Dear MKE SEX,

I gave my bestie a ride to the club tonight, and on the way she started giving me a hard time about my sex life. Me and my boyfriend have sex a couple times a week. I like it fine. You know? Like, I love him, and sex is fine. But I don’t have orgasms during sex. Okay, real talk: I don’t have orgasms. And, it’s like fine. I’m just a girl who doesn’t come. But my friend was saying that there’s something wrong with my sex life if I don’t have orgasms. Like she thinks my boyfriend doesn’t try hard enough or something. But he does, and I’m always the one telling him to just let it go. I guess I’m wondering if there’s a certain portion of the female population that just doesn’t have orgasms. Like, is there something wrong with me? Or is this normal? It feels normal, honestly.

Thanks,
Story of (no) O

Dear (no) O,

The first thing we should do here is talk about what an orgasm is. In its most basic form, an orgasm is involuntary contractions of the muscles in the genitals and reproductive organs. This is typically in response to direct stimulation of the genitals through sexual contact (vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, masturbation, etc.). But orgasm can happen in response to lots of different things. If you’ve ever had the muscles in your pelvis clench up in response to some sexy talk, earlobe nibbling, a really seductive shoulder rub, watching porn, or anything else, you’ve had a small orgasm. If you’ve had a small orgasm, you can most likely have bigger ones if it’s important to you.

Because that’s the second thing we need to discuss. For some people, having orgasms is genuinely not important. That’s one variation on normal, and nothing to feel strange about. For the overall health of your pelvic muscles and genitals, it’s a good idea to continue to stimulate them from time to time (through partnered sex, masturbation, or non-sexual touching). But trying to have orgasms that you’re not really interested in isn’t a great way to spend your time. It’s okay to just skip them if it’s not your thing. You might be more excited about orgasms at another time in your life. And you may never be. Again, these are all variations on normal.

And finally, it bears mentioning that if you do want to have orgasms, it’s pretty likely that you can. Yes, a small portion of the population is clinically anorgasmic, but most people can learn how to climax. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding a vibrator or other sex toy that can stimulate you in ways that you and your boyfriend can’t manage with your human appendages. For some folks, it’s a matter of finding the right kind of mental stimulation (all sexual response begins in the brain, after all). Other people will need to focus on foreplay or try edging (a kind of sex play where you repeatedly build up toward a sexual release, but withdraw stimulation before orgasm). There’s a great book called Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, PhD. that would be helpful if you want to learn more about your own sexual response and how to enjoy yourself on your own terms.

Sometimes our girlfriends (and other friends) get up in arms when they think we’re not being treated well. Off and on throughout recorded history, women’s ability and right to have orgasms has been challenged by lots of different “authorities” (the church, the medical establishment, the entire Victorian era, Sigmund Freud, and more). The clitoris wasn’t even included in medical textbooks for several hundred years! Now that our culture has affirmed the existence of the orgasm, the clitoris, and even the g-spot, many lady-loving, orgasm-loving folks can be pretty militant about female pleasure. But real empowerment comes when people get to have sex the way they want (with or without orgasm), or not have sex at all if that’s what they want.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her a question at mkesex@gmail.com and she’ll get back to you with an answer.