Good things come

Sex and relationships columnist Hattie Gladwell explains what happened when she lost the ability to orgasm

6th June 2019

For three years, I lost the ability to orgasm. And it sucked.

I was in a long-term relationship and though at the start our sex life was great, after a couple of years it fizzled out to almost nothing. I’m not completely sure what happened, but he stopped wanting to have sex with me. As I’ve written about before, it got to the point where I would have to outright ask him for sex because initiating it wouldn’t work and I’d been rejected so many times I couldn’t muster the courage to try again.

Asking was just as humiliating and often the answer would be “no”. But the rejection didn’t just affect my mental health or the way I felt about myself, but my ability to enjoy sex, too.

When we did have sex — which was usually on a special occasion such as Valentine’s Day or an anniversary — I didn’t enjoy it, because it felt forced. From being told “no” so many times, it felt like when we did have sex, we were doing it for the sake of it. Because we felt like we had to. And therefore, it affected my mentality during what was supposed to be an intimate time.

I had no problem climaxing at the start. I could do it multiple times, in fact. But over those three years, I stopped being able to at all. No matter how hard I tried. Of course, sex isn’t all about orgasming but, as our sex lost intimacy, my goal was to get something out of it.

I started watching porn pretty much daily. It was a relief

During the sexless relationship — which I am no longer in — I started to watch porn to “relieve” myself. No pressure, no feelings of false intimacy, no forcefulness. Watching porn was the one way I could get off. When I was younger, I would use my imagination — but after years of a non-existent sex life, there wasn’t much in my memory to look back on to help me get off.

I started watching porn pretty much daily. It was a relief for me. I wouldn’t say I was watching it for the sake of it or because I was addicted to orgasming but because if I was getting off that way, not having sex wasn’t as much of a big deal to me. I didn’t have to humiliate myself by practically begging someone to be with me intimately.

Porn can be a hidden crutch for many people 📷 Jaran Gjerland Stenstad Soldatnytt

It became so normalised for me that I didn’t see watching porn as a problem until this relationship ended and I got into a new one four months later.

At the start of my new relationship, we were having sex all the time. Non-stop. And I really enjoyed it. It was amazing to be reminded of what it’s like when someone really wants you physically. It was something I’d not felt for a long time.

But there was one problem: I couldn’t come. It would feel amazing and the connection was great and he was great. He wasn’t doing anything wrong — he was doing everything right. It was me. I realised that I could no longer orgasm without porn.

I told myself that I needed to put a stop to this

I needed some sense of visual stimulation to get me going. I realised this when I decided to watch porn as a test to myself after having sex and not being able to get off, and realising it had only taken a couple of minutes of porn to get me there.

I actually convinced myself that I’d never be able to come again through sex or foreplay. I was worried that the only time I’d be able to get actual sexual satisfaction was through porn. And that needed to change.

I told myself that I needed to put a stop to this. While the sex was amazing, I wanted to be able to “get there” with him. Not only for myself but because I wanted to show him how much I was really enjoying sex with him.

Watching porn was about visual stimulation. I needed to learn to be stimulated without it

Over the space of three months, I stopped watching porn altogether. At first, I still couldn’t come at all during sex. Even though I wasn’t watching porn. And a part of me wanted to give in and just stick some on for the sake of it. But I decided not to because if I broke the determination, I’d have to start all over again.

First I started with myself. While alone in my bedroom, I decided to try to make myself come. Without porn. I laid there, in the dark, in my bed, and I forced myself to use my imagination — at least now I had experiences to think back on. I tried for ten minutes and nothing happened. With porn, it would have been over in under five minutes.

I stopped because I was getting frustrated and I tried again the next day.

I decided not to put so much pressure on myself this time. I told myself that if I came, I came, and if I didn’t, I could try again. Telling myself this allowed me to enjoy it more and, after half an hour, I finally got there.

It felt like a part of me had come back to life

This was a revelation to me — it had been so long since I’d got off without visual stimulation. And it felt like a part of me had come back to life.

This didn’t immediately lead to orgasming during sex as I continued to do it in private until I felt more comfortable and knew what I liked. But after a few sessions, I moved it to the bedroom with my partner.

I’d never been totally open about what I liked in bed. I think this is because for so long sex with my ex-partner was forced and therefore we didn’t really talk about what made us tick. But I decided to sit down with my boyfriend and explain to him what works for me. And he listened and made an effort to do so.

It’s also opened me up more in the bedroom and allowed me to be honest about what I like sexually

I’m still unable to orgasm through penetrative sex but I know I’m not alone in that, as many women struggle to do so. But after much trial and error, I can now do so through foreplay. And I’ve got so comfortable with my body and knowing what I like that I can actually do it every time now, which is liberating for me. And knowing that I can do it so often has made it easier for me to do so. Because even if sometimes it takes longer than others, I don’t feel the pressure to come, because I now know that it will happen when it happens.

I haven’t watched porn in months now and I don’t plan on ever going back. Not only have I learned to orgasm once again, but I feel like the natural sexual side has come back to life. It’s also opened me up more in the bedroom, and allowed me to be honest about what I like sexually which has, in turn, made me more confident both in the bedroom and in myself. I’ve learned that talking about sex is important and the best sex comes from an open conversation about what works for you both.

6th June 2019