Last night, as I lay in bed finishing up a rerun of “Bones,” I was drifting to sleep when I heard the throws of passion happening in the apartment next door.
The moans and screams of the couple having sex on the other side of my wall were profoundly playing over the episode I was trying to focus on. After several minutes of loud cries of love, the two found their sweet release, followed by playful giggles. I smiled at the sweetness of whatever their bond might be.
Then I frowned, thinking of my own experiences with sex. I dug deep beneath my blankets and wept. Accidentally hearing my neighbors reach their climax, I felt deep shame, jealousy, and embarrassment for myself and my inconsistencies when it came to climaxing with a perfectly good partner.
I recalled the last time I had screamed out of passion from the other side of this wall and wondered if they, too, were trying not to listen. It had been the first time I had climaxed after five months of disappointing my partner with no orgasms. He broke up with me a week later.
I’ve had great partners, well-endowed partners. One of them even loved me, I think. I’ve had a few short years where I enjoyed sex, orgasmed 90 percent of the time, felt good about my body, felt sexy, and didn’t overthink. I know I’m capable of great orgasms and a healthy sex life. I’m not sure where things went wrong.
My anxiety around sex, climaxing, performing well, pleasing my partner, and making sure they felt like a good lover were all thoughts that kept me from actually climaxing and enjoying sex for myself.
I felt like something was wrong with me. Sometimes I would even ask the question out loud, shouting to the heavens as if they held the answer.
For years, I accepted that maybe this is just how my sexual experiences would be—that I would feel the sensations of sex without enjoying the end result.
I learned that men would get off, and I wouldn’t.
In more recent years, I’ve had partners who did care about me getting off. But even they toss my legs aside midway through and tell me, “Jesus, woman. To hell with you.” When instead, they could have just said, “How can I help you get there, my love?” They didn’t take the time to understand the mental battle raging on within me as I tried to relax and get out of my head. They didn’t know how much damage had already been done and how much more piled on with each failed orgasm.
The shame alone was enough to never bring it up with any of my partners.
Even past lovers I’ve revisited remembered that one time six years ago when I couldn’t come for them. They had no shame in bringing it up either, “Don’t you have trouble orgasming?” They don’t know that when I actually do want to have sex, I’m acutely aware of my past, upsetting performances without them bringing it up. Each time such words were uttered, my sexual anxiety burrowed deeper into my consciousness, making a home there. During sex, I do try and be brave (I do sincerely try), but the blood rushes to my head instead of my groin. My body won’t respond the way I want it to. And the thoughts occupying my mind?
Don’t take too long.
Is he enjoying it?
Does my body look okay?
Don’t screw this up.
Focus more on coming.
Stop thinking so much—relax.
I wish he would stop staring at me; it makes me nervous.
Each time they release before I can even feel a twinge of arousal, I feel like I’m failing myself. I feel like I’m not a good lover—like I’m not good enough period. Now, sex isn’t this exciting series of moments where I’m allowed to let myself go. It’s just a prison of self-doubt and a daunting task not worthy of further compromising my already delicate mental health.
Desperate to enjoy sex again, I’ve browsed the internet for ways to get out of my head—ways to overcome my sexual anxiety, to let go of the disappointed words dripping from the mouths of my past lovers. I’ve learned it takes women far longer to become aroused and orgasm than it does a man. I’ve learned that women are more likely to orgasm when they feel like their partner is invested in them mentally and physically. And I’ve also learned some women don’t orgasm at all or have never orgasmed.
Women take time to please. We aren’t always simply aroused by penetration. We don’t always get off just by you looking at us. (Spending a single moment on foreplay before impatience gets the best of them doesn’t help us get there either.)
Here’s what women like me need:
Please don’t get upset with us when we can’t orgasm, especially when you’ve spent little to no time building the anticipation and arousal.
Communicate. Let’s have a conversation about what we both need to truly enjoy sex.
Let’s build a safe space together to talk about sex—magnificent sex—with each other.
We love partners who take their time. We love partners who explore our bodies with their hands, lips, and tongue, discovering and mentally documenting every place that excites us most. We love edging, teasing, touching, dirty talk, anything that helps us get out of our own heads and lost in seduction.
Worship our bodies.
Make it about the journey—not just the destination.