Awakening the Clitoris

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Betty Dodson

After hearing countless sex histories from girls and women over the past four decades, I believe sexual repression begins the moment a parent or caregiver punishes a child’s natural curiosity for touching their own sex organs.

Society needs to understand that the health of each person’s sexlife rests upon childhood masturbation— the foundation upon which all of human sexuality is based. It’s very consistent that each client I see struggling with orgasms as an adult has no memory of masturbating in childhood or in their teens. The absence of this natural self-exploration interferes with the development of nerve pathways that carry positive sensations from our genitals to the pleasure center in the brain. This blocks or slows down the development of sexual release with orgasm.

Not as many boys get the same message of “Don’t touch your-self down there” as do girls. The male sex organ is more easily accessible so society tacitly agrees that a boy’s sexual interest is more natural or urgent due to the ejaculation of semen. However, all societies controlled by some form of organized religion demonize pleasure for its own sake, so boys suffer masturbation repression as well. The predominant acceptance for sexuality remains fixated on procreation within a monogamous heterosexual marriage— far too narrow an image. Therefore most of us are sinners in the eyes of the church which makes it much easier to control a large portion of the population by a few.

Female sexual conditioning is already in play when a concerned parent unknowingly sets up a sexual double standard when mothers want their sons to be sexual but fear their daughters might end up with an unwanted teen pregnancy with all that entails. Therefore, most girls grow up without any idea of where her sexual feelings come from except by accident like climbing a rope in gym class, clenching their legs together or rocking on the arm of an overstuffed chair. They become fixated on some weird form of indirect clitoral stimulation that rarely translates into partnersex. Meanwhile, boys learn to come quickly to avoid getting “caught in the act.” This leads to adult men ejaculating fast because they have not learned to sustain heightened sexual feelings. So for every pre-orgasmic woman there is a pre-mature ejaculating man.

Add to this all the jokes, disgust or moral condemnation shown toward masturbation and we have a recipe for preventing people from discovering the joys of orgasmic sex. Those who do masturbate often struggle with guilt and self-loathing. Once we include Dr. Freud’s theory of “mature vaginal orgasms” for women and more recently the much debated, yet fashionable G spot, we have a population that is very sexually confused. Men believe they must “give” a woman her orgasm to prove they’re good lovers while women have been conditioned to protect the male ego. Many women end up faking an orgasm to avoid hurting a lovers feelings and thus sacrificing their own pleasure. As if that isn’t bad enough, we misname the female genitals by reducing all the parts down to a “vagina” which only refers to the birth canal. When was the last time you saw the word clitoris in print or heard it said on television?

Sex educators know this: When we go on television, we are told we can say “G” spot but refer to the clitoris as the “C” spot. When I was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly in 2002, I was told that I couldn’t say “Orgasms for Two” the title of my book, so I had to use the sub title, “The Joy of Partnersex.” Bill said it was because his was a “family show.” I took that to mean families didn’t have any orgasms which is probably closer to the truth.

As long as church and state continues to limit sex to procreation, we’ll have a severely repressed society. Nearly all men can ejaculate quickly but far too many women are not orgasmic. These women suffer from guilt and self-loathing and blame themselves for being “frigid” or today it’s called “sexually dysfunctional.” Both women and men end up comparing themselves to porn stars, which has been society’s primary form of sex education. Naturally this causes more insecurity and disention in relationships often leading to divorce and the break-up of families. But a sexually controlled society is much easier to manipulate by a few authoritarian dictators, priests, or other so-called leaders.

We now have a chance to change the course of history with the emerging Global Revolution. This time we must complete the sexual revolution that began in the sixties by including orgasmic pleasure in the teaching of human sexuality.

“Help me Dr. Betty. I’ve never had an orgasm.” I have lost track of how many times I‘ve answered this very same question: I want to share this near perfect example from Rebecca. Her story represents many young girls’ struggle with the inability to discover and enjoy the experience of orgasm. In a society where sex is everywhere we turn, this can be emotionally very painful. She feels broken and sexually inadequate.

Rebecca’s first question: Friday, Jun 17, 2011

“I’m almost twenty years old, and I’ve never had an orgasm. I have no problem with getting aroused. I think about sex a lot, I want sex a lot, and I fantasize about sex regularly. However, touching my vulva, being touched or having intercourse doesn’t seem to work right for me. I love sex – I love the idea of a man being inside me, I love touching a man and pleasuring him. I just don’t seem to get the physical pleasure other girls do. Often, sex is very painful for me.

The same goes for oral or manual stimulation. It feels horrible half of the time; I can’t seem to stand my clitoris being touched. So oral sex feels like a combination of very little pleasure and absolute pain. I love going down on men, and honestly, that is what I prefer since there is no expectation and I can focus on him being turned on. Besides, I am sick of explaining I don’t come so he doesn’t feel badly if he doesn’t give me an orgasm. I would fake one for him, but I have no idea how.

The only times I would feel any pleasure are during dry humping when I was on top (oddly, it feels better with clothes on). Or when on the bed, I would lie on my stomach and he would lie on top of me while entering from behind. I think it was because the pleasure was less centered, more spread out, but not consistent. Just occasionally he would hit the right spot for a few moments, and suddenly I would feel a slight build up, then he would always speed up because I was reacting positively. But I’d loose the right spot after a few seconds anyway so he gets a release and I get to lie there still feeling turned on, and ashamed.

My ex would tell me, “It will happen someday.” But if I can’t maintain pleasure for more than a few moments very occasionally, how can I possibly expect a build-up to orgasm? Each time he would try to encourage me by telling me “To come” and I would just get depressed. It is not going to happen at this rate, and if I tell someone the truth about how it sometimes hurts, no one will want to be with me.

I know masturbation is the key here, but without having a man around, I do not feel turned on. I feel stupid and nervous, and I will lie there for ages until it gets depressing and I just can’t bear it anymore. I’ve tried vaginal stimulation, clitoral stimulation, that shower head technique... it feels numb or horribly painful, and I just don’t know how to get aroused by myself. No gynecologist has told me there is anything physically wrong, so I’m at a loss. I’m sick of feeling like a failure. I’m sick of feeling frustrated and still aroused after sex, and I’m sick of having no idea what everyone else is enjoying.

I know orgasm is not the end-all-be-all of sex. I still enjoy having sex, so I will keep having it. But since I’m feeling so frustrated, it makes finding a partner very difficult. I didn’t even have oppressive parents. They have been very open and supporting in every way, so what’s wrong with me? I just want to know what an orgasm is, to feel it at least once in my life. I want to know what I’m missing. I want sex to be what it’s supposed to be. The only other aspect that might come into the picture was being touched inappropriately by a boy at age 16, but I was having trouble with masturbation long before that. I have also taken anti-depressants from age 14 to 18, but I took Welbutrin for a while after, which is supposed to fix the sexual dysfunction they cause, and I am no longer depressed. Other than that, I have an anxiety disorder... But even with my scheduled anxiety drugs, I’m not able to function any better, so I’m still at a loss. I apologize for the length of this, but I’ve just never really been open about sex like this before. Thank you for your time. I love your website. It’s really incredible what you’re doing!”

My response:

Dear Rebecca,

What you describe is a common pattern for legions of young women today. In my opinion, it was insane to put a 14 year old girl on an anti-depressant drug. It is a known fact that these drugs interfere with a person's sexual build-up to orgasm. The same goes for Welbutrin. Google Welbutrin side effects and read the information available. Today it is all too easy to take a child to a doctor and get a quick fix with some drug.

You sound like a smart young woman so I recommend you make a 350 degree turn around and embrace alternative healing modalities. Change your diet and use yoga and meditation for your anxiety. We all have some degree of feeling anxious; its part of the human condition. Burn off some of your pent up sex frustration by taking up a sport where you can sweat. Work out in a gym, swim lengths in a pool (my favorite). For now, don’t focus so much on wanting an orgasm with a partner. Your young man knows even less than you do about female sexuality. You need to practice masturbation alone by exploring your vulva and to focus on stimulating your clitoris.

Stop being such a drama queen by claiming that clitoral stimulation "either feels numb or horribly painful." Unless you are beating up on your clit with dry fingers or some hard objects, “horribly painful” is a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe “discomfort” or “intense” would be better terms. In addition, the fact that you cannot focus on yourself without a "man around" makes you a victim. It’s highly unlikely that any man will be able to help you have an orgasm unless you can go there first. I know that many boys chant, "Come, come, come!" But that just creates more pressure on girls to perform and it’s a sure way to turn us off. While these young men mean well, they are using the male model of sexual response that doesn’t work for us. So it’s back to basics.

Go to How to Orgasm and follow my step-by-step process. Your clitoris needs to be awakened by your own gentle touch. Begin with an over-all vulva massage using some organic oil like coconut. You have a lot to overcome and learn so do not expect instant success. Sex is like any art form; first, the basics are learned and then practiced like a dancer working out at the exercise bar in front of mirrors. All the information you need is on the website. Let me know when you succeed. I am rooting for you.

Rebecca’s second response follows:

“I wanted to thank you for what you wrote to me a few months back. You were right. My clitoris had not been awakened. That wording was perfect, and it really made me think. I never would have imagined that the extreme sensitivity I felt could really be solved just by touching myself regularly! You were right, though. You were so, so right. It is just like trying to jump into cold water: you have to start by wading in the shallow end or it will be unpleasant. So finally, I worked through it, and I had my first orgasm!

I read your article on How to Orgasm. I spent time. I went slowly. I focused on what felt good rather than what I thought I was supposed to feel. I learned what worked for me and what did not. I decided to masturbate at least a couple times a week. Then I tried sex with more than one person. I had sex where I was in control and overall, I have loosened up. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself.

I do not have an orgasm every time I masturbate, and I’ve only managed once with partnersex (oral and manual), but now I know it will take time. I am not expecting an orgasm from vaginal penetration. Actually, I was finally able to tell a partner to stop focusing on my vagina and focus on my clitoris instead! Even after he said other girls can come vaginally, I did not feel guilty. I am finally focusing on me, rather than focusing on what others think. I feel so much more confident. I cannot thank you enough. Thank you for messaging me back. Thank you for rooting for me, and for other girls out there dealing with this. Just, thank you so much.”

This first category of problems for pre-orgasmic girls stems from lack of masturbation. The second category is having small orgasms but they are unable to identify them due to their expectations of what they “think” an orgasm will be like. Their ideas about orgasm are either based on watching porn, which is entertainment for men, or scenes from movies where women seem to orgasm effortlessly or noisily; once again for the sake of entertaining an audience.

“Dear Dr. Betty.

I'm 25, and until last night I'd believed I'd never really had an orgasm, except for possibly one time shortly after I started masturbating around the age of 12. I've masturbated almost religiously since then, often several times a day, with breaks occasionally where I just get too discouraged to try anymore and quit for a few months.

So Last night I read through the entire section on not being able to orgasm, and the stories of many women were eerily similar to mine. I feel something building and I always feel just on the verge of coming, like I'm teetering on the edge of a cliff. But it feels too good, or too intense, and then all of a sudden I'm empty. Arousal leaves me and I don't want to be touched. This leaves me feeling unsatisfied and incomplete, and so very frustrated. Every time your response to these women, women like me, was the same: “THAT'S an orgasm.” Since it doesn't feel like a release, I didn't think it was. Those feelings are so intense, and seem to be building towards something downright explosive, so the fizzle I got instead is, well, anti-climatic.

Because of your beautiful mission to educate us about our own bodies, I've come to the startlingly simple truth: For 13 years I've just been asking the wrong question. Instead of 'why can't I orgasm? What's wrong with me?' I should have been asking, 'What can I do to improve my orgasms?’ It never occurred to me to ask, because to improve I would need to have one to start with. Last night when I masturbated, I really focused on the sensations, thinking about it from the standpoint that I orgasm every time I masturbate. And I realized you were right - it does feel like a release, just a quiet, gentle one. My inner muscles don't contract or convulse, but now I know they don't have to.

So today, I decided to try to keep going after my clit stopped being so sensitive. I slowly built up and ended up having five of my little orgasms. Instead of feeling frustrated I felt relaxed and sleepy and content. There was no more pressure on myself. Now, instead of giving up after what I thought was no orgasm, I'm going to enjoy myself, and see if I can start building up to more intense orgasms. Now that I know the right question to ask, I can experiment with my orgasms (I'm still in disbelief that I can put those two words together!) Not giving up after one already helps!

So once again, thank you so much. It seems now like such a simple thing, but I felt broken and ashamed to admit to partners I wouldn't be able to orgasm with them. Now I'm excited by the prospect of fun mornings (afternoons, and evenings...) exploring a part of myself I never realized existed. I feel like Cinderella finally getting to go to the ball. So keep doing what you're doing. The women of this world need you.”
The First Two Problems: No masturbation followed by exaggerated idea of orgasm.

1. No masturbation: The big problem for these young girls who have never masturbated is that they have no idea how their sex organ functions. Learning how to orgasm during partnersex is very unlikely unless the man involved has a soft touch and is willing to spend a lot of time gently stimulating her clitoris with moistened fingers. Or he is gifted in performing oral sex and has the patience to keep going for thirty minutes or more. Even if he succeeds, she is then totally dependent on him for all of her sexual pleasure. While that might stroke his ego in the beginning, it will soon seem like a job without pay.

2. Exaggerated image of orgasm: girls who leave it up to their boyfriends to help them have an orgasm become the classic image of the blind leading the blind. He knows even less than she does because his sex organ functions totally differently from hers. If he’s circumcised and unfortunately most boys are, he relies on rapid friction to order to ejaculate. Boys with foreskins are gentler with a self-lubricating sex organ. It’s clear to many that the basic idea behind this barbaric practice is to prevent boys from masturbating.

The first step begins toward sexual healing is looking at your vulva in a mirror that stands alone to free both of your hands. None of this one-handed exploration will work. Next is a good light. Begin with a vulva massage using organic massage oil and slowly progress to manual stimulation of your clitoris. After five or so minutes, use your vibrator on low and keep it near the clitoris but not on it at first. Some women start above the clitoris or use the vibrator on the outer labia to soften the vibes. (Today I use a sock on my Magic Wand). As you feel sexual excitement building, keep moving the vibrator. One consistent mistake I have observed is to bear down with your vibrator to increase sensation. That never works. It will just numb out the entire area.

Once you have your first orgasm, back off and let those 8,000 nerve endings in your clitoris calm down. Then continue stimulation above or below Ms. Clitty while rocking your pelvis and breathing. This is when many of us can experience lovely after-shocks of pleasure as the sex energy continues to course through our bodies. Some women like to go on and have another orgasm while others are content with just one. Many have discovered that as long as the stimulation is to their liking, they can continue to have several more orgasms until physically tired. In my experience, each orgasm has its own build-up with varying lengths of time in-between. Sexual response is very personal. No one style fits all.

We need to explore our bodies with an open mind, without any fixed agenda or ideas of what an orgasm will feel like. We now have two generations of youth who have grown up with the abstinence only model as their primary source of sex information. Porn is entertainment for men and rarely if ever incorporates women’s sexual needs. Most important for all of us to realize is women function quite differently than men— we cannot expect orgasmic results in 5 or even 10 minutes. Yet this timing is adequate for most men.

Go to the Navigation Bar and click on “Ask Dr. Betty.” Read other women’s questions which will help you to form your own. When we lack sex information and have a minimum of experience, we don’t know enough to even form the right question. But once you have the information to help you explore your body more expertly, you’ll discover new physical sensations and feelings. In no time at all you will be an orgasmic woman well on her way to enjoying a happy sex life.

Just remember, sex is like any other skill: it must be learned and then practiced. My recommendation is to practice regularly as though you were training for the Sexual Olympics.