Common Questions Answered (Women and Orgasm Part 4)

Today I’m going to answer some of the questions that I have received from women about orgasm. These are the questions that I get over and over again, in one form or another, or questions that are most unusual, and that women – and men! – seem to want to know the answers to. So let’s start with this one.

While I was pregnant with my last child, I would use a vibrator during sex with my husband, because my belly was in the way of me using my hands. We did this almost every time. Now it is hard for me to have an orgasm without it. How do I change this?

I get lots of questions from women wondering, for one reason or another, if using a vibrator will “addict” them to the vibrator. And the answer is usually the same – no, it won’t. But in a case like this, I also have to ask, why do you want to change? You know the saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! And if the reason is simply that you want to have more options for sexual pleasure, that’s fine. If you’re concerned about coming with a vibrator being OK, then it’s important that you let go of that worry. So if you want to reverse that feeling of having adapted to the intense stimulation of the vibrator, here’s what you can do. First of all, put your little mechanical friend away in a closet or a drawer and leave it there for a couple of weeks. You don’t need to leave it there forever, just for a few weeks, because the body does, in fact, adapt – and so all you really want to do now is “reset” your body so that it will respond equally to any kind of stimulation. In fact, you’re going to change your focus in sexual stimulation from clitoral stimulation to all other kinds of stimulation, so that you are no longer going to focus on clitoral stimulation. Even if you don’t have an orgasm, that’s perfectly OK – you won’t die if you go for a week or two without having an orgasm! And in fact, it can help you focus on all of the other sensations and nuances of pleasure that you can have even if you don’t orgasm. Don’t worry if, after you bring your boyfriend or your husband online with oral sex or manual sex, you don’t orgasm the first few times you do go back to clitoral stimulation. That’s perfectly natural. So after you’ve left yourself alone for a little while, and enjoyed other kinds of pleasuring, go back to the clitoral stimulation in any way you want to, including bringing the vibrator back out. But what you may want to try is something that uses a single AA battery instead of something that plugs into a wall, which is always more powerful, so that you don’t re-adapt again to the high-intensity stimulation of the plug-in vibrator. That way, you can use the little mini vibrator, you can use your partner’s cooperative tongue or cooperative hand, or you can use your own – and your body should be comfortable with all forms of stimulation.

Here’s another question:

What positions for intercourse are best for stimulating the clitoris to orgasm and which ones are best for stimulating the g spot to orgasm?

Women tend to give highest marks to both “doggie style” and being on top. Women who like to be in control of the motion and have their clitoris within easy reach of their partners’ hands and their own generally like the “bronco busting” kind of ride. Some like to face their partner and some like to face away from their partner, because the angle of the penis during penetration rubs internally differently, and depending on where their primary hot spot is, they may like one direction or the other better. On the other hand, some women dislike this position altogether because it demands too much of them. They have to focus on moving, on angling their body in a way that gets everything positioned just right, on clitoral stimulation. Some of them also add in focusing on stimulating their partner at the same time, but rubbing his testicles or touching his nipples, and vice versa. So there’s so much going on for some women in the on top position that they can’t “bliss out” and really get into the kind of full awareness and full sensory state that they would otherwise do if they didn’t have quite so much to keep going on.

Women with sensitive g spots are most easily stimulated when they’re penetrated from behind in “doggie style.” Now, I know it’s a silly phrase, but if you’ve ever seen two dogs going at it, you know why we use it! If a woman’s partner is standing and she’s on the edge of the bed or on a couch, she can usually find her best angle, sometimes with one foot on the floor, sometimes with both on the bed while he is behind her. Plus, a small vibrator can be wedged between a pillow and her body, to stimulate her clitoris at the same time, or she can just use her hand, or he can also reach around and use his. Of course, some women don’t like this one because they’re not looking face to face at their partner. So even though it may be architecturally a great position, the face to face contact is more important, and without that, they don’t feel connected enough to have an orgasm. So depending on what’s important to you, and how your body is constructed, and what kind of fit you have with your partner, you’re going to discover different positions are more accommodating to both of you. We hear and we say – “we” meaning sex therapists – often that communication is the key to sexual pleasure. But sometimes what we really mean is that brutally honest communication is the key! We have to be willing to tell the unvarnished truth, not only about what works, but about what doesn’t work, along with fidgeting and failing and reconfiguring and rechoreographing and being able to laugh like mad when something that you thought was going to be a great way to feel pleasure and excitement just falls flat. And that’s perfectly OK!

The next question is one that I hear quite often in a number of different ways, and it’s basically this.

With baby boomer women hitting menopause, what is the effect of the changes in hormone levels and aging on sexual arousal, on orgasm, on pleasure in general.

Well, there’s no doubt that some women feel sexual changes as their hormone levels dip, but one of the things that we’ve found is that women who lose desire during menopause often do so as a result of being in long-term relationships that are troublesome, more so than they do because their hormone levels are off key. Another study in the year 2000 told us that women who masturbate or have sex with a partner twice a week during that time period have double the circulating estrogen levels in their body as women who don’t. So one way of increasing one of the hormones of sexual well-being, when they are naturally bound to begin dipping, is to continue to be more sexual – have sex with a partner, have sex with yourself, but enjoy it at least twice a week. Now how’s that for a prescription for sexual health and well-being! It will keep your vaginal tissues plump and juicy. So the message is that women at any age do not have to let sexual pleasure become long forgotten dream. And women at every age can have orgasms that are, quite literally, dreamy. Apropos of that is our next question.

Can women orgasm in their sleep? I could swear I woke up the other day and felt the end of some intense pleasure.

I think this is what Annie Lennox wrote about when she crooned “sweet dreams are made of this!” Yes, women can come like crazy in their sleep. In the famous study conducted by Dr. Alfred Kinsey in the early 1950’s, 40% of women reported experiencing at least one “nocturnal orgasm” by the age of 45 – although interestingly, only 8% had them in their college years or earlier. In the mid-1980’s another sex researcher asked a group of college students about their sweet dreams. In this case, 35% had already had a visit from the sexy sandman. Now the increase in the prevalence of nocturnal orgasms during that three-decade span may be a result of more enlightened attitudes about sex and greater awareness of orgasmic capacity among young women – waking or sleeping. Unfortunately, we can’t plan to have a dreamy climax. Trying to make one happen doesn’t work. These miracle moments occur spontaneously. Plus, whether or not a woman has experienced a nocturnal orgasm has nothing to do with the power of her wide-awake sexuality. It’s normal to have them, and equally normal (though undoubtedly not as much fun) not to have them.

Another woman wonders if she’s weird because she can have orgasms just having her ears stimulated.

She may be lucky, but not weird. Again, the late Dr. Alfred Kinsey said, “There is no part of the human body that is not sufficiently sensitive to effect erotic arousal and even orgasm for at least some individuals.” And he found that a small percentage of women can orgasm just by having their earlobes are kissed and fondled. And Dr. Ernst Grafenberg – the doctor who was the first to recognize the erotic potential of the female prostate that became known as the g spot – also has said “we can almost say that there is no part of the female body which does not give sexual response, the partner has only to find the erotogenic zones.” In other words, the “hot spots.” In her book “Women Who Love Sex,” Ogden interviews many women who can come from stimulation of nipples or just via their imagination alone – just by having sexy thoughts. And speaking of nipples – many women are surprised to discover that intense nipple play, even the kind of squeezing and biting that could be considered painful under other circumstances – in combination with high arousal and the right kind of sensory stimulation genitally – can trigger orgasm more easily than genital stimulation alone. So don’t overlook this area, don’t give it a quick once over, and don’t be afraid to push the envelope on intensity, especially when you’re already extremely hot.

If thinking sexy thoughts is enough to bring on an orgasm, what happens when we speak our thoughts out loud? Here’s a question about that. A woman writes:

My boyfriend likes to talk during sex and it really bothers me. I’m not embarrassed by dirty talk, but I like to concentrate on how I’m feeling without having to verbalize. He says that my unwillingness to be verbal is a sign of my detachment. Could this be true?

Unwillingness to be verbal may be a sign of discomfort with something new or reflect a basic difference in sensory style. When one partner wants to connect verbally and the other partner wants to lose herself in her own sensations, the more verbal partner can feel detached and disconnected. By refusing to communicate in the sensory mode that has meaning for our partner, we can unintentionally cut ourselves or cut them off. One partner with an auditory sensory preference and another with a kinesthetic preference may not seem like a match made in heaven, but it really may just be a matter of getting used to each other’s styles, and beginning to understand that these are not differences in commitment to the relationship, these styles don’t say anything pertinent about who the person is, and they don’t tell the partner that they are too different to ever find a way through or around this conflict. It really helps in situations like this to talk about these feelings when you’re not in a state of sexual excitement. It may be that agreeing to share fantasies and talk explicitly during the early stages of arousal would work best for someone who has that more kinesthetic or sensory style. That could even be surprisingly arousing, and yet it would allow them to go back to their deeply connected body state during the higher states of arousal. Later, when you’ve floated into the sexual trance of intense arousal that you seem like so much, you can do the listening, and it may be the perfect time for the partner who likes the verbalization to do more of the talking. And in fact, you may discover, once you let go of thinking that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this, that their talking actually adds to your level of arousal.

Hearing erotic talk can be a huge must-have for some women in building up to orgasm. It’s a way of being caressed by words, not so unlike being caressed by fingertips. The nervous system that sends sexual impulses to the body and the brain works in a feedback loop – so our psyche and our body actually send message to one another all the time. That’s why fantasies are so potent, and why women can orgasm in their sleep or by imagining their way to an orgasm. It’s why people with spinal cord injuries who don’t feel below the waist discover orgasms of the ear or the elbow or the mouth. These messages are transmitted in both directions are part of a creation of new nerve pathways. Some people become more verbally adept when they are aroused – people who are anything but talkative in ordinary time can become erudite when they are in a state of high arousal. Conversely, people who are never at loss for words in ordinary life can have a kind of mental meltdown when they’re erotically revved up, and be almost unable to utter anything more than groans and sighs. So anyone new to titillating trashy talk may find it awkward at first, and have a hard time adjusting, especially when their body is demanding attention. What you want to do, therefore, is give yourself time to learn to carve out new pleasure zones, and new ways of expressing your feelings to your partner. Think of erotic talk as something that you just wouldn’t share with anyone else, something that’s special for the two of you. You really might be surprised how much words can boost your responsiveness once you let them in.

Now, here are two different questions that have essentially the same answer. The first one is from a woman who is anxious about her vaginal secretions. She writes:

My girlfriend loves to go down on me, but no matter how many times she tells me that I smell fine and taste fine, and no matter how many times I’m intimate with her and know she smells and tastes just great, I always tense up, and the more lubricated I get, the tenser I get. Sometimes I get so anxious that I can’t come. This seems so irrational to me. What is this about?

The second question is this:

I think I must have a high sex drive. My boyfriend and I always have great sex, but I find when he isn’t around that I start caressing myself almost absentmindedly, and then it leads to an orgasm. Then after the pleasure fades, I feel ashamed. Why do I feel this way? Should I?

Both of these questions stem from the kinds of messages about sexuality that most women absorb growing up. All the reminders that sexual feelings should be reserved for the “right” relationship – all of the reminders that you don’t own your own sexual feelings, that the culture or your family or religion owns them, stay with us and can so easily get in our way. Just think of all the teasing, ridicule, and pressure you may have been subjected to by peers and family just as you were awakening to your first sexual urges. Think about all those dumb “fish” jokes that we hear on TV or in comedy clubs. Think of all the anti-sex cultural propaganda that still blasts you daily in the form of television, advertising, religious dogma. Now ask yourself, “why do I feel ashamed?” You feel ashamed because the vast majority of these messages are disparaging of female power and female pleasure, of vulvar beauty and variations of female beauty, and certainly hardly supportive of “just because it feels good” masturbation marathons. SHOULD you feel ashamed? Good heavens, no! You should be thrilled, actually, that in spite of the garbage you’ve been fed, your body insists on responding naturally and joyously to sexual stimulation. You should feel proud, exuberant…and maybe a little angry. Angry that cultural forces are still working to disempower women – angry that cultural forces are still trying to “unplug” us from our erotic source or dam up our sexual energies. But you should also feel triumphant – because their dirty work has failed to poison you.

So my message, really, to all of you is to love your body, cherish your eroticism. Thrill to your orgasms in any way you choose. Write that message in indelible ink on the palm your hand. Write it in lipstick on your mirror. Write it a thousand times in your notebook, and above all, pass it on!

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