The Vagenda

Doing It’s Not Doing It For Me

The first time I had sex, I was completely hot for it. The guy in question brought about previously unknown adolescent urges, and Anchorman-style I wanted to be ON him. But, having read a lot of teen magazines, I knew our very first session might be a little less than magical so I was well prepared – mentally and physically (condoms: check, lube: check, realistic expectations of the hymen: check). The second, though, was presumably going to be all hunky-dory. So I took the first awkward floppy poking mess in my stride – and then became increasingly psyched for the fireworks ahead.
The second time, though, while less awkward, not at all floppy and only a little messy, was still definitely POKEY. More accurately, and reflecting my partner’s brimming enthusiasm, it was poke-poke-poke-poke-poke—poke-poke-pokey. A quiet panic started to creep over me. While he was violently ejaculating and collapsing in sweaty self-satisfaction, I was absolutely nowhere close. There was clearly something horribly wrong.
I lived with this angst for several months before thinking to do anything about it, paralysed by the panic that there was something amiss with my vagina. I soon started seeking out and taking lots of myriad pieces of advice. Firstly, I took the advice of Gwyneth Paltrow. After she enthused in an interview about how a Brazilian wax changed her life, I headed to my nearest waxing salon. Next I followed some more medical-sounding advice and began practising those Kegel exercises that I am now 100% sure teenagers don’t need to do. Failing to see the benefits in either of those, I upped my game, SATC-style, and bought some wildly impractical underwear and a shiny blue vibrator. OK, so the vibrator WORKED the way it was supposed to – but none of my desperate attempts were improving the two-person sex I was having.
Feeling increasingly hopeless and finding myself becoming tearful post-sex, I got brave and decided to actually talk to someone who wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow about it. The nurse at my local GP seemed like a good bet. She issued me my contraceptive pill so the next time I went in, I mentioned in the most casual way I could that I-wasn’t-having-a-very-good-time-sexwise. “Oh,” she said comfortingly, “…just make sure you’re well lubricated.” With my heart sunken almost to my vagina itself, I replied: “Yeah, I, um… OK.”
I wasn’t ever going to speak to anyone about it again but fate intervened. One evening, having had a few too many glasses of wine, my mother (god love her for this) blurted out that sex had never really done it for her and she preferred “the other stuff”. While part of me was a little repulsed by this uncharacteristic over-share, I was thrilled for my tragic vagina. It wasn’t as freakish as I had thought. And it occurred to me: this might be a THING, ladies preferring “the other stuff”.


A year or so and a boyfriend later, some further reassurance came my way. An article about the Maggie Gyllenhaal film Hysteria discussed female sexual dissatisfaction and mentioned a book entitled The Technology of Orgasm. I had to get it. Only 120 pages long, it felt epic. As a history book, it described the 1880s technological development of the vibrator for women displaying “hysterical” symptoms a lot like sexual frustration and for whom a quick clitoral rub-down seemed to put them right. Both funny and educational, the book actually stirred up a lot of anger in me, explicitly condemning as it does the (heteronormative) “androcentric model of sexuality” which largely disregarded any sexual pleasure that didn’t fit with the vaginal poking fiasco I had come to resent.
With all the fervour of a recent convert, I then found Shere Hite, glamorous 70s sex researcher, and her encyclopedic study, The Hite Report. In it she examines women’s responses to a lengthy questionnaire and compiled statistics such as my now much-recited: “only 30 percent of women orgasm regularly from intercourse”. Detailing copious extracts from women’s wonderfully explicit questionnaire responses, the book felt like reading a million secret diaries, interspersed with Hite’s own profoundly encouraging and practical advice, such as this: “To have an orgasm during intercourse, there are two ways she can increase her chances, always remembering that she is adapting her body to a less than adequate situation. First and most important, she must consciously try to apply her masturbation techniques to intercourse, or experiment to find out what else may work to get clitoral stimulation; or she can work out a sexual relationship with a particular man who can meet her individual needs.”
And that’s when it really sunk in: there wasn’t anything wrong with me – or my nonplussed vagina. It was traditional, P-in-V sex itself that was “less than adequate”. Mind. Blown. I needed to start seeing who else knew about this. 
More confident to undertake some (psychological) probing of friends, I began asking whether sex did anything for them either. Some happily informed me that they really loved sex and found it thoroughly satisfying (jealous, I’ll admit). Others told me they liked it mentally and everything, but oh my god, it does nothing for me too! in a weirdly excited way that I’m guessing came from the relief, rather than the rather crappy truth itself. And while I can’t lie that the truth does feel kinda crappy, there are two massive benefits I have found to speaking up about it.
Can’t stress this enough. If you have struggled with sex disappointment, I am guessing you’ve struggled with self-blame too, hating your poor body for its “inadequate” responses which every film, magazine, late night TV show  (here’s looking at you, Eurotrash and Sexcetera) and porno seem to mock. But finding out you are not alone, and that you’re not the thing that’s inadequate brings on a healthy dose of self-love and forgiveness.
Yes, I did this. Yes, before I did it I seriously thought he would be so emotionally wounded he would dump me. And yes, it led to a lot of questions: firstly, “Is that normal?” (cue thrusting The Hite Report at him like a big, phallic proof), then, “But what about those noises you make?” (um… mortified, but it was, er, good to explain) and then, “What can I do to help you out?” (for real, my heart climbed back into my chest and cried little tears of orgasmic joy). 
So, as a plea to anyone else suffering in silence, feeling sad and dissatisfied and altogether left out of the sex party everyone else is busy getting drunk at, JOIN US. Me and those weirdly excited friends and I have started a website for sharing our stories.
It’s called “Doing it: Not doing it for me”.
She won’t know it, but I’m giving my mum credit for the name. 
To anonymously submit your own story of disappointing sex to our new site, or to read about some book/film/website suggestions that might make you feel less freaky (in the bad way) visit the gals behind this new phenomenon at:

17 thoughts on “Doing It’s Not Doing It For Me

  1. I think you (perhaps unintended?) point out a major issue by using “sex” as a synonym for “intercourse”. Sex is so much more than “p-in-v” but so much “sex-education” and media coverage seem to be stuck with the idea that only once a penis has entered a vagina has sex ocurred.
    My 28-year old lesbian cousin who’s been out and had girlfriends since she was about 18 years old, has been asked on multiple occassions if she “never intends to lose her virginity/have real sex”.
    Before going completely off track, thank you for a well-written piece on an important issue.

  2. Sorry, but I think you misread or misinterpreted something.
    70% is a definite majority, surely, but you seem to be forgetting the other 30%.
    They’re not making it up and they’re not all faking it.
    Orgasm by penetration is no myth.

    One of my partners once told me that if women were honest to men and each other when talking about sex, the clitoris would garner a lot more attention and we’d find out just how unsatisfied women are in spite of all the acrobatics we all seem to do nowadays (as the new site might just uncover).

    This article is the first I ever read to broach that subject specifically, and for that, congratulations to Vagenda. But to say that orgasm by penetration is a myth is as wrong as women who do not like anal sex to say that no women enjoy it other than a nedd or desire to please their partner in bed.

    This article will hopefully help and enable the 70% to better enjoy sex, but it would be sad if it denied the reality of the other 30%, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. Awesome idea. I know it’s a slightly different issue, but is it worth mentioning asexuality too? – not something that should be thought of as ‘freakish’ either.

  4. Sorry for the conversation hi-jacking, but my interpretation of the expression “orgasm by penetration myth” is that it refers to the myth that ALL woman can (and should) orgasm by vaginal penetration. I don’t think anyone is trying to deny that some women do, which is of course great :)

  5. For me, my lack of orgasms during penis-in-vagina sex is a mental focus thing, I think. I often lie there with a constant stream of thoughts in my head: “- oh this isn’t too bad I suppose he does have nice shoulders but oh my christ the wallpaper in here why do I never sleep with interior designers isn’t there something I need to do tomorrow oh yes I need to pay the rent -”

    The one time I managed to turn my brain OFF, an orgasm started building up, but I was so surprised by the sudden intense pleasure that I got distracted and lost it.

    So yeah, a) my brain is stupid and b) sexual pleasure (or lack thereof) is often tied to mental things, not just physical.

  6. I definitely agree. I’m not denying that there are probably women who just aren’t gonna come from v-in-p, but at various points in my life I’ve thought that I’m one of them, and then discovered that I’m not… I think it’s a combination of a) getting a partner that you’re comfortable with, and b) managing to get your head in the right zone. Sometimes b) happens itself all the time (which is greeeeat) but then at other times it just seems like it’s never going to happen. But then, if you’ve got a), and you talk about it, then it’s much easier to get b).

    Of course the point stands that p-in-v (or v-on-p, or however you want to do it) isn’t the holy grail its held up to be. There’s SO much else to do which can be LOADS of fun, and regardless of whether the pokey stuff does it for you or not, that should definitely be explored and enjoyed.

  7. Could you replace the info graphic? It’s too small to read (on my browser, at least) and too low res to zoom for legibility. Cheers.

  8. It is a myth that all women can or should be able to orgasm that way. And it’s so rarely discussed, which is why it remains received wisdom.

  9. I apologise, I didn’t see this until now hence the late reply.
    Maybe my comment wasn’t clear, but I certainly was NOT saying women never come by penetration. Who am I to say how all people orgasm.
    What I WAS saying is that I’ve actually never met one who has told me she can, which suggests that the amount of attention given to that part of sex is extremely disproportionate to the amount of women who come that way.
    The ‘myth’ I was referring to encapsulates-
    the idea that only penetration is ‘full/real sex’,
    the way a woman’s orgasm is often seen as a bonus whereas we expect the man to come every time,
    the idea that some women are just really difficult to get off (nope you’re just not putting in the time and effort)

    -and a whole lot of other problems me and my friends have been discussing and trying to figure out, ever since we realised that some of those moaning women in aaaaall those love scenes which almost always portray penetration only, must’ve been fibbing.

  10. I love it when this subject comes up on here! I think the most important thing is that people are talking about it. It certainly is not the case in my friends that no one orgasms during penetration and not the case myself. The fact women aren’t experiencing orgasms through penetration is a feel a much deeper conversation surrounding our education. Men are taught quite explicitly through pornography about how to pleasure themselves through penetration yet with our erogenous zones being inside and out its a bit more complicated so we kind of have to learn on the job. Coupled with this increasing feeling dissatisfaction and inadequacy a bit like the man’s erectile dissfunction becoming physiological we rather put ourselves off! And who would blame us! If you find someone who makes you feel relaxed and comfortable with who takes his time in pleasuring you through kissing stroking and massaging and your honest when communicating if it feels nice the orgasms during sex will come because you’ll be so worked up they’ll be nothing you can do to stop it. If doing it isnt doing it for you then discussing it honestly with your partner has got to be the first step as he most likely wan

  11. Wants to please you. He can’t know that your not enjoying it if you don’t say. Just make sure you have preheated the oven sufficiently and then whatever happens your enjoying you’reselves. The main thing is that you feel satisfied and if your feeling like your not during penetrative sex you don’t need to write it off that you can’t enjoy just start enjoying re writing the rule book in your relationship. Sex is supposed to be fun and enjoyable for both parties after all.