Savage Love

Savage Love: Come Again

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Dear Dan,

I'm a 35-year-old straight woman, recently married, and everything is great. But I have been having problems reaching orgasm. When we first started dating, I had them all the time. It was only after we got engaged that it became an issue. He is not doing anything differently, and he works hard to give me oral pleasure, last longer, and include more foreplay. He's sexy and attractive and has a great working penis. I am very aroused when we have sex, but I just can't climax. It is weird because I used to very easily, and still can when I masturbate. I have never been so in love before and I have definitely never been with a man who is so good to me. Honestly, all of my previous boyfriends did not treat me that well, but I never had a problem having orgasms. My husband is willing to do whatever it takes, but it's been almost a year since I came during vaginal intercourse! Is this just a temporary problem that will fix itself?

— My Orgasms Are Now Shy

"This is a temporary problem that will fix itself," said Dr. Meredith Chivers, an associate professor of psychology at Queen's University and a world-renowned sex researcher who has done — and is still doing — groundbreaking work on female sexuality, desire, and arousal.

"And here's why it will fix itself," said Dr. Chivers. "First, MOANS has enjoyed being orgasmic with her partner and previous partners. Second, even though she's had a hiatus in orgasms through vaginal intercourse, she is able to have orgasms when masturbating. Third, she describes no concerns with becoming sexually aroused physically and mentally. Fourth, MOANS has a great relationship, has good sexual communication, and is sexually attracted to her partner. Fifth, what she's experiencing is a completely normal and expected variation in sexual functioning that probably relates to stress."

The orgasms you're not having right now — orgasms during PIV sex with your husband — the lack of which is causing you stress? Most likely the result of stress, MOANS, so stressing out about the situation will only make the problem worse.

"I wonder if the background stress of a big life change — getting married is among the top 10 most stressful life events — might be distracting or anxiety-provoking," said Dr. Chivers. "Absolutely normal if it were."

Distracting, anxiety-provoking thoughts can also make it harder to come.

"Being able to have an orgasm is about giving yourself over to pleasure in the moment," said Dr. Chivers. "Research on brain activation during orgasm suggests that a key feature is deactivation in parts of the brain associated with emotion and cognitive control. So difficulties reaching orgasm can arise from distracting, anxiety-provoking thoughts that wiggle their way in when you're really aroused, maybe on the edge, but just can't seem to make it over. They interfere with that deactivation."

Dr. Chivers's advice will be familiar to anyone with a daughter under the age of 12: Let it go.

"Let go of working toward vaginal orgasm during sex," Dr. Chivers advised. "Take vaginal orgasm off the table for at least a month — you're allowed to do other things and come other ways, just not through vaginal-penile intercourse. Instead of working toward the goal of bringing back your vaginal orgasm, enjoy being with your sexy husband and experiment with other ways of sharing pleasure, and if the vaginal orgasms don't immediately come back, oh well. There are, fortunately, many roads to Rome. Enjoy!"

My advice? Buy some stress-busting pot edibles if you're lucky enough to live in a state that has legal weed, MOANS, or make your own if you live in a suck-ass state that doesn't. And tell your husband to stop trying so hard —if his efforts are making you feel guilty, that's going to be hugely counterproductive. Good luck!

Follow Dr. Chivers on Twitter @DrMLChivers.

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