The Girl Is Great. The Sex, Not So Much.

Evan,

I have a hell of a relationship conundrum and need some no-BS advice. I recently met a girl via match.com. We’ve dated for 5 weeks and we’re basically gf-bf. She’s a great gal, ideal companion, affectionate, great conversationalist, and fun to be around.

I really can’t say enough about her, except for one thing. The one thing is that the sex is awful. Not mediocre, not so-so, but awful. The crux of it is that she doesn’t have orgasms at all. I strongly believe it’s psychological and not an issue with me. My primary piece of evidence here is that she’s stated her inability to climax has been universal with all her partners (FYI, she’s in her thirties).

Suffice it to say, it’s extraordinarily frustrating for both of us to have sex, to the point where I don’t look forward to it at all. Ugh. I’m considering dumping her. Advice?

-Lance

Dear Lance,

Do you stay with an otherwise perfect partner if the sex is bad?

My answer is – not surprisingly – a nuanced one: yes, and no.

It’s your responsibility to make the most of this burgeoning relationship before tossing in the proverbial sticky towel.

Yes, you stay with her, at least for the time being. It’s your responsibility to make the most of this burgeoning relationship before tossing in the proverbial sticky towel. It may be frustrating for you, but, if you’re like most guys, you’ve done the hot and crazy thing before. You know how that ends. And with you throwing around terms like “ideal companion” and “fun to be around,” you better give this girl the full benefit of the doubt.

To that end, you need to focus on things that you can control and let go of the things you can’t.

Take the orgasm thing, for example. Here’s some stats that my man (and my wife’s crush) Dr. Drew had to offer about the percentage of women who climax:

• 50-60% of women will never have an orgasm via intercourse and will require clitoral stimulation to climax.

• 30% of women will have a reliable orgasm with intercourse.

• 10% of women will orgasm with intercourse and could possibly have sequential orgasms.

• 5% of women have true multiple orgasms only through intercourse and these women typically find oral sex uncomfortable.

Other research, Lance, shows that 12-15% of women don’t have ANY orgasms. This linked study suggests that it’s genetic, but it may, in fact, be psychological as well.

The real question, then, becomes: why is it so important for you to make your girlfriend come? Ultimately, she’s the one who’s responsible for her own orgasm, and if unlocking that mystery isn’t a priority to her, there’s not much you can do about it. So let me ask you, my friend: does she ENJOY sex? Does she growl and moan and scratch and bite and make you feel like a man? Because if so, you can have a perfectly incredible sex life without having to say “I made her come five times”. Really. That’s just your ego talking.

This is where you really need to communicate with her – not as a finger-pointer, but as a problem solver.

However, because I know a little more about this situation, I know that it’s not just that she doesn’t climax – that’s just symbolic. The real issue is that she doesn’t provide any passion in the bedroom. She giggles when you dominate her and she doesn’t carry herself with the sex appeal to which you’re accustomed from previous (and admittedly toxic) girlfriends.

This is where you really need to communicate with her – not as a finger-pointer, but as a problem solver. It may not be easy for her to hear, because she will then feel very self-conscious and judged, but it is imperative to the health of your relationship. This is what makes sex questions such a quandary. You’ll spend 1% of the rest of your life having sex…but because theoretically, this is the ONLY person with whom you’ll be having it, you at least want to make sure it’s decent.

How do you quantify “decent” sex? Probably the same way you quantify “decent” chemistry. If you can find someone who stimulates you as a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1-10, and she’s also an “ideal companion”, I’d say that’s a relationship worth investing in. If you dump her, realize that the women with whom you had the best sex have, traditionally, NOT been the most reliable life partners. There IS a tradeoff.

But it doesn’t have to be SUCH a tradeoff.

Let her know that you want more passion in the bedroom – be very specific about what turns you on – and give her the opportunity to attempt to please you. Maybe you’ll awaken something in her. Maybe not. But at least you will not be giving up on the most promising relationship you’ve had in years without putting up a fight. Keep us posted.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Honey

    I am confused why the fact that she has not had an orgasm with any partner would make the issue psychological.

    It is easier to improve someone’s sexual skills than their ability to be a good companion, so I would try to talk about it with her. It’s also an excellent way to gauge how she will respond to ANY difficult issue in the future, which is important to know.

    Whether it’s ultimately psychological or physical, putting psychological pressure on her to come just so YOU can feel like the big man is not going to help anything. If her inability to orgasm was only physical to begin with, then now you’ve added a psychological component that will remain indefinitely, when if you’d kept things fun and no-pressure, maybe you wouldn’t found your way around the physical issues. If it was psychological to begin with, well, now you’ve compounded the issue.

  2. 2
    Michael

    Evan, you make it hard to comment because you get it so right.
    Like Honey, the main issue I take, um, issue with is the “it’s obviously psychological” thing. In my experience the biggest psychological problems are lack of creativity and lack of communication.
    Lance, #1, #2 and #3 on the list should be talking about what turns you on, and what turns her on. Honestly and openly. And if either of you can’t do what turns the other on and get to the point where bedroom time is fun (with or without orgasms, and yes, you CAN have fun without), then yes, it’s time to move on.

  3. 3
    Kenley

    I think that serious issues with sex can rarely be treated by just having a conversation or even reading books. I think you, as a couple, will need professional help. However, I don’t know if it really makes sense to take that option since you have only been seeing each other for 5 weeks.

    I know it is PC to say that each person is responsible for their own orgasm, but I’m not certain I agree with that idea in the context of a LTR. It seems to me that that sentiment throws the selfless concept which everyone seemed to like right out the window. How is it selfless to say, I’m gonna take of myself and you need to do the same? While I don’t feel “responsible” for my boyfriend’s orgasm, it is my pleasure for him to have one, and I don’t think that is my ego talking. If pleasing your partner is not an important part of sex, why bother having a partner at all? For some women, however, orgasm is not always the most important source of pleasure. Read “She Comes First” for more information.

    I do think there is one question that is critical which the OP didn’t address– has she EVER had an organism on her own. If she hasn’t, then she definfitely needs help because she doesn’t really even know what she likes. If she has had orgasms by herself, then I think she may be afraid to tell her partners what she likes. And, I don’t think she is alone in that regard. Some women are afraid to say what they like for fear of what her boyfriend may think of her.

    The notion that she hasn’t had an orgasm with another guy is a hard one. If, you ASKED her if she ever had an orgasm with another guy, it really is not in her best interest to say yes because then you are going feel bad. What if that guy had something that you don’t and never will have? What happens then? If on the other hand, she volunteered that information, I am more included to believe her. Still, she just might be saying that to safe guard your feelings.

    Sorry for rambling, but I don’t think this is an easy issue to solve. I suppose the question is what kind of guy are you? Do you have a desire to put in the hard work to improve your sex life (’cause I’m inclined to think it will be) or do you just want smooth sailing. If you are a smooth sailing kind of guy, then I think it’s probably best move on.

  4. 4
    Isabelle Archer

    Sex takes two people, so there is no way that you can say this is “not an issue with me.” What are you doing to make her feel good, that doesn’t have to do with the goal-oriented task of trying to get her to come? There is so much more to sex than orgasms that I tend to believe that they problem may be with you as much as with her. Do you kiss her? Hug her? Etc? Does she enjoy that? Why should this all be about what you like, and not what she likes?

    If she just doesn’t like anything at all, then that’s a whole nother thing.

    Another factor to consider is that if she’s had this “problem” with all her other boyfriends, she may have some pretty serious feelings of inadequacy that is affecting her. The ONLY way to get over this is for you to be 100% accepting of her, her body, where she is, and who she is, and just HAVE FUN. Judging her is not going to work.

  5. 5
    Jane

    Wow… complicated… sort of….
    I had a marriage and a baby but never an orgasm. One of my friends asked me if I satisfied myself…. which I had not so she suggested that I get to know my body and find out what it took to have an orgasm. There are a few books out there that help with this. One contemporary one is mentioned above in Kensley’s post: “She Comes First.” It took some effort but I eventually got my body to know how to have an orgasm. Changed my life because my new knowledge served me well in sex with my partner . Voila’– orgasms with intercourse.
    I love sex but I sure don’t always have to have orgasms. Sometimes it is nice to not have one so I can pay attention to other pleasures. Other times, an orgasm is all I want. I sure would not like feeling that I had to have an orgasm in order for my partner to gain enjoyment in our lovemaking.
    My current partner loves our sex life and we are quite active even though I sometimes am not interested in an orgasm. So,the question here is— is she into it? Does she show excitement, participation, sexiness in bed. Is she eager to lie down with you? If she does and you like it, let go of the orgasm thing or if she wants to learn and wants you to be the man she learns with, then help her. But– it should be fun!
    It sounds like she hasn’t trained her body yet. If she hasn’t or doesn’t want to learn, that is a different issue because we are made to have orgasms. 153 erogoneous zones aren’t for nothing. If that is the case, she and perhaps you with her need to get help.
    People are defensive about this topic. I had a boyfriend a few years back who had not one idea about how to please a woman and when I suggested we learn some things…. he said, “I just do what I do.” He was not interested in figuring it out. I wasn’t interested in going the rest of my life with no orgasms. And that was one of the reasons I broke it off. If he would have been willing to learn, I would have enjoyed being the partner he learned it with. I mention this only because I had to work up my courage to open the conversation. I wish you the courage you need.

  6. 6
    Honey

    FWIW, I’ve never had an orgasm from anything except a vibrator. We’ve found ways for my boyfriend to be involved in my orgasms despite not being the actual cause of them. And the reason that he’s really the only guy I’ve felt comfortable using it in front of him (and the reason I think I won’t “need” it forever to have one) is because he never, ever, for one second made me feel like “it was psychological” or that he would ever think poorly of me in any way because of the things that I require to have an orgasm.

    He also says that based on his experience he puts me in the 50th percentile as far as how difficult it is for me to come, which means that fully half of the not-insignificant, totally normal number of women he’s slept with had a harder time than me.

    This letter sounds like if she was having multiples you’d be a proud peacock, but since she’s not having any it’s her problem. That’s a classic case of having an internal locus of control when you experience a positive outcome and a negative locus of control when you experience a negative outcome. Given that everything else is so great, why would you absolve yourself of any responsibility in improving this issue?

  7. 7
    marc

    If she’s making you feel like she’s doing you a favor by having sex with you, and is unwilling to make an effort to enjoy sex, then I’d say she’s gotta go. Otherwise, she sounds too good to lose.

  8. 8
    Steve

    Whether it’s ultimately psychological or physical, putting psychological pressure on her to come just so YOU can feel like the big man is not going to help anything. If her inability to orgasm was only physical to begin with, then now you’ve added a psychological component that will remain indefinitely,

    Inverting the gender we get

    Whether it’s ultimately psychological or physical, putting psychological pressure on him to get an erection just so YOU can feel desirable is not going to help anything. If his inability to achieve an erection was only physical to begin with, then now you’ve added a psychological component that will remain indefinitely,

  9. 9
    Honey

    Yes, Steve, that’s true. Although my boyfriend’s failed to get hard on a variety of occasions, for a variety of reasons, and it’s never bothered me. Though he gets super upset about it…

  10. 10
    Honey

    Are there women out there who care if a guy can’t get it up every once in awhile? I’ve never heard of this. I mean, if he couldn’t get it up consistently and the woman had a really high sex drive I could see it being a problem, but that’s because her needs aren’t being met, not because she bases her self-image off his stiffy. Most women I know would be happy to receive oral sex instead, if the guy was experiencing technical difficulties.

  11. 11
    Janet

    I believe that the biggest cause of problems btw men and women are the differences in how we experience sex and our ignorance about how it is for the other side.

    Men get aroused and come quickly–in about 7 minutes ; women take at least 30 minutes (acc to one source). Men have one orgasm and experience a sudden drop in energy (fall asleep); women can have multiples (I do, but it’s not the big deal it’s made out to be) and have orgasms of different intensities (vaginal is way different from clitoral) and may get more energized (awake) as the lovemaking progresses. Young men, who pursue young women without little thought beyond the orgasm, believe that these young women come in the same way that they do (easily, quickly, and through intercourse). Young women believe that young men know all about sex and how to make them come and are horrified, shocked, and disappointed when they discover that sex with these young men seems to be all about the man’s orgasm (he thinks that she’s having one because he’s having one), with little thought for the consequences (pregnancy being the big fear; he assumes she’s on the pill because isn’t sex just about having a good orgasm and a good time and isn’t getting pregnant her problem/buzzkill?). He pursues her just for sexbecause he thinks their enjoyment in the play is equal; she thinks he’s pursuing her so ardently in the quest for a relationship because who’d go to all the trouble for that?

    Women at some point notice that he is having a much better time than she is, and she is bearing all the responsibility/risk. She also notices that, for various historically entrenched reasons, her ability to get pregnant puts her in a precarious position regarding the world of work, meaning, she has to make decisions about how child-rearing will play into her life/career plans since she’s going to be doing all the work; he just has to find someone who’ll do all the work FOR him. She always has to be on her guard because getting pregnant is probably the biggest, most unpredictable (no, she doesn’t have a crystal ball to tell her when any one act of intercourse will result in pregnancy, as guys seem to believe) life-altering thing that will ever happen to her. But hey, he’s having a heck of a good time, and he’s got certain survival advantages (a leg up in the job market) that she doesn’t, so it’s only fair that he hand something over to take care of the discrepancies in their respective situations re: sex.

    The solution: If guys slow down and learn how the female body works, give her a good time in bed, and take responsibility for safe sex, no woman will ever make you “pay” (for dates, a divorce, her jewelry, etc.) If women tap into their oceanic sexual responsiveness and show the guys how it can be, making sure to leave him in a dear, sleepy heap afterwards, you will have everything you want.

  12. 12
    Steve

    The solution: If guys …

    Hmmm, yes, it is always the other person’s problem

  13. 13
    Janet

    @10: I love technical difficulties!! They present a very wonderful seduction opportunity. The trick is to slow way, way down and take the pressure off–talk about something else.

    And Honey, I just LOVE your willingness to talk about your sexual experience!!! Really, more women need to hear this. For women who think they are anorgasmic, vibrators are a great tool (pun intended). They’re also quite a lot of fun for any gal. :)

  14. 14
    Honey

    @ Steve, #12 – not sure who you are responding to here, but if it’s me, well…I wouldn’t demand oral sex, either, but if the guy a) was physically unable to have intercourse consistently (regardless of the cause) and b) wasn’t willing to have oral sex instead, I’d certainly wonder why he was dating me :-)

    @ Janet – I have this theory that every time you are scared to confess to something because you’ve never heard anyone else say it, that means that over half of the people you know struggle with that very issue and are too afraid to say anything about it, either. So then we all walk around feeling terrible about things that can be changed, and to me that’s sad! Just yesterday my boyfriend said, “Sometimes, when you say you like a particular book or movie or tv show, I find myself finding reasons to hate it even though I either don’t hate it or don’t even know what it is.” I was like, “sometimes I feel that way too!” It led to a great discussion about compromise in general and ways that we can introduce each other to the things we enjoy in a way that makes it exciting and not a power struggle.

  15. 15
    Karl R

    Steve, (#8)
    I would say that’s reasonably accurate.

    I always get an erection, but I don’t always orgasm. (I’ve had a couple girlfriends who didn’t orgasm every time either.) I can’t point to a singular cause for this, but I have identified some contributing factors (in order of importance):

    1. How long since my last orgasm
    2. Am I wearing a condom
    3. Her participation / technique
    4. My state of mind
    5. Am I drunk
    6. Am I healthy

    If the woman gets angry or insecure when I don’t orgasm, then my state of mind is going to become an issue on a regular basis. If the woman doesn’t worry about my lack of an an orgasm, then my state of mind is less frequently an issue.

    I’ll try to ensure that both of us have an orgasm. But I’m more concerned with whether we both had fun. If either one of us is upset because our partner didn’t orgasm, that’s going to kill the fun for both of us.

  16. 16
    Michael

    @ Steve: Women definitely don’t hang nearly as much self-esteem on our erections as we do on their orgasms. (In fact, I would say that men hang more self-esteem on their erections too!) The only way you can “invert” this is that both men and women are frequently guilty of a lack of, shall we say, creativity.

    The moment the phrase “I just don’t know what else I can do” pops up, the problem is most likely with the one saying it. There’s always something more you can do. God gave men tongues and fingers for a reason. There are books and stores full of equipment, costumes, etc. that might help.

    Talk and find out NOT what gets her off, but what makes her feel good. What are her fantasies? Has she ever seen anything in a movie that got her excited? The worst possible thing a guy can do is pursue her orgasm like a Navy SEAL on a search-and-destroy mission. Instead, pursue FUN and make her feel awesome even without an orgasm. Then if one happens, even better!

  17. 17
    Kenley

    I think women do hang a lot of self esteem on a man’s erection. Why else breast implants, high heels, sexy lingerie, etc. Also, from my own personal experience, being with a man who consistently doesn’t have an orgasm also made me feel bad…not angry, but inept. It turns out the cause for my guy was stress, but before we understood why, it was very distressing to me because that had never happened before. And it wasn’t about ego. It was about feeling helpless and sad that he couldn’t do what was typical. And believe you me, I was very creative. It just wasn’t happening for him.

  18. 18
    Ruby

    It seems to me that a piece of the puzzle is missing when the LW says that sex with his girlfriend is awful. From my perspective, awful sex would involve being with someone who isn’t into the act(s), who doesn’t show passion, who is selfish, inept and/or uptight, not simply someone who doesn’t have an orgasm. Perhaps his expectations are a bit unrealistic?

    This couple needs to start talking about what each one wants and needs to feel satisfied.

  19. 19
    shalini

    I think you are completely not taking any responsility for her not having an orgasm. It might just be that you need to focus on other things than that.
    From my own experience i had only had orgasm once in my live and that too alone. Not with any guy. It was not because it was psychological but because of all the pressure to have one!! He didn’t say it out loud. But its not difficult to get that you expect it. It kills that. It was not that i didn’t enjoy with him but the pressure to have orgasm kills it!! In fact i was starting to feel somethings wrong with me and started to feel bad about it.
    But then i broke up and met my next boy friend and had an orgarm when neither of us was working towards it or hadn’t even thought about that.
    If you think about it never happens. You have to just have fun. Just ask her what makes her feel good and do that. And tell her what will make you feel good and ask her to do that. Don’t think about the climax.

  20. 20
    shalini

    You should ask her if she has had an orgasm by herself. And if she has then i guess the only problem might be that you are both thinking too much about the climax taking all the fun out of it.

  21. 21
    Opinionated

    I find it quite amazing that when a man can’t be pleased in bed, he is quick to “dump” yet when a man can’t get it up or know what to do with it in the first place, most women will stick around & find all kinds of ways to improve the sex.
    Advice to you would be that if the girl is that great & that ideal, then instead of ugh, you would try & find ways to handle the sex… Ever thought that men like you who are so quick to dump her might be the reason that she’s still in the no orgasm slump? Do you not think women have performance anxiety?
    Rise above the rest, & find ways to talk to her or to find out why this is the case, it may boil down to a case of being comfortable to have fun but not so comfortable when it comes to sex.
    Women aren’t really that complicated if you just take a little longer to understand the issues…
    I had an ex who called me a prude! Why? Simply because he’d slept around with all the slutty girls from the age he knew what to do with his penis… I was not comfortable with the sex or how he treated me. My current bf reckons he hasn’t had better & appreciates me & we talk about the sex and how to make it better, what works, what doesnt… he’s my second & he hasn’t been around town himself.
    Communication is a great tool, learn how to use that first….

  22. 22
    Helen

    Jane #5 and Janet #11: THANK YOU.

    That’s why I love this blog. I love people who will speak honestly about their experiences, even ones as personal as sex. Thank you for speaking up about the things so many of us are afraid to say.

  23. 23
    Selena

    Great points Ruby. That has been my experience as well.

    Gotta wonder why he would describe the sex as *awful* just because she doesn’t orgasm. Seems like there must be more to it than that – unless it really is a psychological issue (ego) on his part.

  24. 24
    happygirl

    Read all the responses…
    @Ruby your last sentence says it all :
    This couple needs to start talking about what each on wants and needs to feel satisfied.

    I can from my own experience say that I do not have an orgasm all the time. Does that mean I do not enjoy my sexlife? I definitely enjoy it. I need to be relaxed. If for me having to have an orgasm becomes the main focus , then I feel like I am under pressure.
    The result is that I can’t have one. It is true that it helps when men slow down, take their time.

    To me it does not sound like all avenue’s are explored. It would be a shame to end this relationship without trying to spice things up.
    It would also be unfair to compare her with other partners he had in the past. I would say explore together!!!

  25. 25
    Janet

    Steve @12: My comment was about using empathy and imagination to get into another person’s situation. It’s not about assigning blame and attributing a “problem” to someone else. Read it again.

  26. 27
    Steve

    @Honey #14.

    I wasn’t, I quoted a line from Janet’s post #11 ( not referring to her specifically either ).

    I quoted as an example of women, as a group, having the tendency to look to men for the solutions for their problems. If I was with a number of women and did not have an orgasm I would see the solution to that problem being with me — not women in general.

  27. 28
    Janet

    This whole line of discussion is making me laugh, and I am very happy that EMK posted the stats and the story they tell. I am sure that many guys are shocked when they finally get it that sex is not the same experience for women as it is for them.

    When I was in my 20s/early 30s I had many, many boyfriends, and I thought they were incredibly selfish in bed. Then I realized with one guy one day–OMG, he thought that THAT was an orgasm!!! I switched the adjective from “selfish” to “ignorant.” And porn, with its very, very wrong representation of female sexual response, doesn’t help. (Another lightning bolt: OMG, he thinks THAT is going to give me an orgasm? Where did he get THAT idea?!)

    Of course, I kept all of those “OMG moments” to myself. I wasn’t going to teach anyone anything–mostly for the reasons that Honey states–nobody was talking about it, and the guys would just whip out some guy-oriented porn flick or sex literature as the great authority on the female sexual experience. And it “worked” with all of his other girlfriends (or so he thought), so….

    Which brings us back to the “there is something wrong with you [the woman] psychologically.” (We can have a big discussion here about Freud’s ignorance and the damage he did and the thoroughly insulting term “frigid,” but let’s not.)

    So it took me a long time to get to the point where I could instruct a guy about what works with me, and it had to be with a guy who was open and interested, and not one with his head in porn or who was listening to his buddies’ tips about what “worked” for them (or so they though). It’s hard to be “responsible” for your orgasm with an ignorant or judgmental guy. Which is why I applaud Honey’s forthrightness so much–she’s only 30 (correct?) and yet she’s telling it how it is with much more confidence than I had at her age. And sounds like she’s got a good lover, too!

    [Harry and Sally discussing orgasms]
    Sally Albright: Most women at one time or another have faked it.
    Harry Burns: Well, they haven’t faked it with me.
    Sally Albright: How do you know?
    Harry Burns: Because I know.
    Sally Albright: Oh. Right. Thats right. I forgot. You’re a man.
    Harry Burns: What was that supposed to mean?
    Sally Albright: Nothing. Its just that all men are sure it never happened to them and all women at one time or other have done it so you do the math.

  28. 29
    Janet

    Steve@26: Well, that’s all well and good if sex were a solitary affair. But it isn’t. It’s a situation where two people pleasure EACH OTHER. Otherwise it’s just masturbating together. (Which is also nice. :) )

  29. 30
    Joe

    Well, I don’t know what it is, but my most recent lover discovered that two techniques she thought never worked on her somehow started working when we started screwing. One of them was discovered fairly soon because it basically worked right away, the other I tried initially but stopped bothering with because she said she never came that way.

    So things you think don’t will ever happen–it’s not necessarily always going to be that way.

    And I agree with Karl’s list. I’d just add: sometimes it makes a difference how long we’ve been going at it, because the longer it goes, the more tired I get, and the less likely coming becomes (so to speak).

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