I met John recently and he asked me for some advice about his sex life. Here’s his story: When I have sex with my girlfriend she always insists that we take care of my needs first. I try to tell her that I want her to come first but she seems uncomfortable with that. She protests, insisting that she’s fine. The thing is, that once I’ve had my orgasm I’m wiped out. I have no energy left to take care of her needs. Is she just being nice?
This story probably isn’t that uncommon. John clearly wants to take the time to satisfy his partner and he tries to focus on her. He used the phrase, “she comes first” which also happens to be the title of a book by Ian Kerner. She Comes First is an excellent guide on how to bring a woman to orgasm. I think it should be required reading for every man and woman. Kerner understands that the majority of women will not reach orgasm from intercourse alone. And, given that men are typically depleted of energy after ejaculation, he advocates for the “she comes first” approach.
What I would tell John is that his lover probably has challenges achieving an orgasm. It’s not uncommon for women to feel self-conscious because it can take so long for them to climax. The average woman may take 20 minutes or longer before she is able to orgasm. And, that may feel like a long time. She starts to worry that he will get tired or think negatively of her.
Another possibility is that his girlfriend isn’t consistently orgasmic and doesn’t feel comfortable talking about that with her partner. Women often feel ashamed when they can’t orgasm or when it takes “a lot of work” So they try to avoid it by being magnanimous and offering to wait. Instead of talking about it they will try to “redirect” him and shift the focus. It’s a defense maneuver that keeps women from having to deal with their sexual performance, discomfort or disinterest.
A third option is that she may not be comfortable with what John is doing. If it’s oral sex she may not like it or she may be embarrassed about having him seeing, touching or licking her. When women feel uncomfortable about their bodies it’s difficult to express that. Will the comment be viewed as a criticism of his performance? Will he be hurt? Will he find her lacking and want to end the relationship?
Women in the 50 and over age range weren’t given much sex education. We may not feel comfortable with how our bodies look and we don’t know much about our genitalia. An amazing number of women have never touched themselves and don’t know what brings them pleasure. Shame, embarrassment and insecurity creep in making it that much harder to communicate with a lover.
John could start a conversation with his girlfriend, when they are not in bed, and tell her how much he cares. He could talk about how she turns him on and the pleasure he receives by being able to give her pleasure. He might start by telling her what he loves about her body and their lovemaking then ask her if she’s willing to explore more sexual avenues to pleasure. I’d suggest not focusing on orgasms alone but talking about the whole sexual experience.
My guess is that John’s girlfriend is equally frustrated, for different reasons. If they don’t start opening up to each other about their needs and desires the frustrations will grow. John feels a little shut down by her inability to let him pleasure her and I imagine she is holding on to some issues around her sexuality. The good news is that he sees what’s happening; now he needs to let this woman know how much he cares and express his desire to take their intimacy to the next level.