Miss Information: I love having sex with my boyfriend, but I can't seem to have an orgasm. What can I do?

Dear Miss Information,

I've had sex with one man in my life and I love it. He makes me warm and happy, and sex with him always leaves a smile on my face. The sex is good, so I can't figure out why I've never had an orgasm. We've tried different positions, toys, and role-playing, but nothing hits the spot, so to speak. My boyfriend's been understanding about it, but I can tell he's starting to doubt his own ability, and it's bothering him.

I've tried to justify it to him (and quite possibly myself) by explaining that I was sexually abused when I was younger. Except for the occasional panic attack, I've gotten over the abuse since being with him. Trust is really an amazing thing! It no longer has a huge impact on my life or my sex drive. I really don't think that's the problem, though. I'm not able to orgasm from masturbation. I find that masturbation lacks the intimacy my partner brings.

Should I see a medical doctor on the chance that it's medically related, or a therapist in case it really is rooted deep in my subconscious? — Orgasm Free for Now

Dear Orgasm Free for Now,

Yes on both counts. Keep in mind that most shrinks aren't like the ones portrayed in Mad Men. They're more likely to ask you what happened to you this week than mine the depths of your subconscious. If you're looking for a big "ah-ha!" moment, you might be disappointed. They are still great sources of insight, though — as are sex therapists. Speaking of, find one in the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists directory. No quacks butt-plug-wielding quacks here. All these folks are certified, vetted, and ribbed for your pleasure. 

Give yourself a big hand for all the hard work you have been doing: the role-playing, position switcharoos, and sex toys. A lot of people never get anywhere near that level of sexual openness, and they haven't had to deal with one-tenth of the trauma you have. 

I have to ask: are you absolutely sure that you're not orgasming? I know that sounds like a dumb question, but bear with me. Girls don't have that big showy ending that guys do. You may be so focused on the end goal that you miss the fun. I was orgasming for years as a teenager but didn't know it. I just knew that, after a certain point, everything would go numb and I'd have to stop. Female friends had similar experiences. It takes a while to get to know the story arc — there's a beginning, a middle, and an end.

That's why masturbating is so awesome, Orgasm Free for Now. I know it's not as "intimate," but it's not supposed to be. Sometimes we need that freedom to be selfish. To make weird faces and think whatever kinky, demented thoughts are necessary to get ourselves to that state. Have your boyfriend lie down next to you while you do it, if that makes you more comfortable. Experiment with video chat or phone sex. Trying to come through penetrative sex before you can come on your own is like going for three pointers when you don't yet know how to dribble the ball to the basket. 

On to your boyfriend's self-esteem. Continue with the verbal reassurance, but back it up with action. Don't just say you're enjoying the sex — initiate it. Come up behind him when he's doing the dishes and grab his ass. Give him a no-reciprocation-allowed blowjob. Let him enjoy himself without the worry of being a failure, yet again. Yes, you deserve to come. And you will come. When the pressure's off and the time is right. Or wrong. It's not something you can plan. Give yourself permission to stop trying so hard. A watched honeypot never boils.

Dear Miss Information,

I'm looking for advice on how to obtain a background check on a potential date. I don't want him to know, obviously. I'd like to find something free. I have never been on an internet date, as unbelievable as that sounds, and would just like to take every precaution. Thanks. Single Mom  

Dear Single Mom, 

Have you seen Swimfan? Don't. It's terrible. As bad as Fear but without Marky Mark's abs. I just mention it because of the premise: girl meets guy. Girl stalks guy on the internet. Girl... sparing you an hour and a half of your life, I'll just remind you that online crazy comes in both male and female flavors.

Internet dating is not that different than regular dating. You can meet a nutter at church just as easily as you meet one in a chat room. The basic rules of common sense apply: trust your gut and don't reveal too much personal information.

Most dating sites discourage you from sharing personal information until after the first meeting. Some will even flag messages containing phone numbers or emails. Still, a bit of light chitchat should yield what the person does for a living, where they went to school, their last name, and/or email.

If you have a last name, this site is one of the few that pulls up criminal records without requiring a fee or registration. Be careful, though. What looks like a red flag could be something totally benign, like an unpaid parking ticket.

Email addresses allow you to conduct searches on social networks like Facebook and photo-sharing sites like Flickr. You can also do a plain old internet search using what little you do know about him: "John + Michigan State University + tax attorney," for example. All you have is his dating-site username? Try Googling it. People often use the same one across multiple places. 

Remember, there's such a thing as knowing too much. Read enough, and you'll come up with a reason not to go out with just about anybody. It's better to get to know someone in person before diving into their personal thoughts and childhood pictures. 

Plus, the more you know, the more you're going to want to discuss it, which will make you look like a psycho. It's hard not to bring up what you found while you were Googlestalking, especially if it's irresistible conversation fodder, like if your date is BFFs with Seth MacFarlane or has a bunch of bizarro stuff for sale on eBay. You can tell yourself you'll be quiet, but it gets harder after a couple of tongue-loosening cocktails. He'll assure you that "it's cool" and "he understands" but you'll never hear from him again.

There are also digital footprints you leave. Not all sites log it, but more and more are starting to list where you came from. How humiliating would it be to have him know you visited his profile seven times in the last five days? If you're smart you'll limit your snooping to what's necessary in the name of personal safety. 

Readers, are you pro or anti-Google searching before a first date? Where do you draw the line between cautious and crazy?

Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Commentarium (36 Comments)

Aug 30 10 - 12:29am
Jay

Online safety? How about, meet in public, and mention in an email that your best friend saw his profile and one of his emails and thinks he looks promising (even if she never did). He'll assume your friend knows all about him, his emails, and the meet, which should keep a possible psycho in check long enough for your gut to tell you to not have a 2nd date with the creep.

All the Google searching in the world won't protect you from a nut. However, public knowledge of a public meeting is an incentive for most screwballs to keep things legal.

I'm not a fan of the pre-date phone call...it can be awkward talking to a stranger on the phone, and you burn-up all the chit-chat you'd use to start-off the 1st date with...but I AM a fan of exchanging numbers in case there's problems on the day of the date. And this is one more piece of real-world info he'll know is probably passed-on to your "friend".

Aug 30 10 - 2:24am
bart

Google searching will just make you paranoid.

Aug 30 10 - 2:47am
Coward

Maybe it is my age (30s) and career (computers) but I would assume that you will googlestalk if you give a crap but have the social grace to know whether you can mention it. If two cocktails trip you up about the googlestalking, you probably are going to say other things you'll regret too. Best to stick to coffee on the first date if that is the case and save the alcohol for when you know you are safe to loosen the inhibitions.

Aug 30 10 - 9:10am
mo

i agree with coward

Aug 30 10 - 10:07am
manleyhopkins

Internet stalking makes me really uncomfortable when others do it to me, but sometimes I find it hard to resist the urge to find out a lot about someone I'm starting to date by looking through hold Facebook photos. It's a weird thing.

Aug 30 10 - 11:44am
ETC

I too was having orgasms for months as a teenager before I realized I was having them. Sometimes I'm still not sure that I've had orgasms. Most of the time now I do, but sometimes, not so much so I just make the noises once I feel like I'm done ;). Also, I've had much more success with having noticeable orgasms when my stomach muscles and my PC muscles are in shape (situps, kiegels)

Aug 30 10 - 12:55pm
Sis

I never realized getting a guys full name and phone number, address, employer was an option before meeting somebody from online. It was always a requirement for me. "so gimme your details, just in case you turn out to be an ax murderer, so my family can find my corpse while I'm still pretty enough for an open casket". It always got a laugh and all but 1 time got all the info I wanted. No details, no date. Then all the specifics were given to my 2 closest friends along with knowledge that I'd be in contact sometime before 10pm. I dont care how many times I've viewed somebodies profile or exchanged 2 line messages, I never felt like I knew somebody enough to just go meet them.

Aug 30 10 - 1:15pm
Kevin

@Sis: What do you do about guys you meet while hanging-out some Saturday? Ask for all their info before talking to them? Public meeting seems safe no matter how you meet (offline or online). I've run into a few psycho women dating, I don't think I'd want them to know EVERYTHING about me before meeting. Employer? How many ways do I want to give her to stalk ME? :P

Aug 30 10 - 2:00pm
Nervesystem

Great point, @Kevin. I'd be turned off and concerned about a girl asking for so much personal info. She comes off as paranoid, and I have to protect myself too! I've always done a few emails back and forth to get a feel for a person, then simple coffee date for an hour in a public spot. I've never heard a scenario like that ending badly.

Aug 30 10 - 2:13pm
Nervesystem

For Orgasm Free, as a guy who had a sexually traumatic experience as an adult, I went from easily orgasmic to having trouble finishing, and often having to stop without getting there, though solo sex was never a problem. Anything with a partner, even mutual masturbation could be a challenge. It's taken years, and I've gotten to the point of having times where it's easy, and times it's not. The thing that works best, I've found, is to take the focus off orgasm. When I can be with my girlfriend and simply be present, enjoying the moment and the sensations of sex, I find myself able to reach orgasm. If I get close and then try to control it by trying to make myself cum, I never do. I'd recommend taking the emphasis off orgasm and just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Seeing professionals, meanwhile, could definitely help too.

Aug 30 10 - 2:16pm
Dee

I feel like a very important question was missed in regards to Orgasm Free; is she just trying to come from penetrative sex?

Personally speaking, being penetrated feels GREAT but I will never, ever be able to come without clitoral stimulation.

I think more women can't than popular media would have us believe, to be frank. I'd just grab a vibe and go to town on that thing.

Aug 30 10 - 3:28pm
thinkywritey

The "criminal" search site is not very useful. I looked there for some people I know have records — serious, violent records — and they came up empty.

Aug 30 10 - 4:36pm
Eric

I looked for Louise Woodward, James Bulger, Stephen Flemmi, and Orenthal Simpson on that "criminal" search. None showed up. If they don't have the most notorious criminals known, who is there?

Aug 30 10 - 4:45pm
KS

Am I the only one who got excited at the phrase, "butt-plug-wielding quacks?"

Aug 30 10 - 5:24pm
jaw

I can say that I ALWAYS know when I have has an orgasm. I even know it the first time and could only come away with Wow...that was wild...Whoa! After reading the first LWs story...I'm REALLY glad mine knock really hard at the door when they arrive!

Aug 30 10 - 8:25pm
J

@Eric: James Bulger was the victim, poor kid.

Aug 30 10 - 8:26pm
J

@Eric: sorry, wrong James Bulger!

Aug 30 10 - 10:05pm
LRB

@Dee, I totally agree! It sounds like Orgasm Free's issues are due in part to the sexual trauma, but I also think she might have unrealistic expectations. Lots of women can't come just from having penetrative sex or from penetrative masturbation with a dildo or fingers, including me. I need tons and tons of very direct clitoral stimulation to come. And I need dudes who are secure enough to accept that their cock isn't going to make me orgasm.

Aug 31 10 - 9:07am
shivasgift

I know this is unrelated to the advice above, but I was just wondering how you submit a question to Miss Information because I can't figure out how to do it.

Aug 31 10 - 11:18am
Erin

Hi shivasgift, you send an email to erin AT nerve dot com.

Aug 31 10 - 4:39pm
M

Hmm, maybe the geniuses at Nerve could just add an email link on the page, like every website made since 1997...?

Aug 31 10 - 5:04pm
aa

Kegels are good advice. I'm all for respecting everyone's different experiences blah blah blah, but seriously, everyone deserves to experience unambiguous and powerful orgasms sometime in their life. You don't have to have them every time, but if you NEVER have them there's just massive amounts of energy never getting released, and eventually that takes its toll in terms of sexual frustration and loss of interest. For most people, it's hard to get that excited about sex if you never go beyond 2.0 on the Richter scale.

Aug 31 10 - 8:17pm
heather

I tried the link with the name of a person that is currently in prison and has a record for other things. He did not show up at all. Don't trust the site Miss Info gave you. A facebook search is good though and meet in public, take two cards, etc.

Aug 31 10 - 9:44pm
Al

I have gone on a couple of internet dates in my day and the rule was I always told my BFF where I was going and when, and we'd set a time for a text exchange so I could cue her in to a potential creep. Also if she didn't hear from me, she'd know to call the PoPo

Sep 01 10 - 7:36pm
RP

@Orgasm Free. I was physically abused for years during my childhood and had a lot of problems being intimate (nevermind actually orgasming!!!) with partners or even myself. I concur with all of the advice here, but what worked for me is to dig deep down inside and tell yourself three things, 1) you have an amazing partner (seriously, he sounds awesome), more importantly, 2) you can orgasm, I know this sounds ridiculous, but once you do it once, it is so much easier to do it again and again and 3) you deserve to be pleasured, you are very attractive (you partner obsviously thinks so), you have survived something absolutely horrific, but you are sexual being and no one can take that away from you.

Oh, I know that all sounds sooooo hokey...but seriously, it takes work, don't get discouraged.

I would try to have an orgasm by yourself before trying it during intercourse with your partner. You think masturbation lacks intimacy, but what about mutual masturbation? I can't think of anything more intimate than watching each other while pleasure your own selves, and it makes for great foreplay (if it gets that far)

Also, in response to a comment about having the ab muscles. I definitely agree that that helps, one of the best things I have found is to do squats (or kegels) in your weekly workout and try tilting your pelvis up (with your lower abs) while you are in missionary position during sex.

Sep 02 10 - 6:01am
David

I would try to check photos and see if they would match the profile but that's pretty much it. I did make the mistake and read someone's blog once before a date and pretty much every topic of conversation was straight from her blog. I didn't mention anything but it did sort of kill the mood.

Sep 08 10 - 3:43am
DJK

@Orgasm Free. Very few women climax from penetration alone. It is your clitoris and not your vagina that contains most sexual nerve endings. I cannot imagine that my orgasms could be mistaken for anything else and am highly dubious that anyone who is 'unsure' that they have climaxed, actually has. Suddenly going all numb sounds like too much samey stimulation from a vibrator. Masturbate to find out what gets you off, with direct and indirect clitoral stimulation, varying pressure and not expecting much to happen for about 20 minutes, which is the average time it takes from arousal to big bang.

Sep 08 10 - 5:41pm
Michael

I learned some oral sex skills and patience with several women who had trouble climaxing. My last girlfriend enjoys some hard core porn on youporn among others as we sit and watch on a big HD screen. One sure fire way is using a ribbed lubed condom after much foreplay. What really drives her nuts is for us to fantasize about her college boyfriend coming into the bedroom naked and aroused and watch for awhile before he comes over to our bed to get a hand job as I lie back--it goes from there to oral sex as I watch. It drives me nuts too! I have been in several threesomes (FFM, MMF) and she gets hot just having me tell it. She is thinking about it with a coworker of hers--a petite hottie who loves sex.

Sep 12 10 - 5:39pm
Sunbury

Man, I knew it was over when she started nervously joking about all the stuff she'd decided to look up on my ex-girlfriends that week.

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