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Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010

The (Almost) Impossible Dream: Orgasm During Intercourse

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I've been dating my boyfriend for a little over two years now. While we have an active sex life and I enjoy that in general, I don't really get all that excited about physical sex itself. I like making out and fooling around and everything leading up to actual sex, but then that part is not that exciting for me. It's not bad in any way, but it just doesn't do that much for me—physically, that is, since I do have the emotional connection and enjoyment that he is happy. I find this sad since I'd rather be more excited about it, and I’m not sure if there is something I'm missing. I know that women often don't orgasm from straight sex, and it's something I've told countless other people who worry about it, but I still can't help but wish that even if I wasn't having an orgasm from sex, or at least not all of the time, that it was more exciting for me as well as my boyfriend.

When people talk about "actual sex," they are usually referring to penis-in-vagina intercourse. As countless sex educators have written, the majority of women don't get enough clitoral stimulation from this type of sex alone to have an orgasm. Part of the problem that many people have is that vaginal intercourse = "real sex" in their minds, and everything else is "just" foreplay. I personally think that the world would be a much better place if we all thought "outside the box" a little more, so to speak. Some people enjoy vaginal penetration, and some people find it doesn't do much for them, but because we're brought up thinking that this is the ultimate sex act, there's inordinate pressure on women to enjoy this particular type of sex. Sometimes shifting one's thinking from vaginal sex being the main event to vaginal sex being just one of many things you engage in can be helpful. So if your partner enjoys vaginal sex, then that can be part of what you do, and you can incorporate something else that you like into your play either before or after. 

The second thing I would suggest is incorporating different positions or sex toys into vaginal intercourse. Vaginal penetration can feel very different depending on what position you're in. If the typical missionary, doggy style, or girl-on-top aren't doing it for you, there are lots of other creative things to try. If you'd like to add some clitoral stimulation to vaginal sex to make it more enjoyable, positions that allow for clit stimulation with a hand or vibrator are best. Woman-on-top positions let you control the angle of penetration, and also provide access for either a woman or her partner to rub the clitoris with fingers or a toy. The famous Betty Dodson, godmother of female masturbation, recommends a "right angle" position where a woman lies on her back and her partner lies on his side next to her, penetrating her from the side (creative leg positioning is necessary!). Again, this allows for easy access to the clitoris. A third position to try is spoons, lying side-by-side and front-to-back, with a woman being penetrated from behind by her partner. This is a great position to incorporate a vibrator into play, as you can easily hold it against the clitoris while being penetrated.

Speaking of sex toys, if you've never tried a vibrating cock ring, it might be worth a whirl. These are stretchy rings that fit around the shaft of the penis and have a small vibrator attached. Depending on the position, they can provide clitoral stimulation, although they work better with shallow thrusting or grinding motions, since vigorous thrusting doesn't allow for continuous contact with the vibe (and may cause frustration!). The We-Vibe is a couples' toy that is designed to be worn during vaginal penetration, with one end inserted vaginally and the other end pressing against the clitoris. When it's inserted, both partners can feel vibration. Both c-rings and the We-Vibe are designed to provide clitoral stimulation during vaginal penetration, so women who get a lot out of clitoral play often find that toys make everyone happy. 

In short, I think that your situation is not all that uncommon, for reasons you already know—vaginal sex provides direct stimulation to a man's penis but not to a woman's clitoris, and therefore some men find it more enjoyable than some women do. A sad truth, but I don't think it means there's anything "wrong" with you or other women who find vaginal sex kind of ho-hum. It just means that all of us have to get a little more creative.

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.