America’s longest-running sex-advice column!


Joe Newton

I’m a 40-year-old woman, he’s a 35-year-old man, we’ve been together for fifteen years. We met young, and I was his first serious partner. In the beginning, sex was fun, but I’ve never had an orgasm with anyone, ever. We had a ton of other things in common and we stayed together because it mostly worked. Fifteen years later, I have two big issues: I can’t orgasm — that’s issue number one — and even if I could accept that, the sex I have with my partner is unsatisfying and has been for years. He’s a caring partner, but he’s not good in bed. My attempts to explain to him what gets me excited were ignored. When I finally told him I couldn’t keep having unsatisfying sex, his self-esteem in bed was completely destroyed. Now we don’t have sex at all.

Neither of us wants to end the relationship. We still...

Want to read the rest? Subscribe now to get every question, every week, the complete Savage Love archives, special events, and much more!

...all. Neither of us wants to end the relationship. We still cuddle, and we’re a great team. We have shared hobbies that take up 95% of our time (mountain sports), no kids (by choice), a decent income (finally!), and an otherwise rewarding life. We’ve also never demanded monogamy from each other but living in a small town in rural Canada makes seeking out other partners extremely complicated. I sometimes wonder if exploring my sexuality with someone else — maybe even a woman (I’m pretty sure I’m bi) — might help me get my playfulness back and inspire me to try again with my partner. We talk about these things very openly, so it wouldn’t be cheating. Has that ever worked? About never having an orgasm: it’s not just him. Nothing I’ve ever tried — toys, masturbation, different toys, more masturbation, pot, alcohol, porn — has helped. I just can’t come. Arousal builds then abruptly ends before I come. People say, “just masturbate more,” but I’ve been doing that for years and nothing changes. I’m frustrated and wondering if I should just give up. But if I break up with my partner over this and I can’t orgasm with the next person I fall for, what was the point of breaking up? Years ago, I had a super-hot summer fling with a very attractive guy — which my partner knew about and encouraged me to enjoy — and still zero orgasms. Am I just broken? Has anyone who never orgasmed finally achieved one? What worked? Sadness Over This Inability Ruining Entire Days “Pleasure is why people are motivated to have sex,” said Dr. Lori Brotto, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia. “When pleasure is absent, it’s not surprising that motivation and desire fade.” Now, it’s certainly possible to have a pleasurable sexual experience without coming — because of course it is — but if you never come and the sex isn’t pleasurable and your partner doesn’t make an effort when you suggest ways to make sex slightly more pleasurable, sooner or later you’re gonna give up or blow up. But even if you decide to give up on sex — which you have for now — Dr. Brotto, who is also a sex researcher and sex therapist, doesn’t want you to give up on orgasms. “Most people assigned female at birth cannot reach orgasm during insertive vaginal sex — 80% of females — but most can reach orgasm on their own during clitoral stimulation,” said Dr. Brotto. “SOTIRED mentions needing her mind to be very present, which is not only normal but required for high arousal and orgasm in females. Thus, having her mind ‘totally there’ is an excellent skill, and I’d encourage her to build on that.” Dr. Brotto isn’t just telling you to “masturbate more,” SOTIRED, she’s telling you not to lose hope. “But if, despite experimenting with all types of stimulation and focusing her mind on sensations in the present moment, SOTIRED still isn’t reaching orgasm during masturbation, more may be going on,” said Dr. Brotto. “I would want to rule out any physical causes like vulvo-vaginal pain, skin dermatoses, nerve damage from an injury, diabetes, or neurological issues. I’d also ask a physician to review the medications she’s on — and was on previously — to see whether there’s something pharmacological blocking climax.” As for your partner, SOTIRED, Dr. Brotto thinks you should see a sex therapist with him. “A good sex therapist can reframe ‘working on it’ in a pleasure-focused way,” said Dr. Brotto. “And a therapist could perhaps convey to SOTIRED’s partner that learning to give his partner pleasure will directly benefit him as well. And since many sex therapists offer virtual appointments, living in a small town is no problem.” And now, at the risk of making myself deeply unpopular in the comment thread this week, I rise in defense of your dense partner. If you pulled your punches when you first tried to talk to him about your dissatisfaction… if you prioritized his ego over advocating for your own pleasure because that’s what cis women are socialized to do… your partner may not have known you were this unhappy. If you were gentle and opaque, SOTIRED, if you said something like, “Things are great! But this [small change, vibe shift, sex act] would make things even better,” he may have come away from those conversations thinking, “Things are great,” not because he’s an irredeemably insensitive asshole, SOTIRED, but because he was socialized as a cis man. Many cis women (and most gay men!) will find (and obsess about) the tiniest criticism hidden under a mountain of compliments; many cis men (and some gay men!) will miss the mountain of criticism because they can’t take their eyes off the single, half-hearted compliment perched on top. Being confronted by a deeply dissatisfied romantic partner — being told you suck at sex by the person you’ve been having sex with most of your adult life — won’t leave a scratch on a selfish asshole who couldn’t care less about his partner’s pleasure, SOTIRED, but it has the power to devastate a decent person who was too dense to hear what his partner was trying to tell him. So, the fact that your partner was hurt when you finally blew up at him is a good sign. Which is a very long way of saying I agree with Dr. Brotto about seeing a sex therapist and giving your partner a chance to make the sex work. And, again, don’t lose hope. “People can experience orgasm after years, even decades, of not being able to orgasm,” said Dr. Brotto. “But the key ingredients to getting there are 1. knowing what the inhibitors are and how they’re getting in the way, 2. being open to experimenting with a variety of new types of stimulation, including ones you hadn’t considered before, and 3. working with a skilled sex therapist. And if a partner is relevant to this equation, having a partner who is focused on prioritizing your pleasure without guilt or shame is quite important too.” Finally, SOTIRED, sometimes people will say, “I feel so safe with my partner — I don’t understand why the sex isn’t working?” Well, sometimes the sex isn’t working because things feel too safe. Stepping outside your comfort zones together — taking risks alone or together (fuck a woman already!) — can make sex feel dangerous and exciting and chaotic again. Deciding to get sex elsewhere could be exciting, but you risk putting more distance between you and your partner…. but waiting until you’re finally having good sex with your partner isn’t without risk. If leaving your partner is the only way to have sex you’re excited about, SOTIRED, that incentivizes leaving your partner. And you may find, as so many other open couples have, that getting out there and fucking other people — having sexual adventures together or on your own (fuck a woman already!) — will make you wanna fuck each other again. P.S. Some recommended reading from Dr. Brotto for SOTIRED and other women facing similar struggles: Becoming Cliterate by Laurie Mintz and Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman. “These step-by-step guides towards finding pleasure consider all the inhibitors and facilitators along the way,” said Dr. Brotto. P.P.S. Dr. Brotto is too modest to recommend her own excellent book, so I’ll have to do it: Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire has helped countless women find their way — or find their way back — to pleasurable sex. P.P.P.S. There’s no “orgasm gap” among women who have sex with other women. I’m not saying that fucking a woman will immediately solve your problem, SOTIRED, but fucking men hasn’t solved your problem so… fuck some women already! Follow Dr. Lori Brotto on Threads and Twitter @DrLoriBrotto. To learn more about her research, her public speaking, and her books, go to www.loribrotto.com. I was chatting with a couple of friends and the topic turned to clearing out a loved one’s belongings after they’ve passed away and some of the interesting, strange, or inexplicable belongings we found. One said that, while cleaning out her father’s place she found — amongst other sex items — a metal butt plug in his freezer. None of us had an explanation as to why and I just threw out that maybe he was freezing it to kill the bacteria. That seemed to satisfy them, but the truth is I don’t know; I was just riffing. It seems to me washing it or wiping it with alcohol would be just as, if not more, effective and I’m not sure if freezing it would even work. So, I’m turning to you. Do you have any idea(s) about why a guy would keep his metal butt plug in a freezer? Is there some kink associated with putting an ice-cold butt plug up your rectum? It seems like it would do some damage; that scene in A Christmas Story comes to mind. Perplexed By Frozen Treat The crucial difference between the flagpole in A Christmas Story (and what it did to Flick’s tongue) and the butt plug in the freezer (and what it did for the deceased’s ass) is this: your friend’s dad had to remove that plug from his freezer, carry it to his bedroom, and cover it with room-temperature lube before shoving it up his butt — each step causing the surface temperature of his metal butt plug to rise — whereas the boy who touched a metal flagpole with his tongue in A Christmas Story had essentially joined that flagpole in the freezer; the flagpole was frozen solid because it was freezing outside, the boy was freezing outside with the flagpole. And while I’m no atmospheric scientist, I feel confident saying that if Flick had carried that flagpole into a heated classroom and lubed that flagpole up before touching it with his tongue, his tongue wouldn’t have gotten stuck to it. (Also, your friend’s father had the option of running his plug under a little warm water to bring it closer to the desired/workable temperature before use.) As for what that metal butt plug was doing in the freezer, the obvious answer is almost certainly the correct one: chilling. Some people enjoy the sensation of cold toys in their butts — some people enjoy slipping actual ice cubes in their butts — but I wouldn’t advise the inexperienced and/or nervous to experiment with ice-cold ass toys. (The point of anal foreplay is warming the butt up; a frozen toy is going to the opposite effect.) Additionally, the fact that the metal butt plug was the only sex toy in the freezer suggests your friend’s dad and/or one of his sex partners liked an ice-cold plug; if he thought putting sex toys in the freezer was a good way to sterilize them, your friend would’ve found more of her dad’s sex toys in his freezer. (But if he thought he could sterilize his butt plug by freezing it, he thought wrong: “Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts, and molds — [but] once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active,” says the USDA. To sterilize steel, glass, or silicone sex toys, boil them in water for a few minutes, toss them in the dishwasher, or hand wash them with anti-bacterial soap and hot water.) There’s only one other possible explanation that I think of: your friend’s father didn’t want his regular sex partner(s) to find his butt plug — maybe he didn’t want anyone (other than his heirs) to know he was into butt stuff — so he hid his tell-tail toy in the freezer instead of keeping it with his other sex toys. But all we can do is speculate, PBFT, as the deceased is the only one who knows the answer and he’s not taking questions. Got problems? Email your question to Dan here! Or record your question for the Lovecast here! Follow Dan on Instagram and Threads @DanSavage. Follow Dan on BlueSky @DanSavage. HUMP! Part One is playing in cities across North America and Europe! Go to HUMP! Film Fest to check out the new films and get your HUMP! 2024 tickets now!  

Comments on Frozen