Do It Better

How a Month Without an Orgasm Improved My Sex Life

| 03/25/2020

orgasms Illustration by Sofie Birkin

Last fall, I started seeing a sex coach, and we talked about my tendency to orgasm in a fairly narrow range of ways. As a consequence of this, I was only having sex in a narrow range of ways. Specifically, I’d always need to be on my back, receiving clitoral stimulation, fantasizing, and sort of tensing up my body. She explained that if we only masturbate in one way, we’re training our bodies to only orgasm that way. So, she suggested I try masturbating in different ways — even if that meant not orgasming. 

Masturbating without a climax sounded a little ridiculous to me — wasn’t orgasm the point of masturbation? — but it was worth a try. Hoping to train my body to respond to a wider range of sensations, I did the opposite of what I usually did: I touched my vagina, breasts, and everywhere but my clitoris; I relaxed my whole body; I focused on my sensations rather than fantasizing; I tried it in different positions, like on my stomach and even standing. 

To my surprise, I liked this better than the way I normally masturbated. I started to feel pleasure in ways I hadn’t before, and because I wasn’t releasing all the energy I’d built up, I’d leave each masturbation session energized rather than drained. I’d go out into the world feeling alive and electric, and I’d be especially excited for sex with partners. 

When I gave up orgasms, I found a wealth of other sensations that I hadn’t yet explored.

In December, in the aftermath of a relationship, I decided to do an experiment: Until I had another partner, I would not orgasm. I’d masturbate, but I’d focus on feeling different kinds of pleasure throughout my body. 

When I gave up orgasms, I found a wealth of other sensations that I hadn’t yet explored. After spending a lot of time just touching my breasts, they built up enough sensitivity that I’d start to get pleasurable, orgasm-like contractions in my vagina just from stroking my nipples. I felt even more intense pulsations when I very gently rubbed my clitoris. It was almost like I was coming, but in a way that was less intense and could just go on and on. I also started enjoying touch on my hips and lower stomach. 

“If you choose not to orgasm, you might focus on the pleasure derived from stimulating parts of your body aside from your genitals; you’re more likely to discover new experiences of pleasure in this process,” says sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast. “One of my clients found that she finds her lower back highly erotic, and another found that she becomes most excited when her partner kisses her collarbone. When you take orgasm out of the equation, you’re more likely to give other body parts a chance to experience intense and prolonged pleasure.”

All the pleasure I was feeling in my body spilled out into every area in my life. If I pleasured myself before a social engagement, I’d leave the house feeling alive, radiant, and magnetic. If I worked afterward, I’d feel more focused, motivated, and positive. 

Still, my Tinder profile contained the line “looking for someone who will make me cum really hard then lie next to me and talk about physics,” so my experiment was bound to be short-lived. Indeed, a month and three days after I implemented my no-orgasm rule, a guy announced to me on a first Tinder date, “I want to make you cum hard.” Kind of a hard offer to resist. I half expected I’d orgasm the moment he touched me, but the awkwardness of the situation outweighed all my pent-up sexual frustration, and it took a little while. 

By learning to take the focus off the end goal, I could fully enjoy every step of the journey. 

Then, I started dating a new guy. We didn’t hook up until our third date, so by the time we did, I was pretty comfortable — and I felt more present in my body than I had with any previous partner. When he started to caress and kiss my breasts, I went wild, feeling those orgasm-like contractions in my vagina immediately. I relished his hands and mouth all over my body. What used to just be a warm-up for the main event became an event in and of itself. It was as if, by learning to take the focus off the end goal, I could fully enjoy every step of the journey. 

But, when it comes to the end goal, I still got there. A lot. Previously a one-and-done girl, I started coming multiple times almost every time he and I were intimate, and the orgasms generally came easily. I still didn’t develop the ability to experience vaginal orgasms, like I’d originally hoped when I started masturbating without a climax. But I did experience a lot more sensation with penetration, and I learned to orgasm without fantasizing or tensing my body. 

It’s one of those great ironies that taking the focus off orgasm often leads to more orgasms. “When orgasm is the goal of sex, we often rush through the process to arrive at the finish line,” says O’Reilly. “This can make sex a process or performance — rather than an experience. When you make orgasm optional, you may also find that the sexual experience lasts longer, and this can change the way you respond to sex. For example, you might breathe more deeply, explore every square inch of the body (which can result in full-body response), or slow down, which can lead to more intense sensations.” Taking the focus off orgasm can also enhance non-physical elements of sex, like “connection, relaxation, intimacy, pleasure, excitement, passion, confidence, and creativity,” says O’Reilly. 

Don’t get me wrong: Now that my experiment is over, I’m back to making sure I orgasm every time I have sex. I just find it more satisfying that way, and women always have the right to advocate for their orgasms. The difference is that now, the route there is different. Rather than making orgasm a goal that I chase, it’s simply a byproduct of feeling every sensation in my body. And that makes the orgasms much better.

Swell in your inbox,
every week

2