At 20, I was an orgasm virgin. I’d been having sex for about four years, but that magical pleasure wave had always eluded me. Until one summer night in Florence completely changed my (sex) life.
I’d fallen into the bed of a gorgeous Italian man named Armando, and I was experiencing sensations I had never felt before. I met him while eating dinner solo at the bistro below my youth hostel. He was my waiter, as well as the local high-school chemistry teacher. Giddily, we struggled through two evenings of broken bilingual strolls through piazzas, late-night cafes and night caps of Limoncello. Finally, he took me back to the second-story flat he shared with a childhood friend.
At first, everything was going GREAT. My recently purchased lingerie matched his blue satin sheets, and I was just the right level of red-wine tipsy. He handled me like a plaything, flipping me over into positions I’d never even heard of, much less tried. And he Just. Kept. Going. I wasn’t getting sore, or tired, or bored, or any of the other drawbacks I had come to expect from sex over the years. Then, out of nowhere, it felt like there was this leaky pot of warm water inside my pelvis that was about to boil over, and I was terrified that I was about to pee! Afraid of exploding, I made him cease and desist whatever he was doing that was bringing up these unfamiliar sensations.
He stopped, confused, asking what was wrong? I described the feeling and he laughed. (Not helpful, Signore!) His beautiful brain didn’t, in fact, possess the vocabulary to explain what was happening inside my body. I did the only thing that felt safe at the time: I stopped feeling, and I let him finish.
Years later, when similar feelings resurfaced during masturbation, it finally hit me. I’d been having an orgasm, and had stopped myself out of fear of the unknown. Why was I so afraid of letting myself experience the big “O?”
I did the only thing that felt safe at the time: I stopped feeling, and I let him finish.
First and foremost, I grew up in a household, much less a society, that prioritizes male pleasure and discounts female pleasure. I never learned about female ejaculation, and the idea of “squirting” felt like a gross, unnatural myth that was something I should be ashamed of. All the media I consumed as a young girl made me think that both partners would always climax during intercourse. That female orgasms just consisted of a good bit of moaning and vaginal contracting that eventually crescendoed and then died away. When that didn’t happen for me, I just assumed I wasn’t capable of it, and didn’t make an effort to prioritize it.
— Psychology Today.
Looking back, it’s no wonder that my go-to instinct was to focus on my partner’s pleasure over my own. My measure of “good sex,” was sex where nothing hurt and my partner came, preferably quickly. Not a very high bar if you ask me. These days, I’m more concerned with what works for me and my partner rather than focusing solely on their experience. These are a few things that I’ve found to be consistent with my new definition of “good sex.”
1. Size does matter, and I am not ashamed to say it. (I didn’t start having orgasms during intercourse until I had it with someone of a certain size.)
2. Fingers plus tongues are guaranteed fireworks.
3. Foreplay is 100% necessary.
4. It helps if I feel taken care of by my partner.
5. A certain level of trust and familiarity also helps.
6. Atmosphere, circumstances, and context matter.
7. Breathing and making as much noise as I want are both necessary.
I can’t always predict how my body is going to react to this recipe for success, and that doesn’t mean that I’m abnormal. Far from it, in fact. Orgasms come in all shapes and sizes, and they don’t have to be the end all be all for any sexual encounter. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if you just can’t get there no matter what you or your partner tries.
That said, what does an orgasm actually feel like?
- Female ejaculation (aka “squirting”) — any amount of liquid (yes there’s some urine in there) that is released during stimulation and arousal. Yes, it can feel like you’re peeing.
- Vaginal contractions that feel like waves of nerve endings building and receding. Sort of like sound waves or ocean waves felt internally that build in pressure the more aroused you become.
- Tension that reaches a plateau, peak or “climax.” Literal clenching of the vaginal muscles that reaches a height and then slowly releases.
The measure of good sex for any person is always going to be subjective. For me, intrigue, fantasy, and foreplay were always more fun than intercourse — sometimes they still are. I wasn’t able to climax during intercourse until I was 26. Even now, oral and masturbation are much more reliable than good ol’ heteronormative sex. The important shift for me was in realizing I could prioritize my own pleasure without being deemed selfish, easy, or icy.
Bottom line? Next time you think you’re about to have an orgasm — you probably are. Try to breathe into what you’re feeling. Remember, you are perfectly normal and you will be totally O.K., no matter what happens. It will probably come when you least expect it…