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‘After 10 years of marriage, I’ve only had two orgasms during sex’

Ask Roe: ‘Though we may have sex a lot, he is very quick to finish’

‘I need help, I am starting to resent him for not being able to help me reach climax.’ Photograph: iStock

I have been married for five years, with my partner for 10 years. We have a healthy sex life, for the most part, and have sex probably once a week. Though we may do it a lot, he is very quick to finish, and I have only had a true orgasm maybe twice during sex. Foreplay is pretty much non-existent, lasting maybe one or two minutes. We have some toys but haven’t had much success when using them. Any suggestions?

I can reach climax, very quickly, independently, with clitoral stimulation. I think I could be a little less shy when it comes to requesting more time or giving pointers. Just seems like a lot of coaching is needed. I need help, I am starting to resent him for not being able to help me reach climax.

Pin it to my Twitter, write it on my gravestone, let me twirl around mountainsides singing to lonely goatherds the anthem of my life: Up to 80 per cent per cent of women and people with vaginas cannot orgasm from penetrative sex alone. Now for the remix: Most women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm.

The good thing about your letter is that you know what the problem is, you’re just hesitating to put all of the pieces together because you’re nervous of having to address it with your partner. So let’s make it clear: you are able to have an orgasm, you have them on your own and you do not orgasm through penetrative sex.  And yet with your partner, foreplay is essentially non-existent, the focus is on penetrative sex, and that doesn’t last very long.


To have a healthier sex life, you need to have a healthier relationship with both your own pleasure and your communication with your partner

Despite your assessment that you have a healthy sex life, if one partner’s pleasure is repeatedly, consistently ignored – either by themselves, or their partner, or both – it isn’t actually that healthy. But don’t worry. You can get there.

To have a healthier sex life, you need to have a healthier relationship with both your own pleasure and your communication with your partner.

You admit that you haven’t been communicating with your husband about what feels good for you, and your assertion that “a lot of coaching is needed” has become a self-defeating one – you believe that there’s so much to teach your partner that you’ve never started. And now you’re 10 years into a sexually unfulfilling relationship. Imagine if you had started that “coaching” when you first got together. Now imagine another 10 years of unfulfilling sex. Not a great imagining, right?

So let the coaching begin, now – but begin with yourself. Part of this problem is that you have normalised not advocating for your own pleasure. You need to acknowledge that you have not been sexually satisfied, and that you deserve to be. Think carefully about what it is that has been holding you back from addressing this issue with your husband. Is it shame around sex generally? An ingrained idea that your sexual pleasure isn’t as important than his? The pressure to orgasm from penetrative sex instead of asking for what actually feels good for you?

Once you pinpoint the reason you haven’t felt comfortable asking for what you enjoy, you will most likely notice how absurd it is.  And I sincerely hope you married your husband because he cares about you and wants you to feel good. Coach yourself into believing that you deserve sexual pleasure, that your husband should want to give you sexual pleasure, and you will feel much more comfortable coaching him on how to give it to you.

I understand that it might feel very daunting and uncomfortable to tell your partner that you have spent years not having an orgasm during sex – particularly if you have been faking orgasms. (Everyone, please take note of this trap and don’t fake orgasms. It’s rarely worth it in the short term, and definitely not worth it in the long term.) It’s perfectly fine for you to tell your partner that lately, you’ve been enjoying more clitoral stimulation and that penetrative sex isn’t getting you there, so you’d like to focus on that. This is technically true, without also revealing that “lately” actually means “lately and also, always”.

After 10 years together, it’s also acceptable, understandable and even expected for you to suggest switching up your sexual routine and try new things. Tell your husband that you want to keep your sexual routine fresh, that you feel more aroused with more foreplay, and that you’d like to spend time trying to please each other sexually without engaging in penetrative sex.

This will accomplish a few things. It will allow you to explore each other’s sexual pleasure in ways you have not been doing; it will give you the opportunity to show him how much you enjoy foreplay and other sexual activities; and because it involves both of you interacting, instead of only you asking for certain things, it should help eliminate any self-consciousness and instead create an atmosphere of mutual sharing, exploration and enjoyment.

If your partner has an orgasm before you, continue doing what you need to yourself until you orgasm

Ask your husband what feels good for him, consistently, and listen. Then tell him what feels good for you, consistently, and direct him back to these things if he rushes past them or forgets. Use positive re-enforcement: tell him how much certain activities turn you on, how sexy he is when he does a particular thing, tell him during the day how much you keep thinking about when he did that particular thing that felt amazing.

If this approach doesn’t work, then it’s time to get more blunt, and tell your partner that your pleasure is as important as his, and therefore the things that bring you pleasure need to be integrated into your usual sexual routine.

And literally take this situation into your own hands: you can and should be stimulating your clitoris during sex yourself. If your partner has an orgasm before you, continue doing what you need to yourself until you orgasm. Show him that you having an orgasm is the new normal for your shared sex life, show him how to be involved, but also show him that if he refuses to, you will get there yourself. I’m sure he will want to be involved.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She is researching a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford

If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at