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Vibrator Stigma

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

How misconceptions about pleasure & orgasm lead to less satisfying sex.

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One of my coaching clients—who gave me permission to share her story if I change her name, so I’ll be calling “Victoria"—recently started a new relationship.


After having been single for most of her adult life, Victoria is really excited about this guy. He’s funny, emotionally intelligent, and kind, and even though it’s only been a few months, they’re already talking about building a future together.


Despite that however, Victoria was feeling a lot of frustration, disappointment, and anxiety about the sex she was having with her new man.


An image of two people sitting on a bed and one is looking away in disappointment.

While exploring her feelings on a coaching call, Victoria revealed that she can reach orgasm by herself, but has never done so with another person. She imagined that other women were having orgasms left and right, and worried (as so many of us do) that there was “something wrong with her.”


I immediately recommended that Victoria read the book Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski to learn more about pleasure and orgasms—and if you haven’t read it yet I recommend it to you, too!!


Then I told her about the orgasm gap (the research showing that women orgasm far less frequently when having sex with men than either men or women do with each other), and reassured her that a lot of folks, especially women, struggle with this kind of thing, so she wasn’t alone. (As a former self-objectifier with a history of sexual trauma, even I’ve dealt with it!)


As we continued to talk about it, Victoria identified that part of the reason she felt so upset was because she’d been holding onto the belief that she would be able to cum with a partner, once she found the right one.


“I just always imagined that it would be easy once I was having sex with someone I was in love with,” she said. “And he tries really hard to get me there, so I feel even worse that I can’t!”


That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself and your body, no? And research shows putting pressure on yourself to orgasm makes it far less likely to happen, so clearly that pressure wasn’t helping.


So I gave Victoria one of my favorite assignments for clients struggling in this space: to focus on pleasure instead of orgasm.


She told her partner she was taking orgasm off the table entirely for a while—no “trying to get her there,” no chasing it, no focus on it all—and wanted to have him focus on just giving her pleasure, instead. I even suggested they set a timer for twenty minutes, during which he would touch her in any way he thought might feel good, and she would communicate how it felt, so they could learn in real time what gave her pleasure with no pressure to “hurry up” or finish. During this time, Victoria’s job was to focus entirely on being present with the sensations of pleasure in her body, and to communicate honestly with her partner moment-to-moment.


On our next coaching call, Victoria reported that the assignment had led to sex that was more pleasurable, fun, and connective, and that she even got close to orgasm a few times, but still really wanted to figure out how to “tip over” with her boyfriend.


Knowing that she was able to “tip over” by herself, I asked Victoria to tell me how she reaches orgasm alone. She described the very specific scenario that she uses to reach orgasm alone: lying face down, with her legs crossed and body tense, and a vibrator held in place against her clit by the bed.


This was a major insight!!


To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with always reaching orgasm the same way. But when you’re used to coming a particular way or in a particular position, it can be difficult to translate that into other scenarios, especially when the position doesn’t allow for another person to be present, or requires a certain kind of stimulation (like a vibrator!) that a human just can’t replicate.


I immediately asked Victoria if she had ever introduced her vibrator into sex with her partner, and she said no. She was afraid that using a toy during sex would make him feel bad about himself, or like a failure, and she also believed that she “shouldn’t need a toy” if the sex was good enough.


Oof. There are so many myths and misconceptions like these around sex, pleasure, and orgasm, and it always leads to less satisfying and enjoyable sex. I assured Victoria that there is no “hierarchy of orgasms,” that many folks with clitorises need the stimulation only a toy can provide to cum, and that using a toy with a partner just means more pleasure for everyone!


After unpacking her shame, fears, and limiting beliefs around orgasm, Victoria brought the topic up with her boyfriend, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was super supportive of her including a toy when they had sex. He even thought it sounded really hot, both to see how she reaches orgasm alone, and to try different positions with the toy together and see what worked.


An image of someone laying on a bed.

Major.

Breakthrough.


As a clinical sexologist and body image coach, I am honored to help people break free from stigma and shame around sex and pleasure. Many people don’t even realize they’re bringing conditioning from the patriarchy, purity culture, or other sex-negative belief systems into the bedroom until we take a closer look!


Today I invite you to get curious about any false or limiting beliefs you hold, that might be keeping you from having the kind of sex you want.


Here are a few of the most common ones I see:

  • That you “owe” your partner sex when they want it, in order to keep them satisfied or loyal.

  • That it’s normal or ok for sex to hurt.

  • That your desires, pleasure, or orgasm are less important than your partner’s.

  • That you should be able to cum in a certain amount of time, or from a certain kind of stimulation.

  • That you should be able to orgasm from penetration alone.

  • That using sex toys threatens your partner’s masculinity, or that there’s something wrong with you if you need a toy to cum.

I hope this gets the wheels turning for you… and if you’re feeling inspired and want to try a new toy, may I recommend one of the clitoral vibrators from Lovehoney?


Big hug,

Jessi

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