Getting her over the edge
January 28, 2011 2:44 PM   Subscribe

How do I get her off? She rarely orgasms, and I feel like I'm letting her down. NSFW.

My girlfriend and I have been together for almost a year. Very healthy relationship, we're extremely close and are planning on getting married. We're waiting to have sex for the time being for religious reasons, but we still do oral, etc.

When we mess around she rarely orgasms. Probably once every four times. I've asked her for feedback and she says she's not sure what I'm doing wrong. She says it feels very good and she's very close to orgasming but can't get over the edge. She doesn't know what I could be doing differently.

I've tried everything I know how, in previous relationships I never had this difficulty. I've tried fast, slow, oral, g-spot, etc.

She's only had one previous partner, she said it was a similar circumstance with him.

She's not terribly comfortable with the idea of toys, but I could slowly introduce them if the general consensus is that it would help.

I feel somewhat incompetent. I want her to enjoy it as much as I do. We're extremely compatible on every level, and we both get extremely horny - she just can't quite get over the edge.

What could I be doing differently? Is this normal? Other advice?

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Has she told you this was a problem? Because for me, in the past, I've had trouble orgasming with guys. This didn't really bother me. What bothered me was that the guy was completely obsessed with the problem, and made it into a problem every time when it wasn't a problem for me. So instead of being good sex/sexytimes that happened to not get me off, it was not fun because the guy was so focussed on making the encounter into a negative experience over something that didn't matter that much to me. Please don't be that guy.
posted by brainmouse at 2:47 PM on January 28, 2011 [65 favorites]

Echoing tenfold what brainmouse said.
posted by Melismata at 2:48 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your average woman just doesn't orgasm like your average man does. It's probably not anything you're doing or not doing. She says she's enjoying it. Just enjoy yourself, let her enjoy herself, and don't put so much pressure on either of you to get her off. It's only going to make the situation worse.
posted by katillathehun at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Obvious question: is she complaining? For some (many?) women, orgasm isn't the end-all, be-all of sexual pleasure. If she's happy, than this might be more about you (and your feeling of incompetence) than her.
posted by MadamM at 2:53 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does she masturbate? If she does, ask to watch so that you can see what she does. If she doesn't, that might be why she's unable to tell you what she needs; she might not know. In either case, more masturbation, both alone and with you in the room, will likely help both of you to figure out what works for her.

Also, this isn't really a "problem" or something you're doing "wrong." Some women just don't orgasm in every sexual encounter. According to the Kinsey Institute, only 29% of women always have orgasms during partner sex (which, religious beliefs aside, is what the two of you are doing), and only 64% reported having an orgasm during their most recent sexual encounter. So even if you never get to the point where she's having an orgasm every time, that doesn't mean that you're failing in some way, and it doesn't mean that she isn't into you. It's perfectly within the norm.
posted by decathecting at 2:56 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, what brainmouse said. For me, how "easy" it is to orgasm is dependent on a lot of things, both mental and physical (definitely hormonal).

I feel somewhat incompetent.

And she probably does to. Making this about your "skills" just puts more pressure on her. Pressure usually means no orgasms.
posted by muddgirl at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree with all above that this isn't really a problem unless she says it is. In the mean time, I recommend checking out She Comes First for additional techniques to add to your repertoire. Reading it really helped me with the idea that all vulvas are different and stuff that works for one may not work for another.
posted by El_Marto at 3:06 PM on January 28, 2011

Nthing the not all women orgasm often during sex and still find sex totally great and all that. If she is having a good time and isn't concerned, relax. It's likely not a skills thing, and making it a hardcore quest to get her off is just going to make things less fun, probably.
posted by elpea at 3:08 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, more specific advice:

She says it feels very good and she's very close to orgasming but can't get over the edge.

Sometimes when I reach this plateau, it really helps to stop whatever we're doing and just sort of take a little cuddle break - go back to kisses and touching and whatever. Then if I feel like it, we "start over."
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's probably not you. I find it muuuuuuuch easier if I've had a glass of wine.
posted by desjardins at 3:17 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing brainmouse and others - don't make her orgasm about you. You cheat her out of feeling comfortable to explore her personal experience - with or without orgasm - when you let your insecurities about your skills get in the way.
posted by griselda at 3:20 PM on January 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

Try dialing up the intensity slowly and keep it rhythmic. Gentle and teasing absolutely does not do it for some women, but firm and consistent does. Experiment with how much is too much for her and make sure she tells you when the sensation crosses the line from "more more" to "ouch" or "now I'm numb"
posted by slow graffiti at 3:25 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

We're waiting to have sex for the time being for religious reasons, but we still do oral, etc.

Is she at all uncomfortable with the fact you are having oral/manual sex? If she feels even a little bit guilty about it, that might be making it hard for her to just "let herself go" and pay full attention to her own sensations.

I'm just suggesting that because some of the religious couples I know who did stuff anyway felt like they were cheating a little on their ideals and that made them a little conflicted about sex. Hopefully that isn't the case for you (and I am by no means suggesting it should be!)
posted by lollusc at 3:36 PM on January 28, 2011

In my experience, sex with a partner becomes truly completely spectacular after a large amount of practice with each other... When we have both finally shed every last little layer of inhibition and self-consciousness and know the other's bodies completely and are totally secure in our love for each other, thats when sex becomes all that it can be. This can take a while! In the meantime, just don't focus too much on what you see as shortcomings and know that it just gets better with time.

And because every couple has to build this up, any experience you may have from previous encounters may not count for all that much.

I think it is also for this reason that one-night stands can seem so sadly... unspectacular.
posted by tempythethird at 4:01 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm guessing that when you are married the problem will resolve itself. Really.

Because if she is waiting for marriage for the whole enchilada for religious reasons I can guarantee you she is feeling guilty for what she is doing NOW. Because you may not be having intercourse but you ARE having sex.

Back when I was, ahem, not a choir girl I had similar issues. Once I decided to live up to what I believed, and then eventually met and married someone.....let's just say the ability to relax and know I could enjoy sex guiltlessly made the difference.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:03 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

What brainmouse said. If you're stressed out about it, it will actually make her less likely to orgasm, since she'll be all jumpy about it too - you both need to relax.

Do give toys a try if you want to mix it up a little - there's no particular reason an orgasm is somehow better because it's, uhh, achieved naturally. You may find this also helps with the relaxation issue - there's something inherently fun about "toys".
posted by media_itoku at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2011

It may be you or it might not be. The thing you need to keep in mind is that it's not your responsibility. Like all sexual partners, you are responsible for three things when it comes to the bedroom: having genuine enthusiasm for your partner's sexual pleasure, making sure your partner knows that, and being open and willing to do what will bring her sexual pleasure. The rest is up to her and her ability to maintain open communication with you.

I think a lot of young guys get it into their head that they are supposed to have complete sexual knowledge of every woman they are with. It's a ridiculous thought; every woman is different and may want or need something completely different than the next. It's very hard to know what your partner needs without communication, and it's downright silly (and a little condescending to her) to think that you should know how to get her off when she doesn't know herself. It would be a little like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle in the dark.

Don't get me wrong, keep trying new things (if she wants to keep trying that is). Just don't put any pressure on yourself - you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing just by showing up and caring whether she gets off at all. Remember that it is her job to figure out what works and what doesn't and then convey that information to you.
posted by Willie0248 at 4:10 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Just a few more things to think about:

- Is she on hormonal birth control? This can make it much harder to get over that edge.

- Is she so focused on being there with you that she's having trouble thinking about whatever gets her off when she's on her own? Give her explicit enthusiastic consent to close her eyes and think about whatever it is that tends to send her over the edge when masturbating.

- She might have some secret guilty kink or something that she's not asking for. Don't go on a hunt for this, but don't be shocked if it comes up later on in the course of your patient, loving, understanding, and accepting relationship.

- Nthing that stress or guilt over premarital sexy times could be getting in the way.

- Be patient with her. Try not to make it feel like a failing on her part or on yours. Nthing that that sense of pressure also tends to get in the way.

- It could just be a matter of patience and time. For many women, it takes experience and simply waiting for the way our bodies change as we get a few years older for it to get easier to reach orgasm.
posted by Eshkol at 4:42 PM on January 28, 2011

I assume that it's this:
You have a goal.
She has a journey.

If you focus on the goal, it will tend to spoil her journey. Her journey may or may not include your goal. It's also up to her to let you know if she really wanted to meet your goal.
posted by plinth at 4:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

One thing Boink taught me (and, perhaps other experiences he said in the subjunctive) is that there is a small but statistically significant number of women who can only orgasm during penetrative sex.

If that's the case, you really will have that fantasy wedding night everyone dreams of :)
posted by digitalprimate at 4:59 PM on January 28, 2011

A little vibrator would help.

A lot of women have trouble getting off consistently without a vibrator. A little battery-operated bullet vibrator would probably do the trick. They're cute and not intimidating.

I had this one. It does die after 6 months or so but it's AWESOME while it lasts.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:08 PM on January 28, 2011

As much as some of these tips are good advice in general, I think that St. Alia's is probably the closest to what you're actually running into if the two of you are refraining from intercourse for religious reasons. I grew up pretty religious in an Evangelical Christian home, so I received a range of messages about sexual purity--particularly as I read about the topic, I noticed distinctions between what young men are taught and what young women are taught. If your religious reasons for not having intercourse come from a Christian tradition, I think you need to consider the messages she's heard, compared to what you've heard.

Much of the purity message tells young women that they are defiled if they have premarital sex, and that having premarital sex will ruin the emotional and intimate bond within their eventual marriages. For young men, the language is much more frequently about resisting temptations that naturally arise--delaying a natural act but not saying that that act will break your heart and ruin your life. The message for young men is, yes it's natural to feel aroused when you're with your girlfriend, but you should wait to act on those feelings. The message for young women is, your boyfriend wants to have sex with you, but you need to protect your virtue as well as his, or else your marriage will be doomed.

I'm not saying that the what I was taught is representative of all religious discussion of sex before and after marriage. I just think that it's worth having a conversation about why she wants to wait to have intercourse, and whether that reason affects her enjoyment of other sexual activities. If it's literally just that she wants to still technically be a virgin when you marry, disregard my comments, but if her conviction about waiting goes deeper than that, it's worth talking about.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:20 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

The fact that it is you, and not she, asking this question indicates to me that you need to lay off a bit, friend. Do what she says she likes and not what you think she should like. Nobody wants to come under a microscope.
posted by milk white peacock at 5:33 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good for you for asking, caring, and exploring this. I will confirm that often it's just a matter of exploring, making the journey the important part, and having fun. It took me a Lot of time to get comfortable enough to figure this stuff out, but it sure was awesome anyway, especially once I gave up on "the goal". Definitely enjoy reading up on different techniques and talk about possibilities together. Heck, enjoy it all!
posted by ldthomps at 5:39 PM on January 28, 2011

As a female, I can't stress enough how important the *entire* experience can be. My boyfriend can be in a terrible mood and then completely shift gears and be ready to jump my bones. For me, it takes some warming up and building in to it - I've got to feel happy, excited, and sexy. Maybe we've already been joking around and having a great night, or have just come home from dancing, so I'm already there. Maybe I was bummed out, but he was super kind and caring, which just makes me feel loved and in love - then I'm in a good place, too. It's way harder if we've had a fight, or if I had a bad day at work, or whatever. If he calms whatever negative feelings might be floating around from the day and help me to feel sexy and loved when our clothes are still on, then I can totally focus on enjoying myself when they come off, without being distracted. Also...what brainmouse said!
posted by red_rabbit at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing all of the above. Note: this is a bit long.

I came from a conservative background and was clueless about orgasm until a boyfriend put pressure on me to have one. The more he pressured, the farther he was from "achieving his goal" of me orgasming with him.

Prior to dating him, I was delighted with every sexual interaction I had had (even without actual intercourse) and felt great about myself sexually, even without orgasm experiences. No man had ever pressured me. But when he began to subtly shame me by acting disappointed with 'the outcome' when we fooled around, I began to back away and feel something was wrong with me. Every time he brought it up, I could see his disappointment and I could also feel a "what's wrong with you" message. I ended up totally losing my confidence in that relationship after enough comments from him. Please don't do that to your dear woman. That would be your loss and hers.

In the end, the issue became HIS. His need to see some kind of result to feel like a man was so great that he made sex all about that. When for me, the enjoyment I had with or without a full blown orgasm was epic. He could not see that -- he was defining my sexual fulfillment for me. It was demeaning and patronizing. And I think (men, can you comment?) his disappointment and the pressure he put on me was much more about his ego than about my "failure" to achieve his goal.

Since then, I've been encouraged so much by men who are able to enjoy me, as a sexual being, for who I am and what I am offering, who just enjoy their own sexuality and don't need me to validate it. Sex is about so much more than one particular response. I mean, the big O is great, but so are the little Os and many more creative intimate journeys. Don't reduce sex and love making to this. I hope you'll be much more loving and creative than this. I imagine she'll feel much more comfortable if you do, and the Os will come....pun intended....when they come, and that will be perfectly satisfactory for you. And she will feel loved, accepted, sexy and like a woman with you.
posted by sleeping beauty at 6:59 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

You're waiting to have intercourse for religious reasons, but what you're having is sex. (That's why they put the word "sex" in "oral sex" and "manual sex," after all.) And so you might want to remember that guilt and shame are tremendous inhibitors.

Because there really isn't a religious proscription in any tradition that says "Oral and manual are OK; the only thing $Deity cares about is intercourse" it is very very likely, as others have said, that your girlfriend may be dealing with concerns around whether or not she is fulfilling both her libido and her religious commitments. Have you guys really talked about this? Are you sure she really feels like it's OK for her to have oral and manual sex?

You can't make those concerns go away if that is part of what is inhibiting her, but talking about them openly can only help. I highly doubt this is about technique at all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:31 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sweetie there is no "consensus" on what your girlfriend needs to get off. It's up to her and it may take her a while to figure it out. Does she jerk off, alone? This is really important for learning about what turns her on.
posted by stinker at 8:23 AM on January 29, 2011

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