Love Non-Orgasmically: She’s Not Coming But We’re Still Here

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When we first started dating, I didn’t know we would fall in love. It sounds melodramatic but at the time I didn’t know if my heart would be open to loving again. Being leaveable had made me question whether I was loveable.

We took things slowly. Neither of us wanted to rush. I wasn’t sure how ready I was for a new relationship. But somehow all the other people we were seeing melted away, and you remained.

You’d told your friend that you’d wanted to woo me and you had. My nervous queer heart fluttered when you smiled. We kissed for the first time in the dark, like an Arcade Fire song.

When you first told me that you’d never had an orgasm I said something stupid. I think I asked about how much your vibrator had cost, as if a cheap gadget could have been the cause (or a more expensive one the solution).

You’re lying on my chest and hiding most of your face. You say that you think it’s really common but people just don’t talk about it. You say you’ve tried but you don’t say how, for how long, with what regularity or enthusiasm (my mind is swimming with questions, clarifications). You think it could be The Depression. I’m nodding and trying to take it all in but part of me is already strapping on my running shoes.

The other, quieter part says to wait. It isn’t relevant to now — we aren’t having sex yet. Why worry about something that isn’t present?

So I said more stupid things — like how great orgasms are and how I really wanted to help you have one. You smiled and said, “feel free.”

When I first told you I loved you it was just after you’d helped me move to the city. Exhausted and lying on my new bed felt like the right moment I’d been waiting for.

I needed to say it.

And you needed to hear it.

And for the first time — we had sex, made love, fucked. Fully. It was new and strange and amazing. I felt both out of this world and totally in my body. I’d always loved sex but this was something else. Something transcendent.

I came. You didn’t. I’d kind of expected it to happen because of our connection – hoped egotistically anyway. I was disappointed but figured I’d give it time.

Fast forward three years. Afternoons get measured out with coffee spoons, like a Crash Test Dummy song, and mostly we try to love each other the way we need to love and be loved. You try to stroke my back as much as you can before your arm gets tired. I try not to be lazy and instead go for walks with you or get up early and make you breakfast.

You lovingly tie me up and spank me and I lovingly fuck you with a strap on. All these things and more, with love.

Sometimes I feel like there is something building in you (like an orgasm builds in me) but maybe you’re not ready to let it overwhelm you yet. I think something is holding you back so I kind of wish it would just happen so you know it can. I wish it was that kind of non-issue. Sometimes I nearly cry with happiness when I think it’s about to happen. (And one time I burst out laughing— sorry about that). And then I know this is something I really want and I can’t pretend it’s not.

But when you press me against my bedroom wall and kiss me, I forget pretty much everything— including this.

Mostly we’re both just quietly hopeful. We talk about you feeling closer than you’ve ever felt and the taste is bittersweet.

The reason I’m writing this now is to be a kind of love letter to the present. Because although things could change, I’m not treading water, waiting for them to. Because of that Andrea Gibson line: “I am going to be more difficult than anyone you have ever dated.” Because you once felt like that was you, and that this was a barrier to loving you.

I want to hold on to how fucking beautiful you look and how peaceful I feel when we’re in bed together right now at this moment – when there were imperfections in how we wanted things to be (because there always will be, in one shape or another).

And I want to hold on to something of this. This time in our lives. To being open-hearted little queers learning each others bodies. I don’t ever want to become complacent in our knowledge of each other – I want it to always feel like the first time we touched, like we’re still trying our very best. Still exploring every mole. That even when things are difficult, they can still be amazing and fulfilling. That I don’t always need to run from what is hard in life. That we can still tell each other what we want. And it never becomes about the finish line.

I still have those running shoes, in a box somewhere. I think that’s just the kind of person I am or need to convince myself that I am. That I could go. From anything or anyone. That everything ends, in the end. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop thinking like that.

You know I have a hard time believing in forever.

But right now, this is our love letter to each other. It might end up being two pages, it might become a whole novel. But my fingertips and my mouth are writing it on your paper-white skin, and you’re using my curls as bookmarks, my stretchmarks to underscore sentences and scribble in the margins. We crumple, we rip, and edit and rewrite. We fuck each other. We love each other, the best way we know how.

We just can’t put each other down. It’s keeping us up at night. We’re at the really good part of the story.

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  1. This piece felt really familiar to me, because I am in this situation. It made me feel very insecure in the beginning of our relationship, because for me, orgasms were a part of sex, and for a while, it made me close down after having sex. Which was not an ideal situation (and that’s an understatement).
    It can still be frustrating sometimes, especially when something is building up but then magically disappears again, but we’ve talked about it, and she’s satisfied by our sex life, so I’ve managed to let it go, mostly. Actually, after I wasn’t so focused on orgasms anymore, it made me feel more relaxed during sex.

  2. OH WOW !!!!
    I am soooo in awe of your letter here .
    Well sweetheart, as an artist who specializes in Lesbian themes, can I use your essay text in one of my works ?
    Please email me and I can send you a sample of what I do.

    Anna Marie

  3. This was beautifully written. So I almost didn’t notice that what you were seeming to say was:

    “But right now, this is our love letter to each other.” A love letter about how you can’t come, and I wish you could, and some day I will probably leave you.

    Weird love letter, honestly.

    And why do you want your girlfriend to come so badly? There are so many other sensations that are like coming, or worthwhile in totally different ways, and there are so many different gradations of orgasm, too.

    What is HER goal when it comes to her pleasure? Why can’t that be your guide?

    • That’s exactly how I felt about it, though I was trying to be nicer when I commented, especially since I was one of the first and among only people who were singing praises for it without actually thinking about what was being said. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who looked past the pretty writing and felt like it wasn’t a pretty message.

  4. As a person who has never orgasmed with a partner, this article really, really bugged me. Nothing shuts down my arousal faster than thoughts like “One day I’ll have an orgasm, and everything will change” which of course leads to “I’ll never be able to do it” and then “Well maybe this time will be different.” Knowing my partner was thinking those thoughts about me would render me incapable of performing all but the most mechanical of sex acts, and it would be no fun. I would probably cry afterwards. This kind of stress doesn’t make strong relationships.

    We try to give our partners the best possible sex for their bodies and brains, especially if we love them. To fuck them respectfully, we must educate ourselves. People who don’t have orgasms with partners need to be asked about their satisfaction differently; instead of “did you come (this time/yet)?” or “when are you going to orgasm already i’m impatiennnntttt” please ask “what else do you need to feel satisfied?” and then be enthusiastic about whatever it is.

    If sex without orgasms bothers you, orgasmic partner, you need to free your mind or gtfo, and not in a half-assed vacillating way (see: “Because I believe you will one day have an orgasm. And then everything will change…And it never becomes about the finish line.”) It’s not fair to stress your partner out wishing she could X.

  5. hello everyone! i’m commenting here as an editor to apologize for an editorial miscommunication — the version of this essay that was originally published was an earlier draft that had since gone through revisions, and mistakenly that earlier draft (and the one that contained the sections that i think many people are responding to here) went live when it shouldn’t have! the current one that you can read above is the revised draft that the author agreed to have published. i apologize profusely for the editorial mistake — please know that it was my error, and not the author’s! thank you! <3

  6. Although problematic, I liked this piece. Its style is bare, yet it is loaded. It is a bit vague, yet it reads easily. It is quite candid and it looks to me like it needs more work, or that maybe the author will get better and better with time; it still feels a bit shy or unsure. I don’t know I’ve only read it once so like many comments this is a ‘first impression’.

    Re: comments on how this piece can be upsetting in the sense that it seems to place harmful pressure on the ability to orgasm. I can see how this is a valid point. This piece seems to primarily be a reflection on love and attachment, and what it does is it uses the unability to orgasm as a mere catalyst, which is why the partner’s feelings or perception aren’t explored. The politics and ethics around orgasm as a compulsory part of sex aren’t explored at all, and in my own humble opinion this can be a bit irresponsible BUT on the other hand that’s part of this piece’s style and also that’s the beauty of reading a magazine who gives a voice to different authors (there are plenty of political and educational articles available here too). Still a good piece of writing :)

    • I completely agree. The style of the piece doesn’t invite a dialogue about politics because it’s a monologue, and that’s okay. It’s a very private contemplation that’s been made public… and that, in a way, is brave enough and good enough for now. It’s pretty obvious how important this topic is to so many couples, and still no one seems to be talking about it. Time for one of those political/educational articles to show up, eh?

      • There seems to be a lot of different angles taken on this article.
        I for one like it enormously, (including the draft version) anyway for what it’s worth- I cant come either !!
        Anna Marie

    • yeah, i have to say i agree. i mean, i was one of the editors on this piece who was part of changing the draft version into the final version… but still, upon further contemplation… it’s not an advice post, or an instructional, or a scientific analysis of an issue. it’s not a fair and balanced look at a relationship problem. it’s just one person’s truth. unless her personal essay contains hate speech, there’s really no need for anybody to tell her that she’s not allowed to write how she really feels. i read billions of personal essays that ultimately make me feel worse about my own personal failings and relationship problems, but it’s not the essayists responsibility to make me feel better. and i say this as somebody who was in her partner’s exact position for many many years and knows how it can feel. SO THAT’S WHAT I THINK ABOUT THAT. Lovely essay!

        • Yeah, I mean, quoting from my own original comment, “I’m not trying to tell you how to feel or anything”. But I believe that when you post a piece and have a comments section, you leave it open for both praise and things other than praise. Not all reactions have to be positive.

          If I’m being honest here, now it feels like I was wrong to write about my own personal (and yes, negative) feelings on a personal essay that was published somewhere that invites comments. I hope that’s not what Riese meant.

      • Yeah, I fully agree, this IS one person’s view of her relationship and I myself cannot see what the fuck is wrong with this view.
        She is being loving, kind , amorous, and basically everything I would love to have from another person.
        So that is what I think,
        Lots of love,
        Anna Marie

        • Oh honey,
          Other peoples feelings don’t offend me at all.
          I am being misread here, I cannot understand what is offensive about “ANON”s article , personally it is one of the sweetest Iv’e read lately.
          Other people have different interpretations according to their life experiences and in a free world ( HA ! ) this is how it should be.
          Apologies if you think I am getting agitated, I am not.
          Just expressing my wholehearted joy at ready this piece,
          Anna Marie

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