The strangest thing I’ve thought about during sex is giraffes and triangles. In conjunction with one another - something to do with the shape of a giraffe’s head in relation to the patches on its body. You won’t be surprised to hear that I could draw no conclusion from these wandering thoughts. There is no relation between giraffes and triangles, and it doesn’t matter how many dance across the back of your eyes while someone is simultaneously jiggling inside of you, no connections can be made.
More often than not, it’s thinking about thinking which catches me out. One moment I’m full-bodied and rolling towards an orgasm, tension building, body expanding, growing hotter and deeper and rising and rising and then -
“You won’t be able to do it.”
My unwelcome guest arrives. The same guest who thinks comparing giraffes and triangles is appropriate for the moment. The peak shifts out of reach the moment she speaks and I step into a performance as I try to keep my breathing the same, not wanting it to be obvious that my head is elsewhere. I shoulder her out of my mind’s eye as I zero in on the feeling, the good feeling, the feeling that had me floating only a few seconds earlier.
But she’s fucked it. She’s ruined it. That one snarky comment has split the beautiful rhythm in two and now all I can think about is how I probably won’t be able to do it, and all because she said so. I could have - I was palpably close, so close to that blissful arc I almost feel it - but now? Now I’ve spent at least 2 minutes thinking about thinking about thinking about orgasming, and I’m so far removed from the centre of feeling that I want to cry. She’s stolen another orgasm from me, the bitch.
Getting out of my own head has always been a challenge for me in the bedroom. While some people build their confidence throughout a liaison or relationship, mine slowly deteriorates. I start so sure of myself, so present in my own being and body. I feel sexy and accepted and visible, like I very much want to be seen. But as time goes on, this begins to simmer. I start to doubt the intentions of my partner - “they love me but they don’t fancy me” - and I second-guess myself, even when their actions quite clearly demonstrate the opposite.
The first time that thought crept up my arms, across my shoulders, and into my ears, it lit a match. Little fires started burning. And cast off from these, the stupidest sparks:
“Why do the celebrities they fancy look so different to me? Who would they never confess to being more attracted to than me? How can I quickly make myself look better?’
These were quiet little flames which burned at my corner threads, not huge but always there.
I don’t know why I lose this fearlessness over time. Maybe it’s the vulnerability a long-term relationship demands or maybe the fearlessness prior was a performance, pretending to be self-assured because there’s so much less to lose when you’re not totally involved. Whatever’s at the root of it, it leaves me feeling… shy? No, that’s not the right word. But not necessarily empty of self confidence either, more aware of myself. Too aware. So aware that I can’t be present in the moment and easily punch towards the climax I deserve, the great reward. The kind of momentary out-of-body experience which has me wondering whether I look weird or whether I’m relaxed enough while someone’s head is wedged between the mighty thunderous clutch of my thighs.
Sometimes I can recenter myself, breathe back into my body and reach the glorious peak. But other times I can’t, and I feel frustrated and embarrassed. Even more embarrassed as I consider how long I should wait before admitting I won’t be able to orgasm, feeling awkward within every inch of my own skin. “Relax. Just relax!” If it was that easy I wouldn’t be mentally cursing giraffes right now. Or triangles, for that matter. Fuck 'em! Who needs safaris and geometry anyway?
It’s something I’m making peace with, this buzzkill in my head. Sexuality is a moving river and where I am now won’t be where I always stay. Sometimes these blocks in our mind take a little time to iron out. Stressing about it certainly doesn't help, so I’m trying to welcome the guest and make her presence less of a downer. Acknowledging her existence, maybe offering her a cocktail and a place to recline. A place to relax, babes.
In the meantime, I’ve identified a few actions which do help. And these are practical; I know when I've engaged previously in the rite of passage which is Googling 'why do I find it difficult to orgasm?', the feedback has been tepid at best. Love yourself, don't get stressed, see a therapist - sure, all great stuff, but I want something I can action today. The following provide a good foundation and, as we all know by now, the build-up mustn’t be overlooked.
Firstly, rebooting how comfortable I feel being naked and seeing my own body. Unless I’m in the shower, bath or doing bits, I always have clothes on. I’ve been known to sleep in a dressing gown, sweatshirt and jogging bottoms and I never wander around the house starkers unless I’m sprinting down the stairs to yank a fresh pair of pants from the clothes horse. I prefer for everything to be neatly tucked away and smoothed out, but then when it comes to someone else seeing me naked - even if it’s my long-term partner - I’m suddenly very aware that I’m bare to the butt. It’s a vulnerable position to be in, despite trusting the person I’m with. If I go too long without being naked for the sake of being naked, and finding a way to be comfortable doing so, I’m automatically tense when it comes down to the good stuff, so seeing my body and being aware of my body and taking away the novelty of being totally-clothes free - it helps.
Leading on from that, moisturising top-to-toe. It sounds a bit like a cop-out but actually, taking the time to slowly sweep cream across my skin helps me to feel closer to myself. It’s a tender action, a demonstration of self-care and sensuality. It’s putting love into my body so I can get love out and it brings me back to my physical self. Plus I always feel sexier when my skin looks healthy.
Next, when I’m in the moment, I have to be honest with myself: am I actually comfortable? Are my legs aching bent back like this? Is my head hanging off of the bed, ready to drop like a coconut? Can I focus on the good feeling or are my muscles screaming too much to get there? If that’s the case, then.… just say it. Even confident people can be too polite in the bedroom from time to time, so occasionally I have to remind myself that asking to move, to stop, to change rhythms - it’s my right and not a nuisance. I have to be responsible for my own comfort because my partner isn’t a mind-reader.
Which leads us neatly into expressing what we want. Sexuality ripples, and what we enjoyed four years ago may not be what we enjoy now. I try to check in with myself, reflect on what has made me feel good and what maybe doesn’t tickle my pickle anymore. It’s not everyday choking, you know? Sometimes we mature into another phase of ourselves, a phase which demands more tenderness and sweetness and a little less spit. Or maybe it demands more spit - only we can determine that. But vocalising where I’m at on any given day, what I want, what will carry me on a zephyr to the pinnacle of blooming - that’s important. And, again, my partner isn’t a mind reader. I have to take responsibility for my own desires and create a happy bed for my orgasm to spring from.
Masturbation. Do it more. A piece of advice I see a lot (and which I've given myself) is that masturbating helps you to identify what you enjoy which you can then held to guide your partner during sex. Now I'm starting to think it has more to do with muscle memory and expectation. Since the sensation is recent in both mind and body, the journey there feels like less of a hill to climb and more of a familiar route. Kind of like driving to a particular destination on repeat - if you make the journey every day, it becomes easier, quicker, and less of a challenge. So masturbate more often and enjoy those stress-relieving benefits too.
Finally, not watching porn. Porn is…. well, porn. Unrealistic, largely devoid of any connection or sensuality and all about voyeurism - watching from the outside, detached from the centre of feeling. When I watched porn more regularly I found that when I was struggling to orgasm, my mind automatically switched to these images which I’d gotten off to before, but then that builds a kind of weird reliance on the graphic and that which isn’t happening in the moment. I had to travel outside of myself to climax and I didn’t want that to be the case, I wanted my own self and my own partner to be enough. So I stopped watching porn as a way to recenter myself. I know there is feminist porn available which isn’t so outlandish or explicit but if the issue is getting out of my head and back into my body, then I want as few distractions as possible. The ultimate goal is being more comfortable and present in myself.
And that’s it. Being naked more, moisturising my body, being honest about my own comfort and my own desires, engaging in solo-play and not watching porn - these are my affirmative actions.
I’ll end by saying this: give yourself a break. So many things affect our ability to orgasm and we aren’t machines, oily and primed, ready to pop. What goes on down there is steered by what’s going up there, and up there is a complex web of every fibre that makes us a unique person. Sex can still be delicious without an orgasm. You are not disappointing someone if you can’t orgasm. Sex is about the journey, not the final destination, and you are captain of your own enjoyment, nobody else.