My boyfriend makes me feel like a project

I have only ever been able to orgasm with a vibrator. 

My boyfriend was fine with it at first — I think he thought he could be the one to “change” me and have success, but it’s become almost a matter of honour and it makes me feel like a project. I’m now dreading sex.

For women like you who are unable to achieve orgasm any other way, battery-operated devices are a fast and reliable route to the big O. They provide continual stimulation, at a range of different intensities. They never get cramp, or lose interest, and they provide much-needed psychological reassurance. After all, you may not be able to peak with a man, but you can be sure that you will with a sex toy.

Women who have trouble achieving orgasm with a partner almost always feel like they are in a minority, but the opposite is true and always has been. In 1976, the sex researcher Shere Hite revealed that only 30% were able to orgasm through intercourse alone, yet most women could easily climax through clitoral stimulation.

Thirty years later that figure hadn’t changed. In 2005, Elisabeth Lloyd, who is professor of philosophy and biology at Indiana University Bloomington, published her book The Case of the Female Orgasm. Lloyd’s analysis of existing studies of female orgasm suggested that only a quarter of women were consistently orgasmic during vaginal intercourse; a third of women rarely or never orgasm during intercourse, and about 5% of women never have orgasms at all.

There are many explanations for the orgasmic inequity that exists between men and women, but the invention of the vibrator has evened the score. According to Forbes magazine, the vibrator market in the US is now worth $1bn, and for many women a first vibrator is often synonymous with a first orgasm.

Unfortunately, all the things that make vibrators so effective — speed, intensity and consistency — also magnify the sensation gap between what is achievable with a sex toy and what is possible with a partner. That’s why, having used a vibrator to figure out the way in which sexual sensation needs to build up in order for your orgasm to occur, you need to try to work your way back to explore how your body responds to less intense forms of stimulation.

This is not something that you can, or should, do with your partner. It is an exercise you need to do by yourself, for yourself. The truth is, no man can “give” you an orgasm. Orgasm is not something that you consciously control: you can create the conditions by providing the right kind of stimulation, but the crescendo is involuntary, and any kind of stress or mental distraction will prevent orgasm from occurring.

You need to put your boyfriend’s “project” to one side, quiet your mind and focus on the sensation of touch. Choose a time when you are feeling relaxed. Touch your skin all over your body and tune your mind in to the sensation. If you want to hasten arousal, use fantasy, porn or erotica. By the time you begin to touch your genitals, your whole body should be tingling. Closing your eyes can help you to focus and don’t worry if your feelings of arousal suddenly subside after you begin stimulation. This may happen several times, but if you continue to focus on what you are feeling, rather than paying attention to what you are thinking, your body will override your brain and you will reach the point of no return.

Once you can bring yourself to orgasm without a vibrator, talk to your partner and ask him if he would be willing to help you do it with him. Explain that you want to avoid intercourse and tell him that he needs to concentrate on oral and manual clitoral stimulation. You might want to ask him to blindfold you as this will help to screen out visual distractions.

His touch needs to be smooth and consistent, so ask him to use lubricant. Most importantly, you need to make him promise not to stop until you come. This is critical because many women get so self-conscious about how long they are taking to climax that they would rather sabotage their own orgasm than admit that they sometimes need 10 or 20 minutes of direct stimulation.

You have never faked orgasm or lied to your partner, so he is not under any illusions. He knows the score and he wants to help, so if you can stay focused and he can keep going for as long as it takes, you will, I promise, eventually achieve orgasm with him.

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