A recent study about men faking orgasms came out last week and sparked the usual reactions about “faking it”: personal admission, condemnation, and advocating for more communication to battle this scourge.
I don’t know if you can help me, but maybe you know somebody who can.
I am 34 years old and unable to have a penetrative, penis-induced orgasm. I have been having clitoral orgasms since I was 18. Just about anybody can make me orgasm with their finger or mouth. I can also come if I touch my own clitoris during penetration. But nobody has been able to make me come from penetration alone.
I have two amazing male partners right now, one of almost three years, and the other of almost one year. Both of them are open to helping me and trying different things, but so far unsuccessfully.
I know that I have trust issues. I know that I don’t fully trust either one of my partners and am not sure I am emotionally able to fully trust any man.
I don’t know what other emotional blocks I may have.
Please let me know if you have any recommendations for me.
Thank you! Blocked Vagina
Dear Blocked Vagina,
Thanks for writing to me about this; your question is a very common one among women.
Oh, oh, oh: Orgasm. A tasty, potent hypothalamic chemical cocktail released through nerve ending stimulation. When many people think about sexual pleasure, orgasm is the ultimate goal.
But some people have a hard time getting on the orgasm bus, which the medical community calls “anorgasmia.” Among men, the prevalence is between 8%-14%. The rates for women are wildly divergent: anywhere from 5% to 75% depending on the literature. I would put the estimate of actual anorgasmia (different from “dysfunction” estimates, where we lump “low sexual” desire in with everything else) somewhere around 10-20% of females, not far off from male prevalence estimates.
Maybe you’re in that anorgasmic category. Or maybe your mojo is flagging and you can’t quite trigger that neuro-chemical delivery. Our sex drives fluctuate and vary throughout our lives. Many, many factors contribute to orgasm blockage. So how to get around orgasm barriers like sex-negative cultural messages or physiological blocks?
Relax. You know that saying: “It’s all in your head?” This is especially true for orgasms and arousal. When we tense up or become anxious our bodies route blood to our heart and lungs instead of exposed skin like the lips and genitals. Tantric breathing practices are really helpful here. Sit with yourself or your partner and take slow deep breaths. You will start to feel high and relaxed.
Enjoy sensation. Once you start to feel zen-like and anxieties subside, start exploring the vast expanse of skin. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. And I’ll say it a million more: Brain and skin. Largest sex organs. Focus on those first. Feel your whole body starting with your feet and moving all the way up. Forget the genitals for now, just concentrate on finding the most responsive non-genital areas on your body. Ironically, having an orgasm is best served by not trying to have one. The more you focus and make it the end goal, the more anxious you’ll feel about having one. Saturate yourself with sensation for the sake of sensation.
Check your medicine cabinet. Sometimes the issue is not anxiety but medications to deal with anxieties or depression. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a class of antidepressants that boost serotonin levels. While serotonin helps alleviate depression it also acts as a hand brake on orgasms so sexual activity can feel like driving a car with the hand brake on. If you’re on SSRIs, talk to your healthcare provider about newer SSRI options that have fewer side effects. Or see tip #2 above.
Diet and Exercise. I recently hooked up with a past lover after three years. He went from hot-bodied sexy mofo to an aging alcoholic and the sexual side effects were not fun. Your circulatory system is important in sexual arousal and pleasure. Excessive smoking, drinking, drugs, bad diet and no exercise inhibit sexual arousal and orgasm by dulling nerve endings and messing with blood flow. This doesn’t mean that smoking or drinking or eating cheetos on the couch will absolutely prevent pleasurable sexual experiences. But if you’re having a hard time and you do any of those to excess, try stopping for a bit. (I quit smoking after 10 years, started exercising regularly and my sexual response capacity/level of sensation/orgasm intensity shot up like a rocket.)
Love your body. Remember the whole “sex is in your head” rhetoric? Self-perception is all in your head as well. Sexiness is not limited to lithe, caucasian, photoshopped and surgically enhanced bodies. Turn off the TV, ignore the glossy mags, and realize that you have a perfectly touchable, huggable, kissable, masturbatable, fuckable body. The beauty is in difference. Dont believe me? For the next two weeks avoid mass produced media. Look at people around you instead. Find photographs in National Geographic or any media outlet that depicts lots of regular people. Marvel at the diversity and how so many different body shapes can look so attractive. Enjoy where your body fits in with that spectrum. Once you realize that sexiness comes from within, letting go and experiencing sex will be so much easier.
I have been talking about non-sex sexuality issues way too much lately. (Academia made me do it.) Check out this awesome infographic from the KoldCast TV blog. A little heteronormative but edutaining nonetheless.
Edited to add: Scarleteen pointed out the sex myth reinforced in this infographic: clitoral vs. vaginal orgasms. An orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm, which is controlled by the brain.