Editor's note: Given the sensitive nature of this piece, the writer has asked to remain anonymous.
"Can I tell you a secret if you promise not to judge me?" I asked my friend during brunch one Saturday. I'd downed a few cocktails and she had just finished telling me about a crazy night of sex with a guy she'd just met. She nodded, and I took a deep breath. "I've, um, never had an orgasm."
She nearly choked on her mimosa. We'd been friends for more than six years, and I'm not normally one to talk about my sex life--especially ever since I got married a few years ago. But the feeling that I'd been missing out on a major thing had been bothering me more and more, and I needed a sounding board.
"I'm sorry...what? Not even solo?" she said.
I told her no, and then we started going through my entire sexual history; when I started having sex (18), how many guys I'd been with (12), if I've ever tried a vibrator on my own (I have). She had lot of questions--and suggestions. Have I tried asking for just oral? What if I peed right before sex? She approached the topic like the other few female friends I'd spoken to about my "issue": First, Oh. My God. And then, How do I help you fix this? (Only my closest female friends know, because I worry the immediate implication is that my husband simply isn't doing it right--which isn't the case.) "I just feel bad for you because it's such an amazing feeling and you deserve to have that," she finally said.
During that moment, I felt bad for me too.
Like most of us, I didn't know what I was doing when I first started having sex. I wasn't into one-night stands, but I also wasn't in super-serious relationships, so I never felt comfortable enough asking guys to try something else. (Of course, looking back on it now as a 32-year-old orgasm-virgin, I wish my 18-year-old self had at least asked that guy from the dorm to do something else with his tongue.) I was certain that one day, the Big O would just happen with a guy I connected with. I didn't realize at the time that some of my friends could get off just by sitting on the damn washing machine. (Women everywhere can thank Varsity Blues for that revelation.)
While I waited hopefully, I got pretty good at faking it: This one guy used to tell me how much he loved the fact that he could make me shake. We ended up hooking up for years--that wasn't the initial plan--and as we got more serious, I didn't think I could tell him that I'd been faking it the whole time. It would have crushed him, or worse, made our sex life mission impossible orgasm. No thanks.
Toward the end of college, I got really serious with a different guy. There would be zero faking this time--I told him early on that I never had an orgasm. "Please don't take this as a challenge," I said. Well, challenge not accepted. Literally. It never came up again. He'd still spend time on me during foreplay, but once he'd climaxed, he'd roll over and fall asleep. I became fine with this routine--more fine than I should have been--because I was starting to accept that maybe I just couldn't "get there." It didn't help when I consulted Dr. Google, and read that a small percentage of women actually can't orgasm. That's it, I thought. I'm one of them.
The post-college boyfriend and I eventually broke up too. It had nothing to do with the sex, but the way he acted in bed was symptomatic of a larger "don't care" attitude that hurt our relationship in the end. Soon after, I started dating a good friend who already knew about my inability to O. Initially, he saw getting me off as the top item on our to-do list. Not in a gross, "I want to be the first guy to make you orgasm," kind of way. But more like, "You should totally have one--I want you to feel good."
He got me pretty close a few times. He did this magical thing with his fingers inside me. It would feel like a sneeze was about to happen. I'd wait and wait for it, and then...nothing. After 20 minutes or so, all that moving around would stop feeling so good, and I'd give us both permission to move on. We'd talk later about how close I was and what I thought he needed to do differently or longer to make it happen--and we'd try again. It never worked.
I made attempts on my own, too. I bought a vibrating toy (the kind that goes inside and everything), but I couldn't get turned on by a hunk of battery-powered Silicone. After two failed tries, I wrapped it up in three opaque trash bags and threw it out with a pan of leftover lasagna. I rubbed myself with my left hand, then my right hand--only to be equally frustrated with both. The powerful blast of water from the showerhead almost got me pretty close a few times, but like always, the feeling would eventually fade.
After experimenting in every way I was comfortable with, I opened up to my ob-gyn, wishfully thinking that maybe there was a quick fix. She examined me, and told me what I already (mostly) knew: There's nothing physically "off" with me down there. Her assessment: It's likely a mental block--a sexual speed bump that flips me off track. I understood what she meant: Every time I had sex, I'd think, Is this going to be the time? Sometimes I thought about that more than the guy I was with.
My friend turned boyfriend is now my husband--and I'm happy with our sex life. Lack of orgasm aside, I'm a pretty horny person. I crave sex at least a few times a week, and my husband is almost always game, so we're consistently connecting on that level. I like it all: oral, cowgirl, doggie style, missionary. After we have sex, I feel close to the man I love, and while of course I would be thrilled to experience an orgasm (we haven't given up), we don't make it such a big focus anymore.
Instead, I pay most attention to the parts that do work. The look my husband gives me as I slowly undress; the foreplay; when he finally enters me; the moment when he just can't take it anymore and I feel like the sexiest woman alive. After we have sex, my husband will hold me tight, and that gives me this happy-relaxed feeling that I don't get any other time. I always feel closer to him after we do it. And that is impossible to fake.
More from Glamour:
10 Things He's Thinking When You're Naked
56 Phenomenal Wedding Dresses That Will Make Your Heart Skip A Beat
Fall 2015's Most Wearable Fashion Trends
What's That Salad the Kardashians Are Always Eating on Their Show?
What Guys Really Think About Your Underwear
Major Skin Mistakes You're Making in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s