I met a woman the other day that was waiting and waiting. She waited for over 10 years and finally decided that was long enough. She was waiting to have an orgasm with a partner during sex. She told me that she first became sexually active at age 16 and figured that with time she would learn to orgasm during sex. But ten years later, she found herself lying to her current boyfriend, who would ask afterwards with a hopeful look on his face “Did you come?” She didn’t want to damage his ego. “Yes” she reassured him and inside felt more and more that something was wrong with her. She looked up her apparent affliction online and found information on anorgasmia, a sexual dysfunction in which a person cannot achieve orgasm even with adequate stimulation. She decided she must have that.
I asked her if she ever masturbated and she said yes. I asked if she could bring herself to orgasm during masturbation and she said yes. I asked her how she brought herself to orgasm. With her fingers on her clitoris, she explained. “You don’t have anorgasmia,” I told her.
We talked about various ways she could incorporate what she knew about her body and her own pleasure into her lovemaking with her boyfriend–his fingers, her fingers, his tongue, vibrating toys, tickling feathers— a variety of possibilities. We also discussed how she could broach the subject with him in a delicate manner, given that she had had not been honest with him.
We discussed the false message the media portrays of couples making passionate love that ends in simultaneous orgasm. It is certainly possible for a couple to achieve simultaneous orgasm through penetrative sexual intercourse, although not highly probable.
She was relieved. There was nothing wrong with her. But then she admitted to feeling kind of silly for not figuring it out. Maybe she knew on some level that there was nothing wrong with her, but she just needed to hear it from someone else.
I thought of the years she spent worrying and feeling inadequate. I don’t know what the lingering effects of that time will be, but I imagine it will have some effect.
In 1976 when the Hite Report on Female Sexuality came out, we learned that about 70% of women don’t have orgasms from penile vaginal penetration alone during sexual intercourse. But the message hasn’t been loud and clear enough.
Chances are no one taught this woman how to masturbate. Yet although she was able to figure out what gave her pleasure, she did not know how to incorporate that into her lovemaking with her partners. She never thought she needed to. A penis inside of her should have been magic enough to make her orgasm.
Sometimes it is simply lack of accurate information that keeps us from experiencing sexual pleasure with a partner. Yet I think even for many who have a hunch as to what might work, it’s still not easy to make it happen. Sex is a funny thing– sometimes it’s easier to do it than it is to talk about it. It’s easier to simply go through the motions than it is to guide a partner’s hand to a pleasure spot. Talking about it, asking for what we want, might require true intimacy. Now that’s some scary stuff. Baring your soul versus simply baring your body—there’s no comparison.
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