Relationships

Ask Erica: “I’ve Never Had an Orgasm”

Solo Sex: Erica Chidi Cohen

Wellbeing columnist Erica Chidi Cohen is here to answer our most pressing questions about sex, health and overall wellbeing. Today, she’s tackling the topic of solo sex…

Q. I know this might sound hard to believe, but I’m 30 and have never really masturbated. I’ve tried, but I become too easily distracted, or I honestly just don’t know what to do. I’ve never had an orgasm and I want to. Can you help? — Amelia

A. This is a great question, and you’re not alone. I get this question a lot! Many hetero and queer women struggle with finding comfort in, or simply establishing, a solo sex practice. But you can develop these skills at any time. The first step is to slowly start exploring your body.

I teach a sex class at LOOM, and the first topic is anatomy, since many women know very little about their own bodies. Many of us were introduced to our anatomy in a lackluster sex class, where it was presented via a contraceptive lens vs. being about pleasure.

In quick review, the female genitals are made up of the clitoris, labia minora and majora, vestibular bulbs, the urethra, the vagina and surrounding tissue called the vulva. (Here’s a graphic!) The clitoris is the only organ in the human body dedicated exclusively for pleasure. It’s also the most sensitive organ, containing 8,000 nerve fibers. That’s more than any other part of the body. Most women need it stimulated in order to orgasm; in fact, most can orgasm without ever requiring penetration of their vagina. If you’ve never taken a good look at yours, you might like to. Get a magnifying mirror, and in a unaroused state, part your labia, gaze at your clitoris and gently notice what’s there with a sense of curiosity and compassion.

After that, you can create time and a safe space to practice. There are lots of different techniques worth exploring — it can be a simple as placing your whole palm over your genitals and applying full downward pressure as you circulate your hips in response. Although one of my earliest masturbation experiences was with the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager (a classic!), I eventually learned how to use my hands, and now it’s my preference. Being able to intuitively control the level of pressure and speed when I’m masturbating is something I’ve come to enjoy.

If you want more specific instruction, visit OMG YES, a wonderful educational site for people with vaginas that explores hands-based clitoral techniques, from “circling” (creating consistent circular movements around the clit) or “edging” (increasing pleasure by approaching orgasm and then easing away). It’s one of my go-to teaching resources that shows vaginas of all ages, shapes and ethnicities. Another great resource is O.School, which provides daily live streams about sex, pleasure, combating shame, and recovering from trauma. After all, the more we lift pleasure and positive touch out of the shadows and into daily conversation, the better we’ll all be.

Q. I’ve had the same vibrator for years, but I’d love to switch things up a little, both alone and with my partner. Can you make some recommendations when it comes to toys and lube? I feel out of the loop and I want to know what’s up. Thank you! — Heather

A. When it comes to toys and lube, it’s helpful to ponder what you typically need to orgasm. Are you a clitoris person? Or a penetration person? Or both?

For those in the clitoris camp, my go-to vibrator right now is the Fin by Dame. It was created by two women, and it attaches to your finger. Its lowest rumble setting feels very close to what my own hands would do, and when you’re orgasming you don’t have to quickly pull it away because the vibration is too intense. In fact, you can apply more pressure with your fingers and let the orgasm (which is created by rapid contractions between your pelvic floor and uterus) travel a little deeper.

If you’re into penetration, I love Tantus dildos. They are made from body-safe pure silicone. The Silk Small is 0.8″ wide, which makes it great for just starting out with penetration. The silicone is fairly firm but very flexible because it’s on the smaller side. Lovehoney’s glass dildos are made from borosilicate glass and are also great for beginners. For anyone nervous about glass, don’t be. Glass toys feel extra smooth going in and out of the body. Plus, they warm to your body temperature while using them, which feels great.

On the lube front, I always go with water-based over coconut oil. Why? Coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal, so it has the potential to disrupt the pH balance in your vagina and cause yeast infections. Instead, I spring for water-based lubes, like Sliquid and Sutil. They get the job done, maintain your pH balance, and feel very close to your natural lubrication.

For everyone: I’d love to hear how you’re approaching sex, what helps you get into the mood, and anything that has helped you find more pleasure in your body.

Erica Chidi Cohen

Erica Chidi Cohen is a doula, educator and cofounder of LOOM. She is passionate about helping people cultivate body literacy and the tools to advocate for their reproductive health and wellbeing, and has guided thousands of people in their transition from pregnancy to parenthood in her practice and through her book, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood.

Thanks so much, Erica! Do you have a sex, health or wellness question for Erica? Let us know in the comments. And here are 10 things Erica always tells pregnant women, if you’d like to read them.

P.S. “My husband and I sleep in different bedrooms,” and who initiates sex in your relationship?

(Top photo by Raymond Forbes/Stocksy.)

  1. Mary says...

    You can never talk too much about sexual health and orgasms! I actually love and recommend Nox, a small women-run sex shop who write a really sweet and informative journal. Oh and btw, if you like the Womanizer but not the name, ask them about the Satisfyer or the Lelo Sona. You will NOT regret this!

    https://shopnox.com/

  2. I says...

    Love seeing that Cup of Jo is tackling topics regarding sex! The first question on this post caught my eye, although for slightly different reasons than for most of the commenters. I couldn’t help wondering if “become too easily distracted” was another way to say “isn’t terribly interested in sex.” As someone who suspects that they are on the asexual spectrum, not being interested in sex (i.e. more or less never thinking about it, nor ever having any real desire for it, etc.) is something that I have a lot of trouble explaining to others and generally causes a lot of emotional anxiety on my part. So my question is: Erica, do you think there is room to interpret this question from an asexual perspective? And more generally, could you do one of these on lack of interest or desire for sex, lack of sexual attraction, and asexual identities?

  3. Molly says...

    CoJ and Erica, thank you thank you thank you. This post most likely changed my sexual life. As a 42 year old Indian woman coming from a culture where sex can at times be a taboo word I came into my marriage as a virgin and with incorrect ideas about what sex ought to be. Thank god for the most patient husband who has stood by me through 2 kids and very little sex in between for almost 20 years.
    I am slowly discovering my sexuality (ummm thank you Fifty Shades…) and am finally feeling ready to explore and enjoy. I definitely do not orgasm during penetrative sex and in reading your comments I am convinced I must have vaginismus which I will get checked out soon. I do masturbate ( regularly now lol) but I am wondering if you and your wonderfully giving readers would share how you approach sex with your partner to encompass masturbation and intercourse at the same time. I’m asking for a road map here for an evening of fun…. erotic reading, porn ….. what? I’m curious and want to try lots of different things!!! Again thanks so very much.

  4. Sarah Gates says...

    Hi! I love this!
    In addition to my compliment, I have a question: I’d like to get into reading erotica but don’t know where to start. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

  5. Thank you for this really thoughtful and heartfelt post on a topic that isn’t normally granted that space.
    Also, I gasped with JOY when I saw Erica’s photo!

  6. Hannah says...

    I love you Erica!!!!!

  7. M. says...

    I’m late to the party, but i wanted to say that i just read ALL of the comments here and find them amazing. It is so refreshing to be able to have a well-informed, kind, open conversation about masturbation and sex-related issues in general!

    I personnally ‘discovered’ masturbation at a really young age, although of course i didn’t know what it was at the time. Maybe because i have a particular sensitive clitoris? I distinctly remember having a conversation about it with my mum when i was 4 (or even younger), when she asked why i was sitting on a doll (this is how i learned to masturbate: sitting and rubbing my crotch on various objects). I tried to explain that it was tickling me down there, and shed asked if i’d rather not be tickled elsewhere instead. For some reasons that i didn’t understand at the time the whole thing seemed to make her uncomfortable and it made a big impression on me, hence the fact that i still remember it. At the time I must have come to the conclusion that it was shameful, because that’s how i felt during all the years after that and well into my teenagehood. I never stopped masturbating, but i did felt it was a bad thing to do, one that i should never mentionned to anyone. I made up ridiculous rules, like i couldn’t touch myself with my own hands but it was ok to ‘rubb’, or i should not masturbate for at least a week, then two,etc…

    Looking back now, i wish someone – a parent, a sex-ed teacher, … – would have told me that it was perfectly ok and normal to do it (in private of course). I am a first grade teacher, and it is a conversation i’ve had with some of the children, as they slipped their hands down their pants in the classroom repeatedly. Of course it sounded awkward the first time, but i got used to it! My parents were always pretty open about sex and how to make babies, but i never heard by anyone that it was ok to masturbate. I don’t have children yet, but that is something i will make clear for them whenever that happen!

    sidenote: i was always able to climax and feel the release by rubbing myself on something, but never while masturbating with my hands. I bought the womanizer after a previous post on sex here and several readers who recommended it ;), and it has been the best! Full orgasms, much more powerful than what i ever had before. It took me a little bit of practice before i was able to reach orgasm, but so worth it! I hope this will help me to reach orgasms during intercourse now, as it has never happened to me yet (i’m 28). Fingers crossed!

  8. Sarah says...

    So much YES to the infamous Wand…life changing!! Highly recommend to any woman who thinks they can’t orgasm. Treat yo self!!!

  9. April says...

    I would say this post was quite productive for me! I ordered the Fin, registered for OMG Yes, and gave my husband “the look” from across the couch during family movie night. (while tuning out Boss Baby- the worst…)

    • Cynthia says...

      I love that you were tuning out Boss Baby! Hahaha least sexy movie ever?

  10. Kate says...

    Definitely one of the more informative columns lately! Thanks, Erica!
    I found the toy recommendations especially helpful. I always walk into a store or go online and browse for HOURS and buy NOTHING because, that’s a big investment!

  11. Anonimata says...

    WE NEED MORE POSTS LIKE THIS. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE.

  12. Anon says...

    For most of my sexual life I have only fondled myself usually as I’m about to sleep, it makes me relax, but had never fully masturbated. I didn’t ever get anything out of it and chalked until to something like tickling yourself. It just doesn’t work. Then I turned 48, happily married with children and finding myself totally aroused in an empty house one day. The husband was at work. The kid at camp, and I was just feeling a tingling feeling that wouldn’t go away. So I went down with my fingers and hands and Holy Moly!!! It was revelatory! I don’t just mean climaxing and all that. I mean also I felt myself, my body, every inch and it felt good. So yeah, you can learn to pleasure yourself at any age, it didn’t take long for me to learn my own body. By the way, (non tinted) aloe gel can be a good assistant.

    • Thank you for sharing this! GO YOU! This left me feeling very inspired. <3 <3

  13. MC says...

    Future column request: I’m curious about couples’ experiences with masturbation in marriage/committed relationships—not mutual masturbation but solo. For some reason I can’t help but feel weird about it—do people desire/do this in a healthy relationship? I feel bad masturbating privately, and have mixed feelings about my husband doing it (I know/assume he does, I don’t know how often, and we don’t really talk about it).

    I think it should be totally normal/acceptable, but I’m having trouble getting over the weird feeling! Anyone have thoughts/experience/advice on this front?

    • Emmie says...

      I felt similarly to you until I decided to speak with my partner about masterbation recently. The conversation was a little awkward at first, but it ultimately brought us closer. We both resolved a lot of questions we had, but were too timid to ask. I now feel more inclined to share other embarrassing or intimate topics with him. If you cannot discuss these things with a committed partner, then who can you talk about them with?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for your question, MC! I’m curious to hear what others say! fwiw personally I think it’s wonderful and healthy (and all the good things!) for people to masturbate solo in relationships. It’s such a physical release and stress reliever and form of self care — complementary to sex but such a different thing. In my relationships I have always expected/encouraged that for both my partner and me. I think it’s a great way for everyone to feel good and relaxed — I don’t think of it as competitive w sex at all, or as a critique of the relationship. Instead it’s a different and great thing. Curious to hear thoughts from others!

    • Olivia says...

      I started maturbating as a pre-teen and have continued ever since whether in relationships or single. It wouldn’t have occurred to me not to! I also don’t see maturbation as competitive with sex, which for me is about intimacy with another (or others), whereas maturbation is more about my connection with myself. I’ve also always been quite open with others about self-pleasure- I did have one ex who felt threatened by me masturbating, but that was symptomatic of other issues within the relationship and our sex life. My husband and I both masterbate and talk about it, not in a lot of detail because I think we both like having aspects of ourselves for ourselves (we’ve lived together for a decade), but it informs how we talk about what we like and want during sex with each other.

    • Sarah says...

      I guarantee you he’s probably doing it every day! Why should you be denied the same pleasure! We have no issues talking about our “private time” – my husband loves that I do it! Talking/laughing about “our needs” has totally upped our level of intimacy when we’re together. Go for it babe!

    • Such a great question. It’s definitely something I’ll add to the list. But in the meantime, I think it’s important to stress that masturbating on your own while in a relationship is healthy, especially if you still desire to have sex with your partner. It’s a way for you to deepen your own self-awareness and self-soothe.

    • Julie says...

      MC, my husband and I have a wonderful sex life and we both masturbate on our own time. I have a slightly higher sex drive than him, so I tend to do it after I shower and use a face mask and have some free time to grab a romance novel and have “me” time. He doesn’t masturbate as much as when he was single, but he still does it when he knows it won’t affect his ability to have sex with each other later. Pleasure is always a joyful thing in my book, as long as you’re both comfortable with how much sexual interaction you’re having with each other.

  14. Jojo says...

    I’m 47 and suddenly it is much more difficult for me to have an orgasm. I wish you would explore this topic because I can find no information out there.

  15. PS says...

    Would love to know what advice and recommendations Erica has for women trying to conceive :)

    • Veronica K. says...

      I would love advice on trying to conceive also! I’m 38 and have been trying for about 5 months. I have a 3 year old but it didn’t seem to take this long then. I’m really looking for some homeopathic and holistic advice…like vitamins, foods, acupuncture, etc.

      Thank you!

  16. sarah says...

    Not sure if someone has already mentioned this one but if you’re looking for a no fail vibrator that gives you multiples, The Womanizer (terrible name) is out of this world. Check out the reviews on Amazon. You’ll come back and here and thank me once you try it out.

    • Christina says...

      YES! Was just about to recommend this!! Most of my orgasms have been clitoral rather than penetrative, so this toy really rocked my world. I also was convinced for a very long time that I could not make myself orgasm, and it wasn’t until the Womanizer that I finally could (and also multiple, rolling times…another gift of the clitoral orgasm)

      RUN, don’t walk (or click!) to get it: https://www.womanizer.com/

  17. I am absolutely loving the conversations here, and also just want to be the voice of gentle reminder that you don’t HAVE to masturbate, or love masturbation. Women are under such constant pressure, and if you have a lower sex drive, or just aren’t that interested in masturbation, that’s also great. I’ve always had a lower sex-drive, which has improved since coming out as queer, but even so, I still don’t spend a lot of time masturbating because there’s just a bunch of things I’d rather do. Don’t feel pressured to masturbate to get to know your body, or because it’s a form of self care – there’s a lot of other ways to learn about your marvelous anatomy, and to take good care of yourself. Lots of love to everyone, fingering or not :-D

    • Ellie says...

      Thanks you Kat! I have a low sex drive and when the topic of masturation came up for the first time with my friends they all thought I was crazy for not doing it. I’ve just never been interested but they started to make me think something was wrong with me. Thanks for the reminder that people should just be true to themselves!

    • Agreed Kat! Sex positivity is about falling in love with wherever you land on the spectrum. Wether you’re having lots of solo sex or have no interest in it at all, as long as you feel good about your personal dosage, that’s what’s most important.

  18. Renee says...

    Erica, what advice do you have for women who have had babies and feel too lax down there to enjoy intercourse anymore? My little one is two years old, and I kept waiting for things to normalize, but no such luck. It makes me so sad because I used to really enjoy sex with my husband, and now it’s like … I feel nothing.

    • bisbee says...

      Kegel exercises.

    • Sarah says...

      Pelvic floor physical therapy. I feel we valued women an sexuality it would be a must after giving birth

    • Sasha L says...

      I’m a birth doula Renee, and I’m wondering if you could benefit from some PT, with a therapist that specializes in post partum care. Having someone help you, give feedback and explanation about how things are working (or not) is generally super helpful. I’m guessing there may be a few issues with nerves or pelvic floor that a PT could help you get back to better functioning. It’s totally worth it! Your sex life is important and you deserve to feel good again. Best of luck.

    • Hi Renee, much good advice has already been shared but I agree that seeing a physical therapist that focuses on women’s health would be an excellent starting point to assess what’s going on and determine a plan for you. As much as kegels can be helpful, I don’t think they are sufficient without guidance and education about your exact needs. Here’s a link to a national PT database to get you started: https://ptl.womenshealthapta.org/#s=1

  19. Jen says...

    I use an aloe vera based lube- would love to know if that’s OK for pH… I haven’t had any issues, but good to know the info!

  20. BK says...

    ALL OF THIS! I couldn’t use tampons before I lost my virginity and still have never been able to use a menstrual cup because it hurts me. I spent years thinking painful sex was normal, having doctors brush me off when I brought it up, and feeling traumatized after pelvic exams. It wasn’t until I happened across the comments section of a Jezebel article a few years ago that I thought to myself, “Wait! This is a thing that can be fixed!” and I set out to find someone who can actually help me. I’m still not at 100% pain-free sex, but I’m getting there with a combination of PT and topical treatments. It’s so worth finding a good doctor who specializes in sexual medicine (usually a GYN or a urologist). And keep at it until you find the right provider.

    We need to be talking about this more. And don’t get me started on the lack of insurance coverage for these issues (meaning that most need to pay out-of-pocket for pelvic floor PT and those who can’t afford it therefore don’t have access to help), the fact that most medical students aren’t fully taught female anatomy, there’s so little research into women’s health and sexuality…

    • Antonia says...

      Thank you so much for your comment! You just rocked my world ;-)

    • BK2 says...

      Oh interesting! What kinds of topical treatments?

    • Franzi says...

      Thank you for your comment!
      A friend of mine had a similar problem. Her hymen was just thick. By chance she changed her gyn, who told her that she should better “loose her virginity” in a little surgery. No pain, no trauma… Best advice ever! But something you usually don’t learn.

  21. Olivia says...

    Does anyone else feel like they almost cannot orgasm during sex? It is so much harder for me…and I think it’s because my muscles tighten so much in order to do so I literally almost cannot orgasm while having intercourse. It’s incredibly depressing for me and just makes me so sad. I wish I was one of those women who came in two seconds, but I’m not.

    It also doesn’t help I have interstitial cystitis which is difficult to treat as it primarily affects the urethra, so in other words any pressure under my pubic bone (and often g spot) is uncomfortable to excruciating. I also feel like with deep penetration my uterus is being stabbed, no way I can comfortably have my legs on my husband’s shoulders. I hate this :(

    • Hang in there and be gentle on yourself. I’ve you can’t come during penatrative sex with your partner, there is nothing wrong with switching to gentle clitoral play and asking your partner to use thier hand or mouth. That way you can both find the release you need. Also, depth is an issue during sex, try The Liberator Wedge.

      https://www.liberator.com/wedge.html

      It’s a wedge which you can place underneath your back. It helps tips your pelvis back which would help make deep penatration feel more comfortable even if you don’t orgasm. xx Erica

    • Colleen says...

      It is so normal to have a harder time with orgasm during intercourse! I wish we talked about this more. I have the same issue, and it is hard not to feel frustrated and guilty when I know my partner is doing his best and I’m enjoying myself, but I can’t quite go all the way. I have found that using a vibrator during intercourse make a huge difference for me, because I need clitoral stimulation and sometimes doing it manually with my or his fingers doesn’t cut it. I was nervous at first to bring the vibrator into partner play, but the vibrations feel good for him too, and I can get off SO MUCH easier and more quickly. Try it out and remember that we are all different, and this doesn’t make you less than anyone else.

    • Olivia says...

      Can’t tell you what it means to me you replied, Erica. It’s so nice to feel heard :) I will definitely try the wedge, we happen to even have something similar for sleep! Haha

    • Madeline says...

      I have IC as well and ever since medication and pelvic floor PT my sex life has completely changed…I take muscle relaxers when I feel pain, after before or after sex and my life has gotten so much better. Try to find a doctor to work you so you can find a plan that’s right for you!

    • Franzi says...

      I wonder if there is anybody who really can relax having the legs on somebodys shoulders during sex. Why do they show this in movies so often?

    • Sahar says...

      Olivia, I hope you read this! I was reading an article on a desert plant called Ocotillo today and it mentioned your condition in a case study. The woman treating the client is an herbalist and had quite the success with diminishing pain and symptoms. I’m not saying this exact approach will work for you but it’s worth looking into! Here is the link: https://wildlingsherbary.com/ocotillo/

  22. Emily Sanders says...

    “Love this topic! Have you heard of Blood + Milk? It’s the content site from the tampon company Cora and they have a ton of great sex content on the site (https://www.bloodandmilk.com/) as well as their Instagram.”

    • Lauren says...

      Heyyy I LOVE Blood+Milk! (Although slightly biased because my friend is the editor. :) ) They have a ton of content to help women through experiences like miscarriage and menopause.

      Very excited for this column too!!

  23. Grace says...

    This might be a dumb question, but would *eating* a lot of coconut oil predispose one to yeast infections?

    Related: A whole post on common women’s infections such as yeast infections, bv, etc?

    • Emily says...

      I would be interested to read this, as well as learning more about UTIs. I’ve been plagued by several UTIs over the past few years and the tips given to me by the doctor (wipe front to back, pee after sex) are things I already do. I feel mystified! More posts that involve a frank discussion of women’s health in general would be welcome.

    • Alec says...

      Seconded! And UTIs! I had one when I was young but thought I just had to pee more often and it dragged on for so long I ended up having to go to the hospital!

    • Urrrgh UTI’s, great idea for a future post! And no, eating coconut oil will not give you a yeart infection. :) x

    • Lynn says...

      Previous advice from an Ob-gyn: “Cotton underwear is going to help things breathe. There is a lot of bacteria down there, and if you seal it like a jar, it can make some of those naturally-occurring problems worse. Is synthetic underwear toxic? No. But I would say, unless you wear cotton underwear, don’t sleep in it”

    • NatDU says...

      OMG UTIs!!!! I unfortunately have so much experience with UTIs it’s not funny, but I also have a way to help! (at least it helped me….)

      I had recurrent UTIs for about 10 years, from a few months after becoming sexually active. At times I would get them every few weeks, basically once a course of antibiotics had got rid of one infection I immediately got the next one. I was so exhausted by the physical discomfort (feels like sitting on a skewer!!) and emotional toll (hurry up, we have to finish so I can go pee quickly, impact of antibiotics on OCP, always having to go to the doc and pee in a cup etc). In the end my insides was so damaged that I would pass blood almost as soon as the infection started.
      Nothing helped: drink a lot, wash carefully (!! as if we don’t…) pee quickly after sex, cranberry (since shown to be useless). Though I have to say, a product called Ural available in Australia is very helpful for making it less stingy to pee (but it doesn’t get rid of the infection, it just masks it).
      FINALLY I’d had enough and got a bladder ultrasound and a urologist appointment. There was nothing wrong with my bladder emptying and apparently nothing wrong with my urethra – I was just super prone to UTIs.
      The FIX: the urologist prescribed one low dose of antibiotic to be taken in conjunction with intercourse as a prophylactic measure (I was worried about antibiotic resistance, but the docs assured me it was ok, especially with a monogamous partner) – I take a 250 mg tablet of cephlexin whenever I have sex and I haven’t had a UTI for 6 YEARS!!!!!

      So, ladies, I know how painful UTIs are, and if you’re at the end of your tether, I highly recommend bringing up this solution with your doctor. Good luck!!

    • Erin says...

      Ph balancing soap specifically for lady parts has been a game changer for me! Everything is so much happier. I highly reccomend looking into some. There are a bunch of brands that make it now. I got mine from amazon, but some targets and whole foods have it too.

    • Owl says...

      Uti’s!! Ugggg!!! Such a problem for some women.

      Here are some well-known practices that can help:
      Rinsing before and after intercourse, wiping from front to back, drinking plenty of h2o. It’s pretty well known to drink cranberry juice – but do it preventatively! For example, have a glass or two a couple of hours beforehand. And maybe another glass or so after. Also, cranberries in your smoothies!

      Not well-known ideas (Things that I figured out on my own and really have made a huge difference in my life) I sincerely hope that this helps other women who may be suffering as I have:
      Certain positions are far more likely to result in uti’s, other positions are safer (at least for me)! For example: If I lay on my tummy and my hubby lays on top, entering from the back, it is the safest.. usually NO uti! The key is to use positions where your urethra doesn’t get rubbed as intensely. I think of this as a good weeknight position! On days where we are having a bit of extra fun and are not careful with positions- I take an antibiotic post-coitally. Also: Sit down to pee!!! Yes, in public toilets! This makes a huge difference because squatting activates muscles that do not allow your bladder to void fully. Seriously, sit down all the way!!! These unusual strategies have made a big difference in my life and in my marriage. Lots more fun, lots less suffering. I hope it helps someone else.

    • Sarah says...

      I thought I had uti after college but dr could never find bacteria in my urine. Turns out I wasn’t having burning during urinsting because of tightness in pelvic floor, but it took forever to get disgnosed. Just what’s to throw that out there in case anyone is doubting whether it’s really UTI. (And then to follow it up with yeast infection after dose of antibiotics, the worst!)

    • Gen says...

      Suffered from both UTI and thrush/yeast infection for a few years definitely related to sex. What worked for me was a doctor giving me hydromol ointment (doesn’t need a prescription) to use as a moisturiser on my genital area right after showering. I use it once a week ish. She also suggested using it as a soap for that area but I don’t bother.
      For me it was basically about dry skin (I get slightly dry skin in general) and also insufficient natural lubrication. Using lube whenever needed and using this hydromol stuff totally cured it. Hope that helps someone!
      I also used to have pain during sex around that time and sadly I think it boils down to not really being physically turned on by my boyfriend at the time despite loving him. These days it’s a very different story – no pain and lube rarely needed.

    • R says...

      Natdu, I was prescribed an antibiotic to take after sex too by my physician, it did stop my UTIs but it made me nervous about developing a antibiotic resistance so I stopped taking it after a few months. My gynecologist was also not for it too so it made me a little extra cautious.

    • Sid says...

      Replying late to the UTI comments to mention that there’s a specific pain-killer your doc can prescribe for you to take while you’re waiting for the antibiotics to kick in: https://www.drugs.com/pyridium.html

      Side note: it makes me so angry that I have to specifically request this drug by name from docs EVERY SINGLE TIME because they never offer it (and then I get the condescending lecture about needing to take all my antibiotics even when the pain goes away). I’ve also made it my personal mission to spread the word because I’ve never met another woman who’s heard of it. Grrrrrr.

  24. Emma says...

    Fabulous, fabulous post! Thank you for talking about these issues. CoJ — keep up the fabulous work!

  25. jane says...

    Most vibrators just look scary and ugly to me but there are a bunch of gorgeous ones that are very sculptural and look like works of art. The We-Vibe Touch is one but there are a lot of others.

  26. Kendall says...

    A few tidbits of wisdom from someone who masturbates A LOT:

    Not only can coconut oil cause pH issues, oil based lubes can degrade the latex in condoms if you’re using them. Also, on the topic of condoms, if you find yourself really irritated after sex you might have a latex allergy. You can buy polyurethane condoms instead.

    Another great source for toys made with body safe silicone is unboundbabes.com. A lot of sex toys are billed as novelty items and don’t actually use safe materials.

    You can soak glass sex toys in warm water to warm them up before use, AND YOU SHOULD ;)

    Always, always, always clean your toys!

    Ladies can watch porn too! Sometimes it can be a huge help in not only reaching orgasm, but figuring out what turns you on.

    When you’re getting the hang of masturbating don’t focus too much on the end goal. Try different things (sitting up, lying on your back/tummy/side, fingers, different toys, a detachable shower head, etc.) and just see what feels good. Once you figure out what turns you on mentally and physically then you can work toward orgasm.

    Have fun!

    • t says...

      Yes to porn! (there are feminist porn producers.)

    • Cherie says...

      Yes to porn or even “Outlander” for that matter. The less pressure on the climax the easier and more fun everything is. We are just as visual as men and need all senses stimulated.
      Once in high school I listened to a radio program popular in the 90’s about sex, and a woman shared how she felt about orgasm and sex and it stuck with me. She just said she notices the blood pumping in her ears, the sound of her lover’s excited breathing, her eyes feasting on his body, her body responding, losing herself in those sensations was the gateway to pleasure, not overthinking and achieving an end. Great advice.

    • Anon says...

      Um. Ditto to Outlander. The books really did it for me, not the show as much.

  27. Mel says...

    I’ve been “broken” since the birth of my son 3 years ago. I used to be able to orgasm very easily from penetration or clitoral stimulation. Sex was fun and I throughly enjoyed it. Fast forward to my son’s birth that ended up in an emergency c-section (he was just stuck). After that the first year I had NO sex drive and it was painful. The pain went away but I just don’t enjoy sex anymore. I can’t seem to climax alone or with my husband and if I do it takes A LOT of work and is a weak and very short climax. It feels as if I’m broken. It saddens me deeply. I went in for PT and my insurance company decided that it wouldn’t be covered. So at $300 per session I just couldn’t afford it after the first three where they basically just told me to do things I already was. It angers me that an insurance company can decide what is “necessary” and what is not…mine is also accompanied with some urinary incontinence so yeah for me. I feel stuck, I’ve done kegels with no improvement for years, tried massage to break up any scar tissue and exercise regularly so I now feel hopeless that this is my normal.

    • C says...

      I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through that. If you can’t afford PT, there are online programs like The Tummy Team, which has a rehab program called The Floor of Your Core. That might help and is a smaller purchase than lots of PT sessions. (No affiliation – I’m just a paying member of one of their ‘sister programs’ Fit2b, another great women’s fitness website.)

    • Mae says...

      Hey Mel,

      I just want to say that I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and that I’m in this camp too, after the vaginal birth of my two-year-old son. Prior to his birth, great orgasms always came so easily to me and I had a high sex drive. Now, I can only orgasm by myself, and rarely, and they are weak, brief, and a real letdown! Sex with my partner is physically uncomfortable and unsatisfactory in the way we were used to, which is upsetting and has made a difficult transition time in our lives that much harder. PT was completely useless for me too, and I have yet to find a doctor who can tell me anything other than “do more Kegels” or, essentially, that it’s all in my head. It’s demoralizing and isolating, and I really miss the way things were. I’ve resolved to contact a local APRN/CNM who specializes in pelvic bowl healing/health this year. She works with something called the Arvigo Technique of Maya Abdominal Therapy. I have no idea what that is or if it will work for me, so I can’t endorse it yet, but I’m hopeful. If I have any luck with it, I’ll come back here and let you know. It might be worth a Google search to see if anyone’s offering this near you. Hang in there, lady.

    • Angelina says...

      Shop around for pt! The price difference from clinic to clinic is drastic (100 vs 300 between the one in my town and one thirty min away). Also ask for flexibility on the script to do only once a month. Another thing to try is Pilates with someone who is familiar with pelvic floor dysfunction. Also- many times pelvic floor dysfunction is linked to diastis recti- look online for how to heal that (I got my separation from three fingers down to one) as healing that part of your core also helps your floor! Good luck!

    • KARA says...

      Mel, I’m sorry this has been your experience. I’ve felt similarly after a de-bulking surgery for ovarian cancer. Hugs to you.

    • Elisabeth says...

      Mel, I’m sorry. I’ve been there. There are lots of great suggestions here for accessing PT, but I’d like to chime in to advocate also for psychotherapy/trauma therapy. Medical trauma and birth trauma are REAL, and can have very real effects on us physically and sexually, even if we don’t necessarily think of what we’ve been through during birth and early parenting as a trauma. Hugs to you!

    • olivia says...

      I seriously do not understand the professional (insurance and the medical community) world’s attitude towards women’s needs. We GIVE BIRTH for God’s sake. It is making me angry, hearing that these post birth complications are not covered entirely. Are there no women executive’s shaping insurance policy?

      What can we do to change this right now??? On the eve preceding the Women’s march tomorrow it feels even more pertinent. I am tired of women in the US being treated as if we are living in a third world country. Seriously why in God’s name are we tolerating this?

    • Mel says...

      Thank you everyone for your kind responses!

      The insurance aspect angers me for sure, I pay $9,600 dollars for myself, husband and son annually (goes up every year) in monthly premiums. We make enough not to qualify for a discount but not enough to pay this without it being a budget hit. Not to mention that our out of pocket max is $14,300 in network and $42,900 out of network! Insurance feels useless to us and yet we have to have it. We are in our 30s, eat clean/healthy, exercise and rarely go to the doctor bc we have no chronic illnesses or get more than a common cold now and again. It baffles me that my insurance company can decide that PT for a birth related injury/complication isn’t medically necessary.

      Funny you should mention Mayan abdominal massage, I’ve been feeling fed up with this being my norm and determined to help myself if I can. Googling with a mission, I came across some vague info on this and it’s on my list to look up further and see if it’s something that might help. I’m also going to contact my insurance company this week to see if it covers therapy at all to help heal emotionally.

  28. M says...

    I am also super excited about Erica’s column! I really appreciated her advice above and all the comments are also so helpful and encouraging. After a past Cup of Jo post on vibrators, I went out bought my first (!) vibrator. It has been life-changing for mine, and my partner’s, sex life. So thank you for posting on these important topics.

  29. kr says...

    Great content! Erica, what are your recommendations for postpartum sex?

    • Hannah G says...

      I’ll add my reccomendation for Sliquid lube! Your vaginal PH changes while nursing and regular lubes would burn, Sliquid has a great lube specifically for that dryer state. Also, I would highly recommend at least one session with a pelvic floor therapist! I saw one throughout my pregnancy due to vaginusmus, and went for a postpartum session as well. It’s standard for women in France to see a PT post birth. They can help build pelvic strength back (we shouldn’t have to pee our pants bc we can’t hold it!), teach techniques for dealing with painful sex (like scar tissue massage, best positioning), etc. If you can afford it, it’s so so worth it. Sorry for the long response, I’m a little passionate about it 😉

  30. Anna says...

    I haven’t even read this yet, I’m too busy squealing ERICA CHIDI COHEN AS YOUR WELLNESS COLUMNIST YESSSSSSSSS!

  31. jackie says...

    vaginal orgasms are super super rare, so clitoral stimulation is key. can you talk to your partner about it? figuring it out together can be fun and sexy!

  32. Margot says...

    I may be in the minority here…but I come super easily and usually it’s fine (I can have multiple orgasms during sex and that’s great and I’m lucky!) but lately it’s been bothering me that while masturbating I am done so quickly, and unlike actual intercourse it’s hard for me to keep going on my own for multiples. Any advice for this?

    • Nas says...

      Margot, I’m like you too! Orgasms come easily, multiple
      times, and either from penetrative or clitoris play. I feel very lucky (!). BUT I never make myself orgasm the way a partner has… which I am working on. Having a my partner on me/around me/in me always gives me deeper orgasms than when I touch myself.

    • Ro says...

      It’s nice to hear you say this! So often the narrative is about never having orgasms or having difficulty, and I’m like – wait, am I weird? Not that I’d change it, but still.

    • Aya Costantino says...

      Me too! It’s nice to hear that I’m not alone.

  33. TS says...

    Haha…This blog is funny sometimes. This week was like scrambled eggs, sponsored post, earrings, salad, MASTERBATION. I’m here for it tho.

    • Diana McNeill says...

      It’s real. It’s honest. I’m here for it, too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      es! that’s what life is really like, haha! :)

  34. Elizabeth says...

    I’ve never been able to have pain-free sex, to the point that it became a nonexistent part of my life for the past few years (I am also single). After years of sometimes bringing it up with doctors and getting a variety of non-answers (“Just relax,” “Have a glass of wine!”), I finally found out that a) this is VERY common and can be related to a few different actual medical issues, such as vaginismus and vulvodynia and b) there are actual pelvic specialists and even physical therapists who work on making it better. This was a revelation! Now I am working with a pelvic floor PT and I feel very optimistic, but I think this issue is NOT talked about enough and I would really recommend that Cup of Jo spend some time on it. Men see ads for ED medication normalized on on the 6 o’clock news – women should have the same access to information and treatment.

    • Amy says...

      I second this topic. My doctor recently confirmed that I have vaginismus. I’ve been unable to have a Pap smear or pelvic exam, but I tried to be brave and have one since I’m getting married soon (I’m a virgin). I’m concerned that I won’t be able have sex with my husband. That along with wedding planning has put me in quite the emotional tailspin. Any advice on this topic would be welcome!

    • E says...

      Agree 100%. I had a lot of issues here post-partum (although it was never pain-free before the birth either). If you’re googling around, searching pelvic pain may give you some tips. There is a really strong anxiety-pain correlation as well, because when it hurts several times your body tenses up and associates it with pain.

      BUT, I cannot recommend a pelvic floor PT enough — for anyone dealing with this (including men!) My PT has over 25 years of experience and advocates for all women to get 6 weeks of pelvic floor PT post-birth. She said this is common in Europe and Australia (maybe a reader can confirm?)

      The biggest thing to realize is you’re not alone. Women often define good sex as pain-free, rather than focused on actual pleasure so there is a lot of work to be done here. Ask, ask, ask and find a resource.

      Telling women to “just relax” isn’t helping, that’s for sure.

    • Taylor says...

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I developed vulvodynia at 25, after 7 years of pain free sex, so after three years of doing PT, hormones, sitz baths, you name it, I had a vestibulectomy two years ago. It came with an array of side effects that are difficult (certain underwear hurts if it’s not loose and cotton, tight pants are a no, etc), but I can have pain free intercourse now. Of course the vestibulectomy was the best option for me, and some folks will get better with PT or hormones, but I agree with you that far, far, far more money and research and importance should be placed on women’s vaginal health. There were times I was suicidal, so deeply ashamed, and society makes it very difficult to discuss these things. I couldn’t tell my boss I was missing work due to a vestibulectomy, so I said I was having a painful cyst removed. I actually e-mail Jo a while ago asking for some discussion on this topic but didn’t hear back. I really, really hope more light is shed on women’s pain and that we figure this out soon.

    • Liz says...

      Seconding the vestibulectomy. I had a year of pelvic PT but the surgery did the most to help (and I found recovery to be easy and had no other issues after surgery). Once I was treated properly, I could have pain free sex, easier pelvic exams, IUD placement and removal, and recently had a baby! Don’t be ashamed or despair, there are a lot of treatment options out there and lots of us who have gone through these same issues. Finding a supportive and knowledge GYN is step number 1.

    • Emily says...

      I’ve read that removing the use of anything with parabens (face wash, shampoo, etc) can make a 100% difference for this issue. Parabens mess with your hormones. Might be something to look into.

    • C says...

      interesting discussion. I am dealing with some of these symptoms, as I am post-menopausal, and I have a friend who had amazing results from the Mona Lisa Touch treatment, which is a laser touch treatment that stimulates collagen development. She raved about how well it worked. It is not covered by insurance, or I would have already given it a shot myself. Has anybody else had success with it?

    • Allie says...

      I had vaginismus. Sex was impossible because of how painful it was. I was so fortunate to go to The Woman’s Therapy Center which is dedicated to vaginismus treatment, and to female
      genital, emotional, and sexual health . https://www.womentc.com It completely changed my life and in a matter of weeks I was able to have sex for the first time with no pain. If you have pain, know that you are not alone and to reach out to them for help.

    • Kirby Tanner Kurtz says...

      I hate hearing when women are blown off by their doctor regarding painful intercourse! Find a new one, and go see that provider with “dyspareunia” as the sole reason for seeking medical attention. I find when women are coming for a well woman exam (pap smear, etc), and they mention, “Sex is painful sometimes”, it gets missed, when really, an entire visit (or several), can be needed to fully address this problem. (PS- I’m an OB/Gyn, but see *your* doctor to get real help)

    • E says...

      Amy re: preparing for marriage, you may want to ask your provider about dilators. Be conservative here, use a super safe lube and DEFINITELY ask your doctor, but friends of mine have had some success here. Especially because you’re in control, you can create a plan on your own and it can help you build confidence leading up to your wedding/when you plan to have sex.

    • TC says...

      I struggled with this for many years too. I was never diagnosed but I think I had vaginismus, and agonized over how little I enjoyed sex with my boyfriend. Two vaginal births later and we’re now a perfect fit, thankfully! I have heard it’s just a myth that the vagina is stretched out after giving birth, but in my case I think it did, and boy am I glad.

    • Megan says...

      Yes to pelvic floor PT! I was diagnosed with vulvodynia in 2013 after being sexually active for a year. It came out of nowhere and was SO. PAINFUL. (I also sent a note to CoJ asking about a piece on sexual pain!) I kept thinking I had UTIs. Thankfully my GP is amazing and sent me to PT who worked with me manually for a few months also got me doing yoga. You can also join the National Vulvadynia Association (www.nva.org) for more resources! I was also a virgin when I got married (woooooot) and know all the nerves that entails. My best advice: LUBE. Lots. And, don’t put too much pressure on yourselves! Sex should be FUN. I think back to the positions we tried on our wedding night and it makes me laugh so hard. BUT it was still awesome :)

    • C says...

      Oi. I also can’t have pain-free PIV (penis in vagina) sex because of primary vulvar vestibulitis (primary means i was born with it, secondary is the type that develops later in life). The exact spot was identified by a pelvic floor PT, who helped me overcome vaginismus with dilators. However, I had to have surgery before I could even start PT because I also had an imperforate hymen (abnormal hymen tissue that creates a physical blockage).

      Mine was especially weird because usually the condition, which is congenital, has complete blockage and is identified when a girl’s first period backs up inside her and makes her very ill… it’s awful, i know :( But sometimes there is just enough “perforation” to allow menses, as in my case. So I had horrible traumatic experiences trying to get an exam or help until a (finally, female) gynecologist was able to identify this for me after I had been married for 4 years and unable to have intercourse.

      Unfortunately, even with the surgery and overcoming the vaginismus, the “treatment” offered to me for the vestibulitis sucked. I have always thought a vestibulectomy might be the only way, but I just don’t have the confidence that the medical profession has enough understanding of this condition or procedural sophistication yet. I believe from my reading of the available literature that my vestibulitis is already somewhat atypical. I have FAR too many other serious medical problems to risk making anything worse anywhere. So, my husband and I have non-PIV sex on the regular which works ok for us because we don’t want kids and we can avoid condoms and hormonal birth control. It’s still really, really, REALLY hard. I check in on the state of the medicine around this issue every 5 years or so and it’s always pretty discouraging. I’m glad some other folx are being helped and I wouldn’t wish my constellation of conditions on anyone. Except men, then they might do something more about it. Best to all y’all xo

    • Genevieve says...

      I waited until marriage to have sex. On our wedding night, penetration was impossible (It felt like the penis was hitting against a wall) and although I was disappointed, i told myself that the stress of wedding planning probably contributed to it. Fast forward a year and a half and still my husband and I could not manage penetrative sex. I felt like there was something wrong with me and went to see a gynaecologist who assured me that everything looked fine physically but that using dilators might help. I then came across a book called ‘Completely Overcome Vaginismus’ (https://www.amazon.com/Completely-Overcome-Vaginismus-Book-Set/dp/0973572809) while doing some research and can I just say what a relief it was to put a name to this condition? Six months of doing the exercises in the book and using dilators, I was finally able to have penetrative sex, albeit painfully, with my husband (and got pregnant that same time!).

      Having children did help ease the pain of penetration but those two years of not being able to have sex did something to my sex drive and now, two children later, sex is the last thing on my mind (and if i am being honest, feels like a chore).

      I have a very supportive partner who understands how difficult sex can be for me and is keen to do what it takes to help me enjoy it but i’m just so tired.

    • BK says...

      Ditto to Amy! I recommend vaginismus.com (best domain ever right?). The book and dilators have helped a lot!

    • Jen says...

      I was 18 when I had my first serious boyfriend and we built up to full sex quite gradually, spending months using hands and mouths only. However when we decided to have sex we tried dozens of times and it simply would not go in as if my vagina was closed. Eventually it worked but was always quite painful for the first few minutes. However over the years with different partners this has totally disappeared and I think for me it was hugely linked to being “ready” to have sex and also to being properly turned on (or not) each time and not having anxiety around it.
      So my only advice to people new to sex who are struggling is to really take it slow, not feel pressure to go straight for “real” sex too soon. Spend a while working out how to bring each other to orgasm by other means. I think this makes sex a lot more reciprocal and builds a good foundation for a sex life where both of you equally expect to orgasm and employ a variety of means to bring each other there :) Make sure you feel totally comfortable and relaxed each time. Try getting him to go down on you first until you are really turned on and also – use lots of lube as that really helps.
      Of course some commentes have medical conditions which i didn’t have so that’s a different matter.

    • michaela says...

      I am so excited to see more articles from Erica in the future!! I see a lot of women in the comments here dealing with painful sex, and I would love to see that as a topic. I have vulvodynia and a fantastic PT, but the information I’ve gotten from my doctor has been so limited. I would like to conceive soon but I’m still dealing with penetration being difficult for me. When I asked my doctor if she had any resources for me or if there was anything else I should try, she said “No, no, there’s no magic pill or anything like that!” Except it sounds like there actually could be, because I’ve heard of many other women treating their dispareunia with muscle relaxers! Or even topical lidocaine. So I just wish there was more information on the subject in general, because there are so many varied treatments that work differently for everyone. I always feel like when I want to engage my doctor in a conversation about this, I have to go in armed with the right info to inquire about!

    • KC says...

      I too would love to read a post on painful intercourse, vaginismus, and vulvadynia. Even just reading these comments makes me feel less alone. I have had secondary vaginismus for 10 yrs. I have a great provider and have tried 1.5 years of PT, therapy and marriage counseling, dilators, and topical treatments (lidocaine and a steroid cream), but I am still struggling. It’s physically painful, emotionally draining, and very isolating. Small things, like not being able to tell your coworker why you go to PT every Friday, add up. The big things, like not being able to have sex on your wedding night, really suck too. I wish more people talked about this.

  35. Sally says...

    I love a bit of honest, women-centred sex-talk in a safe space! Way to go CoJ!
    It’s always interesting to read through the comments, and see how different, but also so similar, we all are. :)

  36. Abby says...

    I literally just had an (inquisitive) talk with my boyfriend about masturbation and after all my questions he was like “and how often do you masturbate?” to which i replied “never”. So this is great timing!
    I did actually sign up for OMG Yes two/three years ago but never managed to “practise” more than twice. I just don’t really feel like it.
    My boyfriend described it as “perfect ME-time” whereas I replied “I paint my toenails, listen to Podcasts and scrapbook in my ME-time” :) Guess I have never seen masturbating as a priority. But I want to definitely change that esp. to get to know my own body during sex better – so great article to start for me!
    Would love to hear recommendations for stories/books/audiobooks/series since those seem most stimulating to me. Outlander (both book andtv season 1) anyone?

    • Gabrielle says...

      You are ME! I do and feel all of these things, and I am also obsessed with Outlander. Just wanted you to know that you’re not alone :)

    • Ali says...

      Yes! Outlander Season 1, Jaime and Claire, and Claire and Frank, thank you!

    • Jessica says...

      Hi Abby! One of my resolutions this year is to get to know my sexual self a bit better. I have a wonderful loving partner, but I am often frustrated by my inability to tell him what precisely I like or what things turn me on.

      So to that end, I’ve started reading erotica, which I always sort of knew I liked but hadn’t spent much time on. I’ve been reading the “Best Women’s Erotica of the Year” Volumes compiled by Rachel Kramer Bussel. The stories are well-written, often focused on women, diverse in the types of sex and sex partners they describe, and varied in terms of exploring different types of scenarios, which is so great for figuring out which things/ideas are sexiest to you. I really highly recommend checking out some of these books! I read them on my Kindle, sometimes before sex, which often leads to much steamier and more enjoyable sessions.

      I hope you enjoy and figure out what works for you! :)

    • Thank you for the suggestion Jessica! I am definitely up for reading something steamy before (real) bed time! The purely female perspective speaks to me already!

  37. Abbey says...

    It’s fantastic seeing these conversations here! Yay!

    I really like the Fin from Dame too. Keep that battery charged though. It dies really quickly even when it’s not in use :-/ Otherwise, great toy.

    Also for anyone sensitive when it comes to lubricant I found my holy grail in LOLA (of delivered-to-you-door tampon fame). Their lube is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t leave me feeling kinda stingy after use. It ticks all the boxes for me: natural ingredients, non-irritating, smells good, tastes good, great texture, refined packaging, and reasonable price. (Just realized I should write probably write them a review as I sound like I’m promoting them — nope, just a fan!)

  38. Lucy says...

    I’ve used coconut oil for years, didn’t know it alters the pH. Anyone have any alternative recommendations for a natural lube? Does almond oil alter pH?

    • Kat says...

      I would be interested to know more about coconut oil as lube too, as I use it & no yeast infections so far (fingers crossed).
      I like the YES lubes – they do a water based and an oil based one. Very good feeling and natural!

  39. Capucine says...

    At 41, over the last year and a half my orgasms have slowly become more and more muted. I assume it is perimenopause starting it’s thing. I have as much sex drive as ever and am enjoying the increased attraction to my husband that has also popped up, maybe I’ve got more testosterone! But nowadays, simply having sex is satisfying, and an orgasm has become something that is no longer part of my experience. He’s having a ten experience, and I’m having a three. Still always a good idea, but I feel like a supporting member instead of being right there with him. I never knew it was a thing that COULD just fade away, the same as fertility. So while more is turning me on then ever, I’m paradoxically disinclined to enjoy it because there are no fireworks left!

    • Lily says...

      44 here and the same thing happened to me (probably perimenopause). I kept trying to explain the experience to my doctor and would say dampened orgasm but muted is good too. I did have them do a hormone panel on me (which came back as normal) but I did have some vitamin deficiencies which probably won’t help the orgasm dampening. I did read that you can increase blood flow to the clitoris by masturbating more frequently which should increase power of orgasm with time, so here’s hoping that can help. I find it astounding the number of women’s issues that you don’t really learn about until it happens to you and you have no idea what is going on but then find a secret group of people who are dealing with the same thing. There are so many things I wish women would be educated about earlier in life so that they know more and can possibly help prevent issues (prolapse anyone?).

  40. Kat says...

    Ahhh!!! I’m pregnant and had to get a cervical cerclage, I’m DYING over here! I’m on strict pelvic rest, including orgasms :/ until at least August… so if you have sexy tips to keep the flame alive without getting too excited, please do share!!

  41. Alex says...

    I didn’t until a very talented man went down on me (only one who has ever successfully done that either) and then for regular intercourse I added a bit of my own finger to clit stimulation ( circles) and voila.

  42. Katherine says...

    What an excellent post, and great idea for a column! I bought her book Nurture after learning about it here on CoJ, and it was my one true and trusted companion throughout pregnancy. I have recommended it to all my friends, and I sincerely hope it becomes the new go-to pregnancy guide for all who are expecting, partners included. Her gentle, compassionate, well-informed writing gave me great comfort and confidence while pregnant and helped ease me into motherhood. So glad to see she’ll be a regular here, what a treat for us!!

  43. Alex says...

    I was a super curious kid and started masturbating when I was 11, among other shenanigans lol. I’ve bought toys but nothing is quite as effective or fun as fingers only. It honestly makes me sad to hear that such a number of people haven’t really figured it out yet. Jump to it! You’ll be so glad to have this self care tool in your arsenal.

  44. Taylor says...

    I recently had a baby and sex is just not the same. I feel like there is a restriction inside my body during intercourse. Any tips to get back at it ? ;)

    • E says...

      See my comment above re: pelvic pain. Check with your OB/provider and ask them to check for scar tissue internally, and get connected with a pelvic floor PT who does manual therapy!

    • E. says...

      Time. After I had both my babies, it took almost a year before my sex drive recovered (which also coincided with when I stopped breastfeeding, which I think had a LOT to do with it). Having a low sex drive after a baby is natural birth control — your body is protecting itself from going through the major upheaval of pregnancy and birth again.

      You can still be sexual and affectionate without vaginal intercourse, though. Cuddle, make out, have non-penetrative sex (more fun that it sounds) or if you’re up for it, mutual masturbation can be a safe way to get back into sex (you’re in control of your own body, so nothing will happen that feels invasive or weird but you’re still having a fun sexy time).

      My husband and I have been married for ten years our sex life has ebbed and flowed. Over the years, I’ve learned not to freak out about the not-so-sexy times. This too shall pass.

      And fear not — once my sex drive came back post-babies, it came back WITH A VENGEANCE. Something to look forward to! :)

    • Margot says...

      It took me about 8 months for sex to not feel that restriction, or even pain, after having my first baby. I was worried it would never be the same! I bounced back much quicker after my second. I don’t have any tips to making it any better other than keep going though, sorry! Just solidarity.

    • Aya Costantino says...

      This happened to me and I was worried that I would never enjoy sex as I once did. I know everyone is different, but just a voice from the other side saying that it can get better! Dosist Arouse vape pen helps me focus, so perhaps you might like it too.

  45. Elle says...

    Love love love this post! Women (and men) need so much more education on this topic. New favorite way to get in the mood is Dipsea, a podcast app with original erotic stories made for/by women. Cannot recommend highly enough!! https://www.dipseastories.com/

  46. Amy says...

    Super personal question, but I’ve never had an orgasm during intercourse – any ideas/tips/suggestions? Manual stimulation or the whirrr of a gadget at the same time just doesn’t add anything for me (actually seems to distract)…

    • Stella says...

      Me neither. I have no problem orgasming before or after, but not during….I agree about the distraction aspect of it, feels like I have to focus on too much at once. I’d like advice too!

    • Alex says...

      I didn’t until a very talented man went down on me (only one who has ever successfully done that either) and then for regular intercourse I added a bit of my own finger to clit stimulation ( circles) and voila.

    • diana k says...

      Super personal answer, but try being on top (facing each other) while your partner is sitting up. So either straddle your partner sitting on a couch or sitting up in bed (I like to toss a pillow behind my partner and say “sit up a little”) This position naturally gives you some clit friction (against your partners groin/abdomen) while he’s inside you.

      Google tells me this is called the “mastery” position and I found a diagram: https://www.christianfriendlysexpositions.com/mastery/

    • Kate says...

      I also find it distracting to try to do both and a part of that comes to down to positioning I guess. Perhaps I’m too comfortable in the way I know how to achieve an orgasm and so I mentally remove the possibility of it happening if I’m trying something different.

    • Emily says...

      Me too. I would love to be able to orgasm at the same time as my husband during penetration.

    • Jess says...

      two things that helped me: if I am on top, leaning over with my hands on each side of my partners head. increases the friction against the clitoris (which is key for me). or, when in missionary, putting a pillow under my bum so that my hips are slightly elevated. increases the contact with my gspot. doesn’t happen every time, but these two things increase my odds :)

    • Rita says...

      Have you tried making using your hands sexy? Like, really embrace the sexiness of touching your clitoris when you’re with someone. Make them get excited about it too if you can! It can really help take the feeling it’s a necessity out of it. Treat it as something special you’re doing for yourself! This from someone who pretty much needs to be on top with PIV sex while touching myself and having my nipples fondled and/or licked in order to come. Sometimes it just takes a lot!

    • Mary says...

      I’ve found that if I touch myself while we’re going really slow (especially me on top) so I can start feeling my clit, after that once we go a bit faster I can still feel pleasure from touching myself. It took a lot of practice, so be patient!

    • Thivia says...

      I’m with Diana K. Mastery position is what does it for me.

    • Abby says...

      Here to say thank you to Diana K for suggesting that position. It was such a simple (to the point of duh!)change, but made such a positive impact in my sex life already!

  47. Kate says...

    This is right on time! I am 29 and just now thinking about sex for the first time. I have never gone further than making out with a guy, but I’m with someone now who I really trust, and I’m thinking about taking things to the next step. I loved how inclusive and empowering these resources are, and it gives me a lot to consider and be excited about!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That is exciting, Kate!

    • Julie says...

      Good luck Kate! I was 29 as well (I ended up marrying him). I’ve found communication is key, what you like, what’s working or not. I hope you have a blast!

  48. Ginger Bellerud-Corthell says...

    Another great resource for all things Sex Ed and Sex Positive is the excellent work comic series Oh Joy Sex Toy https://www.ohjoysextoy.com

    So much good info here, with representation of ALL types of bodies. My friend from college and her husband are the artists/authors, but even if I didn’t know them, I’d recommended it to anyone looking for sex info, reviews of toys, and insight into things we weren’t taught in 9th grade health class.

    • Meredith says...

      YOU KNOW ERIKA!? I love OJST!

    • Rita says...

      Yes! Was just about to comment recommending OJST! Such a great resource – really fun, open and informative. And, sometimes, sexy!

    • Elly says...

      OJST is amazing. I love how the comic has evolved over the years.

    • JK says...

      OJST is the best! As an equal opportunity queer lady I’ve found it informative and helpful no matter who I am in a relationship with.

  49. Lydia says...

    such a helpful conversation – thank you

  50. e says...

    I’d love more info about sex drive. After years of PCOS, medicine to not become pregnant, medicine to become pregnant, 5 pregnancies, 3 babies, nursing, etc….. I have finally settled in to regular menstrual cycles for the first time in my life (I’m 41). First half of my cycle I have very high drive and love sex. The second I ovulate I literally want nothing to do with it! I would love to balance things out and understand how to increase libido now and as my hormones get further out of whack!

    • Paula says...

      I have no answers but am here in support. After only two kids, and at 40, I literally have ONE day (at best) where I feel slightly aroused. My sex drive is dead, it’s killing my marriage, and I can only do so many “fake it till you make it” acts. Ironically, I can orgasm with zero problem, at any time with just little help of my own fingers. And yet, sex is probably the furthest from my mind, in my current life. It sucks, as I spoke to every doctor and they just throw their arms up, with advice like, go on vacation, relax, have some wine, work out more…. UGH

    • Lindsey says...

      E- have you read the book Woman Code by Alisa Vitti? While it is largely about your cycle, she goes into great depth on hormones and how they affect you/your sex life/your emotions, and also things you can do naturally to try and balance your hormones. As someone who has been on birth control for a long time, and am literally going TODAY to get my IUD taken out, I feel like I’m going to be going back to her book to help me understand my cycle–now that I’ll have one again! I highly, highly recommend.

    • Jessica says...

      You might want to check out Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski. I would recommend it to anyone, actually. It’s so informative and also empowering!

    • TC says...

      Gosh, same here. If my MIND is aroused I can orgasm very easily, with or without a partner. But sex is literally the last thing on my mind most days (busy mom of two, yada yada), except the day or two I’m ovulating. And once a month is not cutting it for my husband (obviously). How to think more about sex?!?

  51. A says...

    Just wanted to say that this post makes me so happy. Positive, open talk about sex and anatomy is fantastic. I’m always surprised by girlfriends who are too shy or offended to talk about it. Masturbation is one of life’s great joys. More of this please!

  52. Ceciel says...

    Such important stuff! Thanks Erica.

  53. Amy says...

    So excited to see a Dame product featured here! Co-founder Alex Fine and I were from college. I own all 3 vibrators and have found the hands-free Eva to be especially helpful in pregnancy when positioning is awkward. Thanks, Erica!

  54. Ava says...

    Where did Paco go? I miss her insight!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      She’s still here! A post is coming up :)

    • She has an amazing newsletter I subscribe to thanks to CoJ – new one came today!

    • Ava says...

      Thanks for telling me Dana! I just signed up! :)

  55. Lindsey Weaving says...

    YES!! I didn’t have an orgasm until I was 27 years old (last year!) and Come as You Are was the catalyst for me to start my orgasm journey. Emily Nagoski recommends a book called Becoming Orgasmic, which also helped seal the deal for me. Great post!

  56. Kel says...

    My partner and I LOVE V Magic Feminine Lips Stick. It’s nice for males to use too. It’s made from olive and avocado oils, beeswax, and honey. Truly dreamy. We call it the ‘love potion’….. for good reason.

    • Meg says...

      V Magic is AMAZING. I had a horrible allergic reaction to the feminine wipes I’d been using, and their balm was only thing that healed me. It’s been helpful as perimenopause has led to some bouts of dryness, too. And NO issues with it throwing my pH outta whack!

  57. Lindsay says...

    Week of Outfits and Beauty Uniform for Erica, pretty please!

  58. Marlena says...

    One of the greatest things about growing up with a nurse for a mother was her no bull!@#$, no drama way of delivering very important health information to me as a child. Now, as an adult, I am shocked when another woman has a funny reaction to basic health information and questions. And words! Like, the words “vagina” or (god forbid!!) “masturbation” will send one of my girlfriends into an emotional tailspin.

    Thank you, Erica, for being one of those voices out there that gives it to us straight and easy and reminds us to do the same with the women and girls in our lives. Real information about our real bodies can literally save lives. This was a wonderful read and I’m googling that Fin by Dame as we speak. :)

    • I hear you, Marlena! My mom was the school nurse at my junior high. Nothing embarrassed her! There were no “code names” for body parts (and also no sick days).

      I also just googled the Fin :)

  59. Kaylee says...

    At what age do you typically start to have these conversations with daughters? I know everyone is different and it depends on the girl, however, are there signs to look for that imply they might be ready? I want to make sure mine know they are free to and should explore their bodies and pleasing themselves far before they look to anyone else to!

    • Stella says...

      Young girls discover masturbation when they’re as young as four, they discover that it feels good when they’re sitting in something in a certain way or in the bathtub under the water. I think the conversation is best to be had earlier to prevent her from feeling shamefull! When I started masturbating I was 13 and I felt soooo ashamed because those stimgas and sexist narratives had already reached me. I wish my mom had discussed it earlier with me, I wish she would have told me that it’s healthy and normal before people at school told me it was gross. It’s never too early to get comfortable exploring your body!

    • Cambrie says...

      I was 7 when I first masturbated and orgasmed. I was just playing around while watching the X-Files and it felt good. My mom was not open about those things and I never told her. I felt shame and guilt about it all the way until college, when I accepted that it wasn’t a sin to touch my own body (did I mention that I went to a Catholic school) and embraced that I really like how it feels. I wish someone had talked to me as a seven year old and told me it was okay.

    • Melanie TF says...

      I don’t have kids myself, but wow this is such a wonderful question. You must be an awesome parent!

    • Lauren B says...

      My daughter is only five, but we’ve tied this in to our general conversation about consent. Something like this: “It’s absolutely okay to touch yourself, but you should do it in your room when you are by yourself. No one else should want to touch you there or ask you to touch yourself there.” We will add more explanation or terminology when we need to. We started this brief talk at 4, just like Stella said.

    • Rachel says...

      Check out the books “it’s not the stork” and “it’s so amazing” these are great books that teach kids about bodies, eggs, sperm, babies and self touch. By Robie H. Harris
      The books are written for certain ages so it’s not the stork is for younger kinds ( no mention of self touch/ masterbation) age-4-8 it’s so amazing is for kids age 7-10 older. And there is another title called it’s perfectly normal is for kids 10 and up. Really great resources that normalize bodies and sex.

    • diana k. says...

      This is an important question! My advice would be to start being as honest as possible whenever questions or situations come up. If your 6 year old sees a love scene on tv, calmly explain in simple terms what they’re doing. You want to establish yourself as an honest purveyor of knowledge for all things unfamiliar before the outside world has an opportunity to assign shame to their sexuality.

    • Anon says...

      My 3yo knows body part names (and is a little obsessed with asking people if they have penises or vaginas lol). My husband isn’t thrilled with this, but it’s important to me l to start early and often and data shows that kids who know about their bodies and the correct names for their bodies are less likely to be sexually abused.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes! Great question! I believe talking to kids about their bodies in correct terms and answering any questions honestly and age-appropriately (bite-sized chunks:) is a wonderful approach. I wrote about talking to kids about sex here if it’s helpful at all: https://cupofjo.com/2015/01/motherhood-mondays-talking-to-kids-about-sex/

      And for masturbation, I would just keep dialogue open if they have questions and never shame them for exploring their bodies. Sometimes I’ll remind them that certain body touching is for when you’re alone vs around others but otherwise go for it! :)

    • Thivia says...

      I love this so much! What a mom you are! This is how it should be!!

  60. Gitty says...

    I love my husband and I love when he is excited and passionate about being with me and he feels so bad when intercourse and clitoral simulation from him do nothing for me. It’s a real damper on our sex life. I feel like I’ve tried so hard to come with vibrators and stuff and I’m done and tired of it and I just want to feel pretty and sexy and loved and have fun together and forget about this stupid pressure to orgasm. I wish he would accept that his manual clitoral stimulation feels nutreal to bad to me and that I like intercourse more on an emotional level and physically it’s a nutreal and that that’s okay. And then add to the mix that I’m pregnant and my vagina is kind of dry and sensitive… We don’t have sex too much these days and I’m kind of fine but I also really miss it. I don’t even know which direction to take now. Erica, any wisdom?

    • Robin says...

      Ugh Hitty that’s so hard. Even after 20 plus years with the same (wonderful) guy, I find it hard to communicate ‘I’m just enjoying this physical closeness we’re having, I love you, I love to give you pleasure, and I’m just not going to come right now.’ I find my libido and desire/ability to orgasm changes over time. These days (two kids in), I find I’m just dry and not really that easily excited, even if I try and masturbate. I did get super horny in the second trimester of both my pregnancies for some reason, which was interesting. Gave me a better perspective on those people who say they want sex all the time! In any case, I just wanted to say I hear you. Maybe try lube (to make things more comfortable) and ask for more kisses/massages rather than stimulation? Hugs.

    • Sasha L says...

      Gitty, and everyone else too!, being *wet* makes a huge difference. I use almond oil, and there are loads of other good lubes out there too, try some and see if that makes any difference in your enjoyment level. Also, pleasuring yourself, while your partner kisses you or watches, might give you a chance to get turned on with the kind of touching that works for you, maybe you’ll even orgasm. If you don’t feel like you know what feels good, take some time to yourself and practice.
      Men (women too) get caught up in what sex is *supposed* to be. Men on top. Women come from oral, or from intercourse. But there are so many ways to enjoy yourself, and so many variations in what feels good for each person. I remember many years ago, out with girlfriends, we were in our early twenties, and after a few drinks sex came up. Turns out no one else was having orgasms but me. So I gave detailed instructions to my five friends in hushed whispers and giggles. My advice was the same I just gave, + get on top. And if your partner comes before you do, just keep going. Now the pressure is off a bit, your partner is maybe a little surprised and intrigued, you want more!?! And you can use the pressure and rhythm that works for you. Many times your partner will get hard again too. Also, if you feel turned on, it feels good, but you don’t come, don’t despair, you’re on the right track. Keep trying anything and everything that feels good, one of these times you will get it just right, and POW. Once you do it will probably be so much easier in the future. Once you feel confident and relaxed you may have orgasms all the time. Best of luck everyone!

    • Kate says...

      Sasha L thank you for this wonderful advice! I never would have thought to keep going after my partner has come but, when I’m on top, that’s usually at the point that it’s starting to feel good!

    • Gitty says...

      Thank you Robin, I needed that hug! The biggest problem is that the same way I feel great when I turn my husband on- he wants that too! And feels really bad that he doesn’t do that for me! Which kills his mood. And then mine, too…

  61. Rae says...

    I am SO happy that Erica Chidi Cohen will have a regular column here.

  62. I am SO happy to see COJ tackling these topics in women’s health! I also loved Erica’s book during my pregnancies (and I’m an Ob-Gyn!) I co-host a podcast called The V Word and we just did an episode on masturbation (https://vwordpod.com/episode/masturbation/) — we also love OMGYes –and another episode on the awesomeness of feminist porn (https://vwordpod.com/episode/feminist-porn/) — which we are now recommending to our friends (and patients). Erica is amazing and I love her answers to these questions. If you/she ever want to collaborate with Ob-Gyns on women’s health questions, let us know! We are BIIG COJ fans over at the V word :)

    • UM, I’d love to connect. You ladies are awesome. I’ll shoot you an email. I always love it when clicinans resonate with anything I’m putting out. It’s so key that we work together. XOXO

  63. Eli says...

    I absolutely second the “Come as you are” recommendation! An absolute must-read and eye-opener for me as well.
    And thanks for this great article!

  64. Emma says...

    Thank you, Erica, so much for opening a dialogue about sex! Even in today’s more open culture, it is still so hard for so many of us to talk about and be real with questions, and to find a safe place to be confused, worried, overwhelmed, excited, or curious. I recently discovered the book Come as You Are, by Emily Nagoski. It was the most affirming, life changing book I have ever read, truly. She begins by educating her readers about how women and men are made, and explains sexuality as its own unique and beautiful concept for each human. She shares how women are often compared sexually in relation to men and male sexuality. From the generalized perspective, that comparison often makes women (myself included) wonder what is wrong with us- why can’t we come as easily or flip a switch to get in the mood when our kids are screaming in the other room- and then feel guilt and conflict in sexual relationships. This book left me reeling, and shouting to all my friends across the country- we aren’t wrong or not good enough! We are just women and women are different! Thank you so much, I look forward to future posts from you! https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Come-as-You-Are/Emily-Nagoski/9781476762098

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ve heard the most amazing things about that book, emma! really want to check it out.

    • I adore Emily’s book. It’s one of my staples. She helps reframe so many unhelpful narratives out there about women / female identifying people and sex!

    • Jessica says...

      I also came down to the comments section to recommend Come as You Are. It is so enlightening. Truly a book every women should read (and their partners, ideally).

    • Shery says...

      I actually bought the book after many recommendations in the comments section of a previous Cupofjo post! Haven’t had the chance to read it yet (life is too short for all the books I’d like to read!), but now I’m even more excited to read it!

    • L says...

      Also came here to say Come As You Are is an amazing resource. I learned so much about not just my body, but my mental health and how it affects my body. Life changing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’m reading it on your recommendations! It’s incredible. Thank you so much.

  65. Adley says...

    LOVE Erica Chidi Cohen. Her book gave me so much comfort and sage advise after my unplanned cesarian birth. I so appreciate her inclusive and supportive voice. So happy you are featuring her here!

  66. Lauren E. says...

    UGH coconut oil can cause yeast infections? That explains a lot.

    This was so informative!! More articles like this, please and thank you!

    • Donna says...

      Castille soap too. It’s the wrong PH.