Try, try again

Pub date November 28, 2006

Dear Andrea:
I can’t have sex. I tried about four years ago — it wouldn’t fit and it was not that big. I’ve been scared to have a boyfriend since. I’m too embarrassed to go to the doctor and was wondering if you knew what I could do about it at home.
Failed Once …
Dear Once:
While the original locus of your problem may have been you-know-where, I fear it has crawled northward over the last few years and is now located squarely in your head. Of course you can have sex, not only because the word and concept encompass so much more than merely sticking this into that, but because you probably can stick this into that. You’re just too scared to try.
It’s very possible that the unfortunate Mr. “Not That Big” from your first try ran into your hymen, which may or may not still be there four years on. Or he may simply have run into resistance, conscious or not, which had you tighten muscles that are actually under your control — however far out of control they may have felt at the time. To get over this you will need a mirror, a finger, a small and unscary dildo, some lube, some determination, and to believe me when I tell you that no gynecologist is going to be shocked either by the fact that you have a vagina or that you may need some coaching to learn how to use it.
If you see or feel a membrane close to the opening, kinda of like the one under your tongue but more, you know, vagina-y, that’s a hymen. It can either be worn away through use (here’s where the fingers or toys come in) or, if it refuses to budge, removed by the doctor. If there is no membrane but you can feel the muscle tension when you try to push your way in, stop pushing and go online for instructions on how to overcome vaginismus, which is the extreme version of this sort of involuntary muscle spasming. While it may not necessarily be the most accurate diagnosis, some of the exercises will help.
Finally, it depresses me to hear that you are scared to have a boyfriend, since a boyfriend is or at least ought to be so much more than a thing that does or does not fit comfortably into your vagina.
Dear Andrea:
Everything I read about sex when I was an inexperienced teenager led me to believe that multiple orgasms were my birthright as a female, something that would make up for all the bleeding and cramps and pregnancy scares and bra-shopping and all the other indignities that came along with my sex.
This has not proved to be the case. I orgasm once and then I’m done. It’s unusual for me to achieve a second orgasm in a 24-hour period, and if I do, it’s an inferior one. I find it really hard to go on with sex afterward when I’m not getting a single thing out of it and I’ve no prospect of doing so.
Am I doing something wrong? Are my partners doing something wrong? Or am I just doomed to be a lousy lay for all eternity?
Failed Every Time
Dear Time:
You are not a lousy lay; you’re just a normal girl. Your pattern is far more common than those books would have had you believe, and I have to wonder about any supposedly prosex treatise that offers multiple orgasms as payback for the indignities inherent in possession of a female body.
Multiple orgasms, while far more common for women than for men, are by no means any sort of “birthright.” Nor, I would venture, is being female so bleedy and scary and full of onerous shopping trips that we’re actually due reparations in the form of more orgasms or anything else. I mean what, by that token, are men supposed to get for having fragile generative organs that swing in the breeze and are the perennial target of ball-busting jokes — and are supposed to hew to certain dimensions and jump to attention whenever called upon to do so, and yet so often fail to measure up? What do they get in return for pretty much never having multiple orgasms and for having a set of bio cues that doom them to sleepiness as soon as they come, thus earning the ire of partners who are still hanging around waiting for their multiple orgasms?
Life isn’t fair. If you’re not enjoying the sex that goes on after you’ve gotten yours, try rearranging the proceedings so you come last. Or try to cultivate some interest in the parts of the experience dedicated to your partner’s pleasure. Do something, anything, other than clinging to some empty promises made to you by the authors of some fairly silly sex manuals you may or may not be remembering correctly.
Sexpert Andrea Nemerson is fabulous — and on vacation. So we’re rerunning a popular column from the past in her absence.