Monday, July 31, 2017

How to learn to enjoy sex

For most people reading this blog, this is going to be an irrelevant question. But I was reminded today that it's a serious problem for some people whose bodies and minds have never quite gotten synched up to experience sex as something pleasurable.

The most common causes of 'sexual anhedonia' (lack of pleasure) are drugs and medications, hormonal problems, depression, dysthymia (a form of chronic depression), and religious repression. These require major lifestyle changes and/or serious medical or psychological treatment.

But what about the mysterious cases of anhedonia that don't seem to be related to any of these causes?

Before we go further, it would probably be a good idea to define some terms. Asexuality is not the same thing as sexual anhedonia, the inability to enjoy sex. As Wikipedia puts it, "Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity." 

It doesn't necessarily mean that you can't enjoy sex once you are having it, particularly if it's with someone you care about a lot, but it's obviously a lot harder to get turned on and enjoy yourself if you don't have that initial feeling of attraction and desire. And someone who is asexual may have a low, moderate, or high libido, and may masturbate never, rarely, or often.

This is something I care about because I narrowly missed ending up in this situation. As strange as it may sound for someone who blogs about sex, I usually describe myself as someone who has very low libido, but loves sex with her partner.

That's simpler than explaining the truth, which is that I fit best with the description of "gray-asexual" or "gray-A," or perhaps "demisexual." Specifically, I never get randomly horny and I don't get turned on by looking at porn or being around sexy people, no matter how hot they are.

In practice, I almost never get aroused unless I'm with my guy and we're doing something physical to get me aroused. However, I really enjoy sex with him once we get started.

Turning to Wikipedia again, "Gray asexuality is considered the gray area between asexuality and sexuality, in which a person may only experience sexual attraction on occasion." And "demisexuality" is a variant of gray-A that refers to those who "may experience secondary sexual attraction after a close emotional connection has already formed."  So it would probably be more accurate to say that I'm a gray-A or demisexual with a moderately high libido.

Note that neither description says anything about libido. As a "gray-A" friend puts it, "You can be horny all the time and jack off constantly but if you never or hardly ever want to be sexual with another person you are on the asexual spectrum because your sexuality is 'compromised'."

Anyway... this whole subject came up today because of a question from a Redditor who is asexual, but desperately wants to learn how to enjoy sex, in part for selfish reasons, but also so that her partners won't feel like sex is entirely one-sided. She explained that she is in her thirties, her health is good, she's not religiously inhibited, and there's nothing about sex that is disgusting or a turnoff for her. It just isn't a source of pleasure for her.

She has masturbated and she has had orgasms, both by herself and with partners, but the orgasms were so weak that having an orgasm hasn't given her any motivation to masturbate or have sex more often. She just hasn't been able to enjoy sex, and she really wants to.

This is a lightly edited version of my response:

My impression is that being unable to enjoy sex of any kind under ANY conditions is really rare. Unfortunately, there's no way to prove whether that's true for any individual. It's like the question of orgasms. If 5-10% of 30-year-old women say they have never had an orgasm, is it because they can't? Or is it because they just haven't had the right opportunities yet?

As it happens, I know several women who worried that they were asexual until their mid-30s and now enjoy great sex. It's actually fairly common for women who lose their virginity quite late, but also for women who marry young, when they and their husbands are both inexperienced, and who get divorced a decade or two later and discover a whole new side to sex in their 30s or 40s. So "not yet" is the answer for a lot of seemingly-asexual women in their 20s and 30s.

Let's assume that this applies to you too. You will probably never develop a raging libido, but you want to be able to enjoy sex. And here's the hitch: doing the exact same things with two different partners can produce completely opposite results. So finding a partner who is right for you needs to be a top priority.

But that just makes the problem of knowing what is right for you all the more important. You've had orgasms, but they're just "meh." You don't find the prospect of having sex a big adrenaline rush. It's not taboo or scary, so what is there to get excited about? And the orgasms you're having are pretty feeble, so ditto.

There are several possible answers to this.

First, those feeble orgasms: women's bodies have to learn to have orgasms. Some girls learn as infants or small children, many learn in their teens and 20s, but some never get on track until their 30s or even later. And first orgasms are almost always fairly weak. Having stronger orgasms depends on experience and on learning the kinds of stimulation that work best for you.

Experimentation and practice are the keys. You say that you've masturbated and it doesn't do much for you, but how many times have you had a solo orgasm? If the answer is in one or two digits, you need to set yourself a goal of several orgasms a week and experiment with different ways of getting there. Get a strong vibrator and a shower head extension with a vibrating massage setting and try those out.

I would also suggest subscribing to OMG Yes!!!, which is a web app that will teach you some of the most effective ways that women masturbate with their fingers. The first lesson is about "edging" – the practice of getting close to an orgasm and then purposely backing off a bit and delaying it so you can get more and more aroused. This results in a longer, stronger, more enjoyable orgasm. If you've been forcing orgasms to happen as quickly as possible, it's no wonder they've been weak!

Second, you could put some excitement into sex by exploring BDSM. One reason sex is blah may be that you've only been with nice vanilla guys and there's been nothing intense, exciting, taboo, or scary about straight kissing and PiV. Maybe the prospect of a good spanking would get you turned on. Maybe being the boss and ordering the guy to serve you is what would add some excitement. Maybe acting out a rape fantasy would create just the right degree of controlled scariness to get your heart racing.

In the abstract, these things may seem unlikely, but you don't know until you try. I'm not the person to give advice here, because this has never turned me on, but you can get a lot of guidance from people in the BDSM scene if you look around online.

Third, you may need to go in the opposite direction. Many women never enjoy sex simply because it's over WAY too soon (see "edging") and because it's focused entirely on getting to the ending and not on creating maximum pleasure along the way. The opposite approach is to focus mainly on giving each other a lot of sensual pleasure over an extended period.

This approach (which is the subject of this blog) leans toward full-body sensual massage and taking turns with erotic play. Sexual partners indulge in a lot of mutual pleasure through touch, using that to build up erotic tension over time. Orgasms, when they finally happen, tend to be especially intense and enjoyable, because the whole session is a form of prolonged edging, but the orgasms aren't the goal, just the conclusion. The goal is for each partner to do whatever it takes to maximize the other person's pleasure throughout the entire process.

This appeals especially to people who are sensual and affectionate, but slow to get aroused. It also appeals a lot to people who are "givers," who love giving pleasure to a special partner as much as they enjoy receiving it from that person. If you enjoy cuddling and you enjoy giving and receiving backrubs and footrubs much more than you enjoy "normal" sex, this may be for you. 

(The paradox is that if you focus mainly on giving maximum pleasure during sex, not on rushing toward a goal, the orgasms at the end are generally much better as well.)

Slow, sensual, extended sex is my preferred kind of sex, and fortunately my SO agrees. We nearly ended up in a dead bedroom situation until we figured this out, but this is the kind of sex that keeps me wanting more and looking forward to next time.

Rather than duplicate things that have been said before, I'm going to give you a list of links that I have found very helpful for people in your situation. If what I've said resonates in any way, this should be enough to get you started on a solid program of self-development:

Arousal and libido problems

Stress and Arousal – an intro and overview of arousal and libido issues.

Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life – a good explanation of the dual control model of sexual arousal and the problem of responsive desire (people like us who seldom or never get horny out of the blue).

Becoming More Orgasmic – the introduction is aimed a bit more toward women in relationships, but it contains a long list of resources that includes many things that are appropriate for single women in your situation.

What Lesbian Couples Can Teach Straight Couples About Great Sex – a summary of research on the importance of quality and duration over frequency.

Escaping a Dead Bedroom – my own saga.

Sensual massage

Sensate Focus Therapy – the gold standard for sex therapy for couples; if you had a current partner, this is what a sex therapist would most likely start you doing, but you don't need a therapist to do it.

A good, inexpensive massage table – a comfortable, adjustable, folding table will be a big help with both SFT and sensual massage. You also need a couple of beach towels or bath sheets and some coconut oil or other good vegetable oil.

Three Guides to Sensual Massage and Manual and Oral Sex – the first one is relevant here, the other two fit in better below.

Anatomy and technique

Better Sex 101 – a primer with guidelines for couples and some useful information about anatomy.

She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman – this is written for men, obviously, but it may provide some ideas for you on what you want to ask your partners to do for you.

OMG Yes!!! – a review of a really good tutorial about the wide variety of ways women get aroused from rubbing, tapping, and massaging the clit and vulva. Go through it yourself and identify the ones that work best for you. Then if a guy asks you what you like most you can tell him or simply lend him the program and show him which parts to practice.

Video tutorials for massage and oral techniques – more explicit than the three guides mentioned in the first section.

Graduate level

Bad, good, and magnificent sex – describes the sustainability problem with routine sex and summarizes the research on the surprisingly consistent characteristics described by people who are having great sex.

Extraordinary Passion: The Art and Science of Modern Tantric Sex – this blog! A free book-length guide to an advanced form of slow, extended sex.


I hope some of this helps. Good luck!


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