Frustrated and Missing Orgasms
Dear Patrick: I'm so relieved to finally have someone to ask this! I have been sexually
active for about three years with the same partner, a long term relationship. I have never had an orgasm. I enjoy sex, but I wouldn't say I feel sexual pleasure during it. I know my clitoris can be stimulated, because I can feel pleasure through rubbing it indirectly against things (pillows) but touching it directly doesn't feel good, and in fact is quite painful. I find
rubbing a bit above it is somewhat stimulating, but I have never climaxed that way. I can feel pleasure through rubbing against blankets and pillows, but it only lasts about 30 seconds and then dies off. Have you heard of women who don't feel stimulation through touching of the clit? I am beginning to get a bit frustrated not feeling the same sexual pleasure as my partner. It definitely isn't being anxious or anything—I am always 100% comfortable. I just don't really feel anything. Help!
Dear Frustrated: There are several reasons why you might be having trouble experiencing an orgasm. First of all, it’s rare for a woman to be able to come with a partner if she has never masturbated to orgasm. Masturbation is the way we teach our bodies how to process stimulation. When we touch ourselves, whether that is directly, indirectly, or with a sex toy, we are learning how to experience arousal, growing excitement, perhaps aided by fantasy, the ups and downs of moving toward orgasm, and finally the release itself.
It is rare for a doctor to be able to find a physical cause for lack of orgasm in a woman. Most of the time, it has more to do with a lack of practice. Emotional factors can also play a role. If you were given strong religious training as a child that stated sex (including masturbation) was wrong or shameful, that can inhibit orgasm as an adult. I have worked with clients who were simply afraid that letting go during orgasm would make them look unattractive, and this self-consciousness was enough to inhibit sexual gratification. Another experience that can harm a woman’s sexuality is any sort of sex abuse or violence. Sometimes we remember early experiences of molestation and sometimes we don’t, sometimes there are only fragments or dreams to indicate something happened that was not okay. If you feel nauseous during self-stimulation or partnered sex, or if you leave your body and can’t keep track of what is happening, and you have a nightmarish sensation, these are clues that perhaps you are suffering from the aftermath of trauma.
Despite the fact that a physical cause for lack of orgasm is rare, I recommend that you see a specialist and get an examination. Try to find a clinic that treats sexual disorders. This can be difficult. So if you have an OB-GYN you trust, they may also be able to do a basic physical exam for you and make a referral for additional treatment. They will be trying to verify a normal structure of the clitoris, hood, and inner lips. Are there any adhesions that might prevent motion of the hood over the clitoris? Do you have genital warts or scar tissue that might make stimulation painful or ineffective?
If everything looks fine (and it probably does), the question is what to do next that might help you to enjoy sex more. I would suggest looking for ways to increase your excitement during sex and also make self-stimulation easier. Set time aside to pay attention to your own body. Do self-massage before you move to the genital area. Seek out fantasy topics that you might enjoy letting your mind wander through while this is happening. Get a water-based lubricant to reduce the friction between your hand and your clitoris. Try applying gentle pressure with your whole hand if the point of a finger is too much. Some women come by squeezing their thighs together.
In fact, the range of female masturbation practices is very diverse. Some women come by pressing their bodies against a vibrating object. This has made sex toys a very popular retail item. But I suspect there are a lot of women just making use of the dryer in the laundry room. Some women enjoy stretching out in the bathtub and using a shower-head for gentle water stimulation. Others, like you, enjoy the pressure of a pillow. You don’t have to rely on fingers. You may find, as you uncover fantasies that are more appealing, and as you relax and get more accustomed to your experiments, that you enjoy more direct touch. The thing is to keep practicing and not give up. It can take several weeks of daily practice to be able to have a small orgasm.
Many women report later on that they were having orgasms and simply didn’t realize it because their pelvic muscles were weak. Doing Kegels can help to strengthen the floor of the vagina and make you more aware of genital sensation. If you are able to stop the flow of urine, you are using the same muscle that contracts during an orgasm. Try to consciously contract that muscle while you are waiting for the light to change or standing up doing the dishes. Rapidly flexing the muscle or holding it for a count of six are both good exercises to build its strength.
Finally, I want to validate the fact that not every woman enjoys a clitoral orgasm. Every woman’s sexual anatomy is connected in her own individual way. Women can enjoy different amounts of clitoral, vaginal, and anal stimulation. Some women can’t have orgasms unless they are enjoying vaginal fullness. If you think this may be true for you, you may want to purchase a sex toy that vibrates (for clitoral stimulation) but can also be inserted (with a condom and lubrication) for vaginal sensation. It may be that your body is going to take some dedicated exploration and encouragement to come up with her own recipe for fulfillment. There is no wrong way to have an orgasm, so don’t worry about that! Just see if you can come up with a way to please yourself. After that, it’s much easier to share what you know with a partner, and be able to transfer orgasmic skills to the arena of romance.