Dear Patrick: I’m not sure if I have ever had an orgasm. Lovers of mine have tried everything to get me off. I just make them feel sore and inferior. The last person to share my bed bought me a vibrator when he broke up with me and told me until I cold make myself come, I wouldn’t be able to feel satisfied with intercourse. Eventually I did try the vibrator, even though it embarrassed me, but it overheated and I gave myself some bad bruises in my genital area. Now the vibrator won’t work, and I feel like a lost cause.
I’ve read a lot of erotica, hoping that this would help with my problem, so I’ve run into a lot of descriptions of BDSM scenes. I like the way the participants keep close track of each other’s emotions and sensations in these stories, and I also like the fact that there is so much intensity. I believe it will take that kind of intensity to tip me over the edge and into a real orgasm. But do you think a BDSM top would want to play with a woman who has never experienced physical gratification?--Unfulfilled
Dear Unfulfilled: If you are not in touch with your own body enough to have an orgasm, I hesitate to recommend experimentation with BDSM. You have to know a lot about your own sensations, reactions, and needs to be able to negotiate BDSM play. If fantasizing about it excites you, keep it on your “to do” list, but let’s see if we can’t give you some help with the primary challenge first. It couldn't hurt to grab some good books with a BDSM theme and perhaps use this as fodder for your alone fun times, both to get things going and also to see what scenes turn you on for future reference.
Some women have trouble experiencing orgasms during intercourse. In fact, sexologists say that MOST women can’t have orgasms from the stimulation provided by a penis moving inside the vagina. This is kind of like expecting a person with a penis to have an orgasm from getting his balls tickled with a feather. For many women, the real center of sexual excitement and fulfillment is the clitoris, a little peak of tissue found where the inner lips meet, above the vagina. The clitoris can vary in size, shape, and color, but the clitoris contains the nerve endings that most women need to come. Some women are lucky enough to get enough clitoral stimulation from the feeling of a partner’s pelvis moving against them. And some women need to directly stimulate the clit with their own hand or fingers during intercourse. (Some women like to use a vibrator during intercourse for variety or to increase intensity.)
A partner who knows you very well—who has watched you masturbate and can duplicate your moves—might be able to make you come too. But right now, the best person to find that orgasm is you, because you are inside your own body. You can quickly tell how something feels and whether you want to experience that sensation again or not. Use your fingers instead of a vibrator at first. Go slowly and build up intensity. Set aside at least 20 minutes a day to be alone with yourself and do some self-exploration. Make sure you are including your whole body and not just your clitoris. Let yourself fantasize, avoid stressful thoughts, and enjoy yourself.
Finding your orgasm isn’t necessarily easy. It’s like being stuck in a new city with no GPS. You are driving around looking for the farmer’s market, and at first you just get lost. But each weekend, you find it more easily. Your nerves are getting used to transmitting sexual sensations. Your circulatory system is learning about sending extra blood to your genitals and creating the phases of an orgasm. You are learning how to breathe and move, to coordinate all of these physical and emotional aspects of yourself, to create sexual excitement and satisfy a need for pleasure.
Many of us have difficulty letting ourselves feel pleasure. There are a lot of reasons for this, the most common one being our work-obsessed culture. But there are more sinister and tragic reasons. If we were sexually abused, for example, we might be alienated from our own bodies. Traumatic experiences may have taught us that sex is not safe, that it means being hurt or used for somebody else’s selfish and cruel purposes. People who were sexually abused sometimes hurt themselves or “space out” so they lose touch with what is going on. If you think this may be your situation, get some help from a supportive counselor. Don’t let a perpetrator of abuse rob you of your right to have a complete life as an adult.