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Will learning to orgasm through masturbation help me through my divorce?
July 10, 2012 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Will learning to orgasm through masturbation help me through my divorce? Female, been married 10 years, left because of verbal abuse, disturbed by reawakening of my sexuality now I'm "old" (nearly 40) and unloved.

I'm a 39 year old female in the process of divorcing my verbally abusive husband of nearly 10 years. Before I married, I had a *lot* of sex with lots of different men, and enjoyed it. I had a fabulous sex life with my husband that dwindled as he got sicker and I got more scared (he wouldn't see a psych/therapist, but there was alcohol/drug abuse going on, combined with bipolarism or bpd or some other disorder.) I was always 100% faithful to him and would be still if staying with him was even remotely an option.

We've been separated about 7 months. I was happy to think that I was now asexual and that I could devote myself to the life of the mind. However, as time passes, I am increasingly realizing that I am a sexual being and I'm struggling with it.

I guess the most immediate problem is that I cannot masturbate, at least, not to orgasm. I have a pretty easy time climaxing with a trusted partner, if I'm on top, but right now I do not have such a partner and the whole idea of a relationship scares the crap out of me. I have a bunch of healing to do, and I don't trust myself or others. I miss my sex life with my husband: I still love him, even though I'm 100% sure that I cannot be with him (safety issues - he physcially threatened me in the end, and now I realize the toll his emotional/verbal abuse took on me - I started therapy > 18mths before I left).

I feel like masturbation might help me with some of the stress around what is a pretty scary divorce (might involve foreclousure, bankruptcy, threat of further abuse/violence against me or my pets or possessions in retaliation) and that it might help me to become more self confident and self sufficient.

However, I've just never ever got the hang of it. I did masturbate as a teenager, but never achieved orgasm. The only time I've ever come was with a male partner, when I'm on top.

I've tried my hands, the shower head, bullet type vibes, dildo vibes, the Hitachi Magic Wand .... nothing's ever worked.

The secondary problem, which i figure can wait until I've licked my wounds a little more, is that despite my colorful past sex life, to me sex has always been far more about the intimacy than the raw physical pleasure. I felt like sex was a shortcut into getting closer to someone, which I realize now was very often a misconception, but was really always what I was going for. I find other people fascinating, i'm always the one deep in conversation with one person at the raging party .. i'm looking for the connection .. not necessarily the commitment ... but somehow at nearly 40 it seems all wrong to even contemplate "casual" encounters.

I guess that second thing regarding relationships with others, fleeting, casual, meaningful, lasting, whatever - that's probably just going to have to wait to get dealt with until I've cleared up the practical and emotional fall out from the separation from my ex. I don't know, but I imagine, that if I learned how to masturbate to orgasm I might feel more self-possessed and less anxious to work all this other stuff out. I also have the issue of now being middle aged and unsure of who will ever want me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let me recommend two books. The first one is A Round-Heeled Woman, by Jane Juska, which is a memoir about the author's experiences (mostly positive) with casual sex in her 60s.

The second is Sex for One by Betty Dodson. Despite what is to my taste a little too much woo-woo gender essentialism, it's a good basic manual for masturbation for folks with clitorises and vaginas.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:58 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lots of solid advice here.

In addition to finding just the right tool and learning to use it in just the right way for you, fantasy is really important. Read some erotica or let your mind wander. *ahem* Or so I've heard.
posted by bunderful at 8:01 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perhaps part of the reason you are able to achieve orgasm with a partner is because it's not your primary goal. As you state, you are in it for the intimacy and closeness. When you are alone masturbating, do you have any other goals in mind?

Maybe stop thinking it has to go somewhere, and just lean back and enjoy your own body. Experiment with what feels good; different movements, sensations, speeds, textures, but don't aim for it to go anywhere beyond sensual massage. If an orgasm doesn't happen there won't be any failure, because that wasn't your main intention. Think of it as a happy potential side bonus.

Putting all that pressure of "if I can orgasm by myself, all my other problems will get better" is going to cause some serious performance issues. I also highly doubt it's true.
posted by Dynex at 8:43 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like your brain is not wired at this point in time to make the link between masturbating and getting off, because of both:
sex has always been far more about the intimacy than the raw physical pleasure.
AND
I have a bunch of healing to do, and I don't trust myself or others. I miss my sex life with my husband: I still love him
Your brain is like, why are we even doing this? This isn't what we want, this isn't how it works!

that if I learned how to masturbate to orgasm I might feel more self-possessed and less anxious to work all this other stuff out.
It's not a lightswitch, you know? If you're anxious and have a lot of stuff to work out and don't have the pre-existing pleasurable associations, it's not going to work.
I think you need to take some time to rewire your brain by making pleasurable associations with touching yourself. Relax and seek the pleasure, don't worry about the big finish, just see what happens. Like you said, now you can enjoy the life of the mind, but include your body in there too!
posted by bleep at 8:46 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems many people do get used to a certain path to achieving orgasm and then you kind of have to re-map other ways if you are "stuck" on only one path. It's a sort of familiarity and sex is a basic need in humans close to, say, eating. Some people like to be adventurous, and are almost born to be adventurous, but many of us just want what we know satisfies us, and we want a lot of that, the same way, the familiar comfort.

To retrain yourself even a little bit requires practice and patience. Personally I remember simply trying to learn - not even another method, just how to get there in a slightly different position - and it took much longer than I would have thought, because the sensations were different, and felt strange; that feeling strange takes you out of the moment and you lose focus on amping up to orgasm. I've been held back from peak by things as small as needing my free hand to be weighed down under a pillow or holding on to something; needing to correct my breathing pattern (sometimes holding my breath makes it harder, and sometimes it makes it easier); needing to unclench the muscles in my legs; etc.

I've only mentioned the physical - you have the mental and emotional aspects as well, and they are just as key. I have to be in the right headspace for anything to happen. Right now you are at least aware of what your sexual framing is: that good sex is intimacy and connection and trust and being desirable. It sounds like you've never turned your concept of sexuality towards yourself: that you can become intimate with yourself, achieve connection and trust in yourself, and find yourself desirable (no matter your age!) - you are saying that you assumed, once separated from your ex, that you would be asexual; and you are surprised, and it seems a bit dismayed and unsure of yourself, that you are still a sexual being?

I think it might help to frame this with a little less emphasis on the goal (now that you are divorcing, it would help to orgasm through masturbation) and more about getting in touch with yourself (heh). You have this time where you're not at all ready to jump into anything else - even casual - this space of time where it's just you with yourself. Don't pressure yourself that you should make yourself do this, or that you should seek to replicate what you're missing since you're single right now. Just start with spending time with yourself, thinking about: what do I like sexually? What do I fantasize about? What might get me in the mood? Explore your body. Look at yourself in the mirror. Do something sensual like take a long bath, have a drink, lay down in bed naked, read a sexy book, run your hands on your body. Don't make it about having to get off - don't even try to get off. Just get to know yourself a little more, and take the pressure off yourself. Think about what you like about yourself: is it nice to touch your skin right there, in that spot? Does your hair smell good? Imagine a scene in which you're making yourself come: what does that look like to you? What seems appealing: in bed, in the bath, against the wall, on the couch? While watching a movie, while a fan is running and blowing over your body? While penetrating yourself with fingers or a vibe, or not? Do this a lot - have these thoughts a lot - get yourself used to the idea, turn it over in your head, read books about it, read books just because they make you feel turned on, watch stuff that makes you feel turned on - find yourself touching your body when you're not even quite aware you're doing it, for a couple minutes, while you're doing something else.

Try just taking a vibe and running it around in different spots to feel how that feels, and sort of tease yourself, but don't think you have to Make It Happen, because you don't. You just have to get to know yourself, and spend some time thinking about how you want to get to know yourself and know your body. It might take a really long time, but eventually you're going to hit on something that's going to start that spark, that feeling that you could build up to come, and you can play with that spark, see what moves or thoughts make it flare up and see what drives it back. Remember as well that if you're used to the sensation of orgasm from intercourse, an orgasm from masturbation (hands, water, vibe, what have you) is probably going to feel different, and the build-up different as well, so don't compare it so much to what you're thinking you're after, and just let it be what it is. You have to be comfortable with yourself to trust yourself to let go, I think. You can't be comfortable with yourself if you don't take the time with yourself, and be gentle with yourself; but also be open to exploring and accepting yourself - which is not the easiest thing to do, ever! I hope these thoughts help you.
posted by flex at 9:03 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hmm, I'm the opposite of you in a some ways...maybe that's why I'm a woman who can orgasm in 1...2...3....yes yes yes!

I'm certain that this comes from being a person with a high sex-drive who has spent more time single than having a partner. Let's just say I've had a lot of practice masturbating and I think that's what it comes down to. You just need more practise.

I was masturbating almost daily for years as a teenager until one day during a session I suddenly felt that elusive thing called an orgasm take over my body.

I didn't try a vibrator until this past year. At first I didn't like like it--I couldn't get off, it didn't feel anywhere as good as my fingers. But I kept practising until one day, bam, orgasm. See? Practise.

Also, like all things in life, I think with masturbating you need to lose yourself in the moment. It'll help you hone in on what your body thinks feels good and keep your mind at bay from making orgasm-deflating comments like "I need a partner", "vibrators don't work for me," etc.

Good luck with everything :)
posted by oceanview at 9:52 PM on July 10, 2012


I would recommend " Becoming Orgasmic: A sexual and personal growth programme for women" by Heiman and LoPiccolo. While it is mainly aimed at women who have problems orgasming in any situation, a lot of what they recommend would probably be useful in your situation.
posted by Megami at 4:22 AM on July 11, 2012


Your musings about the connection without the commitment caught my eye. It's absolutely possible to have delightful, enriching sex with wonderful interpersonal connection, without all the freight of being Committed and In Relationship. Obviously there is a huge component of letting down your guard so you can let people in, and awareness of your own boundaries, and the same on the part of your partner. This of course will be especially tricky to do when you're in the turbulence of a divorce and its aftermath, but it's not out of the question.

Is there a tantra community near you? This might be a good place to start finding people who are both open about sexuality, and open-hearted, as a general way of being. Meetup.com might be a good way to find them in this day and age, or if there's a healing arts center or a spirituality bookshop, go check out the bulletin board....

Of course, because tantra has this association with sexuality/sensuality, it does attract a lot of attention/interest from people who don't really get the other parts of it, like authenticity and open-heartedness and connection. Use your best judgement about who you get involved with, or better, use the judgement of crowds and get integrated into the community enough that you're meeting people at smaller, more intimate events than the open-to-the-public intro stuff. That tends to weed out the guys who are really only leading with their dicks...

No matter how it goes, I wish you success. Sexuality is too precious to give up entirely, and I think it's awesome that you're actively figuring out how to bring it back into your life. Good luck, and enjoy!
posted by Sublimity at 5:05 AM on July 11, 2012


Have you tried masturbating in a way that is similar to woman-on-top? You could try straddling various things: a stack of pillows, the arm of a couch or chair (put down a towel or something), etc. Try laying a vibrator down on top of whatever you are straddling if that might help.

If you're more about the penetration than clit-rubbing, maybe a good-quality suction cup dildo that you could attach to the floor, edge of the tub, or wherever.

You could also try lying on your stomach with something underneath you to rub against.

For some women, leg tension and/or thrusting against a surface is just as important to reaching orgasm as stimulation of the clit or vagina. Experiment, you may need a combination of some or all of these in order to come during masturbation.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:16 AM on July 11, 2012


I thought I would just pop in to say that women can be awesomely sexy at 40, so don't worry about age!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 AM on July 11, 2012


If masturbating is enjoyable and releases tension, it's worthwhile for you whether you orgasm or not. Making orgasm a goal can wind up making you anxious and point you firmly in the dangerous direction of performative sexual activity.

Can you accept that you are a sexual being in recovery from some serious long term stress and mindfuckery, and take your time learning how to be sexy on your own without any expectations or script? Potential partners worth having a meaningful relationship with will notice your confidence and comfort in your own skin, because a person who can love and care for themselves is damn sexy.
posted by thatdawnperson at 4:50 PM on July 11, 2012


I can't help you with the masturbation part of the question, but I thought other parts were important too.

40 isn't old. Two of the oldest women I've known were both in their 20s. They were drab and always down. Several of the youngest women I've known are in their 40s.

40 only feels old because you're comparing yourself to people in their 20s. If you compare yourself to people in their 60s, you'll realize you're young. One of the sexiest women I know is in her 40s. Wait - make that two of the sexiest women I know. I consider myself fortunate to have had a marvelous casual fling with one of them. What made her so sexy wasn't her appearance (though she was lovely) so much as it was about her attitude. She had a smile and look in her eyes that I found irresistible, and she was just so full of life. Interesting tidbit about her. I met her when I was 39. She was 48. She told me she loved being in her 40s, and that her 40s were much better than her 30s. It sounds like at least a chunk of your 30s hasn't been that great. It also sounds like you're starting over, in a sense. Who knows... your 40s may turn out to be amazing.

Middle Age: Let go of that term. Ignore it. Forget it. Don't use it. It's a comparison term and it does you no good since you can't be anyone other than who you are. Instead, learn to love or at least like being the woman you are at the age you are. Figure out what you like about yourself, or what your best qualities are and revel in them. Seriously! It may feel silly at first, but after a while, you'll realize how great you actually are. Nobody's perfect, but when you consider the good things about yourself you'll realize there are a lot of them. And once you realize that, you'll also realize there are people who would really enjoy those qualities in you.

Believe me. 40 does not equal unattractive. I've met plenty of women in their 40s (and 50s for that matter) who are damn sexy. I'm not talking about women who should be models or anything like that. I'm talking about real women who are happy and vibrant.

One last thought: Not being ready for a relationship doesn't have to mean celibacy. Even casual sex can be about connecting rather than strictly physical pleasure. You just have to find a guy who enjoys sex for similar reasons. You and I are similar in age (I'm just a bit older). I've found that women our age ARE more into connecting than just physical pleasure compared to younger women, even if the sex is only casual, and I know I am that way too. I wouldn't be surprised if the same is true for lots of men our age. I have a feeling that's one of the good things that comes with being a bit older (but NOT old!!!)

Last, but not least, you're not unloved. You just don't have a partner. Surely you have family or friends that love you - probably more than you realize. Just because you're not in a relationship doesn't mean you're unloved. It just means you're probably not loved by that one person, and frankly, that's for the best, right? But it doesn't mean nobody else loves you.

Wow! I didn't realize I was going to type out a novel here :)


tl;dr:
You're not unloved.
Don't be afraid of 40. 40s can be amazing!
Not being ready for a relationship doesn't have to mean celibate.
Figure out why you're awesome. If you let yourself, you'll realize that you really, really are.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:19 PM on July 12, 2012


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