Q: I am a 27-year-old woman and I don't think I have ever had an orgasm. I have had a variety of sexual partners (both long-term boyfriends and flings) and masturbate regularly. I've tried different positions, sex toys, you name it. Sex feels great and sometimes I do feel a sort of release, but nothing as intense as I hear an orgasm is supposed to be. I love sex and don't really have a problem with the fact that I don't orgasm (although it would certainly be nice!), but I don't know how to broach it with my partners. Sometimes men get frustrated or feel like it is something they are doing wrong and it becomes awkward. I'd rather not have to fake it. How do I convince them that I still enjoy sex even without the big finish?
A: This reminds me of a scene from the wonderful Masters of Sex in which Margaret Scully, the wife of the (closeted gay) university provost, tries to volunteer for Masters and Johnson's sex study. Virginia Johnson asks Mrs. Scully if she's ever had an orgasm, and after the older woman mumbles that she thinks so, Johnson replies gently, "You would know." No one should badger you into having an orgasm if you are content with the way things are. But you also say you'd like to have them, and there's very likely no reason you can't. Lots of women get told to speak frankly to their partners about how to satisfy them, but for women who aren't orgasmic it's less than helpful advice since they don't know what steps it would take. So as far as figuring it out goes, I say ditch the guy and work on this solo. Learning to masturbate to orgasm will allow you to understand your body better without feeling the pressure of a spectator, and eventually you will be able to bring this greater knowledge about yourself to your lover.
To begin, you need some instruction. Try the books The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass and Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo; the latter is also available as a video. I suggest that you jump-start the process by getting an industrial strength vibrator, letting your mind travel to arousing situations, and being patient. With persistence, I'm betting you will get there. (Hint: an orgasm is really intense, but it doesn't last very long — which is a good way of keeping you coming back for more.) Eventually when you can reliably reach orgasm, wean yourself off the wand and go manual, which will better approximate conditions with a partner. Think how enjoyable it will be to be a woman who loves sex and also understands more fully what the fuss is about.