Ask Professor Foxy: Should I Cum If My Partner Can’t?

This weekly Saturday column “Ask Professor Foxy” will regularly contain sexually explicit material. This material is likely not safe for work viewing. The title of the column will include the major topic of the post, so please read the topic when deciding whether or not to read the entire column.
Dear Professor Foxy,
I’m a 17-year-old girl, and my girlfriend is 16. We’ve been together a little over 8 months and been having sex for around 4, and neither of us has ever had sex with another person. She has never had an orgasm. She’s given it a rather valiant effort, but not succeeded. She feels left out around her friends, all of whom are quite orgasmic. She generally feels like something is wrong with her, even though I’ve told her her situation is not at all unusual, and that many many women do not orgasm until they are older. It still bothers her, which I understand– I probably wouldn’t be able to handle it as well as she has.
We’re in a serious relationship, and plan to stay together into the indeterminate future.
When we have sex, I hold myself back from coming. I love sex with her so much that it’s not been too much of a problem for me. Coming would definitely be nice. I feel like orgasm is a poor reward, though, if she feels in any way left out of sex. I plan to discuss this with her soon, but I thought I’d get some advice first. I know she’d never feel it was her place to tell me I shouldn’t come. Should I orgasm at will, or should I stick it out until she too learns how to come?
In Love and Torn

Dear ILAT,
Thanks for writing. It is wonderful how much you care for your girlfriend and her feelings. You are right that there is nothing wrong with her. Many, many women do not experience orgasm at 16.
Sex is not all about orgasm. Our society tells us that good sex = orgasm, but that isn’t true. Good sex is a fulfilling experience, but that may or may not have to do with orgasm, especially for women.
The answer is not to take your own orgasm off the table. In all aspects of a relationship, one person will likely be able to do something that the other cannot. You should not hold yourself pack. It will likely build resentment for you and guilt for her.
You disn’t tell me if she masturbates, but she should start there. She needs to spend some quality time experiencing her own body and determining what she likes. She should do this without the pressure of trying to orgasm. She should explore her body to see what feels best. If orgasm happens ok, if not – no big deal.
Once she has figured it out for herself, she should show you what she likes. What parts of her body feel best? What increases feeling for her? Nipples being touched? Penetration? Clitoris?
Again, take orgasm off the table. This is exploring with no defined end point. Exploring, just for the sake of exploring.
Think of both of these exercises as wandering through a woods with a lake as the orgasm. You know that some place in those woods there is a lake, but the woods are enough and amazing all on their own. However, if you wander long enough, you will eventually come upon the lake.
Professor Foxy
If you have a question for Professor Foxy, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    This is where men and women are very different. I recall that before puberty hit I was only able to have dry ejaculations. Then when it was well underway I had my first wet ejaculation. The idea of not having one at all is very foreign to me and probably to most men.
    But, to draw a parallel, some of the meds I have taken over the years to treat my bipolar have had an infuriating number of sexual side effects, often leaving me exhausted and upset that I simply couldn’t orgasm.
    But what I will say is that it is true that sex isn’t all about orgasm. I recall how one woman I was with cried when she couldn’t climax, after we had both tried for hours. It’s often difficult for many women to reach orgasm during intercourse, but the sensation is pleasant and this goes for other things as well. I genuinely try to please my partner and feel gratified when I can, so that’s a lesson I have had to learn myself, too.

  • paperispatient

    From my experience, having an orgasm – both by yourself and with another person – is something you have to learn how to do. And learn how to recognize – it wasn’t until I started having orgasms with a former partner via oral sex that I realized I had been coming by myself for years; I just never realized it because, with the right kinds of stimulation, I have multiple orgasms very easily and I had always just thought that it was part of the fun of masturbating, there was never any “aaaaand, we’re done!” feeling to it, and that was always how I’d read and heard orgasms described.
    I also very much agree that not focusing on having an orgasm could be really helpful for your partner. I was totally surprised when I started having them with my ex, and it was when I relaxed and totally focused on how awesome everything felt that it was the easiest to get there.
    I think that reading sex books and tips about techniques can be helpful to an extent – it’s always fun to get ideas for things you haven’t tried before, but I’ve also found that a lot of the generalizations many sex books make about women’s bodies and sexual responses are not accurate for me at all (someone else could touch my clitoris all day and I probably wouldn’t come, but if you touch my G-spot just once, boom). The best books that I’ve found are The Guide To Getting It On and What Your Mother Never Told You About S-E-X. They’re two of the more inclusive books, and the former especially has a nice sense of humor and gets quite detailed, with quotes from lots of different people about what works for them.
    Also, before I started having orgasms with partners, I still really enjoyed sexual activity with them – it felt good and was fun, and it was also satisfying to be able to give someone else an orgasm even though I didn’t also have one.

  • MandyG

    I feel compelled to comment on this post for several reasons. For one, the amount of concern that you are showing your girlfriend is enormous and incredibly mature. Kudos for that — many people never find a partner who cares so much about having a mutually satisfying experience.
    Secondly, I am a woman who could not orgasm until I was 23 years old, and so I can understand (oh, can I understand!) the frustration that your girlfriend feels, and the “Is there something wrong with me?” that accompanies it. Please assure her that bodies, sexualities, and emotional readinesses mature at entirely their own rates — and rarely do these three mature at the same time! While she may desperately want to orgasm with you because she loves you, her body may not be able to YET.
    Lastly, you didn’t mention if your girlfriend had a sexual trauma history. This can really muck up a person’s sex life, and working through it in the best way a person can find for herself is so unbelievably important — and the sooner the better.
    Take care, and all best to you and your girlfriend.

  • Lydia

    You’re doing the right thing by reassuring her that it is normal to not be able to have orgasms during sex right away, especially when you are young like you guys are. I figured out how to get myself off as an adolescent (although that took some experimenting) but I had a few years of partnered sex under my belt before I ever had an orgasm with a partner (and I’d been having sex with that partner a lot longer than 4 months when it happened), and some of that non-orgasmic sex was really great. Having an orgasm with a partner just takes time and practice. Your girlfriend is very lucky to have someone so understanding. I think Professor Foxy’s advice is good–don’t hold yourself back. I’m sure your girlfriend will enjoy being able to please you and I think avoiding orgasm for her sake might just make her feel more pressured.
    Also, I would tell your girlfriend to really not let her friends get her down. It may seem like everybody else has an absolutely scintillating, perfect sex life but her but guess what? Sex is pretty much the most sensitive subject ever and people lie about it. A lot! Especially when they are teenagers, who tend to be very concerned with normalcy and the opinions of their peers. Chances are that a lot of the girls who gab away about how totally awesome their sex is have their own insecurities and concerns and are trying to reassure themselves by talking big. It’s very frustrating but people grow out of it as they mature and work out their own issues. Also, as more and more people start having sex, people feel less compelled to talk about it a lot to prove to everyone else–and themselves–how grown-up and sophisticated they are. Oh boy, being a teenager just rules, doesn’t it! Hang in there, everything gets better from here, especially when it comes to sex.

  • daveNYC

    If you don’t cum, then the 16 year old might think that she’s no good in bed.

  • Shanti

    Hey, everyone– I’m the one who wrote the letter. Thank you all so much for your kind advice. I didn’t make clear in my letter than she has explored her own body quite a lot, and hasn’t been able to come yet. She does not have a history of sexual trauma, as far as I know, and I think she’d tell me that. In any case, we have a really awesome sex life, not to brag, and I look at it as a sort of a win some/lose some situation. ;)
    I wrote this letter a little while ago, so since then I have talked to her about it, and have come a couple of times. I myself have my own orgasm issues (in that it takes stimulation that’s pretty specific and not particularly sexy to get me off), so it’s been a little awkward, but it’s not so bad. We have a really good relationship and, as I mentioned, awesome sex, so all in all, it could be worse.
    Thank you all again! :)

  • beth

    I am kind of in your girlfriend’s position. I have pretty much never been able to orgasm with any kind of partnered stimulation from oral sex to penetrative sex. I only orgasm with masturbation or assisted masturbation. I can honestly say that I would never want any of my partners to hold back on orgasming just because I am unable to. Like Prof Foxy said, good sex does not necessarily mean an orgasm.

  • Kessei

    Why does Prof. Foxy say that him not having an orgasm might lead to feelings of guilt on her part and “resentment” on his? But she’s not suggesting that the girlfriend might feel resentful now? WTF. It almost makes it sound as if the guy “needs” to orgasm and he’ll throw a little temper tantrum if he doesn’t get one, and in the meantime the girlfriend’s role is to patiently wait and do whatever he wants in the meantime until SHE figures it out HERSELF.
    Why is it so completely the girlfriend’s job to “figure it out”? Yeah, it probably would have been better for her if she’d been getting herself off for a few years before throwing another person into the mix, but what’s past is past, and nobody’s suggested that the guy may need some serious tips on how to finger her properly, or perform cunnilingus. If he is entitled to be “resentful” for not having orgasms, why doesn’t he have an obligation to get HER off, too?
    Idea: no PIV intercourse. Figure something out that works for her, where you can participate. Cut out the PIV.
    And in the meantime, no, don’t orgasm. Both of your sexualities are still developing; consider that it could really screw her up psychologically and sexually to have her first sexual relationship with another person be focused on another’s orgasms, which is what will almost assuredly happen if you “come at will” and she isn’t having orgasms.

  • Anna

    hi kessei. the couple is not a male-female couple. it is a same-sex female couple. just a heads up.

  • Unequivocal

    Ha ha!
    I totally bet they take you up on your “no PIV intercourse” suggestion. Good job on isolating the root of their problem!
    Seriously though, does knowing that both partners are female change your advice? I’m not saying that it should or shouldn’t, I’m just interested.

  • Kessei

    Thanks, Anna, I missed that. It makes a LOT more sense now. :D

  • paperispatient

    And in the meantime, no, don’t orgasm. Both of your sexualities are still developing; consider that it could really screw her up psychologically and sexually to have her first sexual relationship with another person be focused on another’s orgasms, which is what will almost assuredly happen if you “come at will” and she isn’t having orgasms.
    I know you made your comment thinking about a heterosexual couple instead of a lesbian couple, but either way I really have trouble seeing what good that would do. I would hate knowing that my partner was denying themself pleasure just because I couldn’t experience that same pleasure – and like I said in my comment above, even before I started having orgasms during partner sex, I got a certain kind of satisfaction from being able to give that pleasure to someone else.
    Many of my first sexual experiences involved orgasms for my partner and not for me, and that hasn’t “screwed me up” in the least – I orgasm very easily and often now and enjoy all kinds of sex.

  • Kessei

    It changes it quite a bit, because of the larger social context – specifically, the ways that women and men are trained to view their sexualities from birth. Women are constantly told to suppress their own desires in order to gratify male desire. That’s nowhere near as much of an issue in a lesbian relationship. Personally, I think that the pressure to have PIV intercourse in heterosexual relationships is very problematic, given that it’s held up as the end-all-be-all of sex in our society, yet is very centered on reaching the “goal” of orgasm for the male partner (while at the same time most women have difficulty reaching orgasm from PIV).

  • Bridgette

    I have to agree with Professor Foxy on this. To be honest, I think we spend so much time worrying about orgasm that we forget what it means to be sexual beings. I think that our focus on orgasm has more to do with how our society often caters to men and not women.
    I’m a traswoman. As my body has changed, so has what I find pleasurable. I actually masturbate now with no intention of achieving orgasm because I find that there is a great deal of pleasure from the stimulation and then just slow let down. I don’t feel frustrated when I don’t achieve orgasm the way I use to while my body was functionally male.
    On the whole, I find that I am far more satisfied with my sexual experiences than I have been in the past.
    I do want to point out that exploration of one’s own body is very important. Being comfortable with one’s own body is necessary. I know that I’ll find myself achieving orgasm again, but I also know that I need to know what feels good for me before I tell a future partner what will and won’t work sexually.
    As to the people who did not read carefully and realize that this is a female/female couple that Professor Foxy was discussing- be glad I’m not there to slap you in the back of the head.

  • Unequivocal

    So what would advice be for the couple?

  • Unequivocal

    My previous comment should have read “What would your advice be for the couple?”
    Overeager submit finger.

  • Kessei

    “As to the people who did not read carefully and realize that this is a female/female couple that Professor Foxy was discussing- be glad I’m not there to slap you in the back of the head.”
    So sorry for skimming the original post, but it’s ridiculous that your first reaction is to suggest violence.

  • Bridgette

    It was meant to be a bit silly. Actually, my first reaction was bafflement. My fifth reaction was a knock on the noggin.

  • Bridgette

    I would like to add that I am sorry if it caused offense. It was meant to be silly. Sometimes I am baffled by what is considered appropriate and what is not.

  • KatieYo

    I’d like to throw out another kudos on your ability to discuss your sex life so clearly with each other. Many of my friends (in their early 20s) agonize over “problems” in the bedroom that can be so easily solved by just talking about it.