How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a young adult and I still really struggle with feelings of guilt and shame after sex. Although my partner is wonderful and caring (and frankly the sex is incredible) when I think back I just feel a deep sense of shame about how much I enjoyed the activities or certain choices I made. I feel like if other people knew what I was “really like” and the kind of sex I was into, I wouldn’t be respected professionally or accepted by my community.
I was raised religiously, and while I’ve since left the church, I just can’t shake the feeling that what I’m doing is immoral and I’m a bad person for being so into sex. While outwardly I try to be a feminist and sex-positive, I struggle to apply those ideals to my own life: I’ve staked so much of my identity on being a “good girl” that accepting my queer identity or enjoyment of sex feels like betraying some more innocent version of myself. I know that there’s no magic phrase to fix this, but do you know of any resources for overcoming sexual shame? Thank you so much!
—Not So Ex-Prude
Identities can be extremely fluid over the course of a lifetime, and we usually have more than one specific label, simultaneously. Your position in your family might be one, you might be a student or consider your job part of your identity, you probably count some of the other communities that you’re a part of as aspects of who you are, and, of course, there’s sexual orientation and gender. Conflict between your identities happens. Big examples include people whose work is at odds with their personal philosophies and beliefs, and others, like you, who grew up in a church that was against sexual expression and are now doing just that.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ordained Lutheran pastor, published a book in 2019 called Shameless: A Sexual Revolution, for Christians seeking to connect with and understand their sexuality. Her thoughts on the Bible’s view of sexuality seem like they’ll be useful to you. The short version is that the Bible, and particularly the words of Jesus, are often open to a more sex-positive interpretation than many church leaders teach.
If you’d prefer something more academic, and through an explicitly queer framework, cosmia bee concordia and Aurora Laybourn’s podcast Drunk Church examines sexuality and religion. I’m a big fan of Bataille, and enjoyed their episode “Christian Mysticism & The Philosopher of Holes.”
Another thing you can do is sit with your shame. When that feeling comes up, allow yourself to look at the details. Ask yourself “What am I ashamed of?” and then, “Why?” Listen to your feelings and thoughts, and spend some time thinking through the reasons and beliefs behind those responses. From there, question those beliefs. Ask yourself if they’re right for you right now. Evaluate whether you agree with the foundations of those beliefs—the logic and thought they’re built upon. For some people, this means getting in the shower or taking a walk. For others, it’s talking with a trusted friend or therapist, or writing. If you start feeling overwhelmed or out of control, move to a self-care activity and give yourself a break. Take your time—you’ll probably untangle this slowly, over the course of several months or even years. Give yourself permission to be who you are right now—questioning, seeking, and complicated. I think you’ve got this.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve (f31) been sexually active for 15 years with partners and never really had to learn to or enjoyed masturbating. I’m now single and want to be for a while. To orgasm, I need clitoral, A-spot (near the cervix) and nipple stimulation but toys like my glass dildo or rabbit don’t seem to have the same effect and desensitize me. I’m able to cum from these (I don’t consider this an orgasm), which is a nice, short and simple release but I want the full whole-body orgasm that sex gave me, but without the man. There don’t seem to be many toys that target the A-spot.
—Frustrated and Demoralized
The A-spot, or anterior fornix erogenous zone—which roughly translates to front arch turn-on area—is in front of the cervix, along the front wall of the vagina toward the top, and at the top. Many people with cervixes find stimulation of this area pleasurable. It was first described in a medical framework by Dr. Chua Chee Ann, a medical doctor from Malaysia. His website gives an honorable mention to Dr. Eduardo Figueiredo who arrived at the same anatomical understanding through his research in Brazil. Dr. Chua Chee Ann dubbed this region the A-spot, short for AFE zone, while Dr. Figueiredo dubbed it the P-spot. (I find it applaudable that neither attempted to name this area after themselves, which is a refreshing departure from the likes of Dr. Gräfenberg, who named the more well-known G-spot after, well, himself.)
Kate Sloan, journalist and sex blogger, is an absolute A-spot aficionado. In her own words “I am always going on and on about the A-spot,” so I invited her to give her top tips for A-spot toys. First, though, I’d like to link you to Kate’s ode to the area. That post was written in 2014, though, so she’s got some updated recommendations for toys:
In my experience, the best toys for A-spot stimulation are ones that are long (at least 6-7 inches depending on the user’s anatomy) and have a thin-ish tip that curves upward slightly, so it can slide into the fornix in front of the cervix. While there are exceptions to this, I find that you don’t want something that’s super firm or super thick at the tip, as it might feel painful or uncomfortable if it crashes into your cervix.
Some of my favorite A-spot toys (for my own body, anyway):
• The Uberrime Night King is long enough to hit the A-spot but also has a fair amount of thickness and texture through the shaft, so my G-spot and vaginal walls get stimulated too when I use it. I’ve found this one especially fun to get fucked with in a strap-on.
• The Tantus Tsunami is sold out most places because I think they stopped making it, but it’s still available at SheVibe, at least for now. It’s the dildo that initially helped me discover my A-spot so it holds a special place in my heart, and in my vagina. The way its tip gets thinner than the shaft and curves upward is just perfect for reaching the A-spot.
• The Fun Factory Stronic Real is a self-thrusting toy that’s long enough to hit the spot with ease and has a good shape for it too. It does sometimes wiggle out as it thrusts, so I usually anchor it in place by putting a pillow between my legs at the base of the toy.
• I co-designed a dildo with the Pleasure Tailor called the Easy A, which was specifically created to hit the A-spot without much effort. It has a slim, curved tip with a firm core and a squishy exterior, so it can really get into that fornix and stroke the sensitive skin there without hurting the cervix. (Full disclosure: I get a small kickback whenever one of these is sold, but I genuinely think it’s a great dildo and use mine frequently.)
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Dear How to Do It,
Lately, it’s almost impossible for me to get an erection after cumming the first time. I feel it’s because the condom choked the blood flow when the dick was pulsating while orgasming; thus not allowing enough blood to maintain an erection to go for round two. Does this seem logical, or is it just an incorrect conclusion?
—Married and Monotonous
Your hypothesis didn’t seem logical to me at all, but I’m not a doctor, so I reached out to Dr. Ashley Winter, a board-certified urologist and the Chief Medical Officer of Odela Health. She confirmed my understanding that “a condom will not squeeze the penis enough to reduce the rigidity of the erection.” If you’re using condoms properly, the most significant pressure will be at the base of the penis (I assume you are rolling the condom all the way down to the base of your penis, as is required for proper use) which, according to Winter, “if anything, would serve to trap blood (ie. might slightly enhance the erection).” You should be using a new condom every time, and applying it after you’re already erect.
With that out of the way, you know that feeling when you’re having an orgasm? That sensation that’s often described as pulsing? That’s the muscles in your pelvic floor contracting. “Those muscles actually compress the base of the penis thereby dramatically INCREASING pressure in the penis during orgasm (i.e. your pelvic floor muscles work like ‘nature’s cock ring),” Winters said.
Pressure on your penis is part of the act, condom or not. If squeezing prevented dicks from getting hard a second time, the process of orgasm would prevent everyone with the aforementioned organ from participating in a second round of penetration. So, the condom is not your culprit, physically speaking.
Here’s what does reduce your turgidity: “A complex set of physical changes including chemical release from your nerves lead to loss of erection (in most people), after you orgasm.” And, because of those changes, we have what is known as the refractory period. This is normal. Quoting Dr. Winter again, “the presence of one is not something ‘wrong.’ It’s very normal.” I want to emphasize that quote—it’s been a long time since I kicked a dead horse—”very normal.”
Maybe you didn’t have a refractory period in the past, and now the aging process has gifted you with one. You can absolutely bring this up with your primary care physician and might consider seeing a urologist for an exam and some custom-tailored perspective. But you can also see your new refractory period as an opportunity to engage in other forms of sexual interaction and physical touch. Maybe you snuggle for a while, perform oral sex on your partner, or do something else with your time together.
Dear How to Do It,
For all of my life, in the many times and many ventures I’ve endeavored in my sex life, I still haven’t orgasmed through sex or masturbation. Since losing my virginity at 19 years old, I’ve been with a considerable number of people, both girls and boys, with a variety of ages and experiences themselves. I even considered that maybe I was too much in my head or too conscious about my body to enjoy anything happening with another person in bed. But upon meeting my boyfriend (my current boyfriend), I realized the problem was never due to a lack of arousal or inhibition to be vulnerable with another person. I even stopped experimenting with others for a while to experiment on my own with the idea that maybe no one else could possibly make me orgasm if I didn’t know what felt good.
Without the goal of orgasm in mind (just pleasure, really) and in a relaxed setup, I tried on my own vaginal and anal penetration with lube, clitoral stimulation, nipple play, and simulating sex in different positions with a dildo. Not much was accomplished except learning that I liked nipple play but, still, nothing was enough to urge me to continue, much less get close to finishing.
I do already know what it feels like to orgasm and the only times I’ve been able to do that for myself is through coregasms. I discovered the feeling when I was working out at the age of 14 and I was doing the “6-inch hold” exercise. And yes, I find it funny and ironic how the name of it is unintentionally sexual—just like my first orgasm. I then started doing it more often until I found I have two main workouts that are most effective in making me orgasm: planking and dead hang, which I still very much use to this day.
I wonder if maybe my dependence on these coregasm workouts has any effect whatsoever on my inability to finish during actual sex? I’ve actually sulked about this for a while (maybe even depressed) thinking that I don’t have the ability to come in ‘conventional’ ways. Is there any way for me to normally orgasm or should I just take my loss and continue on with my planks and dead hangs?
Coach Pea, a friend and business partner of mine, happens to also be a personal trainer, coach, and proprietress of The Health Hussy. I sent your question over to her, and she emailed back with several thoughts:
I want to reinforce that there is nothing abnormal with you or your body! Your desire to reach orgasm with your partner is valid, though I want to share that some polls have found that nearly 80 percent of women do NOT orgasm with penetrative sex alone, so not “finishing” with your partner is normal. As someone who also experiences them—Coregasms are AWESOME! A lot of women require a buildup of tension in their legs before they can achieve orgasm. So, when a woman exercises, the release of endorphins and dopamine, which are necessary for orgasm, combined with the tension in the abs and lower extremities, can cause clitoral stimulation.
Chin-ups, hanging leg raises and crunches, floor crunches, and single-leg planks are all good exercises for having coregasms. It’s rare for coregasms to be achieved with a single movement either; it seems to take several movements and pumping to create enough pulsing to achieve orgasm. But on the plus side, it makes getting fit a lot more fun!
What you’re looking to experience is another access to orgasm. I applaud you on all of your efforts of self-exploration and pleasure for pleasure’s sake (not orgasm-expectant). You’ve laid (ha) a great foundation to work with. Most of the time women are asking how to strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles for orgasm activation. Since you’ve already got that down, I have two possible suggestions for you. The first is to utilize your skills in combination with a special breathing technique taught in sexological bodywork sessions called “The Little Big Draw.” My colleague Sylvie Barak, a Somatica institute-trained pleasure coach, shared her explanation:
“A ‘little big draw’ is a version of the Big Draw technique traditionally used at the end of a massage to create a dramatic period of full-body savoring. The little big draw is used at any time during your massage that you want to create a shift in energy or a ‘hinge moment,’ as I call these rapid transitions.”
Essentially, you’ll pair breath work with your muscle activation to get you to where you’re used to going with your orgasms, but then you’ll completely release at the top and see how the flow continues with full relaxation and then repetition of the massage and breath work. When I use a variation of this during solo or partnered sex, I relax right before I get to the top of the orgasm or as it’s happening. Sometimes it makes the orgasm much stronger and longer, or it’s just that I’m able to tune into my body’s sensations more and not focus on keeping the clench. Sometimes it’s milder, or just a different orgasm. See if you can utilize your super-coregasm power in this way.
My second suggestion would be to enlist the assistance of a pelvic floor therapist or a certified sexological bodyworker. You may have adhesions, torsions, or other emotional or physical tension patterns in the body that are causing roadblocks to other kinds of orgasms. These two types of professionals can work with you and your body to get there. I partnered with Sylvie to create our “Kink for the Curious” course and one of the facets of her background I was excited to introduce was “pleasure mapping,” a process of identifying new types of touch and erogenous zones on the body. Expanding your body’s pleasure vocabulary is never a bad thing! You might find that there are other surprising access points and methods to your hotspot.
Again, the main thing to remember is that you are not broken or abnormal, but a fabulous being who desires and deserves to experience more pleasure in their life and in their body. I hope that you are able to continue having patience with yourself and never give up on getting off!
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I have been married for about 15 years to my husband, and we have two kids together. He is a kind and caring person, a good dad, and a thoughtful partner. We enjoy spending time together. The problem is I am 0 percent attracted to him and don’t have any desire for sex with him. He hasn’t changed very much physically in the time we have been together—it’s my response to him that has. I thought for a long time I was one of those people whose desire decreased as I got older (late 30s). But something recently showed me otherwise.