Author Archive for Femani Wellness

Resources About Sex for Kids Ages 3-10

Many parents notice that kids have an awareness and often curiosity about bodies and touch as early as they notice other aspects of their world and themselves. We know that these first experiences of exploration and understanding are important to children’s development of healthy body image, feelings and ideas about safety, and also their ability to learn and practice consent and healthy relationship behaviors later in life. While there aren’t many resources for young kids, we do know of a few wonderful books!

For kids age 3-6, we recommend two books written by Joani Blank, sex educator and founder of the woman-friendly adult store Good Vibrations. She published these when her own daughter was 5 years old. My Kid’s First Book About Sex and The Playbook For Kids About Sex have the same content, though the latter is more interactive and visual. The books guide kids to reflect about their own bodies, nudity, body diversity, naming genitals, self-touch, how their own families talk about these things, what sex and sexy mean, and more. Each topic is presented in a gentle, but matter-of-fact way, inviting the young reader to express their own positive, negative, or ambivalent reactions, and providing a great starting point for questions.

Both are out of print, but Blank has made them available for download through her website for personal use. Downloads are free, though donations are welcome.

For kids ages 8-10, we recommend Sex is a Funny Word, by sex educator Cory Silverberg. Written with a similar focus and approach, this inclusive, visual guide covers self-exploration, bodies, and touch, with some more attention paid to the fundamentals of different kinds of relationships. Click here for a full description and to purchase this book.

Male Sexual Anatomy



There are many potential causes for pain in the vulvar region, and the term “vulvodynia” is a word that describes a variety of conditions. Vulvodyina, or chronic vulvar discomfort, is characterized by burning, stinging, irritation or rawness of the vulva. Three different sub-types have been described, and have different treatment approaches:

  1. skin disease,
  2. inflammation of the vulvar opening, and
  3. irritation of the nerves that serve the vulva.

Vulvodynia is a diagnosis made after other diagnoses, such as vaginal infections, neuropathies, sexually transmitted infections, and other dermatological conditions are tested for and found not to be the cause. If you have an actual sore or scab patch on your vulva, you very likely need a series of biopsies to diagnose the problem. (One biopsy isn’t enough: it usually takes three biopsies minimum to determine a diagnosis.) Even when health care providers have extensive genital dermatological experience, the good providers will get a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

For skin-related vulvodynia, steroid ointments are used, often successfully, for treatment. (NOTE: Steroid creams, by definition, have alcohol in them, and should be avoided.) Although it is true that we need to be careful of using steroid ointments on the skin of the body (because it causes thinning), the vulva is relatively steroid insensitive, and use of steroids on the vulva does not cause the same problems that it can elsewhere.

Having said that, one should only use the very smallest amount prescribed, and ONLY on the areas where directed. Using more doesn’t make something better, and can cause it’s own problem if you become irritated by the base that the medication is in. Also, make sure to completely avoid the anal area unless your health care provider has instructed you to use the steroid there. The anus is very SENSITIVE to steroid ointments, and thinning can cause fissures and other skin problems you don’t need to add.

For women who experience inflammation of the vulvar opening, good attention to vaginal health may help. The skin at the opening of the vagina is just more sensitive than that of the lips, and often needs some healthy conditioning to help vaginal penetration be more comfortable. Look at the AWT Vaginal Renewal posts, and consider whether that may work for you.

We also find that strict attention to a low inflammation diet (see the AWT Good Sex Diet) helps dramatically with many types of skin inflammation disorders. Some women find relief with alpha-interferon injections, and others choose to pursue a surgical operation (vaginal advancement) when vestibular glands are infected or impacted for a long period of time.

The most severe cases of vulvodynia are those with neurologic irritation. Pain occurs wherever the nerves in the region receive too much sensation: the clitoris, vestibule (vaginal opening), urethra, perineum (skin between the vaginal and anal openings), and down the inner thighs. As in other cases of sensory neuropathies (diseases of the nerves), antidepressants and anticonvulsants may ease the pain in some cases by “resting the nerve” and allowing it to heal.

Other people may need an evaulation by a pelvic floor Physical Therapist, to determine whether a muscle spasm is causing compression on a nerve that you then feel as pain.

Vulvodynia can be a difficult condition. For many of the conditions, the cause is unknown, and the cure elusive. For some women, it’s a big breakthrough to know the name of this condition, and that this is not something “in their head”, or something to be ignored.

For more information, try the book The Vulvodynia Survival Guide, visit the website, or contact the National Vulvodynia Association (online at and ask for a referral for a gynecologist or genital dermatologist in your area who is familiar with vulvodynia.


When a woman experiences a closure of her vaginal opening that is stiff and located about 1 1/2 inches inside the vagina (not at the very outside), this may be a condition called “vaginismus”. Vaginismus is an unconscious spasming of the pelvic floor muscles that surround the opening of the vagina.


Othercourse is creative sex play that is not limited to, or focused on intercourse. It can include any sexual activities you and your partner enjoy, and can lead to anything you both agree to. It can be the first course, the last course, the main course, or the only course.

Who is it for?

Othercourse is good for anyone who wants to:

  • spice things up and try new things
  • re-visit favorite activities from an earlier time
  • extend, increase, or prolong sexual pleasure & arousal
  • develop or discover alternatives to your sexual routine
  • surprise your partner or yourself
  • increase frisky feelings in your relationship
  • recall how much fun sex was when you were only doing “heavy petting”

Othercourse is also a good choice if you or your partner:

  • has trouble maintaining an erection
  • has pain with penetration, or do not enjoy penetration
  • has trouble reaching orgasm during intercourse
  • has performance anxiety
  • want to avoid pregnancy
  • want to postpone intercourse, and still enjoy intimate play together

A playful attitude and adventurous spirit are the best assets you have when it comes to sex, second only to a genuine affection for your partner. The right attitude can make any activity or technique full of pleasure and fun.

Sex can easily become serious business if you see it as a race to the finish line, or a performance that must play out in a particular way each time. We all experience busy or stressful times, illnesses, hormonal shifts, and other circumstances that force changes in intimacy or physical response. Flexibility and a sense of humor can help you weather these changes. Broadening your idea of what good sex consists of, and exploring ways to create as much pleasure as possible for you and your partner, will take the focus off of what you can’t, or choose not to do. Instead you can keep your attention on creating pleasure and deepening your intimate connection with each other. As an added benefit, expanding your sexual repertoire will increase the fun you can enjoy during sex play.

Getting Started and Building Anticipation

Agree that neither of you will aim for orgasm; your only goals will be giving/receiving pleasure and having fun together. You can decide some activities are off-limits, or set no limits, but don’t set orgasm as the end point. One or both of you may have an orgasm, but it’s not required. This can relieve performance pressure while allowing you to explore activities you might have otherwise missed, If you enjoy this, you can make try it whenever you want to build your connection and anticipation.

Extended arousal

Make out during a movie with no pressure to go any further, or skip the movie and revisit heavy petting on the couch. Keep your clothes on much longer than you want to, or keep them on all evening. See how much fun you can have undressing slowly when the time comes, or touching each other through your clothing.

Take a long shower or bath together, taking turns washing each other’s bodies, maybe using a silky, pleasant scented bath gel. Concentrate on the sensations – smell, warmth, water, the feeling of your partner’s hand gliding over the skin. Breathe deeply and find that spot that allows you to feel deeply connected to each other, then linger in that sensation for as long as you can.

Add some more advanced communication skills

Try asking your partner for permission before every action or touch. Only touch when and where your partner allows. After asking “may I touch your…?” follow it up with “did you like that? Would you like me to do it some more?” If so, try “may I kiss your…?”. Another version is to give a hand or foot massage but only touch in the exact manner your partner requests. Your goal is that you are both able to ask for specific kinds of touch in specific places. Then you’re ready to move on to other erogenous zones.

Practice talking about intimate play more often, explicitly asking for what you want as well as asking your partner what she or he would enjoy doing.

Become more creative

Start a date by meeting in the produce department of your local grocery store. If you are tempted by fruit, what body part would taste nice with raspberries on it? Peaches? Whipped cream? Champagne?

Find out how much fun a man can have without an erection, or without engaging in penetration of his partner. Buy a nice lubricant (or compare several) and try stimulating him with a variety of different parts of your body. Some ideas: hands, mouth, breasts, or between the thighs. Try a masturbation sleeve if your skin is not up for the contact. Get more ideas from our brochures on Masturbation for Men, and Men’s Toys. Remember that men can have orgasms without ever having erections, so keep going even if he isn’t hard.

Find a movie or book on erotic massage, and try out the techniques. There are books and movies on vulva massage, penis massage, and whole body erotic massage. You can also explore touch using feathers, silk scarves, strands of pearls, or fur, and get creative with some of the kitchen utensils/gadgets. See if you can discover some erogenous zones you didn’t know about before by observing your partner’s responses carefully and experimenting with different areas and different strokes and touches. Explore everywhere, not just the genitals.

Try phone sex, cybersex, email sex, instant messaging, or explicit notes tucked into pockets or lunch bags. You can tease, tempt, and arouse your partner all day long from a distance. Anticipation can make your next date extra-spicy.

Mutual masturbation in its many forms is both sexy and safe. It can be extremely arousing to watch a partner pleasure him or herself to orgasm. Settle yourselves into comfy positions and decide if you want to take turns, go solo, or stimulate yourselves simultaneously. You can impose rules like “you can’t touch me” or let your partner play a supporting role in your pleasure.

Many people enjoy giving and receiving pleasure of all kinds with their mouths. If you love kissing, devote some time to it rather than seeing it as just an appetizer. You can take kissing to another level by exploring your partner’s entire body with your mouth. If stimulating your partner’s genitals with your mouth is new to you, consider rending an instructional movie or book on oral sex to debunk myths and offer sexy tips, or just dive in and enjoy discovering what you and your partner both enjoy. If you are experienced in giving and receiving oral pleasure, experiment with using flavors or ice, and explore different positions, adding additional stimulation with your hands or a vibrator.

Focus your attention

Take turns focusing attention on one another. One day, have a date that’s all about pleasing your partner. The next day, switch places. Sometimes knowing you won’t be reciprocating right away can allow you to relax at a deeper level and sink into the sensations you’re experiencing.

If you have trouble finding time for sex in your busy lives, make a date and put it on the calendar. Turn off the phone and send the kids (if you have them) to a babysitter. If you’ll be distracted by your to-do list during a date at home, get a motel room. Pack a romantic picnic, or order in. Even if all you can manage is a an hour or two, you can have a lot of fun in that time, and anticipating the upcoming date can help get you both through the week. If you’re overwhelmed with stress, try sitting on your partner’s lap while you catch up on the day’s events and see if the mood shifts. Or allow yourselves to begin gently touching and pleasuring each other, and follow the sensations. If you become more aroused, you can pursue more intense touch. If not, enjoy the contact and intimacy.

Above all, have fun

There are so many ways to enjoy intimacy without ever engaging in intercourse or penetrative sex play. Start with the ones we’ve listed here, and then expand your list to whatever you wish to add to your repertoire. You have nothing to lose, and a lot of pleasure and closeness to gain.

Delayed Ejaculations

There are a variety of reasons that men may be unable to orgasm and ejaculate, a condition known as delayed ejaculation (DE) or ejaculatory delay. DE is defined as the inability to orgasm and ejaculate within a period of time that seems reasonable to you and your partner. This doesn’t mean just 2 or 3 minutes, but if you find that you’re going on much longer than usual, you may be experiencing DE.

Here are some of the most common reasons for DE, and what you can do about it:

1. Use of anti-depressant medication (any that affect serotonin reuptake). These medications slow down your neurological response to stimulation, making it harder to kick off the orgasm response. In fact, some doctors use these drugs to help men who ejaculate more quickly than they’d like (see next column, Eager Ejaculation).

If you think your medication may be causing your DE, you have a couple of options. First, you can change medications to one that does not have this effect (Wellbutrin, for example). However, if the medication is working well for you, you may instead want to try adding more stimulation to see if that helps. Vibration is an effective type of stimulation; you might wear a vibrating erection ring or hold a vibrator on any sensitive areas on your penis, scrotum, or perineum. You could also add prostate stimulation by inserting a prostate stimulator (vibrating or not) into the anus so that it rubs the prostate.

Some men report that mental stimulation is also helpful; this could be erotic talk with a partner or fantasizing about something that is a powerful turn-on.

2. Longer recovery period needed, caused by frequent masturbation (or other sexual play), or aging. Some men may need to decrease the frequency of self-pleasure or other sex play if they struggle with DE. Also, as men get older, they may need more time in between ejaculations before they are able to have another orgasm or ejaculate again. They may be able to get erections, but find that they just cannot get enough stimulation to have an orgasm. If this is the case for you, you could either continue the same level of sex play as before, but with added stimulation as described above, or you could decrease the frequency of your orgasms until you find the right balance.

3. Stress, distraction, or inability to stay focused and present in the body. These are the most common reasons for DE, particularly in this era of cell phones, stressful jobs, and busy lives. If you find yourself unable to keep from thinking about work or your to-do list, this may be what’s happening for you. The best way to address this is to turn off your phone, practice letting go of the lists in your head, and concentrate on the sensations you are enjoying during your sexual play. Some find it easier to focus on sensations by using a blindfold or even ear plugs. Others try erotic talk with a partner as a way to stay focused on the sexual encounter. Consider taking a class in meditation or other stress-reduction techniques. Taking a brisk 30 minute walk before sex will also help; it increases your blood flow (which in turn increases your ability to get aroused) and can help you clear your mind.

Can’t Have Orgasms Anymore

Changes in arousal and ability to reach orgasm are completely normal, though often very frustrating, experiences. While many physiological and psychological factors contribute to our ability to feel pleasure and allow arousal to build, below are some things to consider.

First, have you started taking any medications, or had any changes in your health? If so, this is the place to start. Some medications have a dampening effect on the libido and/or orgasmic response; antidepressants like Prozac (Zoloft, Effexor, Luvox, Paxil, etc.) are one of those. Birth control pills can also cause a decrease in libido. If this applies to you, it’s worth talking with your health care practitioner or pharmacist about the possible side effects of any medication you might be taking, and whether you can switch to a different prescription that would possibly not have the same side effects.You should also think about strengthening your pelvic floor muscles by doing your Kegel exercises. Since the pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that we feel spasm during an orgasm, if they are weak, our orgasms are weak or harder to feel. So doing your Kegels will help strengthen those muscles, and help you have stronger orgasms.The next thing to think about is that sexual desire and energy decreases over time in all relationships. When one falls in love, there is a state you experience called “limerance”. It includes intense lust, and makes your early sexual encounters incredibly powerful. Limerance goes away after a while, which is a good thing, since being in limerance makes it difficult to get other life tasks done! (Remember how, at first, you wanted to have sex several times a day, everyday, and didn’t care if you went to work or not?). This state of limerance also allows you to be more easily aroused and the novelty of having sex with a new partner can mean that your arousal during sex is higher than it is after the buzz wears off.Once limerance calms down, you experience a more realistic state of being, both during sex and during the rest of your time. What you are describing to me suggests that you are not as powerfully aroused as you were at first. I also wonder if you are giving sex less time and maybe less attention than you did when you were first falling in love. That is very common as well.So, what can you do about it? Well, first of all, understand that over your lifetime, sex will vary in its intensity. Sometimes you will have rockets-and-fireworks sex; other times you will have comforting, “gosh, we love each other and know each other well” sex. It’s not possible to have peak sexual experiences all the time; nor is it desirable. In fact, the way you know they are peak sexual experiences is that they happen only rarely, and in comparison to your normal sexual experiences they are unusual.

The fact that you are still having two orgasms during sex is a good sign. What you can do to increase your pleasure is to extend the amount of time that you are aroused before heading toward orgasm. You can also increase your arousal by stimulating more and different parts of your body so that the number of nerve endings you stimulate is increased, which will increase the intensity of your orgasms. You can also try bringing a vibrator into your sex play, which often allows women to have more orgasms in sequence than they can with manual or oral stimulation. Finally, you can play with your head; use fantasies to increase your arousal and excitement. Fantasies are a normal and healthy way to increase your pleasure. If you want some good fantasy material, try renting an erotic movie or reading a collection of erotic stories.

We all have to learn how to deepen our sexual experiences over time. While good sex is easy when we’re first falling in love (those hormones make a huge difference in the intensity of our sexual experiences when a relationship is new), good sex over the life of a relationship takes work.

Eager Ejaculation

In books and movies, our culture glorifies the mad, passionate rush to intercourse as the ultimate sexual experience.  Unfortunately, frenzied sexual experiences can sometimes be unsatisfying and difficult to control.  If ejaculation occurs before either partner wishes, it is often called “premature ejaculation.”

This makes it sound like a medical disorder, but it’s not.  Even the fastest ejaculation isn’t a problem if both partners prefer it that way.  Partners who are not particularly fond of intercourse, for instance, may prefer orgasm through oral sex or a vibrator, and may look forward to the fastest draw in the West.

The key is satisfaction, not endurance.  That said, you can learn to work with your arousal and gain more control  over when and how often you ejaculate, so that you can have prolonged, slow-to-climax interludes, “quickies,” or anything in between!  It’s a great opportunity to expand your sexual repertoire.

Things NOT to try.

Some folk remedies that don’t work very well:

Men sometimes drink alcohol to slow themselves down.  Alcohol can slow responses, but it may also make it difficult to get or keep an erection.

Some men’s partners take a hands-off approach, hoping that a lack of caressing and touching will allow their mates to last longer.  But if touching is not allowed, what’s the point of having sex?

Some men try to dissociate themselves by reciting baseball statistics or all 50 states in their heads.  This “focus-on-something-else” approach doesn’t take into account that arousal is an involuntary response.  Involuntary responses are nearly impossible to consciously control.  Think of what happens when someone asks you to stop focusing on your nose: if someone makes you think of your nose, it’s tough to focus on anything else!

All of these solutions can take you away from what you are doing and feeling, and are veryunlikely to lengthen your sexual experience or heighten your pleasure.

In some cases, your doctor might prescribe an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor;commonly used as an antidepressant) to delay ejaculation.  Studies show that some SSRIs can delay ejaculation by about a minute, which gives you enough time to begin using the techniques explained here.  A word of caution: when you stop taking the SSRI, you may experience a quicker ejaculation than you did while you were taking it.  Be patient, and stay with it; the practice you gained while taking the medication can help you continue to work with and learn about your arousal levels.

What exactly happens in arousal?

Arousal is actually a part of our every moment.  Arousal keeps us breathing, increases when we need to concentrate on something important, and calms down to let us sleep.  The arousal system even has its own neurological pathway (the autonomic nervous system), separate from the nerves that make your fingers move.  But arousal cannot be controlled directly.  For instance, your heart beats without you deciding to make it beat.  Although you can slow your heart rate a little bit by thinking about it, it’s impossible to control your heart rate entirely with conscious thought.

Likewise, during sexual arousal, any person has room to tinker, particularly in the early stages. However, one may reach the “point of no return”–the brink of the orgasmic threshold when it is no longer possible to slow down and delay orgasm.  Learning how to finesse your personal arousal is the key to choosing the satisfying sexual experiences you desire.

In men, it’s often assumed that orgasm and ejaculation are one and the same.  That’s not quite the case.  There are two stages of a man’s orgasm: the cognitive awareness of pleasure, and ejaculation.  These events happen two or three seconds apart.  During the contractions of the prostate gland, the arousal system sends pleasure feedback to the brain, which is experienced as an orgasm.  Men may experience the prostatic contractions as a pleasant fluttering or throbbing sensation.  The second stage, ejaculation, occurs as stronger muscle contractions propel semen down the urethra and out the tip of the penis.  The “point of no return” actually happens after the first part–the pleasure–and before the second part–the ejaculation.

Path One: Come and Come Again!

One strategy is to have a whole bunch of orgasms, rather than just one.  Who wrote that “only one” rule, anyway?  This is your sexual pleasure we’re talking about, and no one else decides when the curtain goes down on your party.  It’s okay to accept what is and have fun the way you are.  Does it have to mean the end of everything because someone ejaculates?  Nope! Sometimes, it’s helpful to give yourself permission to have a big, long sexual session.

The multiple orgasms and multiple ejaculations technique is probably the easiest to learn.  The idea is to focus very consciously on the sensations that are arousing to you, do exactly what arouses you most, and don’t hold anything back.  Play around, and if you want to ejaculate again, go for it.  If you need a toy like a dildo or vibrator to increase the intensity of your erotic play, consider investigating the possibilities rather than holding back.

Having trouble getting an erection after ejaculating?  Try using a cock ring.  Cock rings are great when your body says “not yet,” but your desire is still flowing.  A cock ring is a flexible strap that can be secured around the base of the penis.  It works by allowing blood to flow into the penis, but not out.  You can put a cock ring on when you are soft or after you’ve gotten another erection. While you shouldn’t leave one on for more than 30 minutes, there’s a lot you can do in that amount of time.

The major drawback to multiple ejaculations is that it can be hard to avoid post-ejaculatory stupor.  With several ejaculations, your arousal system will have exhausted itself, and you might not have the energy to go on without some sleep.

Path Two: Multiple Orgasms without Ejaculation

It’s possible to learn to stop every orgasm before ejaculating, and to orgasm several times without ejaculating at all.  Interestingly, it’s the ejaculation itself that is often experienced as exhausting, and some men who experience multiple orgasms without ejaculation notice an energizing effect.

The technique described below is essentially a prolonged session of playing “faster-slower.”  The goal is to stay somewhat aroused while you manipulate your arousal level.  Enjoy the feelings of both decreasing and increasing arousal.

Once you can do this, try masturbating to orgasm, and concentrate on the sensations of the prostate.

You need to learn what it feels like to experience the orgasm (for most men, the prostate fluttering) before you can know when to hold back from ejaculation.  Focus on the sensations, and see if you can experience the orgasm separate from ejaculation.

Next, you will need to become aware of your personal arousal and orgasmic cycle.  It’s helpful to rate your arousal on a scale from 0-10, with 9 or 10 indicating the point of no return.  Start by choosing a number in the middle, like 4 or 5, then practice masturbating to a fever pitch and slowing down as you reach that number.  You will still be aroused with minor stimulation, and you will learn what it feels like to be aroused to a 4.

Then, pick a slightly higher number on the scale–say, a 7.  It’s a little trickier here, but you really want to focus on lower arousal.  One thing to try is to take long slow breaths in, and let the breaths out quickly in a couple of bursts.  This helps disperse your sexual energy and take the tension out of your spine and lower back.

Another arousal-slowing technique is contracting your pelvic floor muscles.  Contract these by squeezing the muscles that run from your tailbone, around your anus, and all the way forward to the base of your penis.  When you are contracting correctly, the base of your penis will bob up and down slightly.  Next, incorporate pelvic floor contractions into your masturbation play.  Masturbate up to a 5, then contract for two seconds.  Slow and speed your self-play, and work on incorporating this PC flex into the ups and downs of your arousal cycle.

Similarly, you can control your ejaculation by pressing firmly on the perineum–the area between your scrotum and anus–while contracting your PC muscles.  This helps delay ejaculation by refocusing your attention on your arousal and interrupting the ejaculation reflex.

Perineal massage can be quite pleasurable, and some men think that it’s the greatest sexual technique they’ve ever experienced.  Perineal massage can be done by yourself or your partner, and can be performed at any time during self-play or penetration.

Okay, I’m having a blast here, but what about my partner?

With increased awareness of sexual arousal and physical cues, you can expand your practice to include partners. With a partner involved, you might have to relearn most or all of your cues. Why?  Because it’s one thing to stop your hand, or turn off your vibrator when you need to ease off, but it’s a much greater task to communicate to your partner where you are on the arousal scale.

Fortunately, most couples report that the process of talking is in itself very satisfying, because they feel more connected than when they are silent.  Also, all of the techniques that you’ve been practicing work with partners, because none of them require that you pull out from penetration. Your partner will have fun playing with you and your arousal, pressing your perineum and practicing your breathing techniques with you.  Learn more about your and your partner’s responses to sensation and practice expressing yourself.

Anorgasmia and Anti-depressants

It’s important to distinguish between someone who has never experienced an orgasm (called primary anorgasmia), and someone who used to have orgasms, but now cannot have them as frequently, or at all (secondary anorgasmia). For people who have never experienced an orgasm, often it takes learning more about yourself, your anatomy, and how your personal arousal cycle functions.

The experience for people who once experienced orgasms, but later cannot, is a very frustrating one. There are many possible reasons for secondary anorgasmia. Often something has changed physically, emotionally, or medically, or certain medications/herbs are taken.

  • For a physical example, some women stretch their pelvic floor in the process of birthing a child. This lack of tone in the pelvic floor takes away some of the arousal pressure the pelvic floor exerts on the clitoris, making it harder to reach orgasm.
  • For an emotional example, some people find that they are not as emotionally comfortable with a new partner, or are uncomfortable touching themselves when they don’t have a partner.
  • For a medical example, some people experience lower blood flow to the clitoris due to the same process that causes hardening of the arteries. This decrease in blood flow makes clitoral erection and orgasm much more difficult.
  • Other people experience less sensation due to illness (like multiple sclerosis or diabetes), and although their blood flow is adequate, their nervous system isn’t cooperating as it used to.
  • For a medication-related example, some people who take SSRI-type antidepressants, beta-blockers, or hormonal contraceptives find they can no longer have orgasms as easily, or at all.

For you, it’s possible that the antidepressant you take is a contributing problem. Call your pharmacist, and ask if the medication that you are taking is a “SSRI” antidepressant. Trade names of some popular SSRIs are Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil, to name a few.

In the medical literature, SSRIs are described as a potential cause of male impotence, but for women this side effect is more often manifest by difficult in achieving orgasms, although they may become quite aroused. Why? We speculate that there is a lengthening of time of the arousal cycle (probably in men and women), so it may take more time, stimulation, and patience to achieve orgasm.

If you think that this is complicating your pleasure, there are a couple of strategies that we can recommend. First, consult the person who has prescribed this medication for you, and ask whether you still need to be on it, and if so, whether you need to be on this particular dose. Some women notice that their orgasms are easier to achieve with lower dosages of SSRIs.

If you and your health care provider think it’s still a good idea for you to take it, don’t give up. You may find that you can have wonderful orgasms with more intense stimulation than you may have needed in the past. You may want to consider beginning to use a vibrator, or using a stronger vibrator than before. Sometimes trying a more intense vibrator is helpful; the consistent vibration may increase your arousal over your orgasmic threshold. Finding the right strategy for you may be trial and error, but we suggest that you take it on as a pleasant opportunity to learn more about yourself.


Orgasms for Those with Female Bodies

What do you do when you’ve never had an orgasm? Or if you’ve had them in the past, but can’t get here anymore?

These are some straightforward answers, yet many women can’t find enough information about their bodies to learn how to give themselves an orgasm. Often we expect our partners to know how to stimulate us, or think that we should easily have orgasms during vaginal penetration.

First, some information about women’s anatomy. Many sexually responsive tissues are located in the lips surrounding the vagina (the labia), the first two inches of the vagina, and the clitoris. A woman’s clitoris is about four inches long, but you can only see a tiny bit of it. The clitoris extends from the skin folds just under the pubic hair to as far back as the bottom of the vaginal opening, on both sides of the opening. The parts of the clitoris you can see are the tip and the protective hood, both at the top of the vulva. You may or may not be able to see your clitoris peeking out from its hood when you’re sexually aroused.

With adequate stimulation, a woman may arouse herself to a high enough level that her body will release into an orgasm. We first perceive an orgasm in our brains, which sends electrical signals to our genitals. This signal triggers an intensely pleasurable spasm of the muscles in the pelvic floor, which can last for 10 to 15 seconds.

For the majority (more than 95 percent) of women, the vulva and the clitoris require direct stimulation to achieve orgasm. Although vaginal stimulation can be pleasurable and important for some, deep vaginal penetration is less important for orgasmic arousal than often thought. The vulva, clitoris, and vaginal opening also need consistent stimulation for a woman to have an orgasm. For some women, this can mean 20 to 40 minutes or more of continuous rubbing, vibration, or pressure. Taking this long to reach orgasm does not make you abnormal! Many, many women require lengthy periods of direct stimulation to reach orgasm.

With intercourse (vaginal penetration), many women find that they experience more pleasure, and have orgasms more easily, when the clitoris and vulva are directly stimulated by a hand, mouth, or vibrator before, during, or after intercourse. During sexual intercourse, the vagina and vulva get stimulation, but often the clitoris does not. This lack of stimulation occurs because, for many women, the clitoris is not in a position to get adequate stimulation for orgasmic arousal during intercourse. Many women don’t have orgasms during intercourse unless they, or their partner, provide addiitonal, direct stimulation to the vulva and clitoris.

Where do I start?

The first task is for you to locate the places on your body that give you the most pleasure when they are touched. The best way to determine what you like is to experiment with yourself first, without the social pressure of your, or a partner’s, expectations. Set aside time when you can be alone and both relax and concentrate on stimulating yourself with your hands.

We encourage you to use a small amount of a sexual lubricant when you are exploring how you like to be touched. This will allow your fingers to move more smoothly, and increases how much sensation you are able to feel. It also allows you to rub the skin without irritation. Any water-based lubricant is fine. Experiment for yourself to see what YOU like.  Don’t use oil or Vaseline, though, as these can irritate your skin and may lead to yeast infections in some women.

Some women find it difficult to relax and let their bodies have orgasms. Orgasms can feel to some of us like we are losing control over our bodies, and this can be scary. If this describes you, make sure you are in a safe place, where you will not be disturbed. Also, allow yourself to control how far you go each time you pleasure yourself. Allow yourself to get a little closer to a building of tension and sensation each time. Your leg muscles may get tense — this is okay, it’s part of the process. Focus on what feels good to you, and let pleasure happen.

Hand Stimulation Techniques

The types of hand stimulation that many women enjoy are long strokes on the lips of the vulva, stroking or rubbing in and around the vaginal opening, and stroking or rubbing the clitoris. Touching the clitoris is really something to explore. Do you like stroking the side of the tip and shaft, or do you like touching directly on the tip? Some women like long strokes of these areas; others like short, quick touches in a circular pattern that gets faster as they become more aroused. Try lots of different pressures and speeds. When you find something that feels good, continue touching yourself that way. If it stops feeling good, try one of your other favorite touches for awhile.

How do I use a vibrator?

If you aren’t able to have an orgasm from hand stimulation, or your hand gets tired, try using a vibrator. Vibrators can provide the consistent stimulation you need, and they don’t get tired. If you haven’t experienced a vibrator for sexual pleasure, choose one with variable vibrations.

First, focus on using it on your vaginal lips. Then as you become more aroused, find the spots on and around your clitoris that feel best to you. Try all positions “around the clock” of the clitoral tip — some women report very different responses at “4 o’clock” versus “2 o’clock”. When you find an area where the vibration feels particularly good to you, hold the vibrator in that position. Some women will orgasm quickly, while other women find that with practice, they can follow a strong, nice sensation to orgasm.

If a vibrator works well for you, introduce it to your partner and find ways to incorporate it into your sex play. Try using it on your partner — both men and women enjoy the sensations produced by vibrators, and this is a fun way to add some variety to your sexual play.

But what would my mother say?

Many of us are told that it is not okay to give ourselves pleasure, but experiencing pleasure and orgasm are important to our health and overall sense of wellbeing. Studies have found that orgasms boost your immune system and help fight depression. Orgasms are one of the most effective ways to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which can reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Self-pleasure is also the best way to learn what you like so you can teach these techniques to your partner(s). For many women it is easier to have an orgasm with a partner after discovering what “works” by themselves!

Suggested Resources

If you’d like some books to help you in your journey, we recommend:

The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass, PhD– an excellent book about how to have orgasms more reliably, how to have yor first orgasm, or what to do if you used to have orgasms more easily than you do now.

For Yourself  by Lonnie Barbach — an excellent tool to help you learn more about yourself and your orgasmic potential.

I Heart Female Orgasm, by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller — an excellent book packed with information all about female pleasure.

Getting Off, by Jayme Waxman — an informative book with a fun attitude.

For DVDs on self-pleasuring, we recommend:

Celebrating Orgasm, by Betty Dodson — Dodson helps five women explore their first orgasms.

Carol Queen’s Great Vibrations, by Carol Queen — one woman’s exploration into the world of vibrators!

Orgasmic Woman, by Betty Dodson — lots of women of various shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities talk about how they masturbate, then demonstrate their favorite self-pleasuring techniques.