Q: I really enjoy having sex with my new boyfriend, but we’re having a really hard time because he never has an orgasm with me and it’s really starting to bother me. He says he can only orgasm when he’s alone and it really stops whatever we’re doing because giving a man an orgasm is really important to me and I feel like shit because of it. Is there something wrong with him? With me? How common is this? What’s going on?
A: Pretty common, so let me reassure you that you are not alone.
Let me borrow from an article by Rachel Kramer Bussel for a second here:
Defined as “the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse,” ED affects nearly 30 million men in the United States (though a 2007 study put the figure at 18 million), according to data from the National Institutes of Health. Doctors have anecdotally reported an increasing number of young male patients. Regardless, “When it’s persistent and consistent, it’s extremely likely to have biological factors” regardless of age, says Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and the director of San Diego Sexual Medicine. The cause of erectile dysfunction can also be psychological. For instance, if a man can get an erection on his own but not with a partner, then his ED is more likely to be rooted in performance anxiety or a deeper psychological issue.
And, you know what? He may very well be gay to some extent and cannot achieve climax with a woman. If you suspect that to be the case on any level, then I would suggest directly asking him in a non-confrontational way. This is a really good time for gay people to come out since there are more support networks every day. But whether you think he is or not, talk about what the two of you are doing in the bedroom, what you would like to see happen, what your fantasies are, and then ask him the same things. See what he says.
Alright, back to your question.
Typical health issues that cause problems in the bedroom for men include:
- Suffering from depression
- Erectile dysfunction
- Premature ejaculation
- Low testosterone levels
- Work-related stress
- Relationship-related stress
- Different sex drives/schedules
- You’re moving too fast/not enough time for arousal
Ruling out health issues, your guy could be experiencing something called “idiosyncratic masturbation” which is when a guy begins masturbating and develops a unique style or touch, something that “works” and causes him to orgasm regularly. In other words, your guy has trained himself to orgasm a certain way. More males under the age of 50 are experience this, and I think the reason it is so common is because of the availability of pornography on the Internet. Guys and girls are wiring their brains for sexual response that doesn’t happen in most bedrooms.
I think it’s really hopeful that he says he can orgasm when he’s alone – that’s promising. If he wasn’t orgasming at all, then I would say he needs to go to a physician immediately and talk about what’s going on with an expert.
The down side? Your boyfriend is correct – it’s a solo project. Idiosyncratic masturbation is not conducive to being touched by a partner, manually or sexually. Your touch, grip, speed, body, rhythm and pressure may be all the rage with other boys, but your guy has trained himself to respond a certain way and you (and your body) just aren’t going to work for him. He’s not able to reach the arousal threshold with someone else that he has trained himself to be at alone in order to climax.
Notice I said this is an issue for guys and girls? Women are doing the same thing. A survey conducted by London’s Daily Mail newspaper revealed that 96% of women have viewed porn with a partner, and 55% watch porn alone “at least once a month.” 9% say they watch porn “every day.” Once you factor in the role of vibrators (which, for the record, no man will ever be able to compete with) and learned masturbatory practices, women experience a form of idiosyncratic sexual response as well, making it difficult (or impossible) for their partner to sexual satisfy them.
So yeah. This is way more common than anyone wants to admit.
Long story short – Yes. This can be fixed. This is not a permanent thing. But it will take some work on his part to reset his body and rewire his sexual response.
My first suggestion is to buy a Fleshlight or another vagina-like sex toy. Let me as direct as possible: the goal here is simple. He needs to experience an orgasm that is not produced by direct manual stimulation (i.e. by his hands). Many guys who use the Fleshlight do so for “stamina training” to resolve premature ejaculation. While that doesn’t sound like the exact issue you and the Mister are dealing with right now, Fleshlights have been getting attention over the last two years as more men admit to using them and are sharing the benefits that they have experienced. One of those benefits is weaning them off of direct stimulation and conditioning their sexual response to – again, I’m being blunt – have an orgasm apart from their own hand. It is still a form of masturbation, but your goal here is to “break up” the coupling of his hand and his penis. The brain is wired to both give (through the hand) and receive (through the penis) pleasure and what you’re essentially doing is – through time and experience – wiring the brain to receive pleasure in new ways.
Full disclosure: My next suggestion is controversial but is used frequently in the kink community and by Sex Addicts Anonymous. It takes time, is not easy, and is controversial for many people. The question here is do you really want to work on this? Or do you want to spend the rest of your relationship miserable?
Let me get the extreme example out of the way by explaining something that happens in the kink community and then we’ll work backwards, okay? Bear with me for a second, I’m trying to shock you.
Some fetishists participate in a sexual activity called “chastity” or “denial” where sexual release is delayed by either psychological or physical restraint. Yes, I’m talking about a chastity cage or what is more commonly called a “chastity device.” Most people think of a “cage” for men and a “chastity device” for women, since they take different shapes, sizes, and accommodations. Essentially, what happens is that most people will either have sex or will masturbate to alleviate sexual tension or frustration. Someone with a chastity or denial fetish takes that release out of the equation entirely by restraining their partner or being restrained themselves. Now, instead of release, those “needs” begin to build up and the body becomes more responsive. A dominant partner “denies” their submissive the ability to orgasm and, in just a few days, the submissive partner is on pins and needles, ready to have an orgasm for the smallest reason. In other words, if you have sex every day, it’s no big deal. Miss today’s bus, you’ll catch tomorrow’s. But if you’re not orgasming for several days when you’re used to orgasming every day? Your body becomes highly sensitive, seeking release.
It’s a lot like fasting. Your body and mind are trained to eat at certain times of the day. If you don’t eat at those assigned times, your body gets confused, your personality becomes irritable and easily agitated. But if you keep going and you stick with your fast, you come to the place where your body accepts that it won’t get three meals a day plus four snacks in between. The body and mind shut those expectations and responses off, your mood normalizes and your schedule for meals and hunger will essentially go to sleep. In my experience, my thoughts become sharper and I become more focused after a brief period of irritability. The up side of fasting is this: when you finally do eat something, it tastes amazing. It tastes like the best meal in the world! Your senses will suddenly wake back up and a bowl of Rice Krispies will taste like the best goddamn bowl of cereal ever, in the history of cereal!
That is essentially what needs to happen here. Your boyfriend needs to stop orgasming “when he’s alone” and deny himself for a few days. Many forms of Sex Addicts Anonymous take this same idea (though, of course, without all the kink) and prescribe it to all of their members – making sexual activity more meaningful with meaningful people instead of something you can get by yourself whenever you want. Members of Sex Addicts Anonymous encourage “sobriety” by exhibiting sexual restraint until those desires can be refocused, channeled in more acceptable ways.
Let me say up front that if you and the Mister decide to do this, sex can be terrible for a while. But that’s okay The “sober” partner is not suddenly terrible at sex. Rather, they are relearning how to respond. Many people who go through other Anonymous programs say the same thing – sex without alcohol or drugs is “completely different” and they have to “relearn how to have sex.” This is normal and is not something to be afraid of. For real. Having bad sexual experiences is a really good thing in this situation because the brain and body are not in synch and you’re making it get in synch. You are teaching your bodies to respond to sex and to each other all over again, so having bad sex for a while is a good thing.
Is this easy? No. Don’t let me fool you. Don’t let me make this sound like it’s rainbows and smiling sunshine. Sexual restraint, abstinence, or “detox” is not easy. Studies show that it can take around 90 days to really cleanse your sexual response and “reset” your body. Most relationships are not able to survive that. Again, just like fasting, the “chaste” person’s body will respond in adverse ways as it experiences withdrawn-like symptoms and the “waiting” partner is going to have to go through the detox with them. When you’re not used to that, you will likely be verbally hostile towards one another and all of the other secret or dark corners of your relationship will suddenly be very evident. Again, these symptoms will go away after a few days, but remember you are on the path towards something much, much better and that your relationship – if it survives – will be stronger because you went through it together.
Again, it’s important remember that what you have right now isn’t working. This will be difficult for a little while, but what you have right now? Again. Not working.
Talk with your boyfriend and see what he thinks. That’s important here because it is his body we are talking about and the decision is, of course, always his. Tell him how important this relationship is to you, how much you love him, how you want to work with him through this, and how you’re not asking him to give up sex entirely. You’re asking him to give up all forms of self-pleasure (even “quick peeks” at porn) and focusing them towards sexual activities between the two of you. No sexual release unless you are giving it to each other and sharing it with one another.
Sound reasonable? Let me know how it goes.