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I’m a 32 year old woman and I don’t think I’ve ever had a real orgasm. What am I doing wrong?
Sarah: First, let’s just toss out that silly “wrong” word, especially in this situation. Second, what does “I don’t think I’ve ever had a real orgasm” actually mean? Does it mean, “I’ve never given myself an orgasm” or does it mean “I’ve never really tried to give myself an orgasm” or “No partner has ever given me an orgasm” or what? If you’ve been trying but you can’t get there, either because of a mental or physical block, maybe it’s time to see a sex therapist (which Dr. Herbenick can help you track down). If you’ve never really given yourself permission to invest the time required to figure out what gets you off, clear your calendar girlfriend, because it’s time for a daytrip to Pleasure Town. In other words, relax, have a drink, watch a sexy movie, and just have fun by yourself and see what happens. Pretend you have just been given your vagina by the Genitals Fairy and get to know it all over again! If you mean that you’ve never had an orgasm with a partner during sex, then spend some time looking up a variety of positions. Also, as you may recall, a study found that wearing socks to bed (ie, being more warm and comfortable) helped some couples achieve orgasm, so make your bedroom comfortable for you and your partner. Maybe you just need more time than most people to get there, in which case you might want to get a head start on your partner. Last, I feel the need to say it aloud one more time: things that you see in porn are, by and large, not real. Just because you’ve never screamed at the top of your lungs like a banshee on the Moors in a moment of unbridled ecstasy doesn’t mean you haven’t had a “real” orgasm. They won’t, and don’t, all look and feel so transcendent.
Debby: Probably nothing. But there may be a number of things you and/or your partner, if you have one, could do differently. If you’ve never tried masturbating, or if you approach masturbation with shame or embarrassment, consider reading Betty Dodson’s classic book Sex for One. It just may change the way you think about your vulva and masturbation. If you have a lovely and willing-to-explore partner, you might explore the book Becoming Orgasmic which has numerous ideas and exercises women can try alone or with a partner. Some women and their partners benefit from learning more about the clitoris. Others need a little push toward self-love and body acceptance. Working with a sex therapist (such as Dr. Angela Marshall; drangelamarshall.com) or a sex coach (tellkathleenanthing.com) - also check out AASECT.org and SSTARNET.org for local providers - can also be a huge help. Finally, a vibrator can be a lovely partner in crime. Check out local stores or an in-home party company, such as Pure Romance, to explore your options. And all that is only if you truly feel it’s important to have an orgasm - not everyone does, and it’s okay not to. But if you want to, rest assured that most women are able to learn to experience orgasm, even if it does take time and practice.