I am a 23-year-old female, sexually active for seven years, and I can't reach climax. I am extremely frustrated. I have a wonderfully patient and helpful partner. He has tried hard to no avail. I can't even get myself there. I feel like I am broken. My partner and I talk out anything that is bothering me, we try different things, but no matter what the situation, I can never reach orgasm. When I went off birth control, I brought up to my doctor that I had never had an orgasm, and she told me that female orgasms are largely a mental thing. She suggested I try using fantasy, which was not new to me.
Other than this, my partner and I have a healthy sex life. I don't know what to do from here. I start to wonder if there is something wrong with me.
Frustrated Annoyed Person
"FAP certainly shouldn't feel bad that she doesn't have a handle on a phenomenon that even sex researchers don't properly understand," said Tracy Clark-Flory, who writes informed, fascinating, and sometimes hilarious pieces about sex, dating, and relationships for Salon.com. "In fact, she might be relieved to learn that scientists of all stripes have been struggling for decades to determine why the female orgasm even exists in the first place."
You might also be relieved to learn about one theory that's making the rounds, FAP, or... you might not.
"It's called the 'byproduct' theory," says Clark-Flory, "and it might help make FAP feel less broken."
Here comes da science:
"Evolutionary selection has hugely favored the male orgasm, for obvious reasons," explains Clark-Flory, the most obvious being that males who can't come aren't going to have many descendants. "The byproduct theory goes that since females share the same embryological origins of pleasure-friendly nerves and tissues as males, women are physically capable of climaxing as well. In this view, the female orgasm is an evolutionary hand-me-down — or, more cynically, lukewarm leftovers."
In other words...
Every little zygote, so beloved by the GOP base, has all the basic parts needed to build either a male or a female baby who, once born, the GOP base could not care less about. Blasts of hormones transform those pleasure-friendly nerves and tissues — nerves and tissues beloved by the GOP base so long as they remain in the uterus — into either boy junk or girl junk. Backers of the byproduct theory believe that women are capable of having orgasms not because women need to have orgasms, but because female junk is built from the same component parts as male junk. Women can have orgasms because men must.
"At first, I found this theory terribly off-putting," says Clark-Flory, "but I would encourage FAP to think about it differently, as I eventually did."
Viewing the female orgasm as an "evolutionary freebie," Clark-Flory continues, "can actually validate the vast range of women's orgasmic experiences, as Elisabeth Lloyd, author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, has argued. This means a multiorgasmic woman is just as 'normal' as an orgasmless one, a lady who comes from a single flick of the finger is just as 'healthy' as one who requires 45 minutes with her Hitachi Magic Wand set on high."
So you're not "broken," FAP, even if you're not orgasmic.
Clark-Flory doesn't think you should give up all hopes of ever experiencing an orgasm — nor do I! — but she thinks you should stop trying so hard and stressing so much.
"When women have a difficult time getting there, it can be helpful to take the finish line away," says Clark-Flory. "At the risk of sounding woo-woo, I would suggest that she slow down and focus on feeling individual sensations. She'll be most likely to come when she forgets her worries about all that she isn't feeling and simply enjoys what she does feel."
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