Sunday, September 27, 2020
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I’m new to sex and have yet to really enjoy it. Am I broken? | Life and style

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I’m 18 years old, and have been sexually active for the past two years, having slept with four men. My issue is that I have never felt truly pleasured in bed. It’s not that my partners have been bad lovers – a couple have been truly good and doting and tried everything to help me – but I have never been able to finish or even feel any form of true pleasure out of sex. I don’t feel numb down there, but I might as well be; all I feel is movement. I have never even been able to orgasm by myself. It feels like a massive build up, but there is a wall where everything feels like too much and I can’t push myself over. I wonder if maybe it’s because of my anxiety about being good? I have usually felt as if I can’t do anything right or well enough. But even when I am full of confidence and fully relaxed, it’s no different. My self-esteem is absolutely destroyed and I don’t know what to do about being able to pleasure others and being able to feel pleasure myself. Am I broken?

You are certainly not “broken”. You just haven’t yet been able to enjoy sex with a partner. This is extremely common – especially at your age. It seems to me that you are expecting a lot of yourself – that you should achieve some kind of acceptable sexual goal, a certain level of pleasure, a type of partner connection. But you don’t really seem ready to enjoy any of it.

Developing and managing your sexual responses is a very long learning process of trial and error. Try to look after yourself a whole lot better; that means, don’t ever, ever have sex with anyone – including yourself – unless you are perfectly relaxed, and truly want to do so, to the point where it feels as though you cannot do without it. And even if you start, do not allow any sexual experience to continue if you do not feel safe, mentally excited and physically aroused. Otherwise you are bypassing your feelings, which can create more problems: that “numbness” you describe is a troubling sign.

Immediately protect your sexual self by learning more about your own body. In particular, take the time to learn how you can bring yourself to orgasm. Use resources such as Becoming Orgasmic by Julia R Heiman and Joseph LoPicollo. Only after learning how to properly pleasure yourself can you properly teach others exactly what you enjoy.

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

• If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to private.lives@theguardian.com (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

• Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.



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