Susie and Aretha Bright believe that mother-daughter teamwork is the answer for all your sex advice needs. Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. This week: difficulty with orgasms and navigating open relationships.
Dear Aretha & Susie,
I've been happily with a guy for two years. We have great, wonderful, passionate sex- but I never orgasm. Well, occasionally small ones. He doesn't know this. He thinks I have multiples and he's happy with the moaning and screaming. I'm happy with what I have. We have long sessions, they're very pleasurable, and I end up weak in the knees afterwards.
I use the metaphor that climaxing is like finally arriving at a cake shop down the street. Yeah, it's great to get there- and see a triple layer staring back at you. But if there's a carnival along the way to the cake shop, it ends up pale and unsatisfying by comparison.
I enjoy it so much more during the sessions when I DON'T climax and just hover in that nice feeling before an orgasm. Even when I'm going at it solo, climaxing is a hinderance.
I'm guilty for not telling him all this. I know it would make him feel bad, like he isn't doing a good job. He would feel like a lesser lover because he can't make me cum. I want to be able to tell him, because this is the only thing I've withheld from him or lied about. But I don't think he'll believe me if I tell him that orgasms suck and he makes me much happier without them. I don't want to undermine the relationship.
—In Love With Foreplay
Aretha: I swear. Again with the "we have great, wonderful, passionate sex!" right in the first sentence. Why is it that the people who write to us with problems always have the best sex?
Susie: Because they're romantic and hopeful. And so are we. The hopeless and cynical are not reading or writing.
Aretha: Well, my first reaction was: She's fucked. Once you've had your first fake orgasm there's no going back. She's been fucking this guy for 2 YEARS! That's a lot of fake orgasms.
If she tells him all those moaning, screaming orgasms didn't really happen, their love-life is going to SUCK afterward. He WILL feel bad.
Ms. Foreplay, I'm not sure know why you feel guilty about this, after years of silence, but I say keep it to yourself. You want to stay with this guy and still have weak-in-the-knees sessions? Say nothing. It sounds like you are having a great time in bed and whatever your bf is doing is working for you.
Susie: Something about this doesn't add up.
I want to know more about orgasms you search for when you masturbate. Do you AVOID climaxing when you're by yourself? Have you had other lovers that brought you more intense pleasure?
Orgasm is simply a release of sexual energy. We all love being on "the edge;" it's the icing on everyone's cake-but you can only sustain it for so long. The volcano has to blow. The contractions bring you down, the blood flow subsides, and you enter the technical phase called "resolution." There is a relief that is sometimes sad, but always sweet.
Let me give you a visual: look at the illustrations - (page 50 is where I want you to start!— then go back and read everything)- of what orgasm does, anatomically, in A New View of a Woman's Body.
My speculation is that you are NOT at plateau; you are enjoying the early stages of excitement with your boyfriend- which are pleasurable. You've struggled, unhappily, to reach a higher level of intensity. You get thwarted as you enter the plateau phase and wish you had stayed in the shallow end. It's a nasty, cranky place.
You think you're going to be happy this way for the rest of your life? No. You've been rationalizing and trying to "make do."
I wish you would experience the deep end of pleasure, the whole orgasmic spectrum- if you haven't already- on your own. Then think about what it would take to share it with your lover.
Aretha: You could start having sex with him and telling him afterward that you didn't cum but it still felt great. Tell him about the cake shop or whatever and make it sound positive and sexy- he may come around to the idea.
This would be an excellent time to try NEW things in bed- and I'm thinking of a few ways cake could be incorporated, too.
Don't get into "what if you told him everything?" - even though it would be "honest." It's a lot of hassle over the idea that sex is not good without an orgasm. I say skip it. Mom, you may disagree…
Susie: No, I agree with you… he won't buy it- and he'd be right. If he gets educated about female orgasm, he'll never buy it. It sounds like a two year grudge. He'll wonder, "Why now?"
Maybe that's the unspoken problem here. What's changing inside you? Are you having second thoughts about other things?
Aretha: Ummm… and yeah! Your boyfriend sounds great. "Long sessions"? If he dumps you over the no-orgasm thing, give me his number!
Susie: That is so sisterly of you.
• • • • •
Dear Aretha & Susie,
I'm in a one-year-long exclusive relationship with a guy I like. We're friendly, funny, goofy, intimate, all that good stuff- and the sex is pretty good too.
We both want to sleep with other people occasionally, and don't really know what to do about it. He keeps suggesting an open relationship. We live together and I have a feeling that I would find it emotionally messy, even though his take is that it would only be occasional one-night stands.
I'm uneasy because there's part of me that's envious of his ability to separate sex from emotions (or so he says).
My abilities in compartmentalizing are a little limited, but I'm thinking it might be worth it to explore and find out. I don't think it's impossible. I feel "mentally" open but my stomach tells me otherwise, due to some lingering jealousy and an inherent and learned sense of loyalty.
Also, I live in a country that isn't exactly free-love-friendly so I can't expect acceptance from my peer group. Cheating is common here but I'm not interested in deception and jealousy. I don't have any positive role models when it comes to an open relationship.
Should I pursue this? He says he doesn't want to push the idea and will back off entirely if I say I'm not comfortable with it. He's loyal, honest, and patient, so the decision is up to me. Where should I begin?
—Wants to Open Up
Aretha: Well! This cracked me up because all I could think was, "My mom could tell you A LOT more about this than I can!"- lol.
Susie: Yeah, har-de-har-har.
Aretha: Thinking about what happened with you and Dad made me want to caution this girl that picking who you open your relationship with is super-duper important. Stay away from needy stalker people who want more than you can give them.
Susie: In my defense… in all the years I've been with your dad (21)- all non-monogamous- I can only think of two (and in retrospect, mercifully brief) times that we went through some real grief. I don't blame it on being "open" - it's just the hard things relationships go through at times, be they social, platonic, or battles with your own relatives.
You never knew about all the times everything worked out copacetic or drama-free, because part of our "open relationship" ethos was protecting our family life: Kids come first, privacy is a big deal, and discretion is definitely the better part of valor.
As to Miss Wanna-Be here, I'd say that the ideal time to find out about how you feel about open relationships is definitely before you have children.
Aretha: But I don't think she's quite there yet- she's still deciding whether she wants to do it.
Susie: There are ways to get your feet wet. You could go to a play party together, and either watch, play, or both. Connect with other experienced lovers, or pros, for that matter. Avoid the ring-seeking singles and unhappily married. You could plan a "when-I'm-out-town" adventure, where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Talk about all the details, like where it happens, what happens the day after, what birth control or STD stuff you use. There is no such thing as "disconnecting" your emotions, thank goodness. Would it please you on to hear a little bit about it, a lot, nothing at all? If one of you is on a date, what does the other one do? Discuss how you feel about friends versus acquaintances, boys vs. girls, etc.
Each one of you reserves the right to change your mind. You already understand the most important thing: Open relationships are about Not Cheating. Not deceiving. Not patronizing your partner by keeping a secret.
Aretha: I say, go for it. You've been together for a year, he's a loyal and honest guy, and you both want to sleep with other people; that's a great base. If you have the hots for some awesome guy and want to hook up with him- in an open relationship, that can happen! And it's NOT CHEATING. If you two try it for a month or whatever and you don't like it, then make sure he knows right away!
On the other hand… If your tummy is telling you that you're not up for it, then maybe you aren't ready. There is nothing wrong with that. Maybe just having the IDEA of sleeping with other people works for you better.
Susie: Good point. There are plenty of couples who get stoked on the fantasy of cheating, cuckolding, and "play" jealousy. You can go wild without bringing a single other live person into it.
Do you like to read your way into things? I do. Here's a reading list that'll get you thinking about the possibilities: The Ethical Slut, Tristan Taormino's Opening Up, and a short story I wrote for Mommy's Little Girl, called "The Best She Ever Had."
BTW.... I assume the UNfriendly-free-love locale you're describing is: Fresno.