Dear Prudence

Let It Go

I’m a 27-year-old woman, and I’ve never had an orgasm.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I am a 27-year-old woman and I don’t think I have ever had an orgasm. I have had a variety of sexual partners (both long-term boyfriends and flings) and masturbate regularly. I’ve tried different positions, sex toys, you name it. Sex feels great and sometimes I do feel a sort of release, but nothing as intense as I hear an orgasm is supposed to be. I love sex and don’t really have a problem with the fact that I don’t orgasm (although it would certainly be nice!), but I don’t know how to broach it with my partners. Sometimes men get frustrated or feel like it is something they are doing wrong and it becomes awkward. I’d rather not have to fake it. How do I convince them that I still enjoy sex even without the big finish?

—Am I Missing Something?

Dear Missing,
This reminds me of a scene from the wonderful Masters of Sex in which Margaret Scully, the wife of the (closeted gay) university provost, tries to volunteer for Masters and Johnson’s sex study. Virginia Johnson asks Mrs. Scully if she’s ever had an orgasm, and after the older woman mumbles that she thinks so, Johnson replies gently, “You would know.” No one should badger you into having an orgasm if you are content with the way things are. But you also say you’d like to have them, and there’s very likely no reason you can’t. Lots of women get told to speak frankly to their partners about how to satisfy them, but for women who aren’t orgasmic it’s less than helpful advice since they don’t know what steps it would take. So as far as figuring it out goes, I say ditch the guy and work on this solo. Learning to masturbate to orgasm will allow you to understand your body better without feeling the pressure of a spectator, and eventually you will be able to bring this greater knowledge about yourself to your lover.

To begin, you need some instruction. Try the books The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass and Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo; the latter is also available as a video. I suggest that you jump start the process by getting an industrial strength vibrator (just read the comments!), letting your mind travel to arousing situations, and being patient. With persistence, I’m betting you will get there. (Hint: an orgasm is really intense, but it doesn’t last very long—which is a good way of keeping you coming back for more.) Eventually when you can reliably reach orgasm, wean yourself off the wand and go manual, which will better approximate conditions with a partner. Think how enjoyable it will be to be a woman who loves sex and also understands more fully what the fuss is about.


Dear Prudence,
I’m a divorced father of a young girl, living in state A. Two years ago I met a wonderful woman online, in my same profession, who lives in neighboring state B, and we recently became engaged. I have a great co-parenting relationship with my ex and made clear from the start that I would not be willing to move to state B. My fiancée assured me this was not a problem as her ex was an absentee parent and she would be able to live in my state after she got court permission to move with her daughter. She would be giving up a very successful career in her state to start over with me. She notified her ex of her plans and he stepped up, going from 15 percent parenting to 50 percent. Now he says if my fiancée wants to move their daughter, the girl has to live with him during the school year and be with her mother during summers and every other weekend. My fiancée wants to proceed with this proposal. I’m struggling with this. Should I accept my fiancée doing something I find disturbing, leaving her daughter most of the year with her supposedly rotten ex, which I would not do myself? Or should I respect that this is her decision? I’m concerned she will get here and resent me for the inequality of the situation.


Dear Troubled,
This really does require the judgment of Solomon, but all I can offer is my perspective, which mirrors yours. I can understand that your fiancée, having been so disappointed in love, and having found the other prospects so lacking, does not want to let go of the chance to be happy with you. But I agree that happiness that depends on largely walking away from a child, and leaving her with an ex she thinks inadequate, comes at too high a price. I’m afraid that for the time being I think that you and she should be the people who make the sacrifice and do the traveling. Continue to see each other as much as your schedules will allow; maybe you can each work remotely in the other’s state when you’re off child care duties. It could be that you can wait out the rotten ex, who perhaps can’t sustain this level of commitment. I don’t see how your love can thrive when your fiancée will have a hole in her heart where her daughter should be.


Dear Prudence,
I am a veterinarian at a busy practice. A few months ago, a new client brought in his feral cat for treatment. During the exam and consult he was very friendly, then began obviously flirting with me—asking if we did house calls and saying he would ask for the “pretty, blue-eyed doctor.” I showed him my wedding band and said I was married. He apologized and said he does not usually hit on married women. Several weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, I received an elaborate gift at work, a teddy bear and roses, from some patient whose name I didn’t recognize. It was him! I had no idea how to respond, so I did nothing. Now, months later, the cat is back in our hospital, very sick. The other doctors are dealing with the cat and the owner because they know I am uncomfortable. He asked another doctor if I had gotten the bear because I never said thank you. She covered for me saying the thank you must have gotten lost in the mail. Then the day when the cat went home the owner cornered a receptionist, asked specifically if I was working that night, and said to let me know he wanted to talk to me. I wrote him a thank you note and that evening high-tailed it out of there. Was I wrong thinking this was really a strange and inappropriate gift? Did I bring this on myself by not responding to him?

—Confused Cat Caregiver

Dear Confused,
Feral cat, feral owner. You did nothing to bring this upon yourself, but there’s something wrong when you’re skulking around your own workplace like a cat avoiding a rabid dog. You made absolutely clear to your client (the man) that your interest was strictly in the patient (the cat). His gift was inappropriate and not responding was the right response. Fortunately, this guy limits his appearances to when he has the cover of an ailing feline, but you shouldn’t be going to work worrying that today is the day that Killer reappears for treatment. You need to discuss this with the head of the practice and suggest that it’s time for this client to find another vet. This article lays out how to ask a client to move on. If your boss won’t do this, then the receptionists and other vets should be alerted that you are not to have any contact with this guy, and that when this guy asks for you he should be told another doctor in the practice will handle his needs. Let’s hope that his poor putty tat is either returned to health or has run out of lives, so you don’t have to run into him anymore.


Dear Prudence,
I am a 50-year-old man, the foreman over a group of guys who work outside. Real manly man kind of situation. Over the past few years I’ve started getting choked up more and more. Last fall I was the best man at my son’s wedding. Didn’t even make it close to getting halfway through the toast. I was really embarrassed. What can I do to try to control this? Even talking about my 5-year-old daughter we’re in the process of adopting, and I’ll start to choke up and have to walk away. Watching movies will even do it.


Dear Teary,
Oh, do I feel your pain. The other day I was at a concert given by my daughter’s friend, a girl I have known since she was born. There she was a high school senior with a spectacular voice, who sang with style and sophistication. Listening to her, it hit me like nothing else that our little girls are grown and childhood is over. So I punctuated the music with my sobs from the audience. This was particularly painful since I have always prided myself on being immune to most emotional displays. But, like you, I’m going soft. Maybe it’s a function of getting older and realizing how fleeting everything is (or maybe it’s just declining testosterone). In any case, there are plenty of examples of manly men who turn on the waterworks. Watch retired football coach Dick Vermeil discuss his propensity for choking up. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about at not being able to get through the wedding toast to your child. Being overwhelmed by the sweetness of your little girl is admirable. But if you want to temper your reputation as the office blubberer, tell stories of the hilarious things your youngest does because laughter will help block your tears. But pack a hankie just in case.


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