I Don't Orgasm During Sex & It Doesn't Bother Me Anymore

Photographed by Erika Bowes.
I didn't orgasm the first time I had sex, but it wasn't long after – maybe the sixth or seventh attempt. I remember that shag in a lot of detail: the crisp, clean linen of someone else's parents' bed, the jeans hastily discarded on the floor, and the exact way I wrapped my legs around my boyfriend, guiding him to thrust at the perfect angle to get me off. Having braced myself to expect sex that was awkward, boring or downright painful, the realisation that it could be as climactic as masturbation was a welcome revelation.
But I don't come when I'm having sex anymore. At least, not often. If I try really hard, and focus intensely, use powerful sex toys or give my partner detailed instructions then maybe. Orgasms are possible in the same way that climbing Snowdon is possible: I'm so busy trying that there's no time to appreciate the view, or revel in the journey, or ask myself if I'm really enjoying this.
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After that first mid-sex orgasm, I found it easy to come during penetrative sex. I used to tell partners that I had a 'knack' for it, and if I angled myself right and clenched in the perfect way, I could easily get off before they did. I was lucky. Until, one day, I wasn't.
Anorgasmia can be a fairly common side-effect of SSRIs (aka antidepressants), which I was prescribed when my doctor diagnosed me with severe anxiety. A couple of weeks after I started taking them, my clit began feeling numb and I struggled even to masturbate, let alone orgasm during sex. I don't resent the pills – they calmed my anxiety and gave me the breathing space I needed to seek longer-term help through therapy. But they also stole my orgasm, and I was determined to get it back.
In the first few weeks of trying to reclaim my orgasm, I focused on masturbation, using sex toys to relearn what worked for my body. Powerful wands like Doxy became my go-to staple, and experimenting with vibration patterns dragged me out of the numb world I'd been living in and towards orgasms I could have on my own. These days I also recommend toys like Zumio for really pinpoint stimulation, and changing your vibrator (to a new pattern or a new toy) occasionally to give yourself a bit of variety.
It took weeks to get there but when I managed to orgasm again, I practically ran celebration laps around the bedroom. But sex was a trickier problem.
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When I had sex and I didn't come, I felt guilty. I knew it wasn't my fault, my partner knew it wasn't my fault, and yet for some reason my brain kept telling me that I was useless and broken. It would be hard enough to deal with if this had hit me 10 years ago, but now I'm a sex blogger – sex isn't just my hobby, it's my job. I have literally written articles about the 'orgasm gap' – so if the sex I'm having doesn't get me off, am I a total fraud?

The sex I enjoy the most is the sex that's least likely to result in orgasm in the first place. My favourite shags are BDSM-focused. I like getting spanked, choked and used. Missionary sex might make me come, but it doesn't give me the satisfaction I really want.

There are two things to tackle here, I think: the sex itself, then the guilt. Sex-wise, I began by taking myself back to that first ever penetrative orgasm, and relearned the 'knack' of getting the perfect mental focus and physical angle. I talked my partner through the technique – slow, firm strokes in the missionary position, with plenty of contact between his pubic mound and my clit, with my hands on his bum to guide him. Then it was just a question of focusing – with my eyes closed and my vagina clenched around him – and trying to picture the waves of orgasm starting to radiate up and down my body from my crotch.
Sex toys played their part here, too. We discovered a powerful vibrating cock ring so I could get clit stim at the same time as penetration. We got reacquainted with all my vibrators and picked a couple that are powerful enough to get me to orgasm and small enough that they can be wielded comfortably during sex. I gave my partner a workshop (or two, or three, or... okay, loads – we were having fun!) on how I wank, and he learned to copy the basic moves and maintain the speed and pressure I needed.
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As we worked through this, I had a revelation: I'd felt guilty for not coming during sex but the sex I enjoy the most is actually the sex that's least likely to result in orgasm in the first place. I'm a kinky submissive, and my favourite shags are BDSM-focused. I like getting spanked, choked and used. I like shagging in the doggy position, or bent over the nearest sofa. This firm, steady missionary sex might make me come, but it doesn't give me the satisfaction I really want.
We hear a lot today about the 'orgasm gap' – the fact that women orgasm far less frequently than men in heterosexual relationships – and it is an important issue. But we need to be wary of internalising blame if orgasms don't come easily. If you want to orgasm from penetration, by all means pick up some sex toys, communicate with your partner and have a go at some of the things I've mentioned above. But let's not replace old heteronormative ideas about sex – that it only 'counts' if it's penis-in-vagina, and it's over at the moment of ejaculation – with another, equally dodgy one: that sex is only 'good' if both of you manage to come.
I came to a decision: if my body can no longer orgasm from the kind of sex I enjoy, I'd rather lose the orgasm than the sex.
Nowadays after my partner has treated me to a bout of particularly dominant sex – moaning and slapping and hair-pulling and other stuff I live for – I'll often disappear to finish myself off. He'll put the kettle on for a post-sex brew, and I'll put my hoodie on for the cold run upstairs to masturbate.
Losing my orgasm made me feel broken, guilty and ashamed. But in the process of trying to regain it, I was forced to consider what kind of sex I genuinely enjoyed. I realised that while I could capture my elusive orgasm if I really put some work in, the kind of sex I really liked didn't hinge on orgasms at all. By ditching the guilt and just focusing on enjoyment, I've had far more sex that makes me genuinely happy. And it's hot enough to store in my wank bank, which is handy for orgasms later...
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