Ask the Doctors: Too Sensitive to Come

I have been masturbating and have not been able to have an orgasm so I think I have what is called clitoral engorgement. I am sore and sensitive. I have never been able to have an orgasm with my hand but my vibrator broke. It was the Magic Wand Vibrator. I have ordered two vibrators which I think I may receive today. The butterfly and another name I don’t remember. What can I do? I am afraid to use the vibrators because of how sensitive my clitoris is. I kept trying hoping that I would reach orgasm but I never could. Actually I have tried this two days. Please help me. Is there something I can do right away?



Dear Frustrated —

It’s very common for people (men and women alike) to pretty much only be able to come the way they’re used to coming, and it can take some time to get yourself accustomed to new kinds of sensation and become orgasmic with those too. Many people find this *can* be done, but sometimes not the first times you try.

Since you’ve got vibes on the way, I hope they DO arrive today and that they work to get you over the edge! I need to tell you that it’s possible you may want to consider getting a Magic Wand Vibe to replace the one that broke, since other vibrators are pretty different from that particular vibe’s powerful stimulation. You are definitely in good company with that vibrator — many women use that model as their primary method of orgasmic stimulation and do not respond as well (at least at first) to other vibes.

Now, let’s get to your current issue. First: although you are very engorged and feel like an orgasm would help — and although an orgasm probably *would* help — unless you can get desensitized somewhat, you may not be able to get there right now. I’d recommend you lay off the clitoral stimulation, as difficult as it may seem to do that at this moment. Though intense engorgement of the sort you’re feeling isn’t comfortable, that congested and over-sensitive feeling *will* recede, and you can start masturbating later (when the vibes arrive) without having to deal with that extra pressure (which is both literally physical, as well as mental: your body’s engorgement, and your frustrated turn-on in response to it).

So — take your hands away! Spread your legs so your thighs aren’t rubbing together, and read the paper or something — engage in an activity that will let you change your focus to non-sexual thoughts and pursuits. Relax, breathe, have some herbal tea, take a shower (on the cooler side if you can), find a project to do around the house and just concentrate on it for a while. I know, given how you feel, that it’s hard to imagine this, but gradually (maybe even pretty soon, if you can keep your hands away and really change your focus), the intense feelings of the moment will go away.

Not for right now, but in general, I’d also like to share a few common things that make it harder for people to come. If any of these elements are in your life, it’s possible you will appreciate knowing that they may be affecting you, too — the more information you have, the better choices you can make about health and sexuality. So: If you smoke, don’t get much exercise, are on anti-depressants or certain other medications, you might have what are called “lifestyle factors” that can affect your ability to have an orgasm (and for some, to even become aroused in the first place, which I know is not *your* issue). People also find that too much alcohol or stimulant drugs (speed and coke are the most notorious) will have this effect.

Learning to come with hand stimulation instead of a vibrator, if you want to work on this in the future, involves starting out by hand and waiting longer and longer to add the vibrator in; another technique is to switch out vibe and hand, back and forth, so you get stimulation that works and gradually add in more and more of the stimulation you’d like to learn to respond better to. Some women find that vaginal or anal penetration with a dildo or comfortable vibe adds enough extra stimulation that they can get themselves to clitoral orgasm by hand. If you have not tried this (and you like penetration — not all women do), it might also be something to explore.

One more option for you when there’s no vibrator in the house is positioning your clitoris under a stream of running water in the tub. But given your state of super-sensitivity right now, I don’t know that I would recommend it to help you today — or the dildo option, either. And if you are still feeling a high degree of sensitivity when the vibrators arrive, you might want to consider, at the very least, putting something (fabric or your hand) between your clit and the vibe so the vibrations are more diffuse at first.


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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at

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