Orgasm problems: my girlfriend can't have one
October 2, 2007 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Orgasm problems: my girlfriend can't have one with me. After a certain point, she says it feels "too intense" and she gets scared and makes me stop. She was molested as a child (though this is possibly irrelevant). How can she get past this?

We've tried just about everything, but no matter what we try, after a certain point the feelings become too strong, she gets scared or overwhelmed and asks me to stop.

She's very frustrated that she can't have an orgasm with me and fears that she may be "broken." We've tried reading the usual books on the subject, but she doesn't feel like anything they say is helpful to her.

She's had orgasms rarely in the past. Sometimes she's brought herself to orgasm (I'm told) and a few previous boyfriends have occasionally been able to bring her to orgasm. Her first boyfriend could give her orgasms through her breasts alone. On the other hand, I've never had trouble giving my past girlfriends an orgasm.

Complicating this problem is that I have a tendency to "finish early" if you know what I mean. In my past relationships, this wasn't a problem, because I enjoy being attentive in other ways (i.e., oral sex, mutual masturbation, etc.) But my girlfriend says that she doesn't like masturbating because it reminds her of the times she was molested. So my speculation is that we have had trouble in particular because, for her, the sex qua sex isn't long enough, and oral sex and/or mutual masturbation are negatively associated with her past experiences.

But it's entirely possible that I'm completely off the mark, and it's something else entirely. I'm at a bit of a loss here. Any help would be appreciated. If it helps, I'm in my mid-twenties and she's in her low thirties.

posted by trystero to Human Relations (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The best way for her to explore how to have orgasms (and how to help you help her to) is masturbation. If she associates this with her traumatic experience, then she needs to get help to break the association. If she associated brushing her teeth with molestation, would she just stop and let all her teeth rot out? Yet her sex life is rotting away out from under her, and there is something she can do about it.

This is a unique opportunity to find a sex therapist or couples counselor (or even someone your girlfriend is also comfortable meeting with alone). Or if nothing else, even if you two break up someday, she needs to realize that she has important work to do to reclaim herself and an important, natural part of life.
posted by hermitosis at 6:53 AM on October 2, 2007

OK, so I guess the first point is to clarify what she means when she says "too intense". Does she mean it's painful (if so, where)? Does it make her feel like she has to pee (even if she's used the toilet beforehand)? Does it make her feel like she's losing control mentally?
posted by anaelith at 6:56 AM on October 2, 2007

I've previously complained about people being trigger happy in AskMe suggesting counselling. However this is an obvious instance where you should encourage your girlfriend to seek a referral to a psychosexual counsellor. I would suggest she should go alone initially, and then involve you in the process when she feels ready.
posted by roofus at 7:03 AM on October 2, 2007

Firstly Im a guy, so I cant really offer her any direct advice. But from my experience with women who I have been with, those who masturbate often and at regular intervals are the ones who orgasm the easiest. They just seem to be more in tune with their own bodies and able to direct you to what is good for them, since everyone likes something a little bit different.

As for finishing early - Im not sure if this is something you want advice on in this thread - Id recommend you maintain a healthy amount of masturbation in addition to your time with your significant other. Consider it a commitment to excellence ;) Plenty of guys I know quit masturbating when they have a girlfriend. Which is silly because that just makes the trigger happy problem worse.
posted by Tinen at 7:22 AM on October 2, 2007

Has she ever sought counseling for the abuse? It sounds like she is still suffering from the molestation, and that she'd be experiencing these feelings of somehow being controlled by an abusive experience even if she wasn't in a relationship. That part just makes the feelings more acute and brings them into clear and painful focus more often. Which is why some kind of therapy might be very helpful- for the way the trauma is impairing her sex life and for the way it still continues to impair her generally.

I also second and third the recommendations on trying to reclaim her relationship to her body and her sexuality and changing the meaning of pleasure through masturbation. But just to specify- this is the kind of relationship she probably needs to work on alone for a while before she can share it with you. I don't think you should buy her a vibrator that looks like an alien spaceship and tell her to go at it, but perhaps talk about it with her and pick out a toy together. You'll be supporting her in choosing which one she wants, but it will be with the understanding that it is for her and her pleasure alone- not- at least for now- for anyone else's.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:50 AM on October 2, 2007

I have no experience with counselling or such, but for pure out and out orgasm-in-30-seconds magic, may I recommend the Hitachi Magic Wand. It works well on sore muscles too, but for it's most popular purpose.. well, I've never seen anything like it. You can pick them up (new of course) on Ebay for a pretty good price.
posted by tomble at 8:01 AM on October 2, 2007

She should get therapy. It can really help people who were molested become comfortable with sexuality again. It can take a while, though.
posted by callmejay at 8:09 AM on October 2, 2007

I'm 29, female, and also a past victim of molestation/sexual abuse.

I realize that everyone is different and how things affect me will not necessarily affect anyone in the same way. That said:

I believe that just the fact that you are trying to understand is helpful. I had a few boyfriends that either didn't understand or didn't care, and would either push beyond my boundaries or would make me feel so miserable when I didn't feel like having sex. As if I'd completely ruined their life because I just wasn't in the mood.

As a result, I don't really care for sex or masturbation anymore. I just don't have any desire left in me, it seems. The whole process still feels very shameful for me.

I have seen 3 therapists about this, and none have been able to help. There is one male friend that I've been able to *talk to* about this without feeling shame, and maybe that's the key for me? We shall see.

I don't have any new advice that you don't already know, but I wanted to say, from someone who's been there...

Keep on being understanding about the situation. Keep respecting her boundaries. Don't ever, ever make her feel bad/ashamed about sex or what she's been through.
posted by Zarya at 8:18 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

After a certain point, she says it feels "too intense" and she gets scared and makes me stop. She was molested as a child (though this is possibly irrelevant).

I think your g/f should begin speaking with a therapist. These kinds of questions are always difficult to evaluate because there's usually a lot more going on that what's said, but look at it this way: She's created a lot of fear around the sexual experience, and she has an incident (or more) in her past that generally creates a lot of anxiety about having sex.

Don't approach this as an "I just need to work harder at it" problem. Give her the support she needs to explore her feelings about sex, which she may not feel comfortable doing. Remember that this will involve her talking about a lot of intimate things that she will likely not share with you for a long time, if ever.
posted by mkultra at 8:24 AM on October 2, 2007

The answer to all female orgasm questions: hitatchi magic wand.
posted by k8t at 8:26 AM on October 2, 2007

Orgasm problems: my girlfriend can't have one with me.

Take the me out of that sentence. Blame doesn't help here.

She should be on top and rub her clit against your pubic bone.

If you can get an erection quickly after sex, take care of your own "business" by yourself earlier in the day, several times.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:41 AM on October 2, 2007

Kudos for wanting to work through this point in your relationship. I have been there with a couple of girlfriends and it can be scary and frustrating for both sides. Much of what has been said already here I would agree with, and that is don't view this as a blame situation, no one is at fault.

She does need to be comfortable and masturbation is a healthy path to take with this; as is counseling. I can only hope she has sought to talk about her past with a professional - definitely helps to bring things into perspective. That is to say help put things into perspective and manageable.

Aside from the above (patience, masturbation, counseling) another method to get her comfortable with sex and orgasms is oral sex (her receiving that is...)

In all I can't emphasize the counseling, and in some cases I participated (which was interesting for me since I was very defensive. But to help in understanding it turned out to be important.) The one thing I have always remembers is rape/molestation/etc. is about the removal of choice - be open in all aspects to allowing her to have choice is important.

posted by fluffycreature at 8:56 AM on October 2, 2007

Putting aside for a moment the fact that she really should see a therapist to help her with her unresolved emotions about the molestation...

She sounds as if she has had very little experience having orgasms at all. The moment right before orgasm for women *is* scary and intense if you're not very familiar with how orgasms feel. When you're more practiced, you don't feel fear, you feel anticipation and excitement because you know what's coming next.

Does she have any girlfriends she can talk to about this who can reassure her that spending some time alone with a vibrator would be a good thing for her? Seconding the Hitatchi.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 AM on October 2, 2007

a lot of people have mentioned vibrators, but i want to point out that they can also be used with a partner, including during intercourse. they can feel intense, but it might be easier to handle because they feel very different from other types of sexual stimulation.
posted by lgyre at 9:23 AM on October 2, 2007

I'm a big fan of the Hitatchi - it's great for the girl on the go who doesn't have time (sadly) to spend the whole morning masturbating.

However, I have one word of caution. The Hitatchi is a pretty powerful machine. If your girlfriend is afraid of the intense feelings she has before an orgasm, you might want to start her out with something battery-operated and a little less powerful.

And when she does have all the time in the world, nothing's better than her own two hands. It can take more time, but in my opinion, the orgasms are much sweeter, and they're better preparation for orgasming through sex alone (though keep in mind that for some women this is never possible).
posted by Evangeline at 9:25 AM on October 2, 2007

Speaking as a formerly shy girl in matters sexual, if a partner had brought a vibrator to bed I would've died with embarrassment. In fact, I'm emphasizing my suggestion that one of her girlfriends help her with the vibrator purchase, lest she feel that not only is she broke, but her boyfriend has bought her a machine to fix her.

But I do submit a correction to my comment...probably best to start with a battery-operated vibrator before moving up to the Hitatchi.
posted by desuetude at 9:51 AM on October 2, 2007

I've had two relationships with women who had very similar problems. Both were the victims of childhood abuse. One knew about it, the other only recently figured it out. The first would occasionally flashback to the abuse when she approached orgasm. She had no memory of it except during the flashback. It was eventually a factor in a suicide attempt. In the other it resulted in decades of sexual frustration and unhappiness. She finally, with help, was able to deal with it and reports a much healthier sex life.

Do what you can to encourage her to seek help. Be patient with her, love her, and support her. But I would think that counseling would help a lot more than any technique or technology in this situation.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:54 AM on October 2, 2007

There's been some great advice in this thread, and I'm sure trystero is now better (ahem) equipped to deal with things because of it. I kind of want to second what desuetude said:

"Putting aside for a moment the [very important, in my opinion] fact that she really should see a therapist to help her with her unresolved emotions about the molestation...

She sounds as if she has had very little experience having orgasms at all."

I totally agree. Red flags went up for me when I read:

"Her first boyfriend could give her orgasms through her breasts alone."

This might be the case, but I think it's more likely that trystero's girlfriend doesn't really know what an orgasm feels like (much less what triggers one for her) with much certainty. I'm sure a professional could give awesome advicea, and I bet there are some quality books out there you haven't read yet.

My take on this is that progress will be incremental--I could see a progression of her feeling comfortable talking about sex with trystero and what she's really feeling, to getting comfortable masturbating alone (maybe with a vibrator, maybe not) without an orgasm necessarily being the goal, to maybe getting comfortable doing this in the same room/bed as trystero, to incorporating some mutual touching into this routine, and so on.

"So my speculation is that we have had trouble in particular because, for her, the sex qua sex isn't long enough, and oral sex and/or mutual masturbation are negatively associated with her past experiences. "

I'm at work so I'm not about to dig up any actual studies or statistics but it's relatively rare for women to achieve orgasm through penetrative sex alone. And I honestly doubt that you'd have much better luck even if you were able to hold out for a really, really long time. That's an issue you can and should work on, but I don't think it's the issue here.
posted by bdk3clash at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2007

Sex is a journey and orgasm need not be the only destination.
posted by plinth at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2007

I used to be the same way. Every time I was close, the intensity would scare me and we had to stop. Until I actually did have an orgasm, I didn't know what it felt like, so I agree with bdk3clash's advice above.

PLEASE don't think of it as your "problem". I doubt it has anything to do with you. PLEASE don't feel pressure or put pressure on your girlfriend about it. Many guys feel that they must make their partners have an orgasm or they fail at sex. For years, guys would try their hardest to "prove themselves" in bed in this way. They would get so frustrated and disappointed, so I would often end up faking it. It didn't bother me, because as plinth says above, "Sex is a journey and orgasm need not be the only destination"- I enjoyed it anyway. :)

Finally I met a gentle and kind guy who put no pressure on me at all. When we tried, I felt that it was completely for MY sake, not for the sake of his pride, and I felt really loved. Only then did I feel comfortable enough to "let go". Also, I recommend using a small battery operated toy that she can use when she's alone if she feels like (to get used to the feelings)- make sure that she's comfortable with the idea of one, though.

If she feels uncomfortable, then stop and just hold her for awhile.

I hope that she knows that she's not "broken". From what you say in your post, it sounds like she does want to try, but IMO it is important that she initiates it and is 100% comfortable when it happens.
posted by koakuma at 1:30 AM on October 3, 2007

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