Q: So I started becoming sexually active eight years ago with my first boyfriend. My sexual experience consists of him and five drunk hook ups. I love sex. Love everything about it, and I’m really at a point in my life where I want to get drunk and hook up with a friend or acquaintance… (I’m weird about hooking up with absolute strangers). So I’ve been doing that recently. Here’s the thing: I don’t orgasm easily and I definitely don’t when I’m drunk. However, this really isn’t a big deal to me, because I still love sex when I don’t climax (same with masturbation, I don’t always come, and I’ve considered trying different vibrators but I don’t really have the extra cash right now).
People from my doctor to the guys I hook up with make me feel so weird about it. I don’t care and I really feel weird faking it, but I’m being made to feel like I’m a freak. I am very rarely disappointed by sex, so I need people to believe me when I say it’s not a big deal – especially because I need things to be cool with these guys after the fact. Help!
A: I’m glad you asked this because I suspect it’s something many people can relate to. While “enjoying sex” and “having an orgasm” definitely often overlap, they’re not synonymous (as you know). For some people, an orgasm is essential to feeling satisfied by sex, and for others it’s quite possible to enjoy sex without having an orgasm (and to have an orgasm without feeling satisfied). Orgasm and pleasure/satisfaction are frequently regarded as the same thing, though, and that’s where the problem lies – not with you. As Paul Joannides puts it in The Guide to Getting It On, “One of the worst things that ever happened to sex was the idea that we needed to give our partner an orgasm. It would have been much better if we had simply set our sights on trying to please each other.”
And you probably already know this, but nobody has the right to make you feel weird for: 1. not having orgasms easily, or 2. loving sex and finding it satisfying without having an orgasm. Your doctor, especially, should not be making and communicating such judgments about and to you – it would be one thing if you went to your doctor and were upset about not climaxing easily (for them to discuss it with you, not for them to get judgy), but it’s really shitty for your doc to make you feel weird about it, especially because it’s not weird or uncommon at all.
Now, the friends/acquaintances you’ll be hooking up with / have hooked up with – it seems like there could be two factors in them focusing on whether or not you have an orgasm: they want to make sure you really are enjoying yourself and feeling satisfied because they’re invested in your pleasure, or they think whether or not you have an orgasm reflects on them and their sexual abilities and even possibly how “much” of a man they are.
Time for a personal digression: I’ve been on both sides of this subject. I did a fun amount of hooking up with friends/acquaintances/friends-of-friends/you-get-the-picture in college, and I never had an orgasm with a one-time hookup, though I usually enjoyed them a lot anyway. When some of them brought it up, I was honest – “No, I didn’t have an orgasm, but I’m having a great time and I loved when you did xyz, want to do that some more?” Like you, I felt uncomfortable with the prospect of faking an orgasm, so I just tried to show them that I truly was having a good time even though I didn’t come – being enthusiastic, being vocal, telling them what I enjoyed and what was working for me, etc.
Conversely, when future Mr. paperispatient and I began having sex, he was pretty nervous and as a result either didn’t have an orgasm or had a difficult time having one the first few times we hooked up. I tactfully brought it up because I wanted to make sure that he was having fun and that it wasn’t anything that I was doing or not doing that was keeping him from coming. We had a good talk about it, and when I understood why it wasn’t happening and that he was indeed feeling satisfied, I could focus on making sure he enjoyed all the other parts of the sex we were having.
So, if it’s an issue with your partners because they interpret you not having an orgasm as you not having a good time, I think the key is showing them (and telling them) how much fun you’re having; wanting to make sure you please your partner is a positive thing, but obviously they should never make you feel pressured or make you feel weird. If they do, or if they’re motivated by the second factor (wanting to give you an orgasm to “prove” themselves and their sexual prowess in some way), I might reconsider hooking up with them in the future. (I’d probably say something fairly blunt, like, “You know, I love everything about having sex with you except you pestering me about having an orgasm, and if we’re going to continue, that needs to stop.”) If that’s the case, it becomes more about them and them taking some of their own issues and insecurities out on you; you can’t make someone believe you, and I don’t think it’s really your responsibility to educate and convince your partners, and none of that is fun or fair to you.
Keep the great questions coming! (Hee.) Got a question to ask, subject you’d like us to discuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? You can e-mail us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com, and we’ve also set up a Tumblr for the sole purpose of receiving completely anonymous questions here.