lack of pleasure from sex

Lack of Pleasure from Sex

We might think that everyone else is enjoying sex more than us, but they’re not. Many people have a lack of pleasure from sex, even if they like solo sex.

Me and my boyfriend are both 17, he is two months older than me, we have been together for over 2 year and we’ve been having sex for 1 and a half years. We both lost virginity to each other however he previously had a girlfriend where as he was my first boyfriend and first everything really. My first few times were quite painful but I expected it to get better with time. I no longer feel pain but I don’t feel pleasure either. When I touch myself I am perfectly cable of reaching an orgasm however when my boyfriend does it or when we have sex I feel absolutely nothing.

The closest I ever get to pleasure is when my bladder is fairly full, because during sex it creates a similar sensation to a build up of climax. My boyfriend tries to touch me like i do it myself so that’s why I don’t understand why when he does it I don’t feel pleasure. Although I have a lack of pleasure from sex I still crave it and often miss it but to me its a more emotional experience since I don’t feel anything. We’ve tried different positions or stimulation while having sex but absolutely nothing works. I don’t know what I can do about it and sometimes I juts want to cry because I just want to feel something and be like other women.

Thanks for your question, I’m sure a lot of women feel like they are getting a lack of pleasure in the same way as you. In fact I’m sure that a lot of men and other genders also feel the same way. I’ve got a lot of advice for you here (also check out all the links), so get a cup of tea and some Oreos.

You don’t have to have sex

No matter where you are in your relationship and how many times you’ve had sex before, it’s okay for you to not have sex. Romantic relationships don’t have to be sexual (just as sexual relationships don’t have to be romantic). A lot of people make assumptions that you have to have sex, but you really don’t. Loads of people who are asexual have really happy romantic relationships and a lot of long-term couples are very happy either not having sex or having very little sex. So you might want to have a conversation with your boyfriend about what you both want from the relationship and how you might feel about sex.

You do say that you want to have sex, and you do have sex with yourself, so maybe this isn’t the issue but it’s something to consider. However it might also be a good idea just to have a quick check in with yourself about the relationship in general.

Maybe there’s a lack of pleasure in the relationship

When people have talked to me about sexual problems in relationships, sometimes it is about the relationship. It’s hard to enjoy sex if you are having problems with the person you are wanting to do it with. So have a think about how much trust there is between you. Are you able to be honest with each other? How much of a choice do you get in what kind of sex you have and when you do it? You mention that he’s had sexual experiences before you, do you think that might cause a difference in power?

This post, featuring a relationships graph you can fill in, might help.

If everything in the relationship is fine, then tell me to shut up. But maybe have a think about it.

Why do you want to have sex?

You say you want to have sex, but why? Think of all the different reasons why people have sex.

Why do people have sex? Here are some possible reasons
Share it on your social medias if you want

Which of these are reasons that you have sex? Are there any other ways that you can experience those kinds of things? If you can think of other ways to get that emotional experience then this might take the pressure off the sex for you. With sex, the more you can take the pressure off, the more likely you are to enjoy it. See also other things in your life, like special occasions, or holidays, or seeing a film you’ve been waiting to see for ages — the more pressure you put on it the higher the stakes are.

As you can see, people can have sex but still experience lack of pleasure and that’s fine for them. If you want to continue having sex but not really feel anything, that’s okay. But here’s some advice about how you could learn to have more pleasurable sex, if you want to.

Painful first time sex could lead to a lack of pleasure

Your experience of painful sex the first time you tried it may also be affecting how much you enjoy sex. Although it doesn’t hurt when you have penis in vagina sex now, your body might not be able to relax for fear of sex hurting again. If your vagina doesn’t relax, or get wet (or become wet with extra lubrication), then sex might be painful but also it might just not feel that great.

How to have penis in vagina sex without pain

[Side note for other readers — a lot of people seem to think that first time sex should always hurt women, but it really shouldn’t. Please can we (society) stop telling people that it is. We are teaching women that sex is not pleasurable, we are teaching them to disregard what their bodies are telling them, and we are teaching them to treat themselves non-consensually just so they can have reproductive sex. Maybe send everyone in your contacts this guide on how to have sex]

Around half of people report having a sexual problem and one in ten people say that they are distressed with their sex lives. So these ‘other women who are enjoying sex’ are not all enjoying sex — same goes for other genders too. Although sex shouldn’t be painful, it might not always be brilliant and mind-blowingly orgasmic, and that’s okay. You might start to enjoy sex a bit more if you slow down and try different things.

You might enjoy different kinds of sex

The answer could be to think about what kind of sex you’re having. You talk about ‘having sex’ — if that means ‘penis in vagina sex’ then you should know that that is often more fun for the penis than the vagina. In fact research shows that over two-thirds of women (with vaginas) like to have other kinds of stimulation, instead or as well as penis in vagina sex. So you could just be like most women in not really being that into ‘penis in vagina’ sex.

So broaden your idea of what ‘having sex’ involves. Think of all the different kinds of sex you could have and then go through that list together and work out which of them you might like to try. To help you come up with a huge list of stuff, write down things you could enjoy:

  • When you’re not in the same room together
  • When you’re together but with all your clothes on
  • Together with underwear on
  • Together with no clothes on

Think of different kinds of touching and how you might do that (hard, soft, fast, slow, small areas, large areas). You don’t just have to touch each other’s genitals. Think about all the different parts of your body that might feel nice to touch. You could just touch yourselves in front of each other. Maybe you can use other bits of your body to touch each other too: your thighs, arms, face, hair, tongue, lips, breath. Also think about different kinds of sensations other than touch: what you can see, hear, taste, smell.

Where do you like to be touched from the Bish Activity Book

Here’s a page from my Activity Book, (I’ve sent you a copy for free, but everyone else can get a copy for just £3 or £0 if you don’t have any cash). There are over 50 pages of activities to help you work out how to do you, sex and relationships), which might help you too.

At this point just a reminder that you do not have to have sex with your boyfriend and that solo sex is totally legit and it’s okay if you prefer it.

Slow down and listen to your body more

You talked about trying masturbation by yourself but also with your boyfriend. You say that you can have an orgasm when you are by yourself, but feel nothing when your boyfriend masturbates you. I think this is something that you could think a little bit more about and maybe write a few things down.

Think about a time when you enjoy solo masturbation and compare that to a time when your boyfriend tries to masturbate you. If you can try to run through both experiences in detail. What mood were you in before: horny, relaxed, tense, bored, worried, excited? What was happening before? How did it feel as it got started: describe how it felt. What was going through your head? Describe the sensations going on in your body. Keep thinking about your thoughts and sensations and write them down.

Often when people think carefully about previous sexual experiences they find that they had a more enjoyable time when they were ‘in the moment’. If you are trying hard to make something happen then it makes it really hard to slow down and just be in your body. You can’t pay attention to your body and whether you are having a nice time because you are really trying to force yourself into enjoying sex, then you are not going to enjoy sex.

If you are trying hard to make something happen then it makes it really hard to slow down and just be in your body

Practice by eating biscuits

Being in the moment or being present can help you to enjoy most things more. For example I’ve eaten several Oreos (yes, you can get them over here) while writing this article but I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed them that much. So I’m going to stop and have one now but really try to enjoy it: oh man I love the pattern and the colour, mmm that first bite, it really kinda snaps, they are crunchy, I like how bitter they are, that creamy filling is very sweet though, they’ve merge and that tastes nice, now I’m ready for my next bite. Mmmm I really enjoyed that Oreo! Maybe you can practice enjoying sex more by doing this when you eat biscuits (or cookies). Here’s an article about how you can be more in the moment when you are having solo sex.

I think that slowing down and trying to listen to what your body wants and needs is something that you could do a lot more of (from the sounds of your email). Slowing down and working out what you want from sex is the key. However this is really hard to do because of some of the crap that we are taught about sex from an early age — like what *counts* as sex, that you ‘should’ have sex in relationships, that women should enjoy sex but not too much.

The key to sex is that whatever you do, you really want to do it, and you’re wanting to do it for you, and not just for your boyfriend, and not just to fit in, and not just to do what society tells you is normal. If you can go slowly and start to really listen to what you and your body want then sex might start to be more and more pleasurable for you — that is, if you really do want to have sex.

Further reading

There are already a lot of links in this article to other posts at Bish and here are some more of my answers to reader’s questions about lack of pleasure from sex.

How to Enjoy Sex More

Will I ever enjoy sex?

Masturbation isn’t working for me

I’m not enjoying sex

I can’t orgasm at all

I have a strong desire to have sex but no arousal

I’ve also written a sex advice book aimed at over 18s called ‘Enjoy Sex (How, When and IF You Want To)’ with my mate Dr Meg-John Barker. So you’re like a year too young for it but I think that you might find it useful. Particularly as it will take you a year to read all the posts on here. Here’s a video that we made about how to be present that you might find useful

Hope this helps!


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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Justin Hancock

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