I am a 23-year-old female, sexually active for seven years, and I can’t reach climax. I am extremely frustrated. I have a wonderfully patient and helpful partner. He has tried hard to no avail. I can’t even get myself there. I feel like I am broken. My partner and I talk out anything that is bothering me, we try different things, but no matter what the situation, I can never reach orgasm. When I went off birth control, I brought up to my doctor that I had never had an orgasm, and she told me that female orgasms are largely a mental thing. She suggested I try using fantasy, which was not new to me. Other than this, my partner and I have a healthy sex life. I don’t know what to do from here. I start to wonder if there is something wrong with me.
Frustrated Annoyed Person
“FAP certainly shouldn’t feel bad that she doesn’t have a handle on a phenomenon that even sex researchers don’t properly understand,” said Tracy Clark-Flory, who writes informed, fascinating, and sometimes hilarious pieces about sex, dating, and relationships for Salon.com. “In fact, she might be relieved to learn that scientists of all stripes have been struggling for decades to determine why the female orgasm even exists in the first place.”
You might also be relieved to learn about one theory that’s making the rounds, FAP, or… you might not.
“It’s called the ‘byproduct’ theory,” says Clark-Flory, “and it might help make FAP feel less broken.”
Here comes da science:
“Evolutionary selection has hugely favored the male orgasm, for obvious reasons,” explains Clark-Flory, the most obvious being that males who can’t come aren’t going to have many descendants. “The byproduct theory goes that since females share the same embryological origins of pleasure-friendly nerves and tissues as males, women are physically capable of climaxing as well. In this view, the female orgasm is an evolutionary hand-me-down—or, more cynically, lukewarm leftovers.”
In other words…
Every little zygote, so beloved by the GOP base, has all the basic parts needed to build either a male or a female baby who, once born, the GOP base could not care less about. Blasts of hormones transform those pleasure-friendly nerves and tissues—nerves and tissues beloved by the GOP base so long as they remain in the uterus—into either boy junk or girl junk. Backers of the byproduct theory believe that women are capable of having orgasms not because women need to have orgasms, but because female junk is built from the same component parts as male junk. Women can have orgasms because men must.
“At first, I found this theory terribly off-putting,” says Clark-Flory, “but I would encourage FAP to think about it differently, as I eventually did.”
Viewing the female orgasm as an “evolutionary freebie,” Clark-Flory continues, “can actually validate the vast range of women’s orgasmic experiences, as Elisabeth Lloyd, author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, has argued. This means a multiorgasmic woman is just as ‘normal’ as an orgasmless one, a lady who comes from a single flick of the finger is just as ‘healthy’ as one who requires 45 minutes with her Hitachi Magic Wand set on high.”
So you’re not “broken,” FAP, even if you’re not orgasmic.
Clark-Flory doesn’t think you should give up all hopes of ever experiencing an orgasm—nor do I!—but she thinks you should stop trying so hard and stressing so much.
“When women have a difficult time getting there, it can be helpful to take the finish line away,” says Clark-Flory. “At the risk of sounding woo-woo, I would suggest that she slow down and focus on feeling individual sensations. She’ll be most likely to come when she forgets her worries about all that she isn’t feeling and simply enjoys what she does feel.”
CONFIDENTIAL TO EVERYONE: Jamey Rodemeyer—a 14-year-old kid growing up in Buffalo, New York—loved Lady Gaga, most of his friends were girls, and he had feminine mannerisms. And for that, he was subjected to daily and often brutal bullying since he was in the fifth grade.
Last week, Jamey took his own life.
“All the girls just loved him and they always defended him,” Jamey’s mother told CBS News. “But all the boys would say, ‘Geez, you’re such a girl. Why are you hanging out with all those girls? What are you, a girl? Oh, you must be gay.’”
For those sins—the sin of hanging out with girls, the sin of loving Lady Gaga, the sin of not being exactly like all the other boys—Jamey had to endure taunts like this one: “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier!”
“The bullies are still walking around,” Jamey’s grieving mother told CBS. “They get to wake up tomorrow and go to school and see all their friends, but my son will not be given a second chance.”
Then there’s this detail from the Buffalo News:
“Last September, the It Gets Better Project was launched online as a place for adults [to] reassure troubled and potentially suicidal lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth that despite the taunting, bullying, and physical abuse they face as adolescents and teens, life improves after high school. In May of 2011, Jamey posted [a] YouTube video with the description ‘Jamey From Buffalo, New York telling you, IT GETS BETTER!’”
The It Gets Better Project was created to give bullied and despairing LGBT kids hope for their future. But sometimes hope isn’t enough. Sometimes the damage done by hate and haters is simply too great. Sometimes the future seems too remote. And those are the times that we all feel despair.
Watching Jamey’s It Gets Better video in the wake of his suicide is indescribably heartbreaking. We know now that Jamey was in pain when he made his video. But he was reaching out and trying to help other kids who were suffering.
We can best honor his memory by following his example.
As I’ve said since launching the It Gets Better Project in this space a year ago, nothing about participating in the IGBP excuses or precludes us—the adults among us—from doing more. The videos have helped and continue to help; we’ve heard from thousands of kids and their parents over the last 12 months. Countless LGBT kids have told us that the IGBP provided them with the hope, moral support, insight, and practical referrals to services that they needed to persevere. But we can do more. We can press for the passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, we can fight to get anti-bullying programs that address anti-LGBT bullying into the schools, we can support GLSEN and its efforts to get GSAs into every public middle and high school, we can support the Trevor Project and the crucial work it does.
And we can—we must—confront the bigots who are making it worse for kids like Jamey. Whether the bigots are stalking the halls of our schools, running their mouths on cable news, or running for president—the bigots must be confronted and held accountable for the lives they’re destroying.
ABC News reported there may be some accountability in Jamey’s case: “The Amherst Police Department’s Special Victims Unit has said it will determine whether to charge some students with harassment, cyber-harassment, or hate crimes. Police said three students in particular might have been involved.”
Harassment and cyber-harassment don’t become crimes only after the target commits suicide. They’re crimes, period, and they should be investigated and prosecuted before a grieving family has to bury a child, not after.
Jamey’s parents have asked that donations be made in his memory to Crisis Services (www.crisisservices.org). Please donate. And then find something else you can do and go do it.
Then do more.
Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.