An awesome question: My partner turns me on, but not in a way that leads to orgasm. WTF?

Here’s an awesome question:  

I feel like the kind of arousal I get from my partner is somehow a different kind of arousal from the kind that actually leads me to have an orgasm.

Here’s what I’ve observed: our typical pattern of having sex starts with making out, then goes to them fingering me and sometimes going down on me, and then I pull out my vibrator and get myself off. I’m usually feeling very turned on by the time I reach for my vibrator… but when I start to use it, it’s like I’m starting from a basically unaroused state, even if my clit has been very involved in (and happy with) the proceedings up until that point. It’s like there’s this whole other kind of arousal I need to achieve before I can have an orgasm. This is frustrating to me both because it makes it take a long time for me to orgasm (I’m not a super patient person), and because it makes me think that no matter how aroused they might make me feel, I’m probably not going to be able to reach orgasm just from what my partner does to me. I can’t really explain why that second thing is frustrating, but it makes me feel really sad and angry at my body.

So, first: is this two-different-kinds-of-arousal thing something that other women experience? And second: is there any way I can learn to have orgasms from what my partner does to me/from the kind of arousal they gives me?

Three things:

(1) I don’t know if it’s something other women experience. It’s not something I’ve found research on – other women? What do you think? Does this sound familiar? Please comment below!


(2) I can think of at least two potential explanations for your experience, but both of them are just speculation, so take them for what they’re worth:

(a) When you stop and reach for your vibrator, it’s like you’ve gotten off the arousal train and you have to begin again at the beginning. Anyone who has ever lost an erection in the middle of putting on a condom is familiar with this phenomenon – the slight interruption

(b) Your body is used to associating a very specific kind of stimulation with orgasm, through long practice. You have trained it well. Which means you could, if you decided to, train it to associate the kind of stimulation your partner gives you with orgasm, but it would take PATIENCE and nonjudgment while your body transitioned from one habit to a new one. It’s pretty simple to do: at first, use the vibrator to orgasm WHILE your partner does the things that give you so much pleasure. And gradually, week by week, session by session, use less vibrator and more partner. Your body will learn to associate that high level of arousal with the stimulation your partner is giving you.


(3) The only “problem” in your description is your frustration and your anger and sadness directed at your own body. You want and expect the arousal your partner gives you be one thing, it turns out it’s not, and you’re frustrated with your body for not meeting your expectations.

So here’s where I give you advice that’s pretty simple to say, but sort of complicated to do:

Forgive your body for not meeting your expectations. Have more patience and compassion for your body. Though it’s not doing what you expected, it’s not doing anything wrong.

In short, develop that patience you say you don’t have much of.

If you want to take this ALL THE WAY, stop having orgasms altogether for a while. Just take orgasm off the table and enjoy the pleasure you experience from both your partner and the vibrator. Let your partner use the vibrator on you, use the vibrator on your partner, and neither of you have orgasm. Just enjoy the sensations, the pleasure, without a goal or a destination to frustrate you or make you feel impatient.