Mary, a strikingly attractive young woman, entered my office. Her long, falling blond hair and form-fitting clothes, her radiant smile, and her comfortably self-confident manner all suggested an inherent sexiness. Her boyfriend was also by most standards quite handsome, tall, slim. No one would guess from Mary’s appearance that she had a major problem with sex: she has never had orgasm.
Yet, being sexy was very much part of Mary’s makeup. She had learned how to project an image of being a sexually highly desirable woman and, indeed, her sexual history revealed that she has had numerous boyfriends. Men on the street turned their heads with Mary approaching and she had no difficulty having the pick of the ‘crop’, so to speak.
Many relationships for Mary in the past ended in frustration when the excitement of the new started to fade. Moreover, Mary found that most men she attracted were very much turned on to her physically and imagined her to be a highly responsive, sexually keen partner.
Initially in each relationship, Mary would play the role that she thought was expected of her. She developed a technique to indicate to her partners high excitement which she really did not feel inside. Consequently, much of her intimate lovemaking was a sham. What prompted Mary to come to see me was the total frustration she had come to feel in her life with her current boyfriend, John. She wanted to avoid falling into the same pattern with this relationship, and she resolved to try to remedy her problem. This was a major step for her since John indicated that he was willing to stand by her no matter what.
It’s worth noting that Mary learned to convey or project an extra sense of sensual aliveness and sexual interest, perhaps as a compensation for her deeply felt inadequacy in delivering the goods, so to speak. In subsequent therapy, Mary confided that most men she found not to be too aware of the fact that she was “faking” her sexual interest and response. Her experience of sex was that most guys were primarily motivated to get it on and have intercourse as quickly as possible with the goal of orgasm in mind. Mary’s needs were much more in the realm of affectionate holding, kissing, touching and the feeling of being desired for her own person. Not for the ‘sexy babe’ persona she projected.
There appears to be many Marys out there in the large world who are caught in a bind. They feel they need to project a certain sexy image in order to attract men. At the same time they know they are playing a risky game, because not infrequently, the men they have attracted will be responding to ‘false advertising’. In this game, unfortunately, there are no winners. Sooner or later Mary and the boyfriend will come to a point of frustration, a plateau, where the relationship gets stuck. They are at an impasse. More often than not, the couple will then break up and, sadder but no wiser, will repeat the same cycle in the next relationship.
The good news is that situations like this need not go on and on. Women like Mary and their boyfriends need to learn that this is not such an uncommon problem. Indeed, I think many, many women have great difficulties in coming to climax from intercourse. The answer, which is encouraging, is that most of these problems can be solved rather promptly, through qualified professional assistance. It can be very helpful if women like Mary seek treatment either while single, or with a partner who cares and promises to be supportive.
During treatment, these couples learn that women’s main sexual organ, even more than men, is the brain. It appears that there is a period of heightened sensitivity for the induction of the orgasmic reflex. If this ‘window of opportunity’ is missed, then it may be a harbinger of difficulties to come in developing the ability to orgasm. It’s possible that young, post-pubertal women’s brains and nervous systems need to be exercised with this ‘orgasm reflex’ in order for those connections to be made and to be able to peak more easily. This is only part of the story. We know from experience that women’s arousal is considerably slower than that of men, and unfortunately, because most men’s sexual interest is highly goal-oriented towards the attainment of orgasmic release, many women often find themselves in the frustrating situation of being behind their male partner in arousal intensity.
In my work with such clients, I try to remedy this problem first of all by having the couple become aware, and acquire a different knowledge base about how men and women truly function sexually. Then through a series of graduated exercises, guided readings and videos, I help these patients to reprogram their nervous system, as it were, in order to enable them to function in a more fulfilling way, first of all in solo sexual activity, and then in partner sex. Now there are many happy Marys out there, but guys, let’s learn.
– Dr. Frank Sommers