Jul 272011
 

I’ve had a surprising theme in my conversations with various people lately: not wanting orgasm.

Mostly these have been folks – both people with penises and people with vaginas – who desire sex with some frequency, but desire orgasm with LESSER frequency. They say,

“I just really love making my partner come.”

Or

“I just really love penetration.”

Or

“Orgasm is hard work for me, but sex by itself is really pleasurable!”

Or

“If I come, it’s over. I want it to last.”

To these people, let me say: Yes, you are normal. Orgasm varies from person to person and there are plenty of excellent sources of pleasure from sex that don’t involve orgasm. In many ways, your sexual desire might be MORE functional and healthy than the mainstream orgasm-focused sex we’re all supposed to be having, according to Cosmo.

To their partners let me say: Yes, your partner is normal. It’s not only possible to want sex without orgasm, it’s perfectly healthy. And at the same time, your greater (or more concordant) desire for orgasm is also perfectly healthy. You’re just different.

It’s not a man/woman thing, it’s not a male/female thing. People just vary. It’s one of those things.

Now, orgasm is a limited resource over which power conflicts can emerge. If Partner A has an orgasm, they often want Partner B to have one too. It seems fair. Orgasm takes effort and trust and intimacy and often skill, and if Partner A experiences Partner B as “withholding” orgasm, Partner A may begin to feel like there’s an imbalance. They may feel controlled. They may begin to feel a bit bitter.

Is it possible your partner is deliberately withholding orgasm in order to have control? Sure. If that is what’s happening, then there are OTHER issues in your relationship than just the orgasms, and my suggestion would be to focus on those.

But if not… what is the helpful way of giving the advice, “Let it go”?

Insight can go a long way – i.e., recognizing that you feel controlled by your partner when they aren’t remotely trying to make you feel that way, so now you get to decide what to do with that information. But often people get stuck here and I genuinely don’t know what to tell people past this point.

I bet if I ask nicely, some commenters will have suggestions?

Commenters? Pretty please?

Emily Nagoski

  11 Responses to “desire for sex, not necessarily orgasm”

Comments (10) Pingbacks (1)
  1. I might have further reflections after thinking about this a bit … but the thing I thought of immediately is Heather Corinna’s fabulous essay Disability Dharma which talks about learning how to be sexual/sensual with your partner even when what they or you want from sex isn’t whatever the model in your head says you “should” want from sexytimes. I feel like everyone in a sexual relationship should read and re-read this essay once a month, just to remind themselves that infinite variation is really where the human organism is at!

  2. On my blog I have recommended that people engage in slow motion sex in the morning with neither partner achieving orgasm. I tell them to concentrate on how good it feels and to be extra loving and embracing and fondling and just enjoying being TOGETHER. It is a great way to start off the day and invevitably leads to thinking about it all day and many times you can’t wait to get home that evening and have a real hot and heavy session with your partner.
    Blessings on all who read on here
    John

  3. Thanks Emily! It’s a huge turn-off when a partner’s desire to make you come crosses the line from everybody having fun to some sort of performance where the sex isn’t good enough until your body does something that maybe, today, it doesn’t want to do. It’s lose-lose…..you don’t want an orgasm and your partner’s insistence that you have one ensures that you absolutely won’t.
    How to make a partner see this? I haven’t figured that one out. The worst part is that this issue usually comes up mid-sex, so you either just grudgingly go with it or have to interrupt intercourse to have this discussion about how yes, you really do mean that you don’t want an orgasm, for real.

  4. maybe it’s just my naivety and inexperience talking here, but if what is at stake is control and vulnerability and trust, then maybe they could do some kinky activities that express/enact/dramatize/enbody these? Maybe the non-orgasing partner is unable to orgasm, but they are allright with making themselves vulnerable in other ways.

  5. My partner and I have always been imbalanced and it was early in our relationship that she told me that sometimes she just wasn’t going to get an orgasm. The trouble that a lot of people seem to have, and certainly that seemed a bit of sticking point for us is: When is sex over if there are no clear markers like an orgasm? We worked it out, we have our own rhythms and I doubt that would help any other couple, but a little communication and some attention to response has done well by us.

  6. > what is the helpful way of giving the advice, “Let it go”? <

    How about gently telling your partner it's ok, I'm not in the mood for orgasm, but I still want to be intimate with you?

    • I was going to say that there are some people who don’t accept that and complain about their partner’s lack of orgasm as damaging to THEIR self-esteem, but I suppose such people are also probably dealing with more deep, underlying problems than whether their partner is orgasming.

  7. E: “I genuinely don’t know what to tell people past this point.”

    It’s always good to recognize the limits of one’s expertise, and to say so, maybe referring the person on to someone who can better deal with the issue.

  8. You may not realize that some people enjoy forgoing orgasm simply because doing so over the course of the day – or several days, or even longer – feels like long, drawn out foreplay. For some of us, that constant arousal is almost (or just as) pleasurable as the orgasm, and without the sudden drop-off in arousal that usually happens afterward.

    Several of the online adult shops have noted that chastity devices (especially the ones meant for men) have become major selling items after the dildoes, vibrators, and insertables. How ironic that after items that are associated with helping women to have orgasms, the next most popular are items that prevent men from having them.

    I realize that this may be out of the scope of what you were writing about, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. As men get older, the hormonal drive to mate with anything with some curves lessens a bit, and it becomes easier to allow our brains to function. When we lose the ability to get aroused several times in one night, it becomes more important for us to enjoy the sensual aspect of sexuality.

  9. Great post.I agree about you!

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