I'm a 23-year-old female. I always had big, amazing orgasms, from sex and oral sex. My sex life was perfect. I decided to get a vibrator, and my boyfriend and I started using it, which was also great. After a while, though, I stopped having orgasms. It got harder and harder for me to come. That was a year ago. I don't know if it's because of stress or what, but my clitoris doesn't work anymore. My boyfriend can give me oral sex for an hour, and I still can't get anywhere close to where I used to. I think about this all the time, and if I don't have an orgasm soon I think I am going to go crazy. --G.O.D.
"Wow, that sounds frustrating," said Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning, co-owners of Toys in Babeland, a sex-toy shop with locations in Seattle, New York, and online (www.babeland.com). As C & R have made selling sex toys to women their life's work, they were naturally a bit reluctant to blame yours. "Your question leads us to think you are on the verge of blaming woman's best friend--the vibrator! But rest assured, your vibrator probably isn't the culprit, and your clitoris certainly isn't broken." (Claire and Rachel don't really speak in unison, but they both wanted to respond to a few questions I sent them, so I'm going to credit all their quotes in this column to C & R.)
So what the hell is wrong? "You need to get turned on," said C & R. "It seems your clitoris has become disconnected from your erotic mind somewhere along the way. If you aren't aroused or are too stressed-out going into a sexual encounter, your boyfriend can go down on you until the Green Party takes the White House and you still won't reach orgasm. Start paying attention to what revs you up. Explore fantasies, porn, erotica, movement, sensuality."
And while C & R, as longtime vibrator merchants, didn't want you to blame your vibrator, they were, as longtime lesbians, more than content to blame your boyfriend. "Are you still hot for your boyfriend? There is the sad possibility that the fire has gone out, and it's time to move on." But before you contemplate dumping your boyfriend (the only kind of sex toy C & R don't sell), they wanted you to try a little experiment. "Take a week off from your vibrator and see if that helps. It's possible to become habituated to an intensity that a mere mortal can't match." And boyfriends, as anyone who's ever had one knows, are the merest of mortals.
I'm an 18-year-old gal and have never had sex with another person, but I do get off on my own. The problem is, it takes me 25-30 minutes to do so, and I have to be rather rough on myself. Afterward, I'm sore both inside and out. Is my difficulty in climaxing a physical problem or a mental one? Also, will being very rough on my clit leave me unable to climax from softer sensations?
--Frustrated and Nervous
"You need lube, right away," said C & R. "Your natural wetness isn't lasting as long as you need it to, and rubbing dry, sensitive genital tissue chafes it. Ouch!" Beyond that, C & R suggested you cut yourself some slack. "Masturbating for 30 minutes is only too long if you aren't enjoying it. Take all the time you need! You're not a 14-year-old boy, you're an 18-year-old woman, and getting to orgasm can take women longer." As for your rough approach to self-pleasure, you need to cut yourself some slack on that score too. "Some people are wired to like rough play, and softer sensations don't do it for them. If that's you, then accept it and love yourself. You're coming, which is terrific. Relax, enjoy what you have, and get some lube."
I am a 27-year-old female, and I think I have a sexual dysfunction. I can't feel anything while I'm fucking! I can't orgasm or anything. And the problem is, I'm lying to my boyfriend, telling him that the sex is good and that I have orgasms with him. We've been dating for four years, and I love him. Every time we have sex I need a vibrator. The vibrator makes me come! It's like snapping your finger and I'm done. But after that we are still fucking, and I'm not feeling anything. My doctor says it's normal for a woman to have this problem. And, no, I've never been raped or anything. I don't know what could be wrong with me. Are there any pills out there for me to take, or what? Please help! Because I want to feel some pleasure during sex! --Need Help
Everyone is probably dying to find out whether or not C & R are going to advise NH to dump her boyfriend, I realize, but before I turn the mike over to the ladies, I'd like to get in my two cents: if your boyfriend is using a vibrator on you, NH, and he's making you come using a vibrator, then you're definitely feeling some pleasure during sex. Man + woman + vibrator + orgasms = sex. What you're not feeling pleasure during is vaginal intercourse, the main event for most straight folks, but not the only thing that counts as sex. OK now, let's see what C & R have to say...
"You fear you're sexually dysfunctional, your doctor is not helping, you lack vaginal sensation, you have disappointing orgasms, and you are lying to your boyfriend, whom you love," C & R said. "What a mess! Let's take this one piece at a time: while some doctors are very good, most are either in the 'bad sex is normal' camp or the 'you're sexually dysfunctional, here's a pill' camp. It may be normal, as in common, for perfectly healthy women to have lousy sex. Normal doesn't make it right. But unless you want your sexual pleasure dependent on pharmaceutical companies, the sexual dysfunction docs should be a last resort. It's likely you can find a natural solution. First, explore your body, masturbate, develop your erotic imagination, work on communication with your partner, and try new positions. Or it may be that vaginal penetration just doesn't do that much for you. A lot of women aren't wowed by it, contrary to popular belief. Are you expecting too much from fucking? To maximize sensation, try some positions that aim toward the front wall of your vagina, such as woman on top or rear entry. That will increase the G-spot stimulation.
"But clitoral stimulation is where it's at for most women, so work with that. Combine clitoral stimulation with penetration--a vibrating cock ring might help. When you're using your vibrator, back off before you come. Let the tension build up a few times before you go over the edge. Practice playing with the energy, using breathing and muscle clenching to increase the charge or to ease back. Orgasm is not just something that happens to you--you create it. And you have to be honest with your boyfriend. Nothing squelches arousal like the terrible feeling you get from lying to someone you love. Get honest and start working together to improve your sex life. This bad-sex thing is a time bomb in your relationship. The only way to defuse it is with honesty."
Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide (Fireside), an awesome new book by Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning, is available at better bookstores everywhere.