I am a 25-year-old woman who has never reached orgasm. What should I do? squib

I have experienced an unpleasant pulsing sensation – but that seems a far cry from how an orgasm is usually described

I have a question that you might find slightly weird so, from the outset, I would like to stress that, despite how ridiculous it sounds, I am a 25-year-old woman and I have never learned how to masturbate. I have touched myself occasionally, but always given up long before reaching anything like orgasm. I have also been having regular sex for the past couple of years but again, don’t think I’ve ever reached an orgasm. I recently purchased a vibrator to help with the patience/laziness factor but I find that when I use it, a tension builds up and at some point I have to stop. I also experience a pulsing sensation and my breath is a little faster. My question is: is this an orgasm? I realise the physical signs fit, but it doesn’t feel particularly pleasant and is nothing close to what I have assumed it would feel like. What I feel is a far cry from the earth-shattering experience that orgasm is usually described as. For me, it’s a “meh” experience. Is it possible that I just haven’t really orgasmed?

Your question is neither weird nor ridiculous. You have been taking a creative step to try to solve your anorgasmia, and have reached the same stumbling block as many other women, due to the fact that the sensation one experiences from a vibrator can be too intense and lead to an unsatisfying climax or a complete turn-off. You could try a less intense type of mechanical vibration, but it would be far better to experiment manually. And you are correct in that, although it is possible to achieve orgasm without mental arousal, the two are highly connected. Make time to discover your path to orgasm. You have already experienced pleasure from oral and penetrative sex – neither of which creates intense clitoral pressure. In a safe and relaxed space use some erotic fantasy material to elevate your desire, then try gentle manual stimulation using different types of touches, perhaps supplementing with the vibrator – applying it in a less harsh manner. You may need several sessions, but be patient in this very important task of learning about your own body.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

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