the only way to settle these questions was to observe real women having orgasms in a laboratory equipped to observe what was happening both inside and outside the vagina. Their careful observations set off shockwaves that changed the image of female sexuality, hopefully forever.
These two scientists theorized that unless the “subject” (the woman who was masturbating) became exhausted, she might be able to keep on having orgasms forever. Once men ejaculate, their bodies seem to require a refractory period. No matter what you do to a man who has just had an orgasm, his penis is not going to get erect without a time-out. Once that’s been granted, he’s good to go once more. But for some men, that may be as much as they are capable of putting out in a 24-hour period. Some guys can fuck three or four times in one day; others are limited to one orgasm or two at the most.
I want to acknowledge that one of the problems with this early sex research is that it is based on reductionist notions of gender. It's no longer safe to assume that a person with a clitoris and vagina is female, or that a person with a penis is male. Gender identity is formed at a very young age, and seems to be independent of what the external (or internal) sex organs look like. In order to have a complete conversation about the sexual response cycle and the alleged differences between men and women, we would need to include transgender people, genderqueer people (those who do not affiliate with either gender), and intersex people (those born with sex chromosomes other than the standard xx or xy, or those whose genitals and reproductive organs are different from the stereotypical male and female versions for other reasons).
To do so is beyond the scope of this column, however. Because you are a woman-identified person who doesn't mention having a body with any unique features, I am going to go ahead and answer your question in rather old-fashioned, gendered language, and hope that my transgender and intersex readers will bear with me until I can do a column that more completely addresses sexual response and the "T," "GQ," and "I" body.
You are in the more orgiastic position of having female anatomy and being expected to give orgasms to another person who also has female anatomy. It’s very interesting to me that there is no mention here of how many orgasms the lady with the “passionate nature” is giving YOU during one of your trysts. I think if she had to pry her tongue off the roof of her mouth and put it between your legs, or get out a sex toy and strap it on, or use her hand or a vibrator to give your clit a workout, she might be a lot more sympathetic about the amount of steam it takes to get somebody over the edge. Maybe she needs to spend less time with the back of her head glued to a pillow.
I empathize with your situation. My personal limit, if I am well-rested and extremely interested in my partner, might hover around six to a dozen orgasms—with the understanding that a few of those are going to be little flutters and sighs, not the full-blown, curl-your-toes, lose-your-mind, speak-in-tongues, scream-for-ten-minutes variety of cosmic flight-with-angels. I think it’s actually pretty rude to demand anything from a lover. If you’ve had a couple of creamy, labia-melting events, count your lucky stars, give her a long sweet kiss, and go home with stars in your eyes and her phone number. But don’t be a prissy, angry princess who stamps her foot and says other lovers gave more at the Bottomless Cauldron of Ardor.
If you really want to keep this woman around, I think the pattern of lovemaking probably needs to change quite a bit. Can you get her to cooperate in that effort? First of all, some of the evening’s activities need to focus on you, your body, your fantasies, and your pleasure. If you don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with her or receiving pleasure from her, that is a separate issue, and I encourage you to write to me again. Once things are a little more equal in the Department of Giving and Taking, her expectations of you will hopefully become more reasonable, and you might resent her less.
It could also help if there was a dynamic that involved teasing and a delay of her orgasm. Instead of you pushing her to come as often as possible, you could tease her, delay her orgasm, and let her work to persuade you to allow her to orgasm. To prove that she really does need to be given satisfaction, she can start masturbating as part of your sessions together. If some of her orgasms are self-inflicted, that saves your poor hands and hips and jaw, and also creates a more cooperative approach to her pleasure. You can also tell her, as the person in charge, that she has to masturbate, and dictate how many times she has to get herself off before you will believe that she really needs you to touch her. I think this might create a more reasonable situation that will allow you to make love to her without being put through a shredder.
But the bottom line here is, both partners have the right to say no. If you are exhausted, you shouldn’t keep on going. People do injure themselves during sexual encounters. You can pull a muscle in your back, give yourself sciatica, get TMJ in the muscle in your jaw, come down with repetitive motion injuries, etc. She always has the option of continuing to make herself come if you need to go to sleep or go home. And if she wants a return engagement, she ought to be grateful for what she received rather than so darn spoiled rotten.