Ask Joan: Desensitized?
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A reader asks:
I’m 59 and I never have orgasms with a male partner, only with my vibrator. I’m told vibrators desensitize us if we use them too much. I feel I have done that to myself. With a partner, I just keep getting wet without feeling the sensation of an orgasm where my nerves explode, pulse, or tingle. With a vibrator, though, I get the pulsing of an orgasm and afterwards my clitoris is too sensitive to be touched.
My new partner is traditional, and he’s not sure how he feels about toys.
I’ve only had three partners, which doesn’t give me much sexual experience. I’m with a partner now who is great in size and stamina, and he wants to take care of me. I really enjoy sex with him and I get very wet—but no orgasm. I communicated truthfully, and he sees me as a tough project. I may be, but maybe it just needs time. Sometimes I feel I’m receiving a subtle G-spot orgasm but not a full body orgasm.
My new partner is traditional, and he’s not sure how he feels about toys. He states he’s never had a problem satisfying his partners.
I gave up my vibrator to try and work on myself. My clitoris is tiny and hard to find, and it takes a long time to wake it up. I had to play for a very long time to bring myself to a light orgasm. I tried again a second time, wanting to experience multiple orgasms like I do with my vibrator. It took even longer, and I only achieved another light one. I do yearn for my vibrator, but I don’t want to give into it.
How can I work on my clitoris to get it used to human stimulation? Are there vibrators that will not desensitize me from human satisfaction? I want to experience strong orgasms with a partner, as well with myself. Can you help?
– Desensitized by Vibrator?
I assure you that there is nothing wrong with you, your clitoris, your sexual responses, the way you reach orgasm. Everything you describe is completely normal. As we age, we need more intense stimulation and a longer arousal time to reach orgasm. Our orgasms may feel subdued instead of earth-shaking. They can vary. Most women can’t reach orgasm through penetrative sex unless it also involves clitoral stimulation. Your vibrator orgasms are likely to feel much stronger.
Please understand — and I can’t emphasize this enough — you’re not deficient in any way if you require a vibrator to get you to orgasm. Many — maybe most? — of us do!
Your vibrator doesn’t desensitize you. It’s the opposite. As our bodies age, there’s less blood flow to the clitoris and vagina. Most of us need more arousal time and more time to reach orgasm after we’re aroused. Vibrators enhance sensitivity by increasing blood flow to the genitals quickly and powerfully, and by directly stimulating the clitoris. A well-chosen, well-placed vibrator can mean the difference between an orgasm — and no orgasm. Using a vibrator to get us over the edge actually enhances sensitivity and ease of reaching orgasm.
If your clitoris is shy, you might enjoy the “air pulse” technology of a style of vibrators that envelop the external clitoris (the “nub” part of the clitoris) without needing to touch it directly. Gentle puffs of air bring blood flow to the clitoris and feel like gentle nibbling (only better) with vibrations.
Yes, you can have it all
Instead of trying to wean yourself from your vibrator, introduce your partner to using it with you during sex! Once you’re aroused by your partner, place your vibrator on your clitoris. He can massage or caress you or insert his finger(s) in your vagina, whatever you enjoy. For intercourse, some fine vibrators are designed to fit between two bodies without getting in the way. Yes, you can have it all: your man and your vibrator.
Your partner may be exciting and caring, but it’s arrogant to try to shame you for being the only partner he hasn’t been able to satisfy (or so he claims). If something isn’t working, he needs to be emotionally and sexually open to getting on board with what does work for you. To counter his reluctance, educate him. Bring your vibrator (let’s say you’ve named it “Throbby”) into your next encounter. Tell him something like this:
“Before we get started, meet Throbby. I want to use Throbby on my clitoris while you and I have sex together so we can both experience what my orgasms can be. Understand that I require this intensity of stimulation. It’s no reflection on you — it’s just what my body needs at this time of my life. Let’s experience this together.”
If he’s new to the joys of toys, once he gets used to your vibrator, you can use it on his penis, too, for powerful orgasms as you give him oral or manual pleasure. Maybe you’ll buy a new one together!
Joan Price is featured in The Joys (and Challenges) of Sex After 70, in the New York Times Magazine, January 16, 2022. The article explores the joys and challenges of sex as we age. Read the online version.
Send Joan your questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication from readers age 60+.
Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.