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Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010

Electro Love: When Only Plug-In Vibes Make You Come

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I am a female in my 20s who has a boyfriend close to my age. We have been together three years. I am able to have multiple orgasms with a vibrator (a plug-in style) that I use on myself, but I have never been able to give myself an orgasm with my fingers alone. My big problem is that while I can orgasm by using this vibrator on myself, I have never been able to reach orgasm through sex with my boyfriend or through him using a vibrator on me. I don't incorporate my plug-in vibrator in bed with my partner; I've tried, but it's hard for me to use in front of him. We have bought other vibrators for us to use together, and I've tried one clit stimulating cream, but none of these things got me to orgasm. I thought that my problem would get easier over time, and there have been some improvements like me starting to ejaculate, but still no orgasm. Our sex can be very satisfying despite this, but my problem is extremely frustrating for both of us. I feel like a sexual failure. My boyfriend blames himself, but I feel like it is mainly me. I feel like my boyfriend is doing a lot of things right and that if I could have come, I would have already. I have come so close many times, but it just doesn't happen. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

The first thing I want to say is that this is not an uncommon situation; from talking to customers and my work as a sexuality educator, I have encountered many women who need a strong plug-in vibrator like the Wahl or the Hitachi to reach orgasm. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you—that's just the way your body responds, and some other women also require a very intense, sustained level of stimulation that's difficult to provide with fingers, tongue or less-powerful vibrators.

Although there's no one "right" way to address sexual relationship issues, my thoughts about your situation are to, first, stop focusing so much on orgasm when you are having sex with your boyfriend, and, second, to work on overcoming your embarrassment about using the plug-in vibrator around him.

I think you are correct in stating that if an orgasm was going to happen with your boyfriend, it would have. It's really wonderful that the two of you have tried so many different things and have discovered new forms of pleasure, like female ejaculation. Some couples never reach this level of communication and experimentation, and some women who would really like to ejaculate aren't able to do that, so focus on the positive! Sometimes removing the pressure to perform by having an orgasm can, ironically, make it easier to have one. Any kind of "performance" sex where you're trying to achieve a specific goal, like having an orgasm, conceiving a baby, or what have you, tends to take a lot of the joy and pleasure out of it if you're having trouble reaching that goal. When you do that, you're only focusing on the negatives of your sexual relationship, not the positives. I think you might be able to resolve a lot of frustration for both of you by focusing on what you can do, and what you both enjoy, than what you can't do.

You might also want to think about why you are embarrassed to use your plug-in vibrator when your boyfriend is around, especially since you've used other vibrators together. I don't have an answer to that, but you could have orgasms together if you felt comfortable using your plug-in vibe together, so that might be something to think about. Several companies make attachments for plug-in vibes that make them more couples-friendly.

As I said at the beginning, I really want to emphasize that neither you nor your boyfriend are sexual failures. I see many signs of great communication between the two of you, which is a success! It sounds like you have already done a lot of talking and exploration, but I also have some books to recommend that are written specifically for women and couples who find reaching orgasm difficult. Four classic books on this topic are For Yourself and For Each Other by Lonnie Barbach and Sex for One and Orgasms for Two by Betty Dodson—each of the first two books are aimed at women, and the second two are written for couples. More recently published books include Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo and The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass.

Just for fun, you might want to pick up a recently published memoir, Thanks for Coming: One Young Woman's Quest for an Orgasm by Mara Altman, that details the author's personal explorations of her orgasmic capacity. You are definitely in good company as you learn more about your body's sexual responses.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. 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.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.