What's Stopping You From Reaching Orgasm?
For a while Sandra blamed the pain she felt during intercourse on vaginal injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Now she is questioning her marriage of eight years to Danny. For most of that time she says, "I pretended that I enjoyed it." She "always thought sex would be a certain way and it just wasn't."
She wonders if she still loves her husband. At the same time, she feels guilty .when she fantasizes sex with another man. She says she hates sex with Danny because of the pain, and wonders if it wasn't really the other way around-first she disliked sex with Danny, then she got the pain to justify infrequent sex.
Sandra is experiencing dyspareunia, doctor talk for painful intercourse. Other causes: bacterial infection, and failure to lubricate, which actually indicates a failure to be sexually aroused.
Sometimes dyspareunia leads to the next common complaint. "We Can't Do It."
Debbi was the oldest of nine children and by the time she was 12 years old, she was virtually raising them. (Her father was hospitalized, her mother worked two jobs.)
Although she has been attempting sexual intercourse for nine years (she is 27) and has been married for five to a man who says he has a "large sexual appetite", penile penetration has never been accomplished.
Whenever her husband Eddie tries it, she freezes up and penetration becomes physically impossible. She wants to go off the birth control pill and get sterilized by tubal ligation). He says he may wish to have a child some day and forbids her to have such an operation.
Mary was a classic case of vaginismus, showing many of the most common characteristics. She was raised in Kentucky by grandparents who provided a restrictive religious environment. She was raped at 14 by an uncle. She had never "consummated" her marriage of one year to Ben and she noticed that he was then beginning to experience an erection problem.
Debbi and Mary have vaginismus. I don't use like using labels like impotence and dyspareunia to describe people. I recognize them as problems of arousal. When the penis doesn't get erect or wilts and the vagina doesn't lubricate, when it hurts, sex is never is much fun. The desire may be there, then something always peters out and the well runs dry. You are not turned on.
Problems Of Orgasm
Here are the complaints that sometimes come even if you are turned on. They concern the speed with which one reaches the orgasmic state, or the seeming inability to experience it at all. This category includes the two most common complaints of all.
I Orgasm Too Fast
Bob's earliest sexual experiences were in an automobile, in a hurry. Later he was serious about a woman who felt guilty about doing sex unmarried, so required a lot of persuasion before she'd go to bed with him.
He was married when he came to my office and said he was incapable of withholding my climax long enough to bring my wife to a climax through intercourse.
Recently he had used oral and manual manipulation to bring on his wife's orgasm and figured that that was the best there was under the existing circumstances. Then she expressed a total lack of interest.
Andy has been (his words) a premature ejaculator since he got married, and they have consoled themselves that things would change after they got accustomed to married life.
But nothing did change - Andy failed to control his premature ejaculation in any way - and Betty began to think of herself as a receptacle.
Andy has tried biting his lip, thinking of garbage, and multiplying seven times endlessly, to take his mind away from what he is feeling; he has worn extra-thick condoms, has even pulled hair from his legs. He is beginning to doubt his masculinity and she is losing confidence in herself as a woman.
I Can't Reach Orgasm At All!
Her husband was surprised when after a year of marriage Barbara said she'd never experienced an orgasm with him. She explained, "I'm a pretty good actress." Now she wished she'd kept her mouth shut because the relationship has gone straight downhill. She said they didn't even seem to have anything much in common anymore.
He was a night person and she folded up by 8 or 9 p.m. They also both kept themselves busy with civic meetings, night school, and charity work, so that they seldom really spent much time together. Of course by now sex was a no-no, with Barbara doing everything possible to avoid it. At the same time, she fantasized orgasms all day long.
Theresa had failed to experience orgasm so many times, as she put it, "I almost hate to try again, I don't want the disappointment."
She had taken her problem to eight counselors and psychiatrists and once, with her husband's permission, she slept with another man to see if the problem possibly was her husband's rather than her own. She still didn't reach orgasm. But neither did she ask if her husband knew how to make her orgasm.
I Can't Come During Intercourse
Helen reached orgasm using orally and with a vibrator, but not with him "during intercourse." It was a problem, she said, that was affecting her "attitudes about everything - my attitude about myself especially."
Melinda reported orgasming twice while petting as a teenager, and later with a vibrator regularly, but never during a marriage that recently broke up and never with the partners she'd dated since.
I suppose there is still one more common complaint in the orgasm category. That is:
We Can't Reach Orgasm Together
This is very common. The truth is, I don't think this is grounds for complaint. I believe it is possibly an unsuitable goal. I don't even think it's advisable. I mean, it's an OK thing to experience when it happens.
But, really, it's like sneezing at the same time with someone and then attaching significance to it. When two people set simultaneous orgasm as their goal and use this shared explosion as the yardstick against which they measure all sexual experience, they deny themselves much freedom and much pleasure, while programming themselves for disappointment in some or most of their sexual encounters.
Simultaneous orgasm is supposed to be the ultimate in positive sharing, but actually it is the opposite, because when the male is climaxing, he is not thinking of anyone other than himself, he is not thinking of anything other than his own orgasm.
And when the female climaxes, she assumes the same natural but selfish posture and experiences only her orgasm, thinks only of herself. They have shared timing, but who knows how much else.
Even worse is how setting this goal can actually make the most natural act in the world difficult. Coming together is usually making it the difficult way, and I don't know that making it that way is better. Picture a couple in bed, determined to reach orgasm at the same instant. They've been at it for a while now and he feels ejaculation approaching.
"Now? Now? Now?" he asks.
She answers, "Not yet, keep going, keep going."
Soon he is huffing and puffing and possibly biting his lip or multiplying seven times seven times seven. "'Now?" he says. "Please, now?"
"Not yet, not yet, soon."
"Hurry, I can't wait, I'm ... "
"Wait, wait, no, oh, wait, wait."
There is a long silence. He is still. Finally he says quietly, ashamedly, "I'm sorry, honey, but..."
I'm sorry, too. It doesn't have to be that way. These are the most often heard complaints in any sex counselor's office. Do any of them sound familiar?
Please be aware that you are probably a little bit unusual if at least one of them doesn't. It is normal to feel and think and do well in sex, but it is also normal to not feel, think, and perform so well.
Remember in eighth-grade biology when we learned about the "normal" bell curve? Over there on the left and right were the extremists, the ones with the radical or unusual points of view. That was where the fewest people were. Most of the people were in the middle.
That's what gave the curve its bell shape. The point is, no matter what you felt, or thought, or did, you were somewhere on the "normal" curve.
Besides being "normal," it's also OK to be where you are, to have zero to minus-ten sex. Unless, of course, you or someone else gets hurt.
It's good to be responsible, and I think being responsible is fulfilling your own wants and needs whatever they may be and noticing that you're not preventing someone else from fulfilling his or her own wants and needs. In other words, men, you may not have to take the responsibility for pleasing a woman in bed.
Assuming this responsibility, everyone might notice that there is nothing wrong with being the way we are - if our sexual problems are not hurting anyone else, or ourselves, and if that's the way we want to be. We are perfect as we are, and it's OK if we want to stay that way, and it's OK if we want to change. It's our choice.
Updated: June 3 2016