You’re reading Sex Diaries, a HuffPost UK Personal series about how we are (or aren’t) having sex. To share your story, get in touch on email@example.com.
The big act happened when I was 16, on an unassuming night at my then-boyfriend’s. It was a perfectly safe situation – boring, even. I remember how it physically hurt the next morning in the bathroom. But while my body felt the milestone, my mind didn’t – quite frankly, I felt exactly the same as I did before the act.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I had my first true orgasm. Again, it was a low-key situation – perhaps one of the only ‘friends with benefits’ situations where it actually worked. I remember the moment I had the orgasm: an equally empowering and shattering feeling of intense euphoria, followed by wonder at why it had taken so long.
In the ensuing years, I had great sex, bad sex, playful sex and intense sex. Some partners were a joy, others less so, some I’ve forgotten entirely. And in most cases, I was left with the same feeling I had that first night: I physically felt the act, and it felt good, but never nirvana.
In ten years of sex, I had less than ten orgasms.
“No matter what I tried, nothing worked. I was frustrated. Or at least I was, until this past summer.”
When I opened up about my inability with friends who said they had orgasms every time, they would always offer kind but unhelpful advice Try a different position! Try Kegel exercises! But no matter what I tried, nothing worked. I was frustrated.
Or at least I was, until this past summer, when, with the help of a video series, I learned how to overcome my inability to orgasm through a simple act: trusting myself.
Feeling sorry for myself after a particularly painful ghosting – I spent a day in bed, committed to nothing but my pyjamas and YouTube. I don’t even remember how I came across Vanessa Marin’s ‘Finishing School’ video course. I do remember initially groaning at the first video’s punchy title promising an orgasm revolution for women, though.
But there was something about her that came across as positive and supportive. So I clicked. Moments into the video, Marin posed the questions I’d been asking myself for years: Have you ever wondered why you can’t orgasm? Have you ever told yourself that it’s just the way you are?
Well, yeah, I thought. That’s exactly what I think.
“I never thought prioritising my own pleasure was important. I could only find pleasure through someone else’s, and I thought that was enough.”
Marin went on to explain key arousal areas for women, talked about why women have trouble having orgasms, and offered what she called a ‘foolproof’ way to orgasm. It didn’t feel like a sales pitch, it felt more like a friend trying to help me with one of my deepest insecurities. So I watched. And I listened. And I started to masturbate.
On the second try, I was able to orgasm – something I’d never done before by myself. The power and relief I felt after being able to orgasm by myself was overwhelming. Being able to offer the highest level of pleasure to myself – coached on by a supportive woman, nonetheless – made me feel like I could do anything.
Prior to the course, I’d always been confident in my ability to have sex and to please a partner. I considered myself someone who “enjoyed the act of sex” and “didn’t need to finish.” I never thought prioritising my own pleasure was important. I could only find pleasure through someone else’s, and I thought that was enough.
I realise now that I was wrong. Not only was I unable to finish, but I was unable to come to terms with not finishing.
Facing my inability to orgasm was uncomfortable because it also made me address other issues – trust, intimacy, self-image – I’d otherwise leave untouched. I’m not a sex therapist, nor would I ever try to act as one. But if there’s one lesson I’ve learned on my own fraught path to orgasm, it’s this simple one: trust in and create space for yourself.
“Intimacy is important with a partner, but I now know how important it is to be intimate with myself. And as a result, I feel a much deeper sense of self.”
We women are culturally conditioned to shift their focus away from ourselves, especially when it comes to sex. We’re conditioned to be ashamed of our sexuality and our bodies and prioritise male pleasure. This shame sets so deep that many of us don’t even know what our intimate area looks like, let alone what orgasm feels like. But here’s the thing: orgasms are about much more than the end of pleasure. Orgasms reflect our self-image. Our orgasms are us at our most vulnerable state. To orgasm is to open up – and to trust.
When I first started masturbating after watching the video, I felt a little lonely. What if this is the only way I’ll feel pleasure for the rest of my life, I (melodramatically) thought. That hasn’t been the case, of course. When I’m having sex with a partner now, I know understand my body much more. In these moments, I know what I need to finish – not just what they need to finish.
But while being able to make myself orgasm has helped my sex life, that’s not the point. The real point is quite the opposite: I’ve learned that my most important partner is me. Intimacy is important with a partner, but I now know how important it is to be intimate with myself. And as a result, I feel a much deeper sense of self.
Looking back now, the few times I was able to orgasm with men before taking the video series wasn’t only because of them after all. It was because I trusted them and because I let myself orgasm. I saw it as trusting someone else, but deep down I was just trusting myself.
Orgasms result from trust in another person, certainly. But as I now more fully understand, they’re also the payoff of trusting – and loving – the self.
A.W. Geiger is a freelance journalist
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on firstname.lastname@example.org