Instead of Feeling Pleasure, I Feel Pain When I’m Close to Orgasm
My current lover refuses to believe I can’t ever [have an orgasm]. She is a giver, so she gets turned on when I am and wants me to orgasm so badly. I really want to give this to her. I mean, sure an orgasm will be good for me too, but…it’s really for her that I need to figure this out now. I never really cared before. It feels good and that’s enough for me.
I have been molested as a child, raped and assaulted [as an adult]. I have gone through massive amounts of therapy and dealt with all those issues. I have had several doctors and gynecologists tell me there is nothing physically wrong with me.
So, why can’t I orgasm? Maybe I am too sensitive and that’s why it hurts. Also, people have guilted me about not orgasming and maybe I feel too much pressure to let go. I am a control freak, but have been able to give up control and even be tied up/held down. I don’t get it. Why does it hurt and then turn off?
First of all, I’d like to say kudos to you on working through sexuality-related issues stemming from past sexual abuse and sexual violence. Being victimized in this way can have a big impact on a person’s ability to enjoy sex. It sounds like you really put in the work necessary to explore pleasure-focused sex. That’s not an easy task. What you’ve accomplished is great.
That said, when reading your message, my initial concern was not that you can’t orgasm, but that your partner is placing so much pressure on you to do so. I think people can have perfectly good (even outstanding!) sex lives without having an orgasm. We tend to have a very goal-oriented, orgasm-focused view of sexuality in the U.S., but this one type of physical response is not the yardstick by which all sexuality is measured. Not being able to have an orgasm is not a problem unless you identify it as one.
Being pressured to have an orgasm is, ironically, the thing that’s most likely to make it not happen. Stress, worry and performance anxiety are the number-one orgasm killers. If you are happy with your sexual response and the pleasure that your partner is giving to you, than the most “giving” thing that she can do is stop applying her definition of what’s pleasurable to you, and instead accept yours.
You mention being a “control freak,” but being able to let go more when you’re restrained. One way that you could explore pleasure with your partner could include erotic bondage play where there is no focus on orgasm, just a mission to relax and enjoy the power exchange. It’s possible that could set the stage for a new level of pleasure (with or without orgasm).
Finding a solution to the pain you describe during stimulation is beyond my scope as a sex advice columnist. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to consult with a health care provider or physical therapist who specializes in painful sex (not just your regular doctor or gynecologist). I link to some resources on this topic in a previous column, Why Does Sex Hurt. Unfortunately, we have a lot of gaps in our knowledge/understanding of why sex can be painful, so even consulting with health care providers who specialize in this issue may not produce instant results, but it’s the best path I can think of.
Good luck—I agree that you have a right to pain-free sex, and you seem to be a strong, insightful person who has come a long way in the understanding of your own sexuality.
Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.