I have a lot of trouble getting an orgasm with my boyfriend. He is very understanding and patient, but I feel bad about always being the one who has a problem. He suggested that I might consider having sex with another woman because he heard somewhere that this is a good idea for women who are not orgasmic. This sounds pretty far-fetched to me. But I do sometimes have sexual fantasies about lesbian lovemaking. I would really like to know what it feels like to have a woman's body, all soft and perfumed, up against my own. I think I would feel really safe and sensuous, without all the pressure to focus on genital sex. But wouldn't a lesbian feel really offended if I asked her to give me orgasm lessons so I can have a better sex life with my boyfriend? I guess I must be desperate or I wouldn't even consider such a silly thing. Help!
Your boyfriend's idea probably came from Dr. Alex Comfort's book The Joy of Sex. Comfort does suggest that women who have trouble reaching orgasm should experiment with lesbian sex. There are several problems with this idea, although I think it was well-meaning. As you point out, lesbians are people with needs of their own. Expecting a gay woman to provide sex therapy for a straight woman is hardly fair. I do know a few butch dykes who make a specialty out of seducing heterosexual women. But they have no intention of giving them back to their husbands or boyfriends!
Then there is the question, what really turns a straight woman on? I would assume "men" are the answer to that question. During my former life as a dyke, I once participated in a threesome between a straight couple. He really, really wanted her to have sex with another woman while he watched. I did my best, but there wasn't an atom of moisture flowing out of her to reward me. She simply didn't find what we were doing erotic. I would advise women in this position to tell their partners "no." Group sex adds a lot of complications to the emotional landscape of a relationship, and if you are not going to get some hot sex out of it, why go there?
The only sex therapy that we've discovered that reliably helps women to reach orgasm more often and more easily is masturbation. For some weird reason — maybe because their dicks are more visible, maybe because our culture keeps a tighter rein on female sexuality — 100% of men know how to masturbate, but the number of women who do so regularly may not even be 50%. By touching your own clitoris and other erogenous zones, you can teach your body to go through the sexual response cycle more often. This can be difficult — all kinds of fears come up about losing control, looking weird, doing something wrong, having fantasies that are not okay, etc. A sex-positive therapist can sometimes help this process along by giving you a space to vent and a reality check about your anxieties or sexual taboos. So if you need somebody to keep you on track, get some skilled assistance.
Try to get off with your hand before turning to a vibrator. It's easier for a partner to duplicate the sensations of you touching yourself (with his hand or his mouth) than it is for him to provide the intensity of an electrical gadget. But if you're just getting frustrated, there's nothing wrong with buying a sex toy to help yourself along. I think men need to realize that they would get a lot more sex from their girlfriends if they encouraged them to bring their Hitachi Magic Wands to bed. Being inside of a woman who is using a vibrator is an amazing sensation, and her strong contractions during orgasm have to be felt to be believed.
One way or another, you can figure out how to get yourself turned on and over the edge. Give yourself permission to have any fantasies that seem attractive, to use porn, play music, dress up in something sexy, look at yourself or your genitals in a mirror, pinch your nipples, rub up against a stuffed animal, get out your shower massager, use some lubricant — whatever it takes is okay. There are no rules here. You have your individual triggers, and that is part of your allure and charm.
To transfer your new orgasm skills to partnered sex, you will probably have to include some masturbation with your mate. Relatively few women can come from intercourse alone, and some sexologists speculate that the lucky few who do are actually getting indirect pressure on their clit from their partner's pubic bone. (The clitoris has two hidden structures, bulbs that run down either side of the outer labia, which become swollen during sex. Pressure on this area often feels really good and may even trigger a climax.)
Encourage your mate to masturbate in front of you as well. The two of you will learn a lot about one another's bodies and fantasies. If you know that you can take over at any point and give yourself an orgasm, you will find it easier to relax and enjoy your partner's caresses. If he adapts his technique to match your rhythms (just as you will learn better ways to drive him crazy), eventually you'll have an orgasm with him touching you. And if you don't — so what? I happen to think it's hot to see a woman who is so turned on by what I am doing inside of her that she has to masturbate. It's like having my own little porn show. Your pleasure ought to be the priority, not the path you have to take to get there.
Sometimes women prefer to use oral sex or manual stimulation from their partner in order to come. But that doesn't mean they don't like intercourse. Some women enjoy fucking without trying to have an orgasm. They may simply enjoy giving their partners pleasure and having physical closeness with his body. In our goal-oriented society, we tend to think that orgasm is the be-all and end-all of sex, but it isn't. And I think you have intuitively spoken about that in your fantasy about lesbian sex as a way to enjoy sensuality without the performance pressure of genitally oriented sex. It's a metaphor for the low-pressure, open-ended atmosphere you'd like to have with your lover.
If you are really serious about having some bisexual experiences, write me back, and I'll give you more advice about that. There is an outside chance that you're not having orgasms with a guy just because women are central to your eroticism. It sounds like you need to keep trying to improve sex with your male partner for now. Since the things I've had to say here may be shocking news to him, show him this letter, and do some reading together. The best books I can recommend for your situation are Lonnie Garfield Barbach's For Yourself and For Each Other. Barbach was a pioneer in treating pre-orgasmic women, and her gentle style of sex coaching is enlightening for both men and women.