It’s OK if Your Sex Life Isn’t Like What You See on TV

bride and groom standing on a hill

To quote one of my favorite movies of all time, The Holiday, “Sex makes everything complicated. Even if you are not having it, it makes things complicated.” In all of the movies, TV, fiction, etc. that I have watched (or read), sex isn’t really a question. Two attractive people in a movie equals sex. When the couple has sex, the female protagonist of the story orgasms. Period. It happens every time. Even if it is the couple’s first time together, she will and does orgasm without any discussion of what would best work or how it feels. However, when one person (male or female) has an issue with sex for whatever reason in real life, it really just makes sex complicated. Let’s just say that my experience with sex could be neatly summed up by the word complicated.

In order for you to understand where I am coming from, I need to put everything on the table. I have never had an orgasm from sex. After having sex with my partner for close to three years, it still has never happened. See? Complicated. For nearly five years, the only orgasms I have achieved have occurred through awkward dry humping. And who wouldn’t describe the idea of dry humping your ex-boyfriend as romantic? Well, me.

In rom-coms in general, sex is a fun thing that two people do after a night of drinking (Knocked Up), or after they realize that they do love each other after fighting for the whole movie (The Ugly Truth), or because someone said something just so inspiring that the couple cannot help but have sex (Moulin Rouge). What I have never seen in a movie is a tearful conversation after sex about how the couple will deal with sex when one person consistently orgasms and their partner does not. I’ve never seen the self-doubt, crying, questioning, or concern for health and happiness between the partners in a movie that I have experienced with my partner.

Complicated relationships are seen in movies all the time (rom-coms and not), but the complications of the act of sex are something that are rarely, if ever, seen. What I have learned in those discussions about my sexual health and happiness is that even if I don’t orgasm like all the couples do at Exactly. The. Same. Time. with my partner, I still can enjoy sex and the romance and the passion that can come along with sex. It just may not be the way that others can enjoy sex. It has taken me years to have enough real life experiences of intercourse to learn that feelings can be, but do not need to be, attached to the physical act. I can feel the feelings without having the “mind-blowing” orgasm that is always seen in the rom-coms I love to watch, and my feelings for my partner, that sex has helped form, do not mean any less because I cannot have the orgasm that many leading ladies have in movies.

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  • I had heard so many times that women have trouble orgasming from sex that I never expected it.

    I found I could orgasm from oral, so we did that even though I find it a little gross.

    But then one day I suddenly was able to orgasm from sex!

    I think it was less my particular partner and more my age. Shortly after turning 30 I was able to do it. Not every time. Not even most times. But when I felt like putting in the effort, I could orgasm vaginally.

    (This whole story leaves aside my incredible difficulty having sex in the first place. I had vaginismus and it took me six months of active trying to have sex at all, then a few years before I ever actually enjoyed it).

    • Anonymous

      Carolyn, I’m not sure if this is the right space in which to ask — but would you mind sharing some advice about how you dealt with vaginismus? I have a … friend … who is curious.

      • Annoymous

        I found this post from APW to be extremely helpful. In fact, this post made me cry and got me motivated to go get real help instead of listening to doctors who told me it was all in my head.

        • kate

          This post is what finalized my love for APW. It hasn’t changed anything for us, but to know it’s out there..

          • Anonymous

            I also had vaginismus, and my boyfriend and I went four years without being able to have sex. I went to multiple doctors, many of whom were unable to diagnose me, and most of whom told me to “just relax.” There is nothing worse than being told there is nothing physically wrong with you and the pain you’re feeling is all in your head. Or you need a drink. Or you’re sexually repressed. Or you aren’t attracted to your boyfriend. Or mayyyyybe you were sexually abused and just don’t remember? (That was by far the worst thing a doctor has ever said to me.) I tried anxiety meds, numbing creams, alcohol, dialators, etc. and nothing really worked.

            After four years of this, my mom (the only person who knew other than my boyfriend) saw a doctor on the Tyra Banks show who was using botox to treat vaginismus. Now, I would ordinarily not even try a make-up product, let alone a medical doctor, on the recommendation of Tyra Banks (and I def don’t recommend watching her show…I don’t know what my mom’s excuse is). BUT, I was desperate, and after doing a lot of research and talking about it with my GP, I went to see Dr. Pacik and had the botox treatment.

            Oh. my. god. After the procedure, the vaginismus instantly went away. He explained to me that he thought the cause was a muscle reflex in the vagina, and that by applying botox he was able to make the muscle relax so that I’d be able to have sex. Botox only lasts about two months, but by the time it wears off, you have the muscle memory that sex doesn’t hurt, and (at least for me) the muscle doesn’t contract reflexively anymore.

            Here’s the website in case anyone is interested:


            I know not every case is like mine, but if you’ve tried everything else, I would really recommend looking into the procedure.

        • Anne

          Thank you!! I was the author of that post on pelvic pain, and I have chills knowing that our experience has been a catalyst for you! Hugs and best wishes.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Anonymous, I’m not sure how the reply alerting works on here, but I wanted to make sure you saw my comment below! Good luck, I know it can be really difficult.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        As someone else who deals with painful sex, the first real step was to go to the gynecologist. She said to use tampons of various sizes, even when I wasn’t bleeding, to stretch the hymeneal band. It seems to be working.

        Through luck and my husband’s therapists, we’ve also looked at some books. I won’t post the titles, because they’re out-of-date and I’ve really had to pick-and-choose what advice was good and what was bad. (Using vegetables to stretch the vagina = bad advice.) The books gave us multiple perspectives on the condition. One says it’s a nervous system response, like being ticklish. It advocates a combination of mental and physical therapy. Others say it’s purely physical. Others purely mental. I think there’s no one answer for everyone that you can get from a book.

        My husband’s therapists also recommended vibrators, consulting a (really quite reputable) sex shop, and my seeing a sex therapist.

        For now, I’m sticking to the advice of the healthcare professional who’s actually examined me. She’s the second-best in private practice in the region. [I can’t see the best as a patient, because she’s my mother.]

        • I still can’t use tampons. There are very few things I can stand to put inside me and tampons aren’t one of them!

          Vibrators did help relax the muscles in that area for me, though.

      • Anon for this

        I dealt with vaginismus as well, and it sucked. I had no idea that was something that could even happen to women, so it was upsetting to experience it.

        Anyway, I used different sized dialators as well, and that helped a lot. This might sound weird, but I actually tried to distract myself when I used them. I would work on it while watching TV (House, actually, if I recall correctly) – so my attention wasn’t completely on what I was doing. Being a little distracted helped ease my anxiety, I think. I also worked on replacing my negative thoughts (“omg, this is never going to work for me/us”) with positive ones (“you’re making progress, it’s ok, your body is meant to do this”). I think it took about two years, but I was able (eventually) to have penetrative sex.

        I’m really sad that so many of us have to deal with this, but at the same time, knowing that other women go through this and that it’s more common than I thought helps me feel more normal about my experiences.

      • Sian

        This is the comment I wrote for the linked post RE: painful sex, which explores my experiences with vaginismus:

        …I had a boyfriend leave me because of this condition before I *sort of* identified it, and then it was another two years before I finally spoke to a doctor about it and got a referral to a doctor specialising in this. I thought that if anyone was reading this and still feeling lost I almost had an obligation to share my own experiences and tips with you, because this is HARD and there is so much information out there, both correct and incorrect, that it’s hard to wade through it looking for someone to describe EXACTLY what’s happening to you. I’ve felt like a failure, I’ve felt like nobody could ever love me and stay with me if I couldn’t manage sex…I basically resigned myself to a single life, at the age of 22/23!

        For me, the pain is like a sharp kind of shooting pain, and I can feel myself unwillingly ‘tensing up’ beforehand. It’s tied in with muscle contraction. I’ve never been able to “figure out” how to use tampons. Certain angles work better, there’s a certain “point of entry” when it starts hurting, usually. While I don’t believe it’s entirely mental (my specialist in fact refused to talk about it from that angle, believing treating it as a physical problem to be much more helpful) it does become mental in a way, as the almost subconscious fear and panic (“I won’t be able to, it hurt last time it’s going to hurt this time”) overrides desire and common sense and obviously when that happens it always does hurt! The times when the fear has been less present and I’ve been more fully calm and into it have been the times that have seen so much more success – but I want to stress that I’m talking about vaginismus here, and with other conditions (or possibly even vaginismus for other people) you could be as calm and willing as you like and it would still not work, because it’s a physical problem you need to treat. This is just my description of my own experience!

        Here are my suggestions, most of which have been discussed above:

        1) Find the right doctor/specialist.
        Doctors are not always right. This is a hard lesson to learn. Growing up, we think doctors know everything about health. Like, everything. No. Doctors are wrong, All. The. Time. A doctor’s expertise regarding a condition depends on so many things: what they’ve read, what patients they’ve had, what teacher they happened to have one week in med school…and usually you get, what, fifteen minutes in an appointment with a general doctor? It’s not like a shrink or specialist who might read up on your condition to be more informed and helpful about your specific problem next time you come in. You get fifteen minutes and if they don’t know then, they don’t know. Try and do a little research on your own at home if you can, and see if that research leads to a list of doctors in your area that can help. If not, don’t stress! Just shop around! I think I spoke to two doctors before finding one that even knew their shit about this specific issue enough to know who to refer me to. And this is important as well: you should always shop around for a doctor you like and trust and feel comfortable talking to ANYWAY. For some people this is easier – I know my parents are “whoever is closest will do” people – but for me, after years of doctors visits (I had heart surgery last year) it took a long time to find “The One”. I’m bummed that I’ve moved cities and have to go on some more “first dates” to find a new doctor!

        2) You have to want it.
        The reason it took me so long to go see a doctor for a diagnosis and then go start seeing a specialist was because I was lazy. I didn’t want it enough. This was probably because I was single at the time and didn’t have any pressure on me. When you want to get it sorted out – REALLY want to get it sorted out – that’s when you’ll make progress.

        3) You have to work at it.
        Okay, but you know what? It’s hard and not that fun, sometimes. I don’t want to use the dilators every night! I go through long spells of just not bothering. If you want to get better, though, it is YOUR responsibility, and if I’ve seen specialists and gotten the kit and I’m the one not putting in the effort, it is on ME. Part of putting in the work is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and part of it is motivation, leading me to:

        4) If you’re in a relationship you value and want to continue, you have to work at it.
        Your body is your own possession. You don’t have an obligation to have sex, ever, if it’s not what you want. But you do, I think, have an obligation to think about what a relationship means to you and your partner, and where sex fits into that. If you want a great sex life and you’ve found the eternally patient guy who you want to have that with, you owe it to the relationship not to be a lazy dick about it. It’s not fair to him to keep putting him off when you’re not even trying at all. If you’re trying, and you’re not ready yet, that’s a different story. But be honest with him and yourself about where you’re at and what you want. I have a guy friend who was with his girlfriend for a long time, and when I once opened up to him about my own condition he told me that she had the same thing, except she never bothered with doctors or treating it because she just didn’t want to. Is that her right? Sure, totally! You don’t HAVE to want sex if it’s not a priority to you! It was also his right to want to be with someone that he could have a happy sex life with. Would he have stayed with her patiently if she’d been wanting to fix it and was working towards that? Yes! But she wasn’t, and he left.

        5) You have to be with the right person.
        This is probably not so much of an issue as so many of you are married and you’ve already figured this part out! However: The guy that made me feel pressured about it, told me it made me unattractive to him, told me that my condition gave him self-esteem issues and cheated on me? Yeah, he was never going to be someone I worked through this with. Either fortunately or unfortunately, sexual conditions are often a great indicator of whether you’re with the right person. I was not. Now I am, it’s AMAZING how much happier I am just doing certain things that aren’t even pain-relatied. You know how the specialist said that she wouldn’t talk about the mental with me? I think that’s the appropriate way to deal with the condition – from a purely clinical perspective – but the fact is that some people do suffer from vaginismus because of psychological problems (both severe, i.e. trauma, and ‘minor’, i.e. just being slightly stilted in the sex department, or whatever!) If you think this could be you, combining a specialist for the physical symptoms and a therapist for the psychological might be right for you. I know that being with someone who I know doesn’t have an agenda, who I can trust so completely, and someone that I genuinely get excited about making happy, is going to make all the difference for my condition.

        6) Reoccurrence is not failure.
        Sometimes it will come back! Sometimes you’ll have awesome sex for months and then something will trigger your nerves and all of a sudden it’s hard again. My specialist says that this is really common, but here’s the important thing: once you’ve successfully treated it once, it’s usually easier and faster to do it again.

        I hope someone finds this and finds it useful! I hate to think of people suffering the way I did, feeling like there’s something wrong with them and not even having a name for the condition.

        • SarahToo

          I can affirm your point about the importance of finding the right doctor. For the better part of a decade sex ranged from uncomfortable to downright painful, and even impossible for me due to a chronic and systemic candida infection. At first I didn’t know what the problem was (the symptoms started out as very general before manifesting as vaginal yeast infections every month or two). The first doctor that I saw about my problems ran some tests and when the results came back negative, she told me that my health problems were in my head (that I was “depressed” and should consider going on prozac….for bowel/ digestive problems…really?!?) The next doctor I saw didn’t seem to think that getting frequent yeast infections was a problem, and simply advised me to use over the counter drugs like Canisten when I had a flare up, with no suggestions as to how I could prevent the problem from happening in the first place. By this time, my health issues were making my sex life downright miserable: in any given month I might only have a handful of days where I could have pain-free sex. Eventually I managed to educate myself on how to control the candida…it took me 7 years to get to the bottom of my problem! I often wonder what it would have been like if I’d managed to find a doctor that knew about chronic candiasis earlier. If you’re having physical issues that are seriously impacting your quality of life, and a doctor tells you it’s all in your head, it’s time for a new doctor!

          • Anonymous

            Once again, ditto on the finding the right doctor. And really, when medical doctors fail you…find a naturopath.

            I’ve had chronic Urinary Tract Infections on/off for the past five years. Nothing says fun quite like getting a UTI 3 out of every 4 times you have intercourse. The medical doctors sent me to get X-rays, ultrasounds, etc. Nothing. After some Internet research I started taking ‘D-Mannose’ after sex and have not had a UTI since! D-Mannose is a supplement, you can get it on Amazon.

            Later on, due to some other circumstances, I ended up at a Naturopathic Doctor and was retelling this story of chronic UTIs. Before I could even mention the name, the doctor-in-training blurted out, “Have you tried D-Mannose?” This supplement which none of the medical doctors have heard of (not even my urology specialist), that has pretty much eliminated all of my post-sex-UTI-fears, knew all about it! It is practically basic knowledge for them.

            What the heck is that about, medical community? And why aren’t there more naturopaths in my neighborhood?!

      • Well, it mostly took time.

        The boyfriend I had at the time and I slowly started exploring more and more. I would sob and scream and curl up in a ball and he would hold me.

        But I was determined and so we kept on trying and after six months of holding our bodies close together, he did manage to get in. I was very startled. It still didn’t feel good. It wasn’t enjoyable with that boyfriend. It took a few more men before I was able to really relax into it and start enjoying it.

        I did start seeing a therapist also and we’ve been exploring the possibility of abuse in my past. I was never able to go to a gyno: I would scream every time they tried to touch me. It was very psychological. I didn’t want to let anything in. I wrote an essay on the subject for a grad school class. I still don’t know why, but letting something in, being that vulnerable, was just too terrifying for words.

        So yeah, for me the formula was:
        *a very gentle, kind boyfriend
        *time and patience

        I had to go easy on myself and not get angry that it was so difficult for me. And to focus on the baby steps instead of panicking that I will NEVER have sex and this will NEVER work for me.

        It can get better. It really can. Six years after I first managed to have sex, I now really do love and enjoy it. I finally understand what the big deal is! (Still have a lot of trouble with gynos though)

    • AnonUK

      I had vaginimus for 5 years but have recently been able to have penetrative sex again after using a set of dilators regularly for a couple of months and found that switching to coconut oil as a lubricant really helped too. I found going to the doctor about it quite stressful and preferred to work through this book which I really can’t recommend highly enough (I’ve no link to the authors but just found it really helpful to have a plan of steps to work through)

    • Claire

      It took me years and years of sex in every position imaginable to orgasm. Partly this was due to past sexual abuse with my ex but it was also due to my appalling body image issues and feeling yucky about my body. When I did finally start to orgasm during sex it got easier each time, like a muscle memory that needed to be worked out. I’ve found Pilates to help with this too, getting to know how to use deep muscles and strengthening the core muscles. Although I wouldn’t advocate the use of substances to others, particularly in light of the last post, I found using ecstasy helped to strengthen my sensations and helped me to learn how to orgasm. I didn’t take ecstasy for this purpose, I was just into a party scene at the time and was looking for little grasps of happiness while suffering depression (pro tip: drugs will only make mental illness worse, not better).

  • Totes Going Anon For This

    Oh man, I feel you. I have sexytime issues, one of them being that my orgasm doesn’t look like the romantic comedy/Harry Met Sally in the diner idea of an orgasm. It’s much quieter and much less intense. For a long time, I didn’t quite realize where the line was and it was a big problem for my wife and I. Once I figured out what it was, I admit, I felt a bit cheated (that’s all?). Add to this that I frequently find penetration to be uncomfortable (and sometimes very enjoyable). It’s awkward (Yes, I want you to do that… nope, nope, I don’t. Please stop doing that.). It can be a mood killer. Add a partner with a different sleep cycle than me and it seems like we never quite sync up for sex. Frustration. In more than one way.

    • Still Anonymous

      That was a realization for me, too. The male orgasm is more binary: either they come or they don’t. The female orgasm, at least for me, is more nuanced. There are strong orgasms and weaker, but still amazing orgasms. There are slow climbs up a mountain with sudden descents, and there are sustained highs. Sometimes I’ll come two or three times, and sometimes orgasm just isn’t in the cards. Sometimes I’m not even sure if it’s an orgasm, I just know it’s a lot of fun.

      • K

        Yes!! I saw this graph online somewhere the other day charting the many varieties of female orgasm. Sometimes it’s like getting hit by a train, sometimes it passes with a whimper. It’s so different all the time, and it’s important to know that the train won’t happen all the time (or even very often, for me).

        • I think this has been what’s hardest for my husband to grasp. He’s pretty predictable (as in, he’ll come every time, especially in certain positions). But we could do the exact same thing two nights in a row and I could have a completely different experience. I think both of us have had to learn that it’s not that we’re necessarily doing it “wrong,” we just have to enjoy the ride a bit. As long as we’re enjoying ourselves we’re doing it right.

        • “Sometimes it’s like getting hit by a train, sometimes it passes with a whimper.”

          Best way to describe this ever, and so so so true. Another thing that’s been an issue both in my current relationship and those in the past is that a lot of men just don’t seem to *get* that sometimes there might be a big explosive orgasm, but sometimes it’s a little one or sometimes it just feels good but doesn’t quite “get there.” It’s a learning experience, for sure.

          Also, for the past year or so, sex became weirdly uncomfortable/painful for me. Certain positions had always been unpleasant (I’m looking at you doggy style), while others were better. I mentioned it to my doctor, who then casually threw out, “Oh, did I ever tell you that you have a tilted uterus?” Haha. Kind of important information. Apparently if I’m not 100% warmed up (and sometimes even if I am), he weirdly grates against my cervix. Super unpleasant. But, now that we know what was causing it, we’re figuring out how to make sure it doesn’t happen! Yay knowledge!

          • K

            I’ve started wondering if that’s the sort of knowledge I need. Sometimes, even if I’m totally warmed up, a position just won’t work and will be painful. I’m so glad we’re talking about this!

          • Exactly! Luckily my gyno told me my uterus is tilted so I’ve known I’d have to make adjustments in sex postions. It is hard to tell someone who’s kinda kinky “no no, missionary really is the best for me. seriously. ” kink fail.

            It took a while but we figured out that as long as I was able to tilt my pelvis just the right way, all would be good.

          • Claire

            Sorry admins! I tried to ‘exactly’ but I accidentally hit report. Whoops! Still trying to get used to my new iPad

          • I don’t know if you know this already, but your uterus changes position according to different stages in your menstrual cycle. So a deeper position may feel uncomfortable in the week/s leading up to your period, but feel great in the week/s after it. Blew my mind when I found this out so thought I’d share.

        • Denzi

          I forget where I first heard orgasm referred to as a “pelvic sneeze.” But I definitely have sneeze-style orgasms, where I am left wondering “did I come? or did my body just give up on wanting sex?” Fortunately (unfortunately?) my body seems programmed to find other methods of release if I get all the emotional and physical energy into sex and then don’t get release: I cry. So my lovely partner is fairly used to me reporting the status of my orgasm and then “I think I’m gonna cry now,” and he’s good at holding me and whispering the silly things one whispers when nothing is wrong but you’re crying anyway.

          • Brytani

            I totally cry too sometimes! I thought I was the only weirdo to freak out her husband with that. He’s definitely learned that I will cry for reasons that are in no way clear to him and that he just needs to hold me and try not to laugh. Although sometimes I laugh too…and then I cry again.

  • Also Anonymous

    I had been having sex for years without orgasm. Then I learned that the majority of women do not orgasm from penetration alone; we need clitoral stimulation. I got a Hitachi magic wand and finally achieved my first orgasm. It’s powerful and reliable. I would recommend it to any woman. My husband and I incorporate it into our sex routine, and it’s amazing.

    And for me we don’t have to come at the same time. Sometimes we do, sometimes I come first, and occasionally he does. What matters isn’t when; what matters is that we are open about what we need and that we both make sure we get it.

    • anon

      totally with you on this – I have something like your Hitachi, but I usually just stimulate myself. we’ve happened to finish at the same time before (gotta admit, the first time that happened it was kind of amazing!) but usually one of us finishes first, and we always leave space for the other to finish if they want to… or not :)

    • Sarah

      YES! The Hitachi magic wand is actually magic. I have never had an orgasm from penetrative sex, but the magic wand takes me from zero to orgasm in 60 seconds. Really. Sometimes even faster.

    • man, sex and expectations are so weird. i read so much about how women need clitoral stimulation and don’t orgasm from penetration, and for years it made me feel like i was broken – because i am definitely the opposite. which is tragic, because most of how i found that information was from people like you who were just learning that they were *not* broken just for needing something other than penetration. i mean, how stupid is it that no one ever tells women basic information about how sex generally works for them, leading to all sorts of shame and misunderstanding – but then you can also manage to find out that information and feel shamed for not adhering to it?

    • Brytani

      I was going to recommend a vibrator as well. It can be an awkward introduction if you’ve never talked about using or used a “toy” but I’ve gotta say, Hubs enjoys it as much as I do. After having sex only with each other (ever) and then for almost five years now, it’s a nice change.

  • I have never, ever, ever orgasmed through penetrative sex. Never. And I think I have read that a very small percentage of women (maybe 30%?) can actually achieve this. I tell this to my manfriend so that he feels less bummed about the whole thing, but it doesn’t really help. What helps is that he can give me an orgasm through oral sex (although even that took over a year to achieve, hooray right?). The only other serious relationship I ever had, which happened in college and lasted about a year and a half, I orgasmed maybe…three times? So the manfriend has definitely improved that aspect of things, at least.

    It isn’t for a lack of an ability to orgasm (I am very good at achieving it for myself and have had a pretty healthy self-love life since I hit adolescence), but I know it has to do with my ability to relax. I’m very ticklish all over and so tend to seize up whenever someone touches me–you’d think that after four years I’d be over it but, nope, it is ingrained in my brain.

    So I’d like to say that I love penetrative sex but I don’t–sometimes it is fine, but mostly it is not my favorite. Maybe because we’re a bit stuck in the same few positions or maybe because I don’t like to have sex anywhere but the bed (I AM BORING what can I say and I’d love to be like–WOO LET US HAVE SEX IN PUBLIC–but I know I’d be too worried about getting caught to actually enjoy myself, ungh, I need to chill out man) and maybe it is because I have one of those brains that doesn’t turn off and so I do that TERRIBLE thing where I am like “Okay, we should wrap this up because I need to do the laundry/dishes/watch my DVR of RuPaul’s Drag Race/check my bank account/go to sleep because I am exhausted/oh lord I just heard something crash downstairs I think the cats are getting into the cabinets” (see? I need to CHILL OUT). And being like that makes me feel like THE WORST because it is not cool in terms of how to treat my manfriend–It is SO HARD to stay present during sex, I’m going to guess that I’m not the only one who has this issue.

    Anyways, the goal is to figure out how to enjoy penetrative sex more and, also, how to turn my brain off–it is difficult right now because I work lots and he has a stressful school program.

    Oh also, and just curious, how often are y’all havng sex? On a good week we’re at 3-4 times, a bad week (ie: I am super stressed at work, he has a bazillion exams) zero, with the average being 1-2 times a week. I am curious as to what other people do and if there is any such thing as “healthy” or “normal.” I guess as long as you and your partner are happy–that’s all that matters!

    So I guess the point of it is–no one has an easy, uncomplicated sex life. Mine is pretty okay but there are some things I’d like to change/spice up, and I know that that is as much my fault (aka my laziness) as it is his (aka he has a lot of schoolwork). So no one feel weeeeeird because sex is weird (good weird! But I mean it is all very science-fiction-y and bodies are so funny amirite?) and we’re all different and all our bodies are different and that’s cool, you just have to do what works for you (and your partner).

    Also, the time before and after sex, for manfriend and me, usually has a lot of cuddling and talking and catching up on the day-to-day and laughing so that’s a huge positive too–it definitely brings us closer, but I think we can keep workin’ on making the sex more awesome.

    • Anonymized

      Healthy and normal == works for you.

      Have you tried using your fingers or a vibrator or whatever you do to get yourself off during penetrative sex? Most women need clitoral stimulation, but there’s no reason you can’t have that + penetration at the same time.

      • Yes and yes, doesn’t work (for now, at least, might in the future) all the knocking around distracts me.

      • Another anon for today!

        Just throwing it out there — I get disoriented/overwhelmed if I have penetration and clitoral stimulation at the same time, so the combination can actually prevent me from getting an orgasm.

        Also, agreed on the advice about healthy and normal. It’s about what the people involved feel they want/need.

    • Maddie

      I have a super overactive brain, and it is often my Achilles heel during sex. One thing that’s helped me a LOT is to channel that brain to thinking about sex while having sex. It’s a little meta, but it helps for me to picture what we’re doing in my head while we’re doing it, so that both my mind and body are focused on the act. Sometimes I even just repeat sex words in my head. It’s taken a little training, but it helps.

      Now if I could find an equally effective method for not getting distracted at work, I’d be golden.

      • Anonny

        I do the same thing – picturing. It really amplifies things.

        • Thanks guys–good suggestion! I try that and it works…sometimes…but man, the brain, it is a HARD beast to tame.

          • anonymous

            i have this problem too and find that dirty talk (including the above mentioned concept about just narrating what you are doing, but out loud) helps keeps my head in the game, as it were, and off the grocery list or stressful thing from work or how much I need to do afterwards

          • Claire

            I definitely have the same problem. Maybe it’s a girl thing because we tend to multitask and men are better at just focusing to get the job done (huge generalisation but perhaps true to most). Perhaps you could do something that centres you before sex, like yoga/Pilates/meditation/cleaning/whatever quiets your mind. Maybe it’s a really slow and long foreplay session. For some reason, when I’m a bit tipsy I find dirty talk really fun or taking pictures of one another (which are later deleted because ohmygod I’d be horrified if they were ever discovered by my step kids!). Some people like to watch porn to get started but it just makes me laugh and feel anything but sexy (seriously, is there any good porn out there that doesn’t involve fake boobs and ridiculous story lines?)

          • Denzi

            So far as good porn, there was at some point a “Lady Porn Day” hosted by Rachel Rabbit White [] with a lot of essays about women and porn, but also some good recs for porn that at least some women like and find sexy rather than cheesy.

          • Brytani

            Sometimes thinking more about sex in general can help as well. I’m guilty of reading steamy romance novels to help me get excited about and anticipate how great sex is going to be that night. I also just take little moments to picture it during lulls in my daily routine…like while I’m cooking dinner or walking the dogs. Then when it’s time, I’m more in the moment. But really, you just have to experiment and see what helps.

          • em

            This is a reply to the question below about porn (sorry, its not letting me reply there). Check r/passionx on reddit. Some of it is annoyingly fake-booby, but there are others that are better.

      • Another anon for today!

        I also picture what we’re doing at the moment, but sometimes even imagining what’s going to happen. Like, picturing myself having an orgasm actually helps me get there. Kinda like an athlete visualizing herself crossing the finish line…but with sex.

      • I have to do the same thing as well- if I don’t concentrate on what we’re doing right in the moment, my mind likes to take a gallop towards who knows what. It’s been really good to practice focusing what we’re doing, or sometimes even just my breathing, to keep myself in the moment. It also helps to do a little mental fantasizing before we get into it in order to get my mind on the right track.

      • I do the exact same thing! Works wonders to keep my brain on track. ;-)

      • Anon

        I once asked my fiancé what he thought about during sex. He said “mostly just about the fact that i’m having sex!” Made me realise that our brains are totally different, and making an effort just to think about what’s going on really helps me get closer to orgasm.

      • Anonymous

        Exactly! Except I take it a step further and fantasize about other things.
        Um I hope this is not too vulgar for APW, but I scrolled through the comments and didn’t see anyone talking about it so here goes.
        I(like a lot of us apparently) had a long and complicated relationship with sex. For a while I couldn’t do it, then it was bad, and then it was just a little bit blah. So I totally realize that there is no cure all for trouble with orgasms. Orgasms are tricky. But sex has become totally not blah for me lately because I have been letting myself fantasize during sex.
        I would never have described myself as sexually repressed before, because I was good at communicating about sex with my partners, and I read the vagina monologues, and I didn’t feel ashamed of my desires. But I was repressing my desires. I think I just assumed sex was all about my partner. I thought that if I wasn’t super turned on by him that it was because of a lack of chemistry. Or if I was turned on by him sometimes but not others that it was about our relationship. I thought that if I wasn’t thinking about him it couldn’t be lovemaking. That’s not how my sexuality works, and in fact I don’t think that’s how most people’s sexuality works either.
        When I started to let myself think about scenarios while I was having sex, it got a lot better, and then dirty talk got easier (it was so awkward and forced before), and then I let my partner in on what was going on in my head and that made it waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better.
        I don’t think I am particularly kinky. Most of the men I know well enough to talk about this stuff with have at least a few vivid fantasies. They also have things that get them going like legs, or pantyhose, or a fist full of hair. They exploit (or strategically ignore depending on how hot their fire is burning) all the time. This is less common with the women I know maybe because women don’t have as much encouragement to masturbate, and most fantasies are born during masturbation. So I would definitely recommend to the author of this story that if vanilla sex isn’t lighting her fire, then she should try to get in touch with what DOES light her fire.

      • Amber

        I have found myself thinking of repetitive fabric patterns in my head when trying to get off. I’m not trying to do it really, I just am trying to concentrate and apparently patterns help with that. :P

    • Anonymous

      I’ve been with my boyfriend for 3 1/2 years and am right there with you on the frequency of sex and the reasons for said frequency (or infrequency, as the case may be!).

      I’m also with another poster, in that for years I thought I couldn’t orgasm from intercourse. Just for background, I’m 28, sexually active for 12 years, 7 partners, monogamous with current partner for 3 1/2 years. I’ve always been adept at giving myself an orgasm, and never had a problem orgasming from oral or manual stimulation (provided the male in question took a proper amount of time and/or care . . . . I mean, I had a sexual relationship with one partner in particular on and off for 3 1/2 years and orgasmed once . . . we had a combination of poor sexual skills/desire to please on his part and poor communication on mine). Then again, I’ve orgasmed (oral or manually) from one-night-stands.

      I always assumed I was just one of those women who just couldn’t have an orgasm through vaginal penetration . . . it never bothered me or my boyfriend and we never really tried anything special to make it otherwise. He made me come every time and it really didn’t matter how! But one day, about a year and a half ago . . . . I just had an orgasm during intercourse, with no manual stimulation required . . . . and I was as surprised as anyone. Nowadays, I certainly can’t always have one that way, but it happens on a fairly frequent basis, and now we generally know what to do to increase the chances of it happening.

      I honestly just think for some women it takes time and someone who really cares . . . I was having sex for a decade before it happened . . . . I was with my partner for over two years. A certain comfort level and experience level (alone and with each other) just helps things along. Five years from now, when we have even more experience and communication together, maybe something else will have happened (not to be “gross,” but I’ve always heard of the elusive “female ejaculation” and it’s never happened to me!).

      I also definitely concur on the stress part . . . . when I’m stressed, tired, angry, feeling guilty, or am otherwise not completely into sex and/or having it for the wrong reasons . . . . it affects my bodily responses and we may have disappointing sex . . . . but there’s always next time LOL. I wouldn’t stress about it too much and know that things ebb and flow . . . . the thing is if it becomes an ongoing problem and REALLY bothers both of you, then it becomes an issue you have to deal with. But if you both have the desire to work on it and communicate fully, the working on it part can be really fun!

      • a non-mouse

        So the “elusive female ejaculation” has happened to me a few times (like I can count on one hand still after ~10 years of sexual activity), but the first time we had to stay up and wash the sheets because we didn’t have a spare set (yay being dirt poor). There are times where I feel like that might be coming on and all I can think is, “oh god don’t pee don’t pee don’t pee.” (It’s not pee, but my brain oversimplifies)

        It’s satisfying, but I almost prefer that it stays elusive. Moral of the story: keep a spare set of sheets.

        • Sarah

          I totally thought it was pee one time. It’s not the same sensation at all, and yet the brain totally oversimplifies.

          Other helpful Dan-Savage-reminder, as someone who ends up in less of a wet spot and more of a puddle, is sexy times don’t have to be confined to the bed. I haven’t bought all the extra bedding yet, but when it was warmer outside we got to use the comforter on the floor. Made clean-up easier AND we got a cozy bed. (After our shower.)

        • Anon FTW

          Man, talk about something that I did not see coming. Sometimes I don’t notice it happening, because it just feels like extra warm wetness down there. Then we stop and realize we’re sitting in a puddle and have to clean everything up. It happens way more than I ever thought it would (about 4 or 5 in 4.5 years), and it’s totally different than I expected.

        • Or throw down a beach towel to “catch” things. ;)

        • Denzi

          Incontinence sheets! Okay, I know that is the least sexy thing to say ever, but seriously, they are cheap, and you can find ones that are soft and not plasticky (in less you’re in to plasticky, I’m just not), and you can throw them on the bed or other surface pre-sex and then stick them in the laundry after. We do this always, as our easiest, most comfortable PIV (penis-in-vagina) position is “cowgirl,” and with the large amount of lube that I need and our preference for forgoing condoms…there is always some degree of mess.

          (Hat tip to Ariel at the Offbeat Empire: )


      I, too, do the overactive brain thing during sex, and I find that being blindfolded usually works to center me in a way that other things don’t. I know this isn’t necessarily something that would work for everyone or would even work in all situations, but for some reason not being able to see the room around me cuts through the buzzing in my head and makes me focus on the sensations I’m experiencing.

      • S

        It totally makes you focus on your physical sensations! Works for me too!

    • Hannah

      My brain totally goes into overdrive during sex. “When was the last time I paid the credit card? Did I pay it this month? Ohmygod stop thinking about that! Focus on sex! Stop thinking about things you shouldn’t think about. I wonder if he is thinking about weird stuff? Omg what is wrong with me? SHUT UP BRAIN!”

      All. The. Time.

      • Oh my gosh. Me. Too. It’s super the worst. Either I’ll start thinking back to something I read earlier that day (usually something super unsexy, like kids who were kidnapped in the 1970’s), or that song that’s been nagging in the back of my brain will come roaring in full force.

        There is seriously nothing worse than to be mid-coitus, trying to keep your brain in the game, when suddenly “WE MUST BE SWIFT AS THE COURSING RIIIIIIVER” from Mulan takes root at a deafening level inside your head.

        • Jen


          Never expected to see Mulan in this discussion! Made my night!

          • Celesta


    • MissStumptown

      Your comment about frequency and not loving penetrative sex makes me feel so much better. Here I thought I was being a crappy fiance by only wanting sex a couple times a week most of the time and sometimes not even particularly enjoying it! My guy and I typically do it 1-2 times a week, maybe 3 if we are feeling it. When I am sick or on my period, it will just not happen that week. I try to be GGG and sometimes decide to have sex even when I don’t feel like it because I know it means a lot to him. And our sexy times are always in bed, right before we are going to sleep for the night, since its hard to have public sex with a roommate ha.

      • Stress makes such a big difference–sometimes, when we’re both tired/stressed and haven’t had sex in a week, one of us (usually me, since I have an obsessive brain for dates) says: “WE HAVEN’T HAD SEX IN A WEEK WE’RE GOING TO HAVE SEX NOW.” And even if we aren’t really in the mood/don’t want to do it when we get started, we’re always happier for it in the end and it is a good break to our stressful day/week. Sometimes you just have to power through…

        You’re totally not a crappy fiance, especially since you are aware of the GGG thing, so important!

        • Melissa

          So true! When we go a while without sex–due to schedules not coinciding or just not being in the mood, we’ve noticed that each of us gets crabbier and generally more irritable. Once we have sex, we’re suddenly a whole lot nicer to each other AND it makes coping with the everyday stress of life a bit easier.

          • S


        • Celesta

          I am the same way! I usually start having sexy dreams if it’s been over a week. My fiance and I typically don’t have sex during the week b/c he always comes home so tired (I’m literally, always game. Always), so I’ve just been asking if we can schedule some time. I figure, if I don’t communicate to him what I want/need, i’m not going to get it. I’m pretty content w/ doing it a couple of times a week.

      • Luc

        What is GGG?

    • K

      Lately we’ve introduced dirty talk, and whoa. I have a race-track brain during sex, and suddenly it’s like here I am, focused, in the game. I had no idea it could make such a difference for me, but it really did.

    • Aubry

      First of all, im so glad to hear other people just think about what is going on in order to keep “in the game!” My SO has asked me what I think about/do I fantasize, and he was surprised I replied that I basically imagine whats happening. If I let my mind wander that is the end of that!

      I had a less than usual ( if my friend group is any indication – not a scientific study) experience of having my first orgasm with a partner. My first boyfriend at 16. And I was a little underwhelemed. I think it happened a few times before I realized what happened, and then I was like “thats it?” I was waiting for the rom-com mind shattering part maybe? I also cannot orgasm from penetration alone. Manual stimulation is nessisary in some form and sometimes it just isnt in the cards. I enjoy penetrative set without orgasm for its connecting and feel good factors too.

      As it is now my orgasms are regular, and C is great and knows what I like. And takes insrtuction well, as all women seem to have wildly differing preferences from night to night, or minute to minute!

      We have very differing sex drives. He is the sterotypical guy who would have sex every minute of the day or night. All day everyday, yes please. Where as I am on the other end of preferring every 2 or 3 weeks. We meet in the middle at about twice per week. It was once, but C was having a hard time as it is such an important part of him that I amped it up. At first this was a little daunting, but i have come into my own and enjoy it even more now. As a woman who cannot have multiple orgasms with a man who can – curse you fates! But we do alright.

      Our relationship and sex had a rocky time at about the 1 year mark. The “honeymoon phase” had worn off and I was settling into my natural rhythm, which as stated is quite different from his. Aftersome tough talks and me feeling like crap a lot (thanks ex who used my low sex drive an fodder for emotional abuse) we came to a nice compromise. A little awkward at first, as any lifestyle change is bound to be, we found our feet and it has been pretty great.

      I am so glad I have a great group of ladies I can talk to about this stuff. I feel it is greatly under-discussed in general. We could al learn so much and spare ourselves so much pain if our definition of normal was widened a bit! Thanks APW for bringing it to the table!

  • Super shy…

    We’ve been together for 11 years, married for a year and bit.. And pre-wedding, it was all systems a go-go..
    Now, not so much.
    And, you know what? It sucks. (Not in a fun way either).
    There are a couple of factors – new, scary job for him, anti-depressants for me, but mostly, i think it’s the ‘great weight of expectation’ what does it MEAN now we’re married, now it’s just him and me… For.ever… And, could it/should it lead to babies? Too much pressure, (imagined or real) seriously kills the mood in our house.

    • Emily

      Anti depressants can really (really) affect the libido. Something to keep in mind if you didn’t already know.

      • Anon

        Tell me about it! My husband is on anti-depressants and while his libido is fine he has a very hard time having an orgasm. The good part is that he can last forever. The bad part is that I orgasm very easily and have a hard time lasting long enough for him. While we both enjoy sex it has made things difficult for me at times because it’s easy to go down the dark and twisty path of “it’s me! I’m not good enough! if I were more *insert random adjective here* this wouldn’t be a problem and we would be having movie style sex ALL-THE-TIME” My husband assures me that this has been a problem since he went on medication. Just another example of complicated.

    • SamL

      Super shy

      We’ve been together for 5 years and married for 8 months. We had amazing sex, for years before we got married and then we got married.
      It took 6 months and a huge fight to fix the problem. The combination of the weight of expectations, the sense of forever and this surprising pressure that arrived: this is the sex we will be having for the rest of our lives! Some how that meant that every time had to be amazing and if we weren’t having sex regularly enough, our sex life was on the downslide everyone predicts will happen …. It was too much.
      Now that we’ve cleared all the stress and pressure our sex life is getting back to normal.

    • Something about being married has made sex seem way more serious than it ever had before in my own relationship. The stakes seem higher. In our six years of dating we would just go with the flow. Sometimes hot and heavy, other times not so much, and it wasn’t necessarily a big deal–just the way life was going at the time.

      Now, though? Now we’re MARRIED. Sex is a BIG DEAL. People get DIVORCED over sex issues. When was the last time we had sex?? Are we already on a path to divorce???

      Which puts incredible pressure on the act itself, which makes me anxious, which makes me SO not in the mood, which means we go longer without sexytimes, which means we’re probably going to be divorced before the year is out.

      Or so my brain tries to tell me. Blech.

      • sarah.

        I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM. Now that we’re married (we’ve been together for seven years, and used to have a lot of really wonderful sex, and have been married for 8 months), we have almost no sex. Like, we only have sex if it’s a special occasion, or when I get insistent. (I appear to want to have sex way more than the husband does. And sometimes, I’ll get super horny and try to seduce him … and get laughed off. Apparently me trying to initiate the sexytimes is hilarious, and the husband is basically never in the mood anymore.) He complains about having to use condoms (I was on the pill for six years, but had to quit because it was making me CRAZY — apparently it was some kind of thyroid issue?), but he doesn’t want to forgo the condoms because sex – condoms = babies. (And he’s wicked paranoid about the condoms, too, since European ones don’t have spermicide, but whatever.) ANYWAY, this is getting long. Basically, I totes feel you on the “marriage killing the sex because of all the new pressure” thing. And the neurotic “we’re going to get divorced because we don’t have sex!” thing. I HATE that we’ve become that old married couple already, and have no idea what to do about it. (Talking won’t happen: he’s the strong, suffer in silence type. And I can’t talk to my girlfriends about it, because … somehow I just feel more comfortable talking about it with strangers on the internet? It must be my midwestern upbringing.) I know this isn’t helpful, but it’s nice (for me, anyway) to know I’m not alone.

    • Anon in MD

      Anti-depressants can definitely reduce the libido. My DH is on them and it often feels like I want sex more than he does, though when we do have sex he’s more likely to orgasm than I am. We’re trying to conceive right now, so we tend to have sex certain weeks more than others, but we don’t have a schedule and we don’t really count how many times we have sex in a week (unless it’s our TTC week). Usually we start seriously flirting with each other in the evening and head up to bed a little earlier than usual.

      But if you’re really concerned about the affect your anti-depressants are having on your sex life, try talking to your doctor(s) about it. There are some anti-depressants that have less of an effect on the libido than others do, and my DH ended up on one of them.

      Best wishes that you find something that works for the two of you!

  • Another anon for today!

    This is great! We definitely need more discussion of how unrealistic (especially from the female side) the representation of sex is in our culture. I also find it pretty silly that the women always orgasm effortlessly in these movies their first time sleeping with someone. Because you are totally right — many women simply don’t orgasm from sex with their partners, even after lots of communication, practice, and experimentation. And beyond that, from my own experience and from discussing with my girlfriends, when women do get orgasms it’s NOT effortless. It usually requires both mental and physical planning/effort, before and during sex.

    Personally I have to seriously focus on not getting distracted/losing it whether it’s oral or intercourse. And getting an orgasm during intercourse actually takes a lot of physical effort for me (basically Kegel exercises while doing it), so a lot of times I’m too lazy to want it and won’t do it unless my husband insists…

    I think this is the flipside of what you’re trying to say. The fact that our culture seems to think sex has gotta be effortless and orgasms are a necessity is just silly. Sex is an experience between you and your partner, and it can and will be meaningful and intimate with or without orgasms, and whether or not they take effort.

    • Erin

      The fact that our culture seems to think sex has gotta be effortless and orgasms are a necessity is just silly.


      I can enjoy sex plenty, and it can feel plenty good, without ever hitting orgasm. My husband has a hard time with the idea that I might not be orgasming every time I sound like I’m enjoying things, or with my insistence that we lube every single time, sometimes twice. It’s like it’s insulting to him that he can’t turn me on enough to just not need lubrication or clitoral stimulation.

      I mean, he’s not a jerk about it, he just gets a little puppy-dog eyed, all sad. It was a surprise to me, because I was a virgin the first time we were together – he was not. I had a notion that simple pentration wasn’t likely to do it for me, but it’s been a shock to him. I wish more men knew this. It’s not a personal insult! I’m not not-attracted to you! My body just /doesn’t function that way/.

      • K

        I feel you. My fiance and I have been working on this a lot lately, because it’s pretty uncommon for us to orgasm at the same time. Usually I need clitoral stimulation after penetrative sex, and for a while he would get a similar puppy-dog face about how I wasn’t “in sync” with him. But it’s pretty difficult for me to orgasm during penetrative sex.

        I recently started insisting on lube a lot more, and wow has that helped. I don’t know why we didn’t buy it earlier. I mean sure, sometimes I might not need it, but it is SO MUCH BETTER when we use it. Goodness.

        We’ve been having a lot of really honest conversations about sex lately which has been so helpful. I don’t know why we waited this long into our relationship, but I think it has to do with our expectations – we really thought it would just work right the first time, I guess, but it didn’t. As soon as we started actively telling each other what worked and what didn’t it got easier. Still working on it, but there you go.

        • Erin

          Yes! It sort of baffles me that he doesn’t seem to notice the difference with/without lube, because it is a WORLD of difference to me. It can be very uncomfortable to downright painful without it. With it, things become awesome.

          I finally just said to him one day ‘it’s not that I’m not turned on. I just don’t produce enough lubricant for it not to hurt. So we either use lube, generously, or it kind of hurts for me.’

          He’s been better about it since.

          • K

            That’s a nice way to put it! It’s just unbelievable how big the difference is.

        • Fortunately my husband was on board with the lube from the start- it just took once of explaining that ‘this makes things way better for me.’ I think sometimes my struggle is how to articulate what feels good or what would feel better in the moment without killing the mood. I think right now I’ve found it’s best to strike a balance of directing what he’s doing a little bit, but leaving bigger discussions for after the fact. (Or asking him to try something new at the start of the next time.)

          • K

            I have the same struggle! He’s always asking me what I want, and sometimes I know how to articulate it and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think of something a few days later and have to bring it up. We basically had this intense discussion recently where we both agreed that we love having sex but that we need to have some serious, honest conversations about how it’s going. For a while there it was difficult and we weren’t on the same page. I was also a little embarrassed to ask for what I wanted, but I”ve been getting more confident and with that comes comfort in that area.

            Whew. Like the post says, sex is so complicated.

      • Hannah

        YES! Why don’t more couples use lube? This taboo really needs to die. Lubing and proud!! Not only does it make things feel way better, but it makes me relax more. Without it I’m always worried that I won’t be “ready” enough, and that he will see this as me not wanting to. But nope. Sometimes my mind is in it 110% but my body just hasn’t gotten the message yet. Lube to the rescue!

        • Molly

          Lube is essential for us! When I went on hormonal birth control, my body lost some of its ability to self-lubricate (a normal if not super common side effect). Sex became uncomfortable and an absolute chore; it felt like a big waste of birth control since I didn’t want to have sex! Lube was a godsend. I’d always thought it would be weird and icky, but it has worked well for us.

          That said, I’ve also struggled with birth control and antidepressants ganging up on my sex drive. I haven’t found a great solution for that yet. Any suggestions other than “just schedule sexy time whether you want it or not, and you’ll enjoy it once it’s happening?” Because that doesn’t really work for me.

          • Anon


            Team practical, please? It’s hard when the only suggestion is to ‘just have sex’; because it doesn’t work, because I don’t enjoy it when I’m in it, I have a flashback to being abused.

          • Abby J.

            I’m not a doctor, but I’m someone who had alot of trouble with birth control messing me up, so I’ll throw my hat in the ring. For those taking antidepressants, keep working on finding one that works for your issues but also has less of an effect on your sex drive. It’s worth it! And if you’re not having the sex life you want, it’s not really helping your overall emotional quality of life to be stressing about sex, is it?

            For birth control, it really is worth looking at different kinds of birth control, even non-hormonal options like a diaphragm, a cervical cap or a copper IUD. For those who are really in control of their cycles, fertility tracking can and does work – it worked for my hubby and me for 3 years and when we did get pregnant, we got pregnant on the first try. Not being on a hormonal birth control (and I tried basically EVERY variety for over 10 years and never found anything that worked without making me into a sexless robot) really really made a difference in my libido.

          • ANI

            theres this myth that sex itself should turn us on. as if we don’t need/shouldn’t need to ALReaDY be turned on BEFORE we start trying to have sex. hello patriarchal society – what if we as women were to ONLY having sex (or even foreplay) UNLESS we’re already somewhat turned on? would the world end?
            this sh*t makes me crazy.
            I learned pretty young that guys and girls don’t always get turned on the ways or by the same things, and that you shouldn’t have sex unless you really want to.
            so now that we’re grown up women – what if we mentally WANT to have sex for whatever reason but what if its not a sexy reason? we metally want to have sex but we’re not feeling sexy right now? well I think then first thing to do is to go get yourself turned on. reading erotica works for me, or talking about sexy fantasies with my SO, or watching antonio and angelina have sex in Original Sin. anything that turns you on is fair game.

      • Still Anonymous

        From movies and TV and friends and jokes, women and men are taught to think that (1) penis-in-vagina sex is the only kind of sex that counts, (2) you’re not supposed to use your hands, (3) women come easily from penetrative sex, and (4) women only need lube if something’s wrong with them. All of these myths are pernicious and shame us, women especially, into settling for mediocre sex. Once my partner and I dispelled these myths, we’ve been having amazing sex. He doesn’t consider the lube or the vibrator as an insult to his manliness.

        • Shy Coward

          Ha, I was the one that thought there was something wrong with me for needing lube. Because I’ve always been nice and moist and it felt wrong. I think it’s part of changes that come with age. I’m not old, but I’m not 20 either, so it’s realistic to accept some changes. We use only a tiiiiiny bit of it, or it feels like he’s slipping away and I don’t feel him, really just a drop, but it helps.

        • Amen to dispelling the myths! I don’t know where my husband and I would be without hands and lube and the vibrator. I think it’s also frustrating that you never see any movies/tv/media addressing painful sex for women especially. Without even considering the many medical conditions that can contribute to this, for a lot of women it can take a while of being sexually active for penetrative sex to be comfortable, much less enjoyable. I know that when I started out (TMI!) I had crazy-tight PC muscles that took a while to chill out.

          • Erin

            Sometimes I think about women throughout history, without things like lube, and I wince for those ladies past.

            I feel like it’s no wonder women were told to lie back and think of England. For a lot of women, it had to be kind of painful!

          • Class of 1980


            It says here that centuries ago, olive oil was popular.


          • Sarah

            A previous APW-talk-about-sex comments section mentioned coconut oil. LOVE IT. Smells nice. Doesn’t spill easily. And, does wonders for my body. (Boobs and below ;)

            (AnonUK mentioned it in an earlier thread. I wanted to repeat.)

      • Class of 1980

        There has long been a disconnect between medical knowledge and the culture’s knowledge about female orgasms. Science knows many women do not orgasm without direct stimulation.

        It came as a shock to me in my twenties that men expected women to orgasm from intercourse alone. I myself, never had any particular thought on the subject.

        I was, and still am, one of those who can easily orgasm, but absolutely never from sex itself. And it never concerned me in the slightest.

        However, I can never forget one guy saying to me in my twenties “You should warn any future sex partners that you don’t orgasm.” I was shocked that it was such a big deal, since it wasn’t to me.

        Really, though it was good advice. Why not nip that expectation in the bud so the guy doesn’t feel like he’s doing something wrong? If I don’t care, why should he? I was completely at ease.

        I did warn my most recent boyfriend, and he seemed fine with it. But one day he made a remark about it and I realized he wasn’t really comfortable about it. We are no longer together, but it made me realize just how adamant I’m going to have to be on the subject with any future partner.

        I was also privy to a discussion one of his best guy friends had with him about the subject. He talked about his girlfriend not being able to orgasm from sex alone and how she just collapsed in tears over it one time. I have a hard time understanding all the angst because I don’t understand why it’s important in the first place how it happens.

        I’ll never allow anyone to make me feel bad about something that is beyond my control. But it sure takes some discussion for THEM not to feel it’s all their fault.

        The whole society needs more education on the subject. The vagaries of female orgasm have been written about repeatedly over decades, but it never seems to become common knowledge!

        • Brytani

          “There has long been a disconnect between medical knowledge and the culture’s knowledge about female orgasms. Science knows many women do not orgasm without direct stimulation.

          It came as a shock to me in my twenties that men expected women to orgasm from intercourse alone. I myself, never had any particular thought on the subject.”

          I used to think that this cultural disconnect was probably new-ish because of how many teens are getting their sex education from porn now. However, I’ve recently found that this has been going on since the days of female liberation, when it became okay to talk about it. I’m not sure if there was some initial optimism involved in the movement that said, “it’s okay for us to enjoy sex and talk about it so we’re going to talk about how women should have orgasms!” but I’ve been studying early young adult romance novels lately and I can tell you that starting in the 70’s, every heroine who had sex had an orgasm during intercourse and usually had one at the same time as the love interest. Lately, with modern romances emerging on the YA scene, there have been a couple more honest discussions about the reality of orgasms, though, most notably in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. So there are some advances in teaching young women about what to expect from sex.

          I know when I was a teenager, I got my sex ed from Cosmo. Probably not the best. These days, I would recommend Judy Blume, Meg Cabot, and Megan McCafferty to girls.

          • Class of 1980

            Now that you mention it, I do remember a lot of hype about simultaneous orgasms.

      • PL

        Re all these ladies discussing lube. I am starting to wonder if its because of the rate of circumcision. Over on one of the Offbeat sites I think it was families there was a discussion with talking to your kids about masturbation and someone else was baffled about the lotion comment as they were from Europe i.e. the only reason a circumcision is done is for medical or religious reasons and the US its mostly cosmetic. The foreskin being trimmed off takes away a penis’s ability to also lubricate. Apparently uncircumcised men have no need to lube up even for solo jobs generally because it’s all there.

        It’s food for thought that maybe why so much lube might be needed. Also on the same topic I know I personally need to use it even when well aroused and seemingly having enough going on there myself, but it helps some of the pain I go through. I do get skeeved out by it though as it makes it even messier. I have issues with the mess of sex. It really freaks me out. I blame my comfortableness on growing up in a religious household.

        • Anon FTW

          Well, my partner and I use lube (and I really need it), and he’s uncircumcised. I don’t know which of these (needing lube or not) is the more common occurrence in this area, but yeah.

          I’m totally with you on the mess thing. It’s a barrier I’m always working on.

        • Anon

          My partner is uncircumcised too (circumcision is uncommon here) and we use lube. As the ladies above has said it makes everything feel much better!
          He doesn’t like it much as everything’s a bit sticker afterwards, and I think he feels like he’s more successful when I don’t need any, but we use it all the time!

        • Lady

          My partner is uncircumcised and we use lube; it’s actually more for his comfort than mine, often, because his foreskin doesn’t retract fully and if I’m not lubed up enough it can pull uncomfortably.

          I was actually under the impression that circumcised gentlemen need more lube than uncircumcised because for uncircumcised the glans gets nicely lubricated under the foreskin.

    • Maddie

      I’d just like to throw an amen to this one. Because POSSIBLE and EFFORTLESS are not the same thing. And sometimes I just don’t want to work that hard.

      I said it.

    • Becca

      Yep. The original post applies to me exactly, as I’ve never orgasmed during PIV sex at least. I can orgasm other ways, but it takes WORK. And sometimes, I just don’t want to mess with it. Sometimes I just want to have fun and enjoy the time with my fiance, without the WORRY of having to orgasm. Yes, it does create worry, and as we all know that can instantly kill sexual enjoyment of any kind. I’m glad my fiance has come to accept the fact that I can’t orgasm easily or every time. In the beginning, it obviously hurt him, like he equated my lack of orgasm with me not being really attracted to him… and I hate the media for that too. Not only did it teach me that I’m inadequate, it taught my fiance that I don’t really find him sexy, and boy that was a tough hill to get over.

  • One other question to go with my “how often is normal for y’all” question:

    What is everyone doing for birth control and/or protection? This is an important topic of conversation too.

    I’m on Nuvaring (the best hormonal method in my opinion) but I have friends who SWEAR by IUD (inter-uterine devices) so I’m considering that as a future alternative. Any IUD users in the house care to share their experience?

    • TMI SHARE! I tried nuvaring but, um, my fingers are too short to get it out without a lot of contortionism.

      That said, I’ve heard nothing but horror stories from people with IUDs. (THAT said, I hardly ever hear, “man, my birth control is AWESOME; let me tell you all about it!” like the commercials seem to suggest I should be hearing.)

      • Then let me bust that bubble (sorry…): Man my birth control is AWESOME. NuvaRing is the best. I have zero problems with it, my cycle is regular, I never forget to take it in or out, it gives me no problems during sex. Yes I am one of those terrible people…sorry… (and sorry you had trouble getting it in/out!)

        I wonder what your friends’ horror stories are like–mind sharing a few snippets? I have a nurse anesthetist friend who went on a 30 minute rave about her IUD to me at a wedding reception we were both at (she literally said at one point that she was trying to convert me because it was the best decision she’d ever made regarding her body). And then I read an article online that was basically the same then–IUDs are the best. The things that are stopping me are a) it is expensive to insert (but it is a one-time cost) and b) insertion can be a little painful (not horribly painful according to what I’ve read but you are definitely aware something has happened)–although at this point it is more the cost that is putting me off from it than the discomfort prospect.

        • Of the two close friends I’ve had who had one –

          One got pregnant shortly before IUD insertion (the test gave a false negative) and obviously didn’t realize it. When things progressed with the fetus, they were . . . not great. And while she didn’t want to have a baby (hence, IUD!), she certainly did not want to half-grow a fetus inside of her, find out six months later, and have an insanely painful and tricky abortion to remove the non-viable fetus that was growing inside of her. (I told you it was bad!)

          But! Her case was a seriously random outlier! So please do not let that dissuade you.

          My OTHER friend who has an IUD got one, not because she didn’t want to get pregnant (her husband has had a vascectomy) but to help alleviate her awful, debilitating cramps. And it’s actually made them worse. I can’t remember the brand she uses but she had to get it removed.

          Again, these are just horror stories. I’m pretty sure IUDs are awesome for 90+% of the populace. I just happen to not be friends with those people.

          • rowany

            I’d just like to put these IUD horror stories into perspective a little. The IUD is THE most common form of birth control around the world.
            The issue with opinions on IUDs is that just when they were getting very popular in the 60s and 70s, there was one particular brand that was very poorly designed and caused infections, scarring and infertility (which was obviously discontinued, and which none of the current IUDs resemble or have issues with). (see: However, the sensationalization of that brand stalled the widespread use of IUDs in the US, and I think that mentality still remains to some extent among OB-gyns and subtly among women. I think the prevalence of ‘horror stories’ is based on the fact that only a small fraction of women in the US have IUDs, so these stories stand out. But other forms of birth control have both more complications and a higher risk of pregnancy, yet because their use is so common, we know enough people who have had no problems that we are more easily reassured.

            I think it’s wonderful that there are so many options for birth control and everyone should talk to their doctor, think about their own health, the side effects of each option and their preferences in choosing what works for them. But I also think the failure rate ‘with typical use’ is not being discussed enough. I would highly recommend looking at this chart before deciding on birth control:
            Please recognize that everyone makes mistakes, so with typical use Standard Days method has a failure rate of 25%. Anything that requires remembering to use birth control (the pill, nuva ring or patch) has a failure rate of 8%. Depo Provera still requires you to remember to see your doctor, so its rate is 3%. IUDs have failure rates of less than 1%.

            Finally, I would also suggest that if your doctor is hesitant to put in your IUD because of whatever reason, I would just find another doctor. The rate of complications with IUDs are very very low, but they increase when you go to an inexperienced doctor. If they think that you shouldn’t have one because you’ve never been pregnant (note: The copper IUD (Paragard) is now FDA approved for use in “nulliparous” (ie never been pregnant) women, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the use of both copper and levonorgestrel IUDs in nulliparous women. In studies comparing nulliparous and parous women, the only issue was with insertion, there was no difference in complication rates), then they probably aren’t up on the literature. Please please feel comfortable finding another doctor who is more knowledgeable of the subject, regardless of what form of birth control you end up choosing. Being well-informed and having a good communication relationship with your doctor is so important in medical decision-making.

            I’m not a doctor so this is not a medical opinion, but I am a medical student who is very happy with my IUD, and have convinced my friends to get them too, who also have had no issues and love not having to think about birth control.

        • Amber

          I used the Nuva Ring for about a year. The convenience factor was great. I really liked not having to think about it everyday. That being said, I completely lost my interest in sex. I rarely orgasmed. It eventually became a sore spot for me and my fiancé. He’d want to have sex. I never did. When we did, it wasn’t that enjoyable for me. I never came, when usually that was something we didn’t have a problem with. I have since switched back to the pill and it’s better. So, moral of the story, birth control is such a personal thing. What works great for one person might be terrible for another. It all depends on our bodies.

          • One More Sara

            I tried it for 4 months bc I haven’t always been great with remembering my pill. I talked recently about it with my partner and told him “it’s great birth control because I now have ZERO interest in sex! LOLZ(not).” Also, it kept like half falling out and almost every time I used the bathroom, I’d have to readjust things. Not ideal. I’m switching back to the pill this month.

            *Edit: I also got crazy cramps from NuvaRing

          • So.This.

            I had the same issues with NuvaRing, but it didn’t develop for about a year. Also, I got depressed. I took it out, and about 6 months later I got the Mirena IUD, which I found easy and had no complications. Well – one complication was when the Dr. had to measure my uterus to see if it would fit since I hadn’t had any children. I found myself in the stirrups while my Dr. was searching for a ruler with centimeters and inches on it. I had to remind him, “one inch = 2.54 centimeters.” This rediculousness does not happen to men.

        • I had a paragard IUD for about 7 years. It took me forever to find someone who was willing to insert it for me since I have never had children, but a NP at a Planned Parenthood did it. At the time (2002?) it cost me $142.

          I had it removed because it was time for us to begin thinking about having kids.

          Insertion was painful, but it wasn’t terrible. I apparently turned white as a sheet and they made me stay in the office for about an hour after it was done…just to make sure I was OK. Then I drove home and that was it. It definitely wasn’t the worst pain I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t a walk in the park either.

          I highly recommend them. Once I got past the insertion and the first two periods that were incredibly heavy and painful, things evened out for me. Like clockwork, my period came every 21 days and lasted 3 days.

          My only caveat is very situational. At one point, I couldn’t feel the strings (you’re supposed to check once a month. I checked. The boyfriend checked. I checked. The boyfriend checked. Neither of us could feel them), which caused a bit of a panic. Particularly since every doctor in the smallish southern town that I’d moved to for my PhD work all told me that they under no circumstances would do a check for me to make sure that it was still in place. Ummmmmm….what? I wound up at Planned Parenthood in the next state over where they all shook their heads that not even my university’s health center would do a basic exam for me.

          Other than that, I was extremely happy with my IUD.

        • Emily

          I agree! I love my Nuvaring. I also would like to mention that I accidentally hit the report this comment button when trying to hit “Exactly. Sorry……

          • The Modern Gal

            After being on the pill for about a decade, I started using NuvaRing. Both the pill and the ring seemed to eliminate my sex drive. I quit the ring when it fell out without me realizing post sex while on vacation. I didn’t realize it was out until the morning, and at that point you have to get a brand new one — which of course I didn’t have since I was on vacation. Now we’re just using condoms. Sort of inconvenient, but my drive has greatly improved.

        • One of the most awkward conversations I ever had with my mother was back when I was 18 years old and she spent a good 30 minutes telling me about how much she loved her IUD.

          I’m on the pill, and I haven’t bothered trying to change it because a) we’re probably going to start trying for a baby in the next year-ish and that seems like a waste with an IUD, and b) I’ve heard that (allegedly) they’re more secure/effective if you’ve already had a kid, but I’m hoping to get one after having a baby. Also, I believe they can put it in right after you give birth, which seems like killing two birds with one stone to me!

          • meg

            Just a PSA that’s not heard enough: you really should go off the pill quite a while before you try to get knocked up. Like, think, six months. Now, I’m not being absurd here: PLEASE USE PROTECTION while you don’t want to get knocked up (why do condoms get such a bad wrap? I’ll never understand that, but whatever). But it often takes months and months for your cycle to get re-organized post pill. The idea that you just get off it and the magic happens is… probably more realistic for 16 year old girls? But less so for the rest of us.

            Also, once I got off it and realized how much hormonal birth control plays roulette with your system? Yeah. Never again. But that’s me!

        • JASHSHEA

          IUD horror story (not mine): The IUD…migrated. Not sure if it wasn’t inserted correctly or what, but it wanted to escape. Through the skin.

      • Dawn

        Man, my birth control is AWESOME! And it’s an IUD (paraguard). I love it. Best thing I ever did. Likes Sarahe below I also had a hard time with hormonal BC and didn’t even realize just how bad it was until I was off of it. It’s like a fog lifted from my brain and mood.

        I’m not going to lie. Insertion was not fun — I have never felt anything like that in my life — but it was a crappy couple of minutes and then it was over. And then I did have some pretty crazy cramping that evening. Then the next day everything was great. I’ve had it for about 6 months now and I love it. For the first month I would randomly tell my guy that my IUD made me very happy.

        I will say the cramping is worse (as compared to on the pill but that’s because you’re not really getting a period on the pill so of course it would be worse) and so is the bleeding but I’ve just finally started to look at it as a happy confirmation that I’m not pregnant (yay! cramps are awesome because they mean I’m not pregnant!)

        If you want some very pro-IUD information just google IUD Divas. It’s a great site with tons of good information.

        Oh, and one more thing — for anyone considering an IUD and turned off by the cost, check your insurance again. I think with reform it’s supposed to be covered with your copay. I know with mine I just had to pay the office visit copay and then I had another copay for the actual IUD so all together it cost me $60 to have one put in. And they last 10 years.

        IUDs for the win!

        • KSandoval

          Yes. It is my understanding that starting last August, the insertion of the IUD would be covered by all insurance carriers. If this is not the case for you, Paraguard offers a payment plan ($60 a month for a year). It is very easy to set up and they send the IUD to your doctor’s office.

          I have had my Paraguard IUD for almost a year. The insertion was more painful than I anticipated, but very short-lived. My cramping did worsen and bleeding was heavier for the first 4 months or so, but that has lessened. I agree that the IUD is great! My body was rejecting any sort of hormonal birth control and after a year and a half of success with the NuvaRing and then some of the same rejection I experienced with various pills I went for the IUD. I recommend it for sure!

          • Melissa

            These are all of the reasons I’ve decided to get Paraguard! I have been patiently waiting for my insurance to roll over (our open enrollment runs May-April, so I had to wait almost an extra year) so I can have it inserted for just the cost of the copay. Hormonal birth control made me nutty and completely eliminated my sex drive, which caused a lot of fighting. Thank goodness for condoms, and also health care reform that benefits women’s reproductive health!

      • A. Nony Mouse


        Four periods a year is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I used to suffer from dysmenorreha, but now I barely have any PMS symptoms at all. My periods are super-light and short, and I haven’t got pregnant. Five stars!

        It’s not for everyone, but I have absolutely no plans to go off it, ever.

        • Heather

          Whereas I tried Seasonique when it was first on the market and I was a raging ball of angry hormones with terrible cramps for almost a year before I gave up.

          I have tried quite a few different pills over the years (Yasmin being the most successful for me, but not for a lot of others), but I also have possible hormonal imbalance issues (maybe PCOS, but maybe not, but maybe, depending on the doctor). I’ve been off hormonal stuff for over a year because I want baseline blood tests done soon since we are thinking pregnancy in a year, and I couldn’t imagine how they would get such things when I’ve been on bc for 10 years. So long story short, we used condoms even when I was on bc, and we continue to now.

      • Denzi

        I LOVE MY IUD. My first one expelled itself after about a year and a half, so I checked with my GYN about whether my body just hated it (as the nurse midwife at the local midwife practice suggested when I went there first). He said that usually if your uterus is shaped in such a way that an IUD doesn’t fit well, the IUD will come out within the first few months. The nurse practitioner who put in my second one hypothesized that I had suctioned it out with my menstrual cup. I’m not sure that’s a very medically sound opinion, but I have been more careful about removing my menstrual cup when I need it. (Mostly I don’t need it, because a common side-effect of the Mirena IUD is having no periods, which I looooove.)

        My GYN also pointed out that more and more insurance companies are willing to cover IUDs, because in the long run they are more cost-effective than oral BC. We worked it out for my insurance, and it pays for itself in terms of oral BC coverage in a year and two months for me. So I stopped feeling guilty about “ruining the investment” with the expulsion of the first one, and I feel much better about having it removed if we decide to have kids before five years are up.

      • SJ

        Um, I’m obsessed with my nuvaring. I think it’s amazing! I tell so many friends about it that you’d think I get a cut of the profits.

      • ANI

        Ladies, my birth control is AWESOME! I’m queer!!! :) hahha! I am, but I also have a Mirena IUD, put in September 2011, zero cost to me – thank you Obama and the great health insurance at my old job. I got it put in because I knew I didn’t want to have kids for a really long time but honestly the main reason was to try to control my horrible insane end my life for several days a month cramps.
        I had a zillion conversations with my absolutely amazing doc (she was my gyno and my GP and specialized in IUD insertion as well. young, wicked smart, easy to talk to. lucky lucky me.)
        Yes, the insertion was incredibly painful. I took some OTC painkillers before my appointment as recommended, and I think she put some numbing stuff on me too, and I still cried. She wrote me a prescription for “real” painkillers for after, which I took but only for that day and night. Unlike some of the insertion horror stories I’ve heard here, I was back at work the next day, off the prescription painkillers, with only a little discomfort.
        My periods immediately gradually began to lighten (though they were crazydoodle schedule-wise) but by Jan they were gone altogether. It was like a miracle. Unfortunately they did come back in June which was a serious bummer, and they’ve stayed, but they are NOTHING like they were before. I am no longer knocked out of my life, non-functional for days on end.
        I can’t recommend Mirena IUD enough!!! Best decision ever!!!
        OH just for comparison – oral BC made me mentally/emotionally INSANE (and after I went off it, I realized how totally out of sync with the world I felt), and the BC patch made me throw up every week like clockwork on Sunday night (my chosen day to change my patch), and gave me a skin rash that took many weeks to heal. So I would have a bright red patch-shaped rash from last week, a bright pink patch-shaped rash from two weeks ago, a pale pink patch-shaped rash from 3 weeks ago all on my ass at the same time. Oh, and next to those three, this weeks actual patch. don’t even get me started on the shit men do not have to deal with.

    • SarahE

      I just got an IUD in December, and I LOVE it. I had a horrible time with hormonal birth control, so I chose non-hormonal Paragard, which uses copper to kill sperm. It hurts like a motherfucker to get it inserted, but after that, I’ve had no issues. My partner can’t feel the “string” (which is a tiny plastic thread) at all, during sex or fingering. I too have heard tons of positive reviews of IUDs, which is part of why I chose it.

      For the Paragard particularly, aside from preventing pregnancy, the other perks to me were that is was definitely cheaper over the long run (though I don’t have insurance, so I’m sure costs are different for others), and it’s good for 12 years. 12!

      • Eeeesh hurts like a mother sounds like no fun! But thank you for the good review! Did you have any residual pain after the insertion or has it been good so far?

        • SarahE

          Yes, insertion is no fun at all. In fact, I had to go back for a second visit because the first time, my cervix just would. not. open. That’s why IUDs were first recommended just for women who had already had children (I think). But my doc was great. After her best attempts the first time (which really really hurt), she gave me a prescription to “loosen things up” and recommended I come back when I was on my period.

          I took the prescription (just two tabs to dissolve under your tongue and hour before the procedure) and timed my second visit with my period, and it really really really hurt, but was successful. It kinda hurt the rest of the night, but ibuprofen took the edge off and the next day, I was beaming for being so on top of my reproductive health, and had no further issues with it.

          I’m still due for a check up (dr. asked that I come back within 6-12 weeks) to make sure it’s still all good, but that’s it. Everyone I know who has one loves it, and most other people I know have Mirena, the hormonal version.

      • Amber

        I had an IUD, the copper one, for a few months. Yes, it hurt like a motherfucker going in. Probably one of the more invasive experiences I’ve had. Ever. That being said, once my body adjusted to it, it was great. I loved not having hormones surging through my body, and it felt like a more natural option. But then my body decided to reject it. From what I understand, it’s more common for women’s bodies that haven’t had a child yet to reject the IUD. It didn’t hurt as much on the way out, but still uncomfortable. I think after I have kids I’ll go back to that format, or at least give it a try again. Also, for those of you considering an IUD, they say its better to get it put in when you’re on your period because your cervix is softened.

    • Emily

      I know you didn’t ask, but do NOT get Implanon. I had it installed, as I like to say, before I lost my health insurance. I thought it would be a good investment, but I ended up having all sorts of horrible side effects, including hot flashes. The problem is that it’s three years of hormones that they put in you at once, and there’s no way to adjust the rate at which your body absorbs it. I put up with a lot of the side effects, but hot flashes in my twenties were too damn much. Now I have two small scars on my arm, one from when it went in, and one from when it came out.

      • Hannah

        I can’t exactly this comment enough. When I had implanon I bled (lightly) for 4 weeks, had 1 week off, then bled again. Rinse and repeat. Really rubbish! I have a hormonal IUS now with basically no bleeding, pain etc and I LOVE it!

      • Mary Beth

        On the other hand, I got the Implanon about 18 months ago and it’s been great. I haven’t had a period since I had it “installed” as you say; other than that I haven’t had any side effects. No birth control works for every person, so I encourage people reading this to consider all their options!

        Plus, as a woman who has never had children, the Implanon was recommended to me as an alternative to the Mirena IUD (which also contains hormones), since the Dr didn’t want to dilate my cervix to put in the IUD. So it might be easier for women without children to get Implanon than an IUD.

      • I LOVED my implanon and was sad to see it go. Three years of no side effects and only a period every three months. If I didn’t want kids in the near future, I would have gotten a second one. But can I say, I love women talking about which form of BC works for them? Because seriously, I need this.

      • Sarah

        Does the mirena IUD have the same problem? Because I had mine inserted in 2010 -I was graduating college, which meant parental insurance was donzo, and going to work as a producer at my first job, and creative jobs aren’t known for having lots of (or any?) health insurance. I thought it would be a really good investment, and it meant I wouldn’t have to think about it. I had the shots previously, and I didn’t have a period at all while on them, and when I graduated to the IUD, they totally stopped. (Which means I’ve been periodless since about 2007.)

        When I had the IUD inserted, it hurt for WEEKS. I was too weak to drive home, and I was laid up in bed for 2 days. And I had random cramping that would be bad enough to make me stop whatever I was doing and sit/lie down for more than 2 months. And I’ve had some weird hormonal problems (adult acne, really painful sex, crazy moods, stabbing pains that come out of nowhere) that seem like they are probobly coming from the IUD. But I’m only halfway through my original “investment” and the doctors just recite back the information in the mirena pamphlets, so that seems less than helpful.

        • Mer

          I’ve had a Mirena IUD for almost four years and it’s worked well for me. I tried Nuvaring first and went a bit nutso so my doctor suggested I switch. I haven’t had children but it still went in fine without too much pain. I didn’t pass out, and I’ve been known to get whoozy from exams before, which should give you an idea of my pain tolerance level. I haven’t had much in the way of periods since it was placed and most of my cramping went away at the beginning. In the past year or so my cramps have returned and some days can be bad but not like they were before. TMI I’m also experiencing more vaginal secretions lately and I’m wondering if they are connected to the Mirena. May I suggest trying another doctor? I’ve several friends who also have Mirenas and they don’t have the problems you describe either. Perhaps this isn’t the best option for you. Good luck!

        • Kelsey2

          I’ve had a somewhat similar experience with Mirena. I paid ~600 out of pocket for it though, so I’m much more apt to hang in there because pretty much all of the negative side effects have subsided. I spotted for about two months straight following insertion and actually had to take iron supplements because I was anemic. Then- all bleeding stopped. I haven’t had a period in a few years. I still feel the influence of hormones changing every month (I’ll feel an irrational surge of anger and then check the calendar- usually there is a connection), and I got acne as soon as I stopped the pill.

          If you can’t have sex without being in pain, or are experiencing strong pain, maybe you should check with another doctor. Have you gotten the placement checked? Maybe that could help, at least for peace of mind.

      • Elissa

        I’ve had Implanon for about 9 years – I’m on my fourth. It’s been really great for me. I’ve had friends it hasn’t been great for, sure, but these things are different for everyone.

        The great things about it are that a) it’s /so/ low maintenance – just set a reminder for 3 years later and you’re done, b) it’s pretty cheap, averaged over 3 years (the best was the one I got at uni when I was super broke – $3.50 for 3 years? I <3 my socialised medicine), and c) it's super reliable (see aforementioned 9 years – no trouble).

        The only downside is that the constantly changing hormone level means there’s no regularity – no way to really know what time of the month it actually is. I’m ok with that now, but it did take a bit of getting used to.

    • Anon

      I have had an IUD for five years now, and I love it. I never reacted well to hormones, and being bad at consistently taking pills led to an unexpected pregnancy and painful abortion. An IUD seemed like the only option that would work for me, and I’ve never thought twice about having it implanted. I’m also one of those people who can talk for 30 minutes about how great it is. The best part for me is that I don’t have to think about my birth control for 12 years.

      If your OBGYN denies you this form of birth control, like mine did (citing it wasn’t appropriate for young women who wanted to get pregnant one day), get a second opinion from Planned Parenthood. The technology behind the IUD has improved over decades of use, and the risks associated with it are outdated. But talk to a few people who are licensed to give their opinion, :)

    • Katelyn

      I’ll share! I’ve had my Mirena IUD for about 2 1/2 years now. There are two kinds that I know of – Paraguard the non-hormonal copper IUD, and Mirena, which is hormonal.

      I think there are a few key points to consider when getting it:
      1. Apparently some OB/GYN’s either don’t insert them at all or are uncomfortable with inserting them for women who have not had at least one child. It has something to do with the ease of accessing the interior of the cervix, where the IUD is placed.

      2. Insertion can hurt – like, a lot. I couldn’t walk the block and a half home, and vomited as soon as we walked in the door, then spent the rest of the day immobile. But some doctors will give you a prescription or just tell you to take a full 800 mg of ibuprofen ahead of time to help with that, and some people don’t have as much trouble as I did. I think my insertion experience is close to a “worst case scenario” situation.

      3. The pamphlet says an adjustment period of 2-3 months until your body adjusts and your periods even out. For me, that was more like 6-8 months. But once my body *did* adjust, I now have practically non-existent periods. Like, one junior-sized tampon and pantyliners periods. (This is a Mirena-specific side effect.)

      4. IUD’s are statistically as effective as sterilization, but they can be quite expensive. Over its lifetime, the monthly cost is about the same or lower than the pill, but the upfront pricetag (mine was about $1000 in downtown Chicago including appointments) can intimidate, particularly if there are complications and you need it removed early or other issues. Check your insurance coverage, especially now with healthcare reform.

      If we’re not ready for kids in 2015, I will be having a new IUD inserted. It’s convenient and gives me a lot of peace of mind. Not to mention the costs savings on sanitary products!

      • SarahE

        In terms of cost, mine (in Lincoln NE) would have had a $1000 price tag, but thanks to services for the uninsured at Planned Parenthood, where I had mine inserted, I paid less than $300 for it. So look at PP as an option, if you don’t have insurance. It was still a lot of money for me all in one go, but they also had a two-payment option, and my partner helped with the costs, since we consider it a joint investment.

        • Sarah

          I’m another person who talks up the non-hormonal IUD. Yes, the insertion was truly painful, but everything has worked fine since that terrible day. I will say that I always had very light periods with no cramps on the pill I had been taking, but on the IUD my period is heavier and I do have cramps. But it is worth it to me to be on my real cycle and free of hormones.

          Plus, with no insurance at an Oregon Planned Parenthood it was free. I am seriously leaving them anything I have when I die :)

          Both my husband and I never feel it, and at my paps they always check to make sure it’s in place, etc. More than anything, I love not being on hormones. Secondly, I love that I never have to wait at a pharmacy, worry about paying each month.

        • Amber

          I got mine free through Planned Parenthood in California because I don’t earn much money. I have since switched to 2 different forms of birth control with PP, and it has been free. If you’re in CA and lower income, look into the Family Pact Program. It’s great!

      • All good points. I have had Mirena for over a year now, and while I like it a lot, it has drawbacks. I have also heard that many doctors are reluctant to use it for women who haven’t had kids yet, but luckily my (female) doctor was fine with it.

        Insertion was an awful experience, terribly painful. I almost fainted when we were leaving and had debilitating cramps for a few days afterwards. I’d say it definitely took a year for my body to adjust, and although it’s lightened my periods noticeably, my cramps are much worse than they ever were on any other form of birth control.

        I had tried NuvaRing before but for some reason it messed with my hormones too much and made me CRAZY. I think every kind of birth control has its drawbacks, and one thing that a lot of men don’t realize is that not everyone can successfully use every kind of birth control. I have friends who can’t take the pill b/c of side effects. The NuvaRing didn’t work for me. Other people have had their IUD fall out. That’s why it’s really important that insurance cover ALL forms of birth control, not just the pill.

      • Laura

        Guys – IMPORTANT INFO Re: IUD Cost!!!

        Due to the passing of the Affordable Care Act, as of the start of 2013, birth control is *fully covered*, end of story, period. (Another pun, woop!) That means no copay for the pill, and IUDs (and all other devices) are *free*!

        [Actually, the story is slightly longer: If you work for a religious institution, they still have the choice to opt out of birth control coverage.]

        I recently decided to switch from the pill to Mirena IUD after 10+ years because I was no longer interested in systemic hormone dosages (and I just kind of wanted to see what my body would do without the 4-week regiment). I was totally prepared to shell out a few hundred bucks, but luckily I waited until January to have Mirena inserted and was gleefully surprised when they told me to put away my wallet. Woo hooooo!!!

        So, APWers, FYI. Now no one needs to be deterred from choosing their best BC due to financial constraints. How totally amazingly awesome is this?!?!

        BTW, I absolutely *love* my Mirena. I’ve had it for exactly a month as of today, and, while the first few days were uncomfortable (I felt like a teenager again, what with the cramping and the bleeding), I have felt great the rest of the time, and my mini-period started like clockwork this morning. Crossing my fingers that it stops altogether in a couple of months :)

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Exactly, though the information is trickling slowly to doctors’ offices and pharmacies and hospitals. Also, it depends on when your insurance renews.

          If you’re interested in a form of contraception you think your insurance doesn’t cover, ask your healthcare provider to help you. They have phone numbers to call where they get faster service than a patient calling her insurance company, and they know the lingo and how to ask the right questions.

          • M

            It also depends on whether your insurance plan is grandfathered in. My insurance hasn’t changed for the past few years, which means they don’t have to give me free birth control until my company decides to change plans. I got excited when my plan renewed in January, but my birth control copay is still $75 a month. Ugh.

        • Eenie

          This is actually not 100% true. Insurance providers have to offer every type of birth control. But that does not mean every single birth control Rx on the planet is free. I actually found out that BCBS will no longer be covering Ortho Tricyclin Lo. Which is so sad since that’s the one I take!

          Just a heads up for anyone exploring your options, definitely make sure to check with your insurance provider about brands.

          • Laura

            This is a good point, although it would be the case regardless of the ACA. In other words, to reduce costs to themselves, insurance companies often stop covering name brand drugs (e.g. Ortho Tricyclin Lo) when cheaper generic versions of the same compound are available (e.g. Junel or something like that). So you would likely still be able to be covered for the same dose and combo of hormones, but just with pills bearing a different name. Make sure you check that out with your physician before switching off a type of method altogether just because the name brand version is no longer covered.

          • Eenie

            Wanting to reply to Laura:

            That’s what I meant. Although I’m kind of pissed because there is no generic for Ortho Tri Cyclin Lo that I know of right now. Because if there was I’d be on it.

            It’s good to point out that sometimes insurance providers will cover the name brand if your Rx is written as fufill as prescribed or something similar (I forget the actual phrase). This is because sometimes the generics don’t work as well for some people. This involves all medicine, not just BC. But for BC it can happen a lot more frequently.

          • Not Sarah

            WHAT? I should call my insurance provider because that’s the one I’m on and have been on it for 6.5 years and DO NOT WANT TO SWITCH. Also, my company is switching insurance providers as of April 1st, so it could cover different things than my current provider :/ Ugh I miss Canada :(

          • S

            I was on Ortho Tricyclon Lo and switched to Lutera because of this. Lutera is free and it is also a low dosage of hormones. I haven’t had any trouble at all with the switch. I’d look into it!

    • Brit

      I have a Mirena IUD, which does have some progesterone in it. (And lasts for 5 years. Woot!) I really love it. Mainly because the progesterone helped to moderate my cramps/flow (which were super bad) and I no longer puke once a month. (Sorry.. TMI but well it’s true.) I could have just taken the pill, but I have a really hard time remembering to do something that routine, and I dislike the amount of hormone needed for the pill.

      I would highly recommend the IUD. Yes, it does hurt to get put in, but for me at least the discomfort only lasted about a day. Make sure they clip the strings short enough. Also IUDs have vastly improve in the past 10 years. As I understand it most of the horror stories were from a previous generation of devices.

      I still use condoms/barriers for sti prevention. Though that is always a struggle to do consistently.

    • I love, love, loved my IUD as birth control, though I have horrible stories from the insertion. Plenty of other women say the insertion is no biggie, so I’m willing to acknowledge that my experience wasn’t typical. Anyway, I later developed some Fallopian tube problems that my doc thought the IUD was exacerbating, so they took out the IUD, much to my disappointment. (And, turns out, it wasn’t the IUD! I had cysts!) It was seriously the best form of birth control I’ve ever been on and even though the insertion was awful, I think it was worth it.

      • Katy

        I know this may not be a popular answer, but my husband and I highly recommend checking out “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler and the FAM method to see if it might be right for you. It requires diligence (measuring and charting your body temp every morning as well as paying attention to other symptoms and your cycle), but we love that it doesn’t involve hormones and it’s also brought us closer in learning lots more about how my body works.

        My body was super intolerant of oral birth control (all kinds of gross digestive sickness every day 2-3 hours after taking the pill) and so for a few years I was on the Nuvaring. Then I noticed that my mood and libido was on a not-fun decline….month by month I seemed to be getting more depressed. Then I accidentally didn’t put my NuvaRing back in on time and decided to skip a month (and use other protection) and the world suddenly got much brighter after a week or two as the hormones cleared out of my system. We decided that that was it….no more hormones and we started looking around for other options.

        We’ve been using FAM successfully for a bit more than a year (no pregnancy scares) and have overall enjoyed the journey. Maybe TMI, but how it works for us: There are a 5-7 days in every month that we choose not to have penetration sex at all (when we know the odds are really against us), a couple weeks where we use a condom with sex, and about a week where we know it’s ok not to use a condom. We’re a little overly cautious though and I’m super careful about taking my temp every morning And actually, sometimes it’s a little fun to have a rule that says you can’t do something for a few days. Makes us be more creative during time when we can’t and also enjoy things more when we can.

        • Jessica

          I would second natural family planning! We’ve been using the Creighton Method for a year and a half now, and yes, it’s a little bit more work, but it’s worth it. That method doesn’t require charting body temp, but rather, charting discharge to recognize ovulation and thus, the days you can’t have sex (assuming you’re using it to avoid pregnancy). We were introduced to it during our pre-cana sessions, and I’m so thankful we decided to use it.

          After we started the process, we and our teacher, noticed my cycles were not normal at all- I underwent a bunch of testing and scans, and we discovered I had a few issues that essentially made me infertile. I actually just had surgery yesterday to correct them, so today I’m thanking my lucky stars that we started NFP. Hormonal BC basically masked my symptoms, and my previous non-NFP gyno essentially ignored the issues I pointed out to her. It would have been so easy for things to slip through the cracks and my husband and I would have a horrible infertility struggle when we started trying for kids.

          I know it’s not a popular option (and when people find out it’s the Catholic Church’s preferred method of BC they tend to immediately dismiss it- even my mom, who follows the church teachings to the letter, didn’t want us to start using it) but I’ll tell anyone who asks- it’s a great option! I know it’s not right for everyone, but, for me and my husband, it was the best decision we have made for our current and future family.

        • meg

          Let’s be frank: FAM is fine if you’re ok with the idea of getting pregnant on accident, even if it’s not your first choice. (Play and pray, my hippie friends used to call it). If you’re not, it’s really not wise.

          • Meg, have you read Taking Charge of Your Fertility? I definitely wouldn’t describe it as play and pray! I thought it was a really illuminating, scientifically informative book that taught me a huge amount about how my body works.

            Although I do agree that in general, this method is better for people who are in a safe and committed relationship (both with regards to pregnancy and disease), when you’re doing FAM right and fully understand the method, it has about the same failure rate as condoms. (Which, like you, I’m a fan of and don’t know why people don’t use more! Hormonal birth control bummed me out and I went off it more than a year ago.)

          • meg

            Of course I’ve read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I also know people who have gotten pregnant with sex on some very non fertile days in their cycle. While I think everyone should *understand* FAM, I simply don’t think it’s responsable to suggest that it’s a good method to use if you’re not ok with a possible pregnancy. It’s not a bad method, it’s just not a method for a couple that doesn’t ever want kids, for example.

            It may be as safe as condoms when used right and fully understood, but it’s WAY WAY harder to do FAM 100% correctly than to put a condom on properly. Plus, not everyone has uniform cycles, all of the time.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I agree with a blogger over at National Catholic Register that NFP isn’t so much a method of contraception as it is a lifestyle choice.

          • meg

            Yeah, I would agree with that, given all the cute kids I know conceived on FAM (who’s parents were using it for various lifestyle choice reasons). I mean, it’s GREAT if you want to get pregnant. It’s pretty ok if you want to not get pregnant. But it’s not an IUD, lets be for real.

            (Though as Ms. Shotgun Shirley notes below, IUD’s are not failsafe either, but still, better bet.)

        • That’s what we’re doing! We’re still getting used to it, and since I’m breastfeeding (but DEFINITELY past the breastfeeding infertility phase), I can’t get a consistent temperature reading in the morning (sometimes I’ve been asleep for 2 hours, sometimes for 4). So, we have to depend solely on the cervical fluid reading. So we are super conservative and end up not having sex on a days when it would probably be okay, just to be safe.

          I had a non-hormonal IUD when I got pregnant. Insertion did suck, and I had to convince my doctors since I’d never been pregnant, but it was great for convenience. Unfortunately, I was one of those women who had near-frequent infections while on it – bacterial vaginosis, then yeast, then BV again… no fun. I would not go back to the IUD, not because it failed (best failure EVAR cuz I got baby H) as there is a risk of failure in EVERY birth control method (besides abstinence), but because of the side effects.

          • Laura

            According to all the doctors I’ve talked to (including the one who inserted my IUD last month), it’s getting *way* more common to give IUDs to women who have never had children. The main reason to give it to women who have had children (or a miscarriage or a medical abortion) is that a previously-dilated cervix is a bit easier to get the device through, so it is more comfortable for the patient. But for the rest of us, they have work-arounds, like using cervical-softening medication (depositories) or numbing the cervix with lidocaine (I had that). It still might depend a little on the preference of the doctor, but it’s no longer at all recommended *only* for women who have already been pregnant.

          • MARBELLA

            Also using NFP and love the fact I am no longer on hormonal birth control (pill for about 7 years caused me digestive and libido issues). I wasn’t at all convinced at first but after lots of research and reading and classes came to realise how little I understood about the way my own body is supposed to work (previously masked by the pill). If I am unsure about the safety of a time we will ‘double up’ with condoms.
            Of course you are more likely to get along well with it if you are ‘open’ to the idea of a pregnancy but I think that’s the same with most birth control methods, I have many friends who have become pregnant on the pill or with condoms. In the situations most APW readers are in (long term committed relationships) I would think NFP would work well for the majority of them. Sadly being in control of our fertility as women has come to mean chemically altering our bodies and sometimes they don’t appreciate it. This is a great method for those who don’t want to or can’t use hormonal BC or a non hormonal IUD.

        • JASHSHEA

          I think this would work really well if you’re extremely regular. My cycle is clockwork: every 4 weeks with a two week “heads up” of moderate-to-extreme ovulation pain. I know the science behind FAM checks out to a more than reasonable extent, but I wouldn’t think someone with an irregular cycle would be able to spot the warning signs (or, you know, positive signs if you’re using FAM to try and get PG).

          • meg

            FAM can work if you have a irregular cycle and you’re trying to get pregnant. However…. if you are trying (hard) NOT to… and it’s irregular… that’s just a bad plan, I think. No, no, no.

            Still. I’ve heard too many tales of people getting pregnant from infertile time sex (strong ass sperm, I suppose) to not find it slightly risky.

          • MARBELLA

            part of the benefit of NFP/FAM is learning about your cycle and issues and working to correct them. If you understand what issues you are having you can start to figure out why that might be happening and try to fix them. If your cycles are extremely irregular there is probably an underlying issue that might cause you problems in the future if you want to conceive. Using NFP/FAM now and working to correct issues seems to me better than covering them up with hormonal birth control (with which you may not realise you have a problem until it is too late). As for Meg’s comment about people getting pregnant during infertile time, I would think it much more likely that it was actually a fertile time and they didn’t realise it (cutting it too close) or perhaps ovulated twice in the month.

          • The thing about using NFP/FAM is that you learn to recognize the signs, regardless of when they occur in your cycle. I, for one, have incredibly irregular cycles (thanks to PCOS), and I’ve successfully avoided pregnancy using the Creighton method for about 2 years so far (I’ve started temping recently to make things a bit clearer, due to aforesaid irregularity).

            One thing that the Creighton method recommends is having a “pregnancy evaluation” with a qualified instructor when you do get pregnant – intentionally or not – which can be useful for things like dating the pregnancy, but also for helping you to figure out what went “wrong,” if you were trying to avoid at the time. I haven’t been there, since, as I said, we’ve successfully avoided pregnancy so far, so I don’t exactly know exactly what it looks like. (Although, we totally broke the rules last night, so I may be finding out sooner rather than later. If that’s the case, it’d certainly be the fault of several beers and a bottle of wine, not of an NFP failure.) As much as I love TCOYF (and I really do! It should be required reading for every woman over the age of 15), I do think it’s valuable to learn and practice NFP/FAM with the assistance of a qualified instructor who can help clear up any confusions – because goodness knows that when I told my gynecologist I was planning on using NFP, all I got was a raised eyebrow and a “Good luck with that.”

        • AmeLeigh

          Ooo! I was waiting to see if anyone mentioned FAM. I love it, I was on various incarnations of the pill for 9 years and starting having major problems I was not ok with the last 2 (lowered sex drive, migraines & such). I had a long talk with my boyfriend of a year (who is now my new husband) about wanting to go off the pill and he was surprisingly fine with it all. We switched to using condoms and withdrawal (because we couldn’t give up shower-sex) along with me charting with FAM and it’s been great. A bit over 4 years and no pregnancy scares even with the sex increase.

          On to other sex talk. We are averaging sex only once per week and neither of us were happy with that number. I’ve been making an effort since the beginning of the year to try and have sex more often. I’ve been going at it from a few different angles, trying to say yes more often (if I’m not really wanting it but not against it either making out can knock me off the fence to wanting sex) and trying to schedule sex in my head (we haven’t had sex in 3 days and neither of us is sick & I’m not on my period – we should have sex tonight) has helped a lot. I haven’t talked to My Love about my new effort but I know he’s noticed the increase!

          It’s also helped us be nicer to each other in a trying time (trying to survive a job loss right after the wedding) since we are less crabby and more lovey when we have more sex. I don’t have big orgasms a whole lot, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to take the time for it (lordy that man’s hands work some magic that’s for certain) but I have little ones all the time during sex – and I’m alright with that.

          For big orgasms, I noticed that I have a certain level of trust and commitment I need to have with a partner before they can “get” one of those. I don’t know quite where my line is but boyfriends could get them and non-boyfriends couldn’t no matter how hard they tried couldn’t. I think mental image plays into it to, if I’m not feeling that I look sexy it’s harder to get to a bigger orgasm (or want sex) than if I feel like I’m looking good.

    • Chiming in because no one has mentioned it … I have been on the shot for over 5 years now and I LOVE IT. The best part is it completely stopped my period. The negative for me has been lack of sex drive. Some women have side effects like weight gain or an, um, altered odor, but I don’t have any of that.

      • Claire

        I was on the shot (Depo-Provera) for several years, and liked it. However, it might be a good idea talk with your doctor if you have a family history of osteoporosis. I do and had to stop the shots to protect my bone density.

    • Still Anonymous

      I’m on Yaz, a low-hormone birth control. I’ve been on the pill for about a decade. I tried Depo-Provera but went back to the pill after less than a year because the shot was seriously messing with my moods. For me, it was like getting a crazy bitch injection.

      I seriously considered getting an IUD last year, but in the end I decided against it because I want to avoid the random bleeding that can go on for six months after insertion. I also love that with the pill I know exactly when I’m going to get my period, and if it’s at an inconvenient time (e.g. honeymoon, Christmas), I can skip it. I just skip the white reminder pills about 2/3 of the time, so I only get my period every 3 months or so.

      • Laura

        Based on my experience and that of 3 of my friends with Mirena, the random bleeding is like so so so light you don’t even need the world’s lightest tampon. Like, you would just need a super thin panty liner to protect your undergarments if you even knew when to expect it. Or you could just wear dark colored underwear for a while so, if there is a little staining, it doesn’t show. But like literally, it’s no big deal. Like, your partner would almost definitely not be able to tell during sex, even if he/she got way down in there. Not that there aren’t horror stories on the interwebs about continuous heavy-flow bleeding after insertion, but those have to be outliers. I got mine inserted a week before a beach vacation, and it was *completely* fine. No sharks or anything.

      • Anonymous

        While I don’t want to be a fear monger, I do want to chime in about Yaz. Even though it is a low hormone birth control, it can still have serious side effects. I recently wound up spending time in the ICU because of an abnormally large blood clot. I mean large. I have no other risk factors – no smoking, no family history and all of my tests came back negative for blood abnormalities. Eventually, the conclusion was the birth control pill I was on, which was Yaz. It was not a good time. It was scary and dangerous.

        I write this to encourage women to really really think about the birth control (especially hormonal ones) they’re taking. And yes, I’m preaching to the choir here as all of you are clearly thinking about your options and seeking answers. And I would like to encourage you to keep doing exactly what you’re doing – thinking and asking questions.

        As to what the husband and I are using now…my male doctors in the hospital were not particularly helpful in making those next choices. They were sure to emphasize the birth defects that came with a Coumadin (blood thinner) pregnancy. On the morning after my exit from ICU, they were sure to emphasize that I (currently a newlywed in my mid 20s, who has yet to have kids) might never have kids. Not a discussion I wanted to partake in at 7:30 in the morning.

        However, after discussing things with my gynecologist post-hospital, we opted for condoms (yep, Meg – woohoo) and a diaphragm. Yep, you heard it here first, ladies and gents, a diaphragm. I haven’t seen anyone else mention it on here, but they are still around. And while the name isn’t particularly glamorous (hello, marketing?), it gets the job done. It does take a little planning, if you’d like it in before things get going, but overall, it is remarkably comfortable and better than I thought it would be.

        So, two more cents thrown into the discussion.

        • Anon

          So much exactly! Know what you’re getting in to. Sadly, I know one of the statistics that “could never happen to me”. She died at age 25 of a blood clot in the brain caused by her Nuva Ring. Of course it is RARERARERARE but it is still possible.

          On the other hand, I still love my Paragaurd, even though the insertion felt like scraping the back of my eyeballs. Seven years in and I wouldn’t go back!

    • Heather

      I have the Paraguard IUD. LOVE it!

    • K

      Just to add my 2 cents —

      I LOVE my IUD. Seriously. I love it so much I want to hug it.

      I have Mirena, the 5-yr option. I chose that one over the copper Paragard because, from my experience with birth control, I knew that a small amount of hormones wouldn’t throw me for a loop. My GYN told me that the amount of hormones is tiny compared to one pill, and the fact that it’s in a concentrated location rather than ingested makes a difference.

      Like everyone else said, it hurt SO INCREDIBLY BADLY going in. It was sort of a surprise that day — I thought it was just the intro check up thing, but he said, “let’s go ahead and do it today, you’re all clear,” so there we went. I didn’t have any issues with the fact that I haven’t had children, but I know some women have faced doctors that won’t do it because of that. They never even mentioned it.

      I had bad cramps for about 2 days. The thing I love (and sometimes don’t like, I’ll say why in a second) about Mirena is that I don’t really have a period to speak of. Mirena makes periods lighter, Paragard makes them heavier (according to my doctor). I have way heavy ones naturally. Overall I LOVE not having them, but sometimes I’m afraid of unknown pregnancy. Since my fiance and I also use condoms I’m usually not too worried, but if that freaks you out to much it’s something to consider. Sometimes I feel like I can feel it in there, which is weird. But my fiance and I have never noticed the strings. A friend has told me that her doctor didn’t cut the strings short enough and she gave her boyfriend a blister (ouch).

      I do know that you’re not supposed to use the Diva Cup with IUDs because of the suction (eek!). I asked my doctor if it’s at all common to expel an IUD on your own, and he said it happens but not terribly frequently. It hasn’t happened to me.

      The total cost was 1200$, of which I paid 80 or so with my insurance. It might even be less now with the new situation. I’ve had it for about 1.5 years.

      I chose to switch because I was forgetting to take the pill every day, which was seriously not working for me. Overall I SO love my IUD, I want to yell it to the world. No, seriously. It’s the most wonderful, liberating thing ever.

    • Hannah

      I love my IUD (paraguard – the copper one) with the fire of a thousand suns. I recommend it 1 million percent! My favorite things about it are:

      1. No hormones. The research on the long-term risks of taking birth control pills is not conclusive, in my opinion. Having already been on BPC for a good decade, I was worried about adding another decade of hormones on top of that, plus my other risk factors for breast cancer.
      2. Mega super affordable, although this is less of an issue now (thanks Obama!) But before my employer did not cover birth control or birth control prescriptions which meant even for generics I was looking at somewhere around $400/yr for the pill. At planned parenthood Paraguard with insertion cost me $600 and it lasts 10 years.
      3. Peace of mind. I was horrible about remembering to take the pill. I was on nuvaring for a while and loved it for this reason, but without insurance it was way too expensive for me. I haven’t been worried about accidental pregnancy once since I got my IUD.

      1. No hormones = long, heavy, somewhat irregular periods. These have gotten better, but the first six months or I had an IUD (after 10+ years being on the pill) it was rough, to say the least.

      ETA: pain of insertion was not too bad for me – I would describe it as a papsmear but more intense and lasting 15 seconds or so. Mostly just really, really unpleasant. Although in general it seems that the women I know who have gotten Mirena have more pain that the women who get Paraguard. Of course that is just anecdotal, but maybe they are different sizes or something?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’ve been on a monophasic pill for a couple years now. I started on a medium-dose* and had sufficiently annoying breakthrough bleeding for 3+ months that I asked to be put on a slightly higher dose. I feel the pill helps with my PMDD, and it certainly helps with cramps and heavy periods. I’m on the first month of going back to a slightly lower dose than I’ve ever been on, and have very light breakthrough bleeding.

      *I say “medium-dose” because these are contemporary versions of the pill, not the super-high doses that were the original pill decades ago. It’s from these older, truly high-dose pills that most of the horror stories about clots and cancer come. My gynecologist calls what I was prescribed “high dose,” however.

      Given my PMDD, and how severe my cramps were before I went on medication, I can’t imagine using non-hormonal contraception. Female endocrinology is complex. There are lots of places for it to go wrong, and I like the forced cycle of my medication. I respect people who don’t like hormones for precisely the same reasons I do like them.

      My libido tanked on the highest dose and has skyrocketed on my new dose. Dyspareunia and treatment are factors there. One gynecologist thought the highest dose might also interfere with my metabolizing carbs, resulting in slight weight gain.

      I am very healthy with respect to all the factors that hormonal contraception is bad for, so I don’t worry about the side effects. I have very little trouble remembering to take my pills.

      • Lauren

        I want to second this. My doctor has me on a very low dose (Junel!) and it changed my life starting in high school. Prior to that I consistently missed 2-3 days of school each month because I was bedridden with migraines or puking my guts out. I also tend to throw up after Pap smears, so anything in my cervix is bad news bears. I have a chronic condition I take medication for every day, also hormonal, so adding the pill was no big deal. I’d rather not be on additional hormones, but the consequences are way too debilitating.

    • Brenda

      I’m on hormonal oral birth control, a 28 day pill called Cerazette (in the UK, no idea what it’s called in the US) and I LOVE it. I haven’t had a period in a year and a half and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It works for me because I don’t have any side effects, and because I’m very good at taking my pill (it helps that I have other pills I need to take every day as well, and I do it before bed as part of my going to bed routine, so I think I’ve forgotten once ever.)

      I do occasionally worry that I won’t know if I do get pregnant, but from all the horror stories I’ve heard from friends and read about how awful the first trimester of pregnancy is, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to tell.

      But not having a period is absolutely the best thing in the whole world.

      Also in the UK contraception is completely free and they’ll give you a year’s worth at a time. It was much more of a pain and expense when I was in the US.

    • Sara

      Love my IUD! I’ve had the copper T (paragard) for about 3 years now. For me, the sounding was worse than the insertion, but the whole experience was quick and definitely worth it. Overall, my periods are a little longer than they were on the pill, but I don’t care. I don’t have to go to stupid Walgreens once a month, I am saving money, it’s as effective as sterilization when placed properly, hormone-free, long-lasting, and reversible. The only time I think about my birth control now is to think about how AWESOME it is! I was really hesitant and researched for nearly a year before I committed — no regrets whatsoever.

      To tie this back into the topic of sex, I find it’s easier to relax and be spontaneous now that I’m not obsessing over when to take the pill. And MAJOR bonus: my, err, natural lubrication production shot through the roof when I switched. It was unexpected as I hadn’t exactly considered myself “dry” before, but looking back the difference is noticeable. When was the last time your b.c. made your sex life better?!

      • Hannah

        Yes! I forgot to mention that. My “natural lubrication” noticeably improved with paragard too. Love it!

      • anon for now

        Lubrication also improved for me as did my sex drive in general. It almost disappeared on the pill but one month off the pill and suddenly it was back. It was amazing — I didn’t realize how much I had felt like a part of me was missing, like an extra sense.

    • anon today

      Adding my voice to the chorus above–I use the Mirena IUD and I absolutely love it. Have been pushing all my lady friends to consider it. It treats me so well. Insertion wasn’t the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had but I’d say it was less unpleasant than, for example, getting my wisdom teeth out (another outpatient experience).

      The hormone levels in the Mirena are great for me, let me feel like myself (and not the crazy person I was on a few oral contraceptives before I took the plunge), and also result in very light periods (bonus for me, but some of my friends have argued they like a clear and regular message that their contraceptives are, in fact, preventing pregnancy). Plus, lasting for five years means I don’t have to take action for a while!

      The one downside I’ve experienced (okay, mostly that my husband has experienced) is that occasionally he feels the IUD strings during sex–a serious mood-killer! Apparently not a super common occurrence but so far, for us, the benefits outweigh the occasional risk.

      • rowany

        My guy also initially felt the strings. They may eventually be pushed up such that he can’t feel them anymore, but I just went back to my OB-Gyn to get them cut a bit shorter.

      • I second all of the above!! Including that’s husband occasionally feels the strings. He says they are pokey.

    • HK

      I’m another person who LOVES my IUD (copper). I had been on Nuvaring, and it was not working for me at all. I reacted really poorly to the hormones on an emotional level (paranoia, crying) to the point that my boyfriend remarked after I went off it that my personality had changed (for the better).

      I had put off getting an IUD because of the cost/pain issue, but honestly wished I had done it sooner. For me, the pain in insertion came from three really short sharp bursts, which my GYN would warn me about. But, I was able to get on the subway and head home after, and even went out for dinner that night. My cramps and bleeding were a bit stronger the first few months, but were still totally manageable, and have mostly evened out. The only change I’ve really seen is that I now tend to have one really heavy flow day that I didn’t before.

    • Wow–thanks for all the great responses guys! Y’all rock. I think I’ll bring up the IUD at my next OBGYN visit. While pain doesn’t sound fun, I would certainly like to get off the hormones if possible (NuvaRing is fine for me but still, I like the idea of not having to deal with hormones–I was on the pill for like a year when I was twenty and it made my thyroid swell up, no bueno, but the continuous dosage of NuvaRing works much better for me) and I also like the idea of not having to think about the whole birth control schedule thing.

    • I know that a thousand people already answered, but I figured I’d share:

      I got the copper IUD about a month before my wedding. We’d just been using condoms up to that point because I was on my mom’s insurance and she didn’t want me to have sex before i got married, so we had to sneaky sneak around.

      It hurt going in, but for me, it just felt like a few hard pinches. My doctor had told me to take a few Advils before I came in, and truthfully, I had a glass of whiskey as well. My old lady 7&7’s have never let me down.

      Afterwards, I bled a LOT. I went to my fiance’s right after because I didn’t think it was a big deal and he ended up having to go to Wal-Mart and get me new undies, pads, and new shorts. That’s love right there. (Oh, and you can’t use tampons after the insertion until your next GYN visit so that you don’t mistakenly pull it out when you pull out the tampon). I had a heavy period for about two weeks after that, but then everything was normal.

      I love it. It’s an infinity times better than condoms (obviously) and it doesn’t make me batshit crazy like birth control pills did. I needed something non-hormonal and this was perfect. I hope it works for you!

      • I don’t think that thing about the tampons is correct. Tampons go in the vagina. The IUD is inserted in your cervix, too far for a tampon to reach. I’m trying to imagine this happening and the IUD would have to come out through the cervix without you feeling it (don’t think that’s possible. that would hurt a TON), and then get into the vagina (birth canal) and get stuck on the end of the tampon.

    • Kira

      Chiming in: I’ve been really happy with my Mirena IUD. I had it inserted at a Planned Parenthood about two years ago; I just scheduled an appointment, had a brief informational session, took a pregnancy test, and had it inserted on the same day. Insertion was painful but not unmanageable, more severe than menstrual cramps but not different in kind. I took the bus home, spent an evening watching 30 Rock on the couch, and was totally fine the next day.

      My periods are very light but fairly long (6-7 days) and 6-8 weeks apart, which is fine with me. For me, the biggest benefit is being able to travel for as long as I want, wherever I want, without having to worry about bringing along or acquiring birth control supplies, as I did when I was on the pill. I also love never, ever having to worry that I’ve somehow screwed up my birth control by taking a pill late, using an expired condom, etc.

      My fiance reports that he feels it fairly often during sex, but he says that it’s not painful (“noticeable” is the word he used, I think) and that he’s gotten used to it.

    • a nony mouseAll

      Presently we’re using the fertility awareness method and condoms and we both LOVE it. We only opted for this once we were at a point where we agreed any unplanned pregnancies would be happy accidents and not horrible unwelcome news. But we’ve been using it for nearly a year and no mishaps. Seriously, even if you don’t want to use FAM, I highly recommend reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I thought I was a very female body aware person who understood the workings of my sex organs and whatnot, but there was so much I either had wrong or just didn’t know at all.

      Before that, I tried 3 or 4 different pills, the nuva ring, and celibacy (ha). All the pills left me feeling robotic and out of control, depending on the week. The nuva ring was like a watered down version of the pills. And they ALL flat lined my sex drive. If I had to go back to hormonal birth control, I’d opt for the nuva ring again. I’m thinking about getting a copper IUD between our first and second child, and when we’re done making babies he’s getting a vasectomy.

      As for IUD stories, my bff had one that was improperly inserted and the doctor, an older man, cut her strings way short. It shifted and caused her horrible pain, she had to have it surgically removed. BUT she just had her second child and plans to try again because she (and I) has heard that after childbirth, it’s totally different. Most doctors I’ve talked to really recommend waiting til you’ve had a child to use the IUD just because of the discomfort issue, but I also think there must be something to the insertion process as well, if/when I get one I’ll make sure to go to someone who’s done them before and had good results.

    • Claire

      I’m on my second Mirena IUD now, and I have to say it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, hands down. I love it more than bittersweet chocolate cookies and have preached my Mirena gospel to my girlfriends – some of whom are now sporting their own.

      The first time around, it was really difficult to find a provider who was willing to prescribe one for me. Multiple OB/GYNs tried to dissuade me, telling me that IUDs were best for women who had already had children, not appropriate for single young women, etc. Total Bullshit, by the way. IUD’s are perfectly safe, effective and appropriate for most women, regardless of marital status or childbearing history.

      I finally had one inserted at Planned Parenthood. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt. The insertion was really painful and afterwards I had to lie down to wait for the bad cramps to subside enough so I could drive myself home. Besides the initial insertion though, I’ve never had a problem with it. I will say when the time came to replace the old Mirena (5 years!) with a shiny new one, it wasn’t nearly as bad. The second insertion felt like a particularly uncomfortable pap smear, nothing more. It was also really easy to get this time around. I guess doctors are more educated about IUD’s by now.

      I love that there is nothing to remember, no need to worry about doing anything or forgetting anything. It makes sex more spontaneous and carefree. I have had a partner mention he could feel the strings during sex, but he said it wasn’t uncomfortable. And he joked that he “showed them who’s boss” since after a while he couldn’t feel them anymore.

      One other thing to note: I had stopped menstruating while on the Depo-Provera injections (4 years), and my periods did not return with the Mirena. But I actually prefer it that way.

      • Anna

        Another Mirena lover here! I’m on year 2 of my second and so far: no babies. Success!

        The first insertion was intense for like 5 seconds, followed by a day of cramps (but still fully functioning – and 1 midol made them better). Second insertion was not comfortable, but no cramping afterwards.

        I also have had NO periods while on Mirena – but I had done depo before, with no periods, so I guess my body is ok with the system.

        Regarding finances, it was covered for me, but my doctor told me that in Europe they are good for 7 years AND there is an experimental version that, after the necessary testing, will make the cost of IUD about $60 rather than $600.

    • Not Sarah

      I’m on the pill and I’m never switching until it stops working for me. I take it every day just fine and it’s worked great for me. I’ve been on this same one for 6.5 years now.

      My period is sometimes 4 days now and is really only a problem crankiness-wise on the first day. My doctor even told me that it doesn’t matter what time I take this particular one because of the way the hormones are? I don’t completely trust that.

      My boyfriend and I also use condoms. I used to not use condoms since I was on the pill, but I don’t plan on doing that again until I’m engaged because I’ve realized that no matter what I think, I might not necessarily marry any of these guys I’m having sex with in my twenties…

      • ElisabethJoanne

        If you don’t understand what your doctor says, ask follow-up questions.

        But my understanding is that with some pills on the higher end of the dosage spectrum, each pill has enough hormones to carry you over more than 24 hours. I know, for example, that I don’t start bleeding until I’ve skipped 2 days of hormones (and I get migraines my doctor thinks are related to this hormone crash).

        If you read the fine print that comes with your pills, you may find that you can skip a whole day of even active pills and still have effective contraception from just your pills. (Active pills, if you have a 28-pill pack, are the first 21. The last 7 are placebo reminder pills to keep you in the habit of taking a pill each day.) The fine print has been tested by the FDA and is almost as good as talking to your doctor. (Often your doctor is just relying on this information from the drug company and FDA anyway.)

        • Not Sarah

          I never take the placebo ones – I moved to the States from Canada and my insurance only ever gave me the 21 day ones and I had no problem remembering every day.

          My doctor did say that for this one, I could skip a day and it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s not two days in the same pack or at the beginning. That idea kind of weirds me out though? Though it’s reassuring if I do miss one at some point. (I’ve only ever missed them at the beginning of the pack.)

    • Anon

      I’ll be the perky girl in the BC commercial — I have a Mirena, and adore it. It’s the best money I spent all year.

      Insertion is not comfortable by any stretch, but after that, it’s been flowers and butterflies. Cramps are lesser on this than off, periods lighter, sex better, pill weight gain reversed, emotions steady, and stress levels at zero. The strings do “wind up” and are occasionally difficult to find, but fortunately I have a phenom gynecologist who is happy to check things out. At the followup ultrasound, I found out that, unless it is dislodged on your first cycle or two, the device is set for five years.

      I recommend good drugs, good wine, and a good friend or partner to drive you home to your heating pad on the insertion date, but I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.

    • One of the best moments in my sex life was when we threw away all manner of birth control, even though trying to conceive sex can be frustrating.

      I’m not a good candidate for any estrogen based birth control, which ruled out most options from the get go. When I did finally go on a progestin only pill it was great for about 10 months at which point my body freaked out. Like, had to leave work and head to an emergency clinic because walking made my boobs hurt so much I was in tears. Not so fun.

      At which point any type of hormonal birth control was taken off the table by doctors, and I wasn’t comfortable committing to a copper IUD. Going back to barrier methods? Not so fun after not needing them for ages, and as often as not we didn’t bother. So very much leaving things up to chance but with lots of conversation around the decision. Finally letting go of that was amazing.

    • Anon

      Since I’ve had terrible results with birth control in the past (anything that touches my hormones at all seems to swing me heavily towards depression), we’ve been using condoms for our whole relationship (8.5 years now). That combined with generally avoiding sex around ovulation seems to have worked, but neither of us has a particularly high sex drive either. I do wonder if it would work as well for couples have sex multiple times a week, or if we have simply gotten lucky with no pregnancy scares.

    • R.

      I have an IUD and I absolutely love it. (I actually am one of those people who says “man, my birth control is awesome.” and then tell people all about it. Regularly.)

      I was always really scared of the pill. I was worried I wouldn’t remember to take it, or that the hormones would make me crazy, or that I’d get fat. So I’ve never taken it. Instead, I just waited longer than I probably would have to start having sex. (Which, for me, was an excellent choice.)

      When I did start having sex, at first I just used a condom, and then tried the NuvaRing. Which I hated. Not because of any side effects, but because no matter how I tried to position it, the damn thing just would not stay in my vagina. Is there anything more uncomfortable than a ring of plastic sticking halfway out your vagina every day as you try and go about your life? I think not. So I stopped using it, and went back to just condoms. Which was fine until one broke during the most fertile part of my cycle. So morning after pill (and a lot of anxiety) it was.

      After that, I decided I needed a better solution. I looked into Implanon, but I was living in Korea at the time, and not a single doctor there had experience with it, and I wasn’t going to risk having it put in by something without experience. But the doctor there recommended the IUD, which is super common in Korea. At the time I was not in a serious relationship and had never been pregnant (which might make a US doctor hesitant to give you an IUD), but I thought that it was worth a shot. I chose the Mirena (hormonal) IUD instead of the copper one, because a side effect of Mirena is reduced/non-existent periods, and a side effect of the copper can be heavier periods, and I am so glad I did. The hormones in it are at a really low dose, and I haven’t had any negative side effects.

      It hurt like a bitch going in. I had to wait for a while before I felt able to get on the subway and go home. Then I spent at least a solid day in bed. (I hear that in the US they can give you medication to soften the cervix so it hurts less going in. I did not have that.) I had cramps that were totally a different type of pain than my usual period cramps, but they lessened over time. It took maybe 6 months or so to get everything back to normal, except normal now includes not having period-cramps. I think trading 6 months of IUD cramps for 4.5 years of no period cramps is a great deal. (Also not getting my period is the best thing ever. Each month I have the emotions that would accompany my period, and maybe a teensy tinsy twinge of a cramp, but no bleeding and no serious lie in bed with a hot pack cramps. It’s enough that I notice when my “period” is, which is reassuring, but not so much that it’s a “real” period for me.)

      Because I’m a worrier, I got an ultrasound to make sure it was in the right place a bit after I got it put in, and make sure the gyno checks that it’s in place properly every 6-12 months. Now that my period bleeding has entirely stopped (for the first year or year and a half it just lessened considerably, but I still had about a day of super light bleeding each month) I also give myself a pregnancy test every 3 months, just to make sure. I also used condoms together with the IUD with my partners before my fiance. (And we used condoms at first too.) Because no one wants an STD, and so condoms are important.

      Overall I absolutely love my IUD. Especially because my fiance and I can have sex whenever we want to and not worry about messy period sex. There are a couple of tradeoffs that go with it, but I couldn’t see anything else working this well for me, and when these five years are up, I’m getting another one put in until we’re ready to have kids.

    • Kat

      Add me to the IUD (Mirena) loving list. I’ve just had it taken out as we are planning on trying to concieve soon, and I LOVED it. Very light to no periods, no cramps, all rainbows and unicorn farts.

      Getting it in was no fun at all, but for me it was only painful when it was happening, I was fine straight away afterwards. Getting it out was uncomfortable, but very quick. Like an uncomfortable smear.

      Now I’m waiting for my period to come back. My doctor said to expect a period within 6 weeks. It’s just on 6 weeks now and no period but I figure it’ll take my body a while to adjust to the lack of hormone. If it doesn’t turn up in the next two weeks I’ll be going back.

    • Aubry

      I just got an IUD and I’m quite happy so far. Hurt like a motherfucker going in, a day of cramping and 2-3 weeks of spotting but I’m all good now! I wanted the copper one to go off all hormones, so I’m happy with my choice. Great not to have to remember anything! I was on the patch before, pretty happy but concerned the hormones might contribute to my very low sex drive (12 years of continuous hormones doesn’t sound good to me). I tried the nuva ring once and let me just say really painful ring toss. If your partner is well endowed or your vagina is short avoid or take it out before!

      I’m in canada, but without any insurance my copper IUD cost $65 all together. This is an estimated savings of $1800 over 5 years compared to what I was paying for the patch. Wowza, even that’s an incentive!

      For the pain, my med student friend says every doctor has a different method of freezing the cervix, and some work better than others, despite what they will tell you. My other friend just had hers replaced and she said the difference was night and day.

      • Aubry

        Also quick aside on fertility returning, I ovulated 5 days after going off hormonal birth control, that I had been on for 12 years consistently. I know this because it HURTS!! Like, a lot. Apparently this is normal, and the medical name is mittlechsmerz. Hilarious.

        So, sometimes it takes no time at all!

    • C

      I love my Mirena IUD! Insertion was a bitch thanks to my tilted cervix (I nearly passed out and threw up), and I had some spotting for a few months, but it was so worth it. I never have to think about birth control. My periods are unpredictable (every few months) but very light and short. I used to have long periods and sometimes-debilitating cramps, so I don’t miss that. And I haven’t noticed any side effects in the 2.5 years I’ve had it.

      I tried Nuvaring for a few months, but it killed my libido. I tried the patch, but it made me so terrifically sick that I took it off within 24 hours and never tried again. My IUD is definitely the birth control for me.

    • Lady

      Ohhhhhh I have an IUD! A flexi-T 300 (in Canada there are two kinds of copper IUDS, the flexi-T 300 and the flexi-T 380. The 300 is smaller than the 380, so is better for nulliparous or women with smaller uteruses)

      I love it. The insertion hurt a little bit but not much. I had persistant cramping for a week afterwards, but it was on and off, unlike my usual cramps, which stick around for hours at a time. The insertion cramps were just short, sharp cramps every now and then.

      The first three periods were much worse than my usual, but on the fourth month it went back to normal. The only change is that I spot for a day or two before my period, and my periods are shorter and heavier. The cramps have also changed a little bit, not better or worse, but the pain is more of a concentrated short jab than a prolonged general ache (though I get the ache, too, but just for the second day.) I have bad cramps to begin with, but if anything, since I got the copper T they’ve been better (after the first 3 months)

      I cannot champion the IUD more. It’s great. Positioned properly, it’s more effective than just about anything. Pregnancies do occasionally occur with the IUD, but usually it’s within the first month or so, because the IUD is positioned too low in the pelvis. Though it’s better to remove the IUD in a pregnancy, it is possible to carry a baby to term sharing the uterus with the IUD. Getting pregnant on the IUD does not equal an automatic miscarriage/abortion.

      Also, there’s an urban myth that IUDs cause tubal pregnancies. That’s not actually true; it’s a statistical trick. Rates of tubal pregnancies are exactly the same in women with IUDs as in women without, but since women with IUDs get fewer regular pregnancies, it looks like it’s more likely.

      In short: I love my IUD! I love not having to worry about having condoms with me. I love not having weight gain/breast size fluctuation/crazy mood swings. I love knowing that my little copper guardian is keeping out the sperm and keeping my uterus unoccupied!

      • savychacha

        Another person chiming in on loving my IUD! I have the paraguard – so 12 years of being baby free for me.

        Next month will make 5 years that I have been with my (now) husband. I had been on some form of BC for years and years. The depo shot was great, no period and my mood was fine, but I gained weight like crazy. The I went on Ortho Tri Cyclen, which was also good, but when I was switched to the generic (Tri-Sprintec) I turned into a shrill crying screaming harpey. Like, no joke, each month when I would get my period I ended up in a ball screaming and then crying. I used to tell my husband “I swear to you, I’m not really like this”!

        I told my doctor about my crazy mood swings and I changed to some other pill, but the cost was about $75/month, and the pharmacy was always dicking me around (no pun intended) and one day I had a breakdown in Walmart. My husband was with me and I was screaming about how I could get heavy narcotics for a $10 co-pay but getting affordable BC was like asking to light someone on fire. I told him I was done with it all, and being the amazing man he is, he told me we could do whatever I wanted.

        I had talked to my friend/tattoo artist and she had just gotten the Mirena IUD. I made the appointment and talked to my Dr. and we decided that Paraguard would be right for me. I told him my friend didn’t have any children and had gotten her’s inserted recently and he was game. No issues (which is why I love my Gyn).

        I’ll be honest here – I got it inserted about a month before my wedding. The insertion wasn’t to bad. About a minute of being really uncomfortable. After that it was just cramping. A little more intense than normal cramps, and they lasted for about two days.

        I got my period on my honeymoon and it was the worst period I’ve ever had in my life! The cramping was phenomenal. I also got the flu, and a rash…but I attribute those things to the stress of the wedding. Either way, that first month period was intense, and I have a very high pain threshold. I have sat for 5 hours at a time for tattoo appointments, and trust me when I say that Advil was no match for those cramps. After that though, I haven’t really had any problems. My period definitely lasts longer than it used to, but hormonal BC did all sorts of ugly stuff to me, so I’ll take a few extra light days tacked onto the beginning and end of my period.

        All in all it cost me about $700 in September of 2011. I have insurance, but it’s a high deductible plan and my IUD wasn’t covered. Best decision I have made. Especially since we’re not sure if we want to have children or not. Now, I don’t have those hormones wreaking havoc in my body, and if we do decide to have children, I can have my IUD removed when I choose.

    • Anon

      I was on the Nuvaring for about 4 months, and had to stop. It made me angry and eventually suicidal, and I had a permanent yeast infection (had never gotten one before). Everyone I know who has gotten an IUD raves about it.

    • Radiantly

      Um I am up at 4am because I’m still getting through my anxiety over the last couple of days. This is a IUD scare story. My Paraguard (non hormonal) IUD actually BROKE upon removal. My gyno had never even heard of such a thing. I’ve had it in for 4 years and never a problem. Until now.

      I live in NYC and luckily have amazing doctors… And an amazing fiancé. When my gyno tried to pull it out she got only 2 pieces. It was difficult and painful. I then got an ultrasound to show where the F was the last piece. Radiologist was 100 blocks away btw. But she called in the favor and they saw me. Then back to gyno for round 2. This is yesterday btw. After 45 minutes of sweating, trying to relax my face and breathing thru the intense pressure and pain, she couldn’t get the last piece.

      Today I went to her colleague who is a surgeon and OB. He got out the pieces WE HOPE there isn’t anything left… The spring (copper coil) came out first then the plastic. I am now on antibiotics to prevent infection. Please send healing prayers my way.

      While the IUD was great while I had it, now that I am leaning closer to having a baby (I’m 35) I was like “why is this foreign object in me GET IT OUT!! And yeah, the dr asked me 3 times if I had understood the possible complications with IUD at the time I insertion but I didn’t think I’d be one of them.

  • Beca

    After 10 years of awesome sex– well-matched libidos & proclivities, open communication, lots of “good, but try it this way… YEAH LIKE THAT”– Husband and I very recently– like, in the last 6 months– have started having simultaneous orgasms. Occasionally. Like, a few times a month for our 3+ weekly schedule.


    • SarahE

      Agree. Zero complaints about my sex life. My partner is completely committed to getting me to orgasm (and I think he gets off on the accomplishment, too), and I thank my lucky stars that we’re well-matched. Two reading rec’s I really like:

      #8 on this list of advice after 15 years of marriage:
      I like the author’s attitude that a few awkward conversations are worth an great sex partner for, well, life

      Also, Bonk by Mary Roach is a hilarious look at the biological processes of sex and the research it took to figure them out. It raised a lot of (fun!) questions for me and my partner about “Is that really how it feels?” and “Would I be willing to do that?”

      • I love the “go to bed mad” advice. I always tell people that my fiance and I go to bed mad A LOT. We just don’t wake up that way. Sometimes talking doesn’t solve the problem. Only space and time to personally reflect on whether it’s REALLY important that he refuses to dance at parties* is worth getting in a fight over.

        *Subject of our worst fight to date.

      • RachelM

        I’d like to second Bonk. I have the audio version – I like to listen to books while I cook – and it has definitely been eye opening. And at times has delayed dinner ;)

        • SarahE

          omg, I can only imagine listening to it out loud! I read it at work when I had a boring front desk job on the weekends, and I usually hid it under the counter (since I worked a “family friendly place) and looked over my shoulder (even when my back was to a wall) and often went home feeling all riled up.

  • buckwheat

    I’ve only managed to orgasm “naturally” a few times in my life. By “naturally”, I mean through penetration or by hand. The rest of the time, I use this bad boy:

    I really don’t see why any couple should feel awkward or guilty about using some mechanical assistance in the bedroom. It doesn’t have to wild or kinky, but making the effort to maximize pleasure from your sex life is really important.

    • Emily

      Agreed! I think every home needs a vibrator the same way they need a hammer or a bottle of Goo Gone. It’s just useful!

      • Msanne

        What if you hate the vibrating sensation but still want a handy dandy tool? HELP.

        • Maddie

          I’ve never tried this, but the njoy pure wand is supposed to be a great tool and it’s not a vibrating toy. It’s expensive, but apparently worth it.

          (Edited to add that its function is different from what you’d get out of a vibrator, so not necessarily a replacement tool. Just something different to try out!)

          • Added to Cart

            I just bought one of these online (Amazon–they sell everything). The reviews seem too good to be true; we shall see. Too bad it will arrive when the in-laws are visiting…

        • YES YES!!! WHAT ABOUT THIS?!

        • R.

          For a non-vibrating sex toy, I really highly recommend Smart Balls. I loved mine for years, and just this weekend I shared them with my fiance, and let me tell you, they really work for two as well. Really cool how much fun he had playing with them. ;)

      • Kira

        For a minute I thought you meant the hammer and Goo Gone were essential marital hygiene aids and got really intrigued.

  • let’s all be anon!

    I actually wouldn’t be anon about this, but in my case it’s my partner who has more of the “issue” for lack of a better word.

    After a couple years of struggling, or dating kind of mean dudes who were controlling about sex, and a few years of being, well, let’s say “relaxed” about my sexual standards, I have finally achieved personal sexual awesomeness, and it is indeed awesome. (Maybe it has something to do with getting older? It was like a switch was flipped when I hit 28.)

    BUT. My partner struggles a bit. He likes sex (and he’s really good at it, personal testimony!), but he gets really into his head about it and that tends to kill the mood for him. And when his mood is killed, he has little to no interest in continuing on with things, and of course I’m not going to be aggro or pleading or manipulative about it, because hello, rape.

    So then what happens is that he gets very down about it (I try my hardest to be supportive and not ask a bunch of “is it meeee?” questions) and then he doesn’t even want to attempt it. And, man, I really miss having sex. I really miss having sex with HIM. I miss that closeness. But he won’t go to the doctor about it and he doesn’t like to talk about it and WHAT DO I DO?

    • Kristen

      It sounds like he could use some counseling. Course how do you convince him of it? Offer to go with him. Be supportive and calm when possible. Point out if necessary that “his” problem, affects you too. If roles were reversed (which he’s poss experienced himself) he wouldn’t be ok with you ignoring the problem. I think there are important times to be selfish in relationships – most especially when working on/fixing a problem is good for BOTH of you.

      • let’s all be anon!

        Yeah, I’ve tried all that. Talking seems to make it worse, because he A) isn’t naturally a big talker and B)he’s told me that this has affected other relationships in the past. So he tends to get scared even when talking about it, and it makes the problem worse.

        The irony is, when we have sex*, it’s blow-the-roof-off-your-mind levels of good (and not just because it’s rare – when we were first dating we were at it like rabbits and it was just as amazing), and he’s the first person with whom sex was absolutely amazing instead of just kind of awesome in various ways. If it were just okay, or even good, I would be a lot more content.

        *I should explain that I mean P-I-V penetrative sex. We do everything else, and often. But dang it, I LIKE penetrative sex!

        • Kristen

          The unfortunate truth is we can’t make the ones we love get help even when we know it’s what they need. And if someone doesn’t want help, forcing them into it won’t usually get you far. But it doesn’t change the fact that doing nothing and not even being able to talk about it together, doesn’t seem to bode well for things getting better. Just trying to be honest and rational. Not judgmental though, I struggle with similar things myself in my relationship and it’s a tough spot to be in. If you can come around to accepting status quo and being content with it great. But if not – are you going to just cross your fingers and hope one day it will be different?

          I hope sincerely this wasn’t too harsh. I wasted a long time in a similar and worsening situation. I hope your partner gets more comfortable and is willing to open up more with you. I wish you luck in maintaining the supportive patience, it is the mark of someone who truly cares and I hope it pays off!

          • let’s all be anon!

            You aren’t harsh! The thing is, he’s definitely not in denial about it. He knows it’s a problem and he knows that it upsets me – and he tells me how upset and bad he feels about it as well. But I think it’s a long road between “accepting that there’s a problem” and “actively working to address that problem” and I’m not sure how I can make him walk that road faster (even when I offer to carry him).

        • kyley

          Everyone obviously has very different ways of communicating within a relationship, but if this were me (b/c I come from the “Let’s be straight-forward and talk about everything” school) I would insist on a conversation. I would not bring it up during or immediately after sexy-times, but when you were both in a communicative, open mood. I would offer up lots and lots of “I love you. You are amazing.” etc affirmations, but I would gently insist that the issue get discussed because *both* of your needs are very important, and one person’s needs don’t get to trump another persons without at least a discussion about it.

          • let’s all be anon!

            We’ve had so, so many conversations about it, though. That’s the thing. Very open, honest, calm, personal conversations where both of us shared. And all it does is make him worry about it more. The thing that has worked best is not talking about it at all and just letting things ride, as it were – it keeps him from worrying too much about it and when he relaxes, like I said, the sex is awesome. But then something happens to trigger another discussion, and it’s like we’re back at square one.

    • Jenny

      Hi – are you secretly me (or my best friend) and I don’t know about it? I went through this issue with my then-boyfriend (now husband) a couple of years ago, and a good friend of mine has recently been struggling with this with her husband as well. Both of our guys are very much the “in their heads” type and I can definitely sympathise with both how hard this can be for you and also urge to beg your partner to tell you what you’re doing wrong so you can just FIX IT. For my husband it was mostly this horrible combination of pre-wedding stress, starting a new job and financial worries that just made it so he couldn’t let go. The thing that helped the most was time, but I did try to sometimes do the ‘heavy-lifting’ as it were – instigate the things that I knew would distract him the most, as well as jump-starting sexytimes when he was least expecting it, in hopes that he wouldn’t have time to get into his head. That said, it was a really hard and trying time for us as a couple, but we did get past it. My friend had a bit of a different problem. Her husband had gained a bit of new weight and already had asthma, and the combination of not being able to be as athletic as he’d used to be and feeling like he wasn’t sexy/confident in his looks really made it even easeier for him to get all internal about it. So anyways, after all that TMI, my best advice is to see what causes him to get all in his head about sex and see what you can do to either circumvent the problem, or help solve it. My husband definitely can still get too in his head about sex (that said, so can I), but we’ve developed this strategy of just asking “Is it in my head?” and the other one of us knows that the other is struggling and can say “Yes, absolutely! You’re perfect/wonderful/amazing, come here and let me smother you with love and make all the bad thoughts go away.” Or whatever. I hope that helps?

      • Oh man, my fiance and your friend’s husband could be the same person. He doesn’t have asthma/isn’t overweight, but he is sort of obsessed with how much weight he’s gained and how much older he’s gotten in the past 10 years or so. He’ll say something like “when I was 22, I could have sex for hours and never stop!” and I am always like, “what? Why would you want to do that; that sounds tiring and potentially painful!” Yet he has created this image in his head that 22 Year Old Him is, like, the holy grail, physically and sexually. (Not unlike how I have convinced myself that 24 year old me is my physical holy grail and Why Can’t I Just Be Thin Again?)

        For the OP – I think my fiance is a bit like your dude, as well, in re: the communication thing. He comes from a very reserved upbringing where no one really talks about their feelings (stiff upper lips, etc) where I come from a loud, oft-inappropriate, completely oversharing, giant southern family, where everyone talks about everything that’s upsetting them or that they think needs work. So when something is bothering me, I’m of the “let’s talk about this FOREVER until all of our feelings are dissected and laid out orderly and then we will come up with a resolution and talk about that too” and he’s . . . not that way at all.

    • Anonymous

      I know it sounds awful, but sometimes an ultimatum is necessary. My boyfriend had issues with depression, knew it, and talked to me about it, but didn’t want to go to a counselor or talk to a doctor about it. You can only go on like that with any problem for so long. I finally just told him that I loved him, I would support him for as long as it took to get better, but that I couldn’t stay with him unless he was trying to get help. I tried to make it clear that I knew he couldn’t control the depression, but that he COULD control what he did about it. Then I scheduled an appointment with a psychologist, told him the date and time, and said that I would go with him. And I said that if he didn’t go, I’d have to leave the relationship. Harsh, but he went, he got better, and not only is our relationship better, but he is happier as an individual.

      • Kristen

        Yes. Let’s all please remember this is always an option. Because at the end of the day, for as much as being in a relationship is about working together and helping each other, even carrying each other sometimes, it can’t just be that. If you aren’t happy and fulfilled you have to understand how it can affect the relationship as well. So if or when you get to the point where patience is running thin, demand before it runs out. Sometimes we have to stick up for ourselves and our own needs and say get help or I’m going because I can’t be happy like this. Especially when dealing with mental health or physical health issues in our partners; we have a right to healthy partners just as they do.

        Let’s all be anon, it doesn’t sound like you’ve reached a breaking point and I applaud everyone’s willingness to talk and be open in your relationship. My husband is a great talker too. Just not so good at doing. There have been 2 occasions where I’ve issued ultimatums because I could no longer live with the status quo: getting engaged, and going to counseling together and alone. I too spent years being patient and giving him time to walk the walk after all the talk. When he couldn’t fo it on his own but professed he did want to make me happy, I told him what needed to happen. Because sometimes the best thing we can so for our partners is help them with the scary hard stuff and that sometimes means doing things they don’t want to.

        Preachy McPreacherton III

    • Not Sarah

      Okay, so my boyfriend and I have some issues with sexual compatibility. Mostly: I want to have sex every day and he wants to have sex…once a week. It was REALLY hard to have an open conversation about it, but eventually we did pull it off.

      It sucks when the guy’s disinterested randomly. It really does. Then he gets soft and is sad and it just is terrible. I always feel super bad for the guy.

      Have you talked about why he doesn’t want to have sex that often? Or much about his sexual history? My guy had not had a local (i.e. living in the same city) relationship in many years, which definitely contributed to his not wanting to have sex during the week – he was used to just having sex on weekends/trips. We had way more sex when we went away for a weekend than we normally do. (Normal = once per week and on the trip, twice a day for two days)

      How does it get into his head? Does he start to feel like he’s not doing a good job? Have you talked about that?

      I see below that you’ve talked about it and that only makes it worse. I’m so sorry :(

      • let’s all be anon!

        You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. Basically, his concern as he has explained it to me is that once sex becomes emotional, he gets too invested in “doing it right” – to the point where he loses the ability to do it at all. So I think he is just putting a lot of pressure on himself to satisfy me in all the ways (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc) that he starts over-thinking things? Kind of the opposite of what someone else was saying about how they had to work to remain present in order to have an orgasm?

        And I mean, really his sex drive, itself, is fine (maybe not quite as high as mine but I would happily have sex six or seven times a day if I didn’t have to do boring grown up stuff like go to work) – he likes to initiate sexual activity and we’re all about “everything but.” He wakes me up in the morning with an orgasm pretty much every day of the week. I’m not really complaining about the lack of sex life, so much as the specific lack of PIV sex, which for me is the most intimate sexual connection (which only started happening with him, in a stroke of irony. Before, I could sort of take it or leave it).

        So basically, what has happened is that I love him so much and he’s so good in bed and we’re so connected that now I want PIV sex all the time, and he loves me so much that now he fears his performance won’t be good enough and so we never have PIV sex. It’s a comedy of errors.

        • Not Sarah

          I so miss being able to initiate sexual activities :(

    • so…i don’t know if this is going to be helpful or just a random personal story (because all the details are always so different, and i don’t *really* know where you’re coming from). but, while discussion is good and important, honestly it took us years to get to where we could have competent discussions about sex. essentially the thing that got us there was years of unbridled compliments (not instead of the failed sex and crying). my issue was sex, her issue was body image, and we spent three years of her telling me that, yes, i was good at sex, and me telling her that, yes, she was damn sexy, for things to progress to what i would call functional. we still both have the same issues, and we still both provide the same positive support to one another, and it keeps getting better, slowly – the “three years” cited above is an estimate on a very subjective scale – but the overall improvement is a fact (after all, i haven’t cried because of sex in years…not the bad kind of crying). one of the major bonuses is that we can actually talk about sex now, which helps even more (p.s. don’t talk about sex during sexytime).

      • let’s all be anon!

        You may be my new spiritual guru. Thank you!

  • Anonny

    For me the conversation of orgasming brings up the discussion of waiting in a round about way . . . I never had an orgasm until I got with my now fiance. When we got together it took a while for it to happen, but for me there is a very strong connection between the fact that we will be married, that he is the man I will marry (even before we were engaged, just when I knew this to be true). I realized that I had never felt so comfortable, physically, emotionally, spiritually, with someone before (none of my past boyfriends). This complete level of comfortableness together allowed me to fully engage in sex in a way that I had not done before, ergo orgasm. (I was also in my 20’s at this point and more knowledgeable about my body, however I really attribute the prior.) When we are young people tell us to wait until marriage but no one really tells us why we should wait in terms that are all inclusive. My fiance did not have previous sexual partners before me and it makes me sad sometimes that I cannot say the same. I realize now why waiting would be powerful (whether until marriage or until engage or at least older). I didn’t know all these things about sex at 17. No one tells you that you need to be fully connected to someone in a way that you can’t possibly do now in order to fully experience sex, even physically. I don’t know, does anyone else feel this way? Now my fiance and I have sex all the time and I can orgasm most of the time. (Like others said above it definitely takes WORK, and a moderately cool room temperature. hahah.) But it’s just so much more!

    Has anyone else experienced this?

    • Anon

      I agree that that’s a good point that people don’t explicitly state. I’m really glad that my first and only partner was my husband. Especially given how painful sex was for me at first and how we had to take things really slowly, I’m so glad I knew we were already committed and that it was totally something we could work through together. I think I would have been a wreck emotionally to be going through that difficulty without the commitment.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I think this came up in my abstinence education (better sex after commitment, needing commitment to enjoy sex, and that we can’t really understand what “good sex” is until we’re in a fully-committed relationship). I’m glad you’ve had good experiences with waiting.

      Long story short: After lots and lots of abstinence education through college, and 2 bad break-ups after college, I went back and reviewed my abstinence education and read lots of new stuff about sexual ethics. My conclusion: It’s a crap shoot. There are no universal rules that are guaranteed to lead to a good romantic relationship and a good sex life through adulthood. It certainly isn’t the case that waiting until marriage will necessarily lead to a good marriage, or that not waiting will necessarily lead to a bad marriage. Theologically, that’s a version of the Prosperity Gospel, and it’s a lie.

      In forming your individual sexual ethics, do a lot of introspection and consider your usual sources for developing your morals.

    • R.

      For me, I think it’s true that sex + love = orgasms. Which, yay! I’d never had an orgasm from penetrative sex until after I’d fallen in love with my now fiance. And now I have them, not all the time, but regularly. (Several times a week. We have a lot of sex.)

      That said, to me this isn’t an argument for waiting til marriage for sex. Unless that’s right for you, in which case, go for it. But if it isn’t, I don’t think there should be guilt or you-shouldn’t-be-doing-this pressure associated with pre-marital sex. I don’t think there should be guilt associated with sex at all, and I think that we need to do a lot better at making everyone feel okay with their sexual choices being normal. And that comes from both sides not being judgy of people who make different choices. So I’m going to explain why for me and my fiance not waiting to have sex was the right choice.

      I for one am really glad that both me and my partner have had sex with other people. In a weird way it gives me confidence that this is right, because it’s so different from the way I’ve felt with anyone before him. And both of us know more of what we like or don’t like, based on our experiences with other people. But I wouldn’t know that if we were virgins. For me, knowing sex for sex’s sake was important in my growing up and figuring out who I was, and getting sex for love’s sake later was awesome, but doesn’t invalidate my experience with sex for sex’s sake.

      But most importantly, if we didn’t have sex before marriage, we would never have gotten to the point of marriage. Sex is a big, fulfilling part of our relationship, and given our personalities and temperaments, we wouldn’t have stayed in a celibate relationship for long enough to know that we truly are compatible and right for each other. Heck, the first few nights we spent together before we slept together were hard enough for him, and I had to let him know that yes, I did plan to have sex with him one day, but for now I wasn’t ready to do more than make out. And him being cool with that (albeit a little impatient, but not in a pressuring way) was important and showed me what kinda guy he is early on. And part of who he is is someone who likes sex, and needs it as part of a relationship. And I’m the same. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sex is important to us. We’re really lucky to be so compatible sexually, but the only way for us to know that was by having sex. For us in a very real way sex was what started us on the path to marriage.

      • Anonny

        I agree that there should be no guilt over each persons individual choices. I’m not saying that everyone should wait until marriage.

        I’m not even sure what I am saying.

        I definitely hear you on the “you appreciate the good because you’ve had the bad” type of mentality. I agree on many counts of that. I guess for me I wish that there had been more of an open dialogue about all the reasons waiting could be great (not waiting until marriage – just the at 17 you are probably not going to make the best decisions about your relationships and body type of waiting). I have no “answer” just an experience. However, those past experience all add up to who we are today and how we experience and feel about things. So I say no to regret and yes to learning from these things.

        However I agree. Sex + Love = Orgasms and lots of sex!

        • R.

          Oh absolutely. I think we’re not on that different of a page here (and also Liz since 1982 below). I think that the reasons for waiting do need to be presented in a better way, culturally. For me, I waited until I was ready, and as a result, there’s only one sexual partner that I’ve had who I regret. The rest have been varying degrees of good without being great. But at 17, I personally wasn’t ready. The pressure to have sex young in our culture strikes me as kind of ridiculous, but I think part of that is because the idea of waiting until marriage for many of us just isn’t a realistic or viable option. I don’t know what the solution is either. But I think that for me waiting to fall in love before experiencing sex would have put way too much pressure on both halves of that equation.

      • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        This could have come from my head! My experience with my now-fiance was very similar. At 30 and 40, we’ve both had a significant number of previous partners and we both knew it was different with each other.

        That said, re Anonny’s comment, for us it wasn’t a case of “appreciating the good because we’d had the bad.” Sure, there were underwhelming and even a few negative experiences along the way, but the majority of our sexual relationships were fun and fulfilling. The difference for us felt like one of degree, not of kind – I guess if I’m being glib I’d say we appreciate the GREAT because we’ve had the good, not the good because we’ve had the bad! (Not that we are some kind of supercharged sexual powerhouse couple doing crazy acrobatics and having simultaneous orgasms fifty times a day – just that there is more openness, more intimacy, etc. as others have more eloquently described.) Maybe it’s splitting hairs but I just didn’t want to make it sound like we had been wandering some kind of meaningless casual-sex wasteland before we found each other.

        I do have friends and family that have waited (until they felt they were in love/committed, until they were engaged, and until marriage) and in all cases they’ve expressed the same degree of satisfaction and feeling of “rightness” that my gent and I enjoy. It is definitely a very personal choice and I’m happy to see everyone’s experiences being acknowledged here!

  • Lee

    I usually don’t have a hard time orgasming, but i usually do need some sort of stimulation. My partner has a difficult time at times with intercourse so we do other things for him. Sometimes we orgasm together, sometimes we don’t, but we always just make sure that we have fun while we’re doing it and cuddle and talk afterwards. :o) Sometimes that’s the best part, the emotional intimacy.

  • Amber

    Another thing to keep in mind is birth control and all those hormone adjustments that take place because of the pill, nuva ring, or other hormone based birth controls. I’ve tried a handful of different birth control methods over the years, and (with the exception of the copper IUD, no hormones! But, my body rejected it, thanks body) I’ve run into the problem of just not having any interest in sex at all. Yes, birth control is there so I don’t get pregnant yet, but it’s not supposed to completely dampen my interest so we’re not even at risk of getting pregnant because we’re not having sex! I hate taking the hormones, but I don’t trust just condoms at this point in my life. I’m getting married this summer, but we’re just not ready for kids. So, hormones it is. I feel like by taking them, and trying to find the right one, I’m experimenting with my body. Ok, the nuva ring made me completely lose my libido, on spritec I had the WORST mood swings of my life, lutera seems to be a bit better, but then I’m spotting all the time, but I’m more interested in sex, so there’s that. It is complicated, this whole sex thing. I really wish that there was a better hormone free option that made it possible to have sex without getting pregnant, especially for people that are planning to have children, but just not yet. I’m looking forward to when I can stop taking the pill and we can try for kids, but we’re not there yet. :-)

    • SarahE

      I totally FEEL you on the hormones. Sprintec was the absolute WORST, I felt legit crazy on it- so much so that it took three months for me to realize what the fuck was causing it. Even when I found prescription that worked (I don’t remember the name) it still made me mildly depressed. After switching pharmacies and ending up with a generic pill that fucked with my brain again, I said forget it entirely. We relied on just condoms for a while, and I felt guilty the whole time for not taking precautions beyond that. I’m really thankful the Paragard worked for me, but I hope you find a good solution soon!!

      • meg

        Yeah. I realized years too late that artificial hormones caused some depression for me. It was so ongoing I never put two and two together. I knew some versions of the pill made me CRAZY, but I didn’t realize that other ones just made me sad. That + what hormones can do to your sex drive is… interesting.

        • SarahE

          Yes- and for me, especially on Sprintec, the first week felt manic, and the next three were depressive (because one week of placebo wasn’t enough to come back to neutral).

          And I even knew when I started birth control that I usually always get the side effects of any medication, and STILL it took three months for me to figure it out. What my mom taught me is always true: Pay attention to your body!

          • Meg

            I’m on the low-dose Tri-Sprintec, and I haven’t noticed it making me crazy — BUT now I’m wondering if the reason my partner and I aren’t having as much sex isn’t just because it’s not as big a deal, but because of the birth control. I went on another low-dose BC the summer after we started dating (we met in college) and our sex life slowed down after that (from 5-10 times a week [we were teenage virgins when we met]) to maybe 1-5 times a week. I just assumed we were having less sex because we were used to each other and were settling into the relationship. Now, it’s been four years, and we’re having sex maximum three times a month.

            Maybe I’ll talk about getting on a different BC. Because it would be SO nice to have more sex!

          • meg

            I’m going to weigh in and say a max of the times a month is not at all my experience of long term relationship norm can be (even with stressful jobs, etc.) It happens, but I think when it does, you probably want to look at why that is, and see things can be adjusted. Hormonal birth control is a damn good place to start. I seriously had ZERO idea of what it could do to your moods/ sex drive, but it really can play havoc with it all, in such slow moving ways that you don’t notice.

          • Anon

            I’m responding to this comment instead of the one below because I’m having issues with the nesting.

            Anyway, I just want to chime in and say that in my relationship we have great sex but only have it 1-2 times a month MAX now, 8 years into the relationship. Obviously it’s different for everyone (and we definitely had sex closer to once a week or so back in our twenties) — but I would not say that 3 times a month is crazy abnormal.

            (Oh, and neither of us is on meds or birth control or anything that would affect our libidos.)

          • meg

            My point isn’t that it’s crazy abnormal, but that if you MISS having sex more (as in this comment) it’s hardly something you need to settle for.

            That’s a whole other post: the myth that once you’re married there is no reason to have loads of sex, or good sex (or one or the other). There is this cultural expectation of bed death which I think is… less than helpful.

            That said, age, pregnancies, hormones, whatever, they all do play into it. One doesn’t stay 22 forever. (For better and for worse).

        • Emily

          Not to mention what (some) anti-depressants can do to your sex drive…

          • meg

            1 + 1 = BOO.

    • anon today

      Yes! One of the biggest reasons I decided to go for the Mirena IUD was because I was so, so, so tired of the months of waiting for my hormones to stabilize every time I switched methods because of formulary changes or minor changes in ingredients or whatever. I absolutely love the IUD in part because it is a long-term method that doesn’t have much risk of these variations, and especially because I feel much less like a crazy person–I definitely feel more like myself with this method.

      • Laura

        Yes, I was on oral contraceptives for 11+ years, and am convinced that slight changes to the formulas and/or my physiology (weight gain/loss or who knows what else) would result in sudden and unexpected side effects, like splitting headaches (once with migraine auras, fun!), major boob pain, skin changes, cramps, and, most noticeably, mood changes, especially depression. Also, for at least the last 5 years (that’s when I became aware of it, but it probably was going on for longer), I had one “crazy weekend” per month – always the weekend before the last week of hormone pills in each pack. I would basically temporarily lose all control of my emotions, and I’d end up blowing up at everyone and being super melodramatic (which are very unlike the usual, level-headed me). It was like clockwork. It got to the point where, if I started to feel overheated emotionally, I would check myself and think about where I was in my pill pack and, without fail, it was crazy weekend time. Unreal. One of the major reasons I wanted to switch to an IUD was to see what my body and moods would do when relatively left to their own devices. So far so good – one full month of feeling energetic and even-keeled!

    • Anon

      I am in the same place. I’ve tried multiple pills but they have just killed my libido. I hate it, but I am kind of terrified of getting an IUD. :(

      • SarahE

        Don’t be scared! Yes it hurts at insertion, but it’s a few hours (or days, as I think some women have experienced) for YEARS of benefit. Talk to your doctor, or research it extensively online. If you know how to manage pain during your period, be prepared for that with insertion.

        It’s so worth it to feel like yourself again.

        • Meg

          So for me one of the huge benefits of being on the pill is that my cramps are WAY better. Would that go away if I stopped taking the pill?

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Maybe, maybe not. Talk to your doctor. Your endocrinology changes over time, and hormonal contraception buries that. It’s hard to know what your “natural” period feels like if you’ve been on hormonal contraception for a long time.

            I went off the pill for a month after being on it for about 18 months and was surprised by how light and painless my period was compared to before I went on the pill. But that’s just the first month. That’s hardly my “fully natural” state.

            There may be non-hormonal treatments for your painful periods you can discuss with your doctor, too.

          • SarahE

            My period was fairly light before getting the IUD. I’ve only had one since getting it inserted, and the first couple days were heavier, but the cramps were about the same- sucked the first day, but then fine. And this is with Paragard, the copper IUD.

            I’ve heard cramps are much lighter with Mirena, but I’d recommend scrolling through the comments to read other people’s expereinces. And like ElisabethJoanne says, they may have different effects depending on your personal hormonal balance.

      • One More Sara

        Reading this thread makes me want to get an IUD, but we do want to have another child in the next 2 years or so, so it just doesn’t seem worth it. I for one am looking forward to getting off of my hormonal BC and getting my natural libido back.

      • a nony mouse

        An IUD isn’t your only other option. Check out the fertility awareness method, it’s not a lot more work than remembering to take a pill every day and it’s just as reliable (with consistent, perfect use). I know it’s not for everyone, but I didn’t even realize it was a viable, effective form of birth control until about 3 years ago. We’ve been using it exclusively for about a year with no missteps! Plus, if you ever decide to have children there is no waiting period to get off hormones or a device to have removed AND you know more or less exactly when to have sex to actually make a baby. Plus, I have really loved getting to know my body at this level of detail.

      • Greta

        Terror unnecessary! Have a good talk with your doctor. The amount of pain an IUD will cause will depend on the shape/ position of your cervix, which is unique to you. I had cramping with my IUD insertion, but after hearing everyone’s cousin’s roommate’s horror stories, my own experience was non-eventful.

      • R.

        Honestly, for me getting an IUD was scary, but in the end it was worth it. I love my IUD and really recommend them, but that doesn’t change the fact that having someone put a piece of plastic (or copper) in your uterus is scary. It hurts. But a day or two of advil and lying in bed with a hot water bottle, being nice to myself and the knowledge that I was set on birth control for the next five years made it worth it.

        If it’s pain that’s scary, there are medications both for softening the cervix and pain killers. If it’s having something in your uterus that’s scary (which is what it was for me), reading about the risks (which are real, but not super common) helped put it in perspective so I made an informed decision. Either way, talking to an understanding doctor could help.

    • Robyn

      YES! I honestly can’t wait for the day when I won’t feel the need to use two forms of birth control (condoms + the pill) and can be done with all of this hormonal craziness. The pill has actually been a great form of birth control for us since I literally never want to have sex. I’ve had an IUD too, but for various reasons had to get it removed. I just can’t win…

  • MsAnne

    My ex was a sex god. There. I said it. The sex we had (for six years) was consistently mind blowing. I came nearly every time, usually more than once, often through penetration alone. But he was an asshole and also liked to give everyone else orgasms too.

    My husband is not a sex god. He tries but he doesn’t have the size and stamina to get me there like my ex did. And there’s no fixing it–it’s something I am learning to live with.

    And that’s another myth–that the man who is the best in bed is obviously The One. I’ve learned there are things more important than simultaneous earth-shattering multiple orgasms. Mainly, love and respect.

    • ANON

      I’m so glad someone else said this! I have always felt guilty about this. My husband is wonderful and the love of my life, but…I had more consistently great sex with my ex-boyfriend. I think it was some weird combination of body types and his lack of inhibition. I *do* have great sex with my husband, but not every time. And occasionally I’ve felt frustrated about it and then I feel guilty about it.

      But when I widen the scope and think about *life* there’s just no contest. It is definitely another myth that the person you have the most mind-blowing sex with is always the person you’ll have the most mind-blowing life with.

      • Msanne

        Thank you for admitting the guilt and frustration. As hard as I try to tell myself it’s not a big deal, sometimes it FEELS like a big deal.

    • I feel like there’s this subculture of men who pride themselves on their prowess in the sack, but not rooted in any appreciation for their partners. You know? Like, I once dated a guy who was OBSESSED with giving me many orgasms in a specific period of time,and for the first week or so, I was like, “yay! Orgasms!” But then I realized that I was just the human equivalent of a game at the carnival – he just wanted to knock down as many pins as he could because it made him look cool.

      • Msanne

        YES. Before we had sex I confessed if never had an orgasm with from sex. He boasted he could give me three our first time, and he did. At the time I chalked it up to his being really committed to wanting me to enjoy myself. Now? Cockiness. Pure one-upmanship towards my prior exes.

      • Hannah

        Yes! I dated this guy once who was OBSESSED with getting me to orgasm from penetration (I never had before). At first it was fun (yay sex!) but then it felt all this pressure to orgasm so I wouldn’t hurt his ego. Whaaat??

    • My husband is willing to do whatever it takes, which means that I’m always satisfied (unless it’s during the window where we have to have sex because we’re trying to get pregnant…and then even when I know we need to be doing it, I’m not all that excited to be doing it), but. There are things that I miss and there’s nothing he can do about it. And that’s not his fault, so I’m learning to live with it.

      • Msanne

        It’s the trying that makes me so sad. My husband puts a lot of effort in but it’s just not enough. And I feel so guilty for making him feel inadequate.

        • I’ve never said a word to him about it because there’s no point. He’s never asked about the guys in my life before him so there’s never been that awkward conversation. He can’t change that part of him. He works on what he can, we supplement when we need to, and we go on.

          • Msanne

            I never got into specifics, he just asked once if I’d always had trouble getting off and I was honest. At that point he already felt bad for not being able to bring me to orgasm.

    • Deena

      I hear ya.

      I recently broke up with the man I nearly ended up living with (not because he was a jerk, he’s a great guy- but sometimes things just aren’t working out).

      He was AMAZING in bed. Many many orgasms, most of them from penetration alone (which I had never had with a previous partner, previously I had only been able to get there through manual stimulation).

      But great sex doesn’t equal the great love of your life.

    • HeyHeyAnonny

      Man, I could have typed out your response, word for word. Only it was 7 years for my ex and I.

      I love my husband, but barring a few outliers, our sex is generally subpar. He can only orgasm in specific (very specific) positions, and it takes him a long time to achieve one. Plus, we are a little older than most of the couples represented here, and he is beginning to have trouble maintaining his erection for the length of time he needs to even come close to orgasm. Add any stress, and it really complicates everything. We have a pretty active sex life, but it seems like he can only orgasm about 40-50% of the time, and it’s even less for me.

      I know we probably need to seek out medical help, but I just haven’t found the right way to broach the subject.

      • Msanne

        Hint: don’t wait until you’re frustrated in bed and in tears. I did that. It was a bad scene. Don’t wait until it’s keeping you up at night.

    • Mrs May

      Yeah, me too. I’ve had plenty of better sex than I do with my spouse. But you know what, I have the rest of my life to figure it out in my marriage, so that’s okay. I feel pretty confident that it will get better. I’m even glad that I had all that premarital sex. I know what my goals are, I don’t feel ashamed about what I want, I know that even though its -good- it could be even better.

      • Msanne

        I sometimes regret my ex. Was six years of amazing sex worth having to compare my husband to someone who is in all other ways inferior? Ugh.

        • Struggling

          Accidentally hit report instead of reply. I wonder this so often. I can’t wait to marry my fiancé, but I have serious doubts that I will ever be as sexually satisfied as I was with my ex.

    • Victwa

      Totally, totally agree with this. I mean, sex with my fiancé is fine. It works just fine for the both of us, and produced an adorable 7 1/2 month old baby. Yay. However, I’ve DEFINITELY had more let’s-just-spend-all-the-time-in-bed-we-can partners. And that is just fine, because I have never been so happy and emotionally supported with someone ever. Good sexual experiences are important to a solid marriage, I think, but I don’t know that mind-blowing, leave-everyone-gasping-for-breath-every-time experiences are quite as important.

      • AnotherAnonForThis

        I just want to EXACTLY! this entire section of the comment thread!

        • rowany

          Can I suggest that it may not be just the ex, but how you felt about him as well? I feel like when you’re dating a jerk and the main attraction is the sex, then well, it better damn well be good and you don’t mind telling him what works for you. When you’re with someone who you love and who respects you, you may be more worried about his feelings and be more hesitant to be open with him about your needs. And maybe his previous partners felt the same way, so he never got the information on what works best for women (whereas the jerk conversely had many more partners who had no problems with telling him what they liked). I mean of course the men just may be different in bed, and that may not change, but perhaps it’s not just something you have to ‘accept’ or ‘deal with’.

    • Shhh

      OMFG this.

      This, this, this. I feel like you took the words out of my mouth.

      • Msanne

        Who knew there were so many of us?!

        • Nah, we all probably dated that one asshole guy whose only talents were between the sheets. He’s been getting around for YEARS.

          • Msanne

            Okay that cracked me up. Thank youuu!! ;)

        • Mrs May

          Seriously! I kinda thought I was the only one, and I would never admit this to my partner ( I am pretty sure she knows, though). There are so many things I love about her, it’s not any contest anyhow. In my heart I believe we still will get there, it’s just gonna take awhile. I would hate to ever make her feel bad about this! I am relieved I’m not the only person who feels this way. I’m also REALLY glad I never married any of those other hotties.

    • Anonymized

      MsAnne, have you considered dildos or fisting? Both excellent ways to get more pressure/size/stamina.

    • anon

      Wow. This is my secret! My mind always wanders back to this tryst I had in college where I spent about two solid weeks in bed… I never introduced this guy to my friends or family, and he usually just called me babe. Sex with my husband is pretty good, but we’ve never done it more than once in one go.

      Also, there is something about a good hate-fuck. Hopefully we won’t experience that in our marriage.

      • a non-mouse

        It’s not quite the same as a hate-fuck, but oh man angry sex is so great sometimes. You guys. I’m not saying get in a fight or anything…

        But you should try it.

        • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

          YES! We go to bed angry ALL THE TIME. Sex doesn’t resolve the argument, but it is an AMAZING way to blow off steam and we have the greatest, most productive conversations in bed immediately after.

    • Anon

      This is interesting to think about. I have great, satisfying, imaginative sex with my fiance, but I don’t enjoy certain sex acts with him that have gotten me off in the past. In particular, I had one very BDSM-tinged affair with a jerk I didn’t particularly like, and the manipulation/power play/physical domination were exciting. My fiance and I have experimented with similar actions/scenarios before, as he knows I’ve found them exciting, but I don’t enjoy them with him, I think because our emotional connection just makes them upsetting and too intense. Not being emotionally involved with the ex meant I could really dive into oppositional, kind of mean-spirited sex with him. It’s not a big deal, but I do miss it occasionally, in the way I miss being single sometimes.

  • I just want to give a virtual fist bump to the author for getting off from dry humping! While I can orgasm other ways, this is the most surefire way for me. Every time I feel kind of odd about the fact that it just feels so…high school, I reframe it in my head as nostalgic or vintage. Hipster sex FTW!

    • Kristen

      Stupid iPad I accidentally clicked report. What I wanted to report was how awesome this comment is! Dry humping was one of the best parts of high school and unlike most everything else, we never have to stop doing it because we’re too old!

      • Not Sarah

        Second best part of high school: simply making out. Why can’t we ever do that anymore?!?

        • not that i ever made out in high school, but…
          i have to say having kids has increased the amount of making out and such non-sex sexy things we do. i think mostly because we don’t have the time or energy to actually have sex, so we fall back on these second-best options – which can really be a lot of fun. not that it makes up for it…

    • I love dry-humping! It may be high school, but there’s a reason nature gives those crazy kids all those hormones! It’s FUN!

    • Some Random Chick

      Alright, Rachel. I will totally dry hump my husband tonight. I haven’t done it since high school, but I have a feeling it will be awesome. Thank you.

    • Shiri

      I love you guys. Hipster sex FTW indeed!

      Changing the narrative!

    • Not Sarah

      My non-high school version of getting off from dry humping is basically that exact position with penetration. OMG. Pretty much surefire. I can’t believe how long it took me to figure out that I could pretty much orgasm on demand that way. (except when it simply doesn’t work.)

      • Yes to this!! DH-ing is good, and all parties removing their pants and keeping that same position for sex is pretty much awesome. Figuring that out was a total “Oh I CAN get off from P in V sex” moment for me and my sex life has never been the same.

        • Not Sarah

          The only problem I’ve seen with this method is that some guys claim they can’t feel a thing. So then that makes me wonder if the others just don’t want to say anything and it does actually do nothing? But maybe it does and the fact that I can get off with them inside of me outweighs that? Not really sure.

          • Wait, they can’t feel a thing with dry humping or with that sex posish?

        • Not Sarah

          They (i.e. their penis) can’t feel a thing with that sex position. I guess it’s just the way I move? I don’t know.

          • Huh…I have never heard this before! I mean, my fiance is able to finish in that position, though I have never assumed it’s his personal favorite. (Also, this thread reminds me of Tenacious D But I kinda feel like if it’s surefire for you, you have to keep it in the rotation!

  • Anon, as seems the trend

    Aw man, I’ve had the worst sex life in the last year. Just terrible. We weren’t having sex that often in the first place, but then for some reason, it started being super painful for me, and I was just completely unwilling to even try. And it was hard on him, but also hard on me because I felt like some terrible person (Because you know, thanks Rom-Coms and their “If you’re not getting it on daily, you’re doing it wrong”). I went to the doctor a couple times, but his response was basically “Nothing is wrong, you should be fine.” So yeah, that was fun. I think it’s possible that for a time, I was working it up even more in my head and making it worse for myself.

    Now well, it’s going a little better. Still a bit painful though, so a lot of sex comes down to one of us satisfying the other. But even then, my brain gets away on me and all I can start thinking about is how late it is and how much later we’re going to be up since we’re doing this now. I think left to my own devices, I’d happily go without sex, but well, Rom Coms tell me that makes me horrible. And I doubt my partner would appreciate it either.

    • SarahE

      The link to a previous APW post in the first comment thread is really helpful in regard to talking about painful sex!

      • Anon, as seems the trend

        I’ve read that article, but I think I’ve had enough of talking about my sex life with doctors for now. >.> It was hard enough talking to him in the first place,

        • Not Sarah

          Find a female doctor. I finally found a really awesome one in my post-college and hopefully permanent city and that makes a world of difference for me in terms of the comfort level of talking about this stuff.

          • Anon still

            Eh, I’ve had the same family doctor since I was born, so I’m not sure that would help. I’d just be replacing the discomfort of talking to an elderly man about my sex life for talk to a complete stranger about it.

    • also also anon

      Oh MAN. THIS. I suspect my birth control is to blame. The insertion (TMI!) is always painful, and then sometimes it gets better the longer we go, and sometimes it doesn’t. And that pain, along with a lack of drive from the HBC, just has killed our sex life. We’re averaging 2-3 times a month, maybe, and it would seem that is lower than most people…and that perceived lack of sex concerns me. But is it really a lack? Not sure anymore. I’m tired of thinking so much about how I ought to be having sex with my wonderful partner.

      • Anon

        Also Also Anon – Sex doesn’t have to mean penetration. Get naked with your partner and kiss all over, have him lick and suck and stroke you wherever it feels nice, go down on each other, cuddle, lie next to each other and masturbate, do whatever feels good. Sex can be anything that gets you off. If putting his penis in your vagina isn’t getting you off, then take it off the table for a while.

        • also also anon

          Oh, we are good at all of those other things, which I am thankful for. And we’ve done the taking it off the table thing…but I can’t just not have penetrative sex forever. It’s just a question of finding a new set of hormones / non-hormonal BC and/or figuring out if there is something else wrong.

      • Anon, as seems the trend

        I’m rather suspicious of my birth control too. And just generally circumstances of when we both go to bed and how late we stay up before thinking of sex. We’re probably at 2-3 times a month too.

        • Anonsies

          We are probably around 3-4x per month, but there are some months where it’s as low as 1. This is partially bc my HBC has totally screwed my sex drive, but additionally, we had a baby unplanned a few years ago. While I know we could make it work should we get pregnant, now is definitely NOT the right time. I have a pretty strong SEX=BABY neural pathway from our first child I guess, bc almost every time we have sex, the next day I freak out OMGIBETWEGOTPREGNANTSHITSHITSHIT!!!!!!!! (The first day of my period is often my favorite day of the month)

        • Anon in MD

          While HBC could affect your libido, is your libido the only thing keeping you from having sex? It can be so easy to blame medication (HBC, anti-depressants, etc) or work or kids or anything else, when it might be some combination of things. Even that one of you wants sex when the other doesn’t.

          I know a lot of people have raised issues with HBC, but they have with IUDs too. I’ve only used HBC and condoms, but I never felt like it impacted my libido and for the most part, Tri-Sprintec worked for me. I originally went on it to reduce my cramping & PMS as well as my acne (late 20s and acne sucked) and it worked great. The only problem I had was with Ortho-Lo – I would get a migraine once a month like clockwork after never having a migraine in my life. I went back to Tri-Sprintec and a most I’ve had 1 migraine a year since then. The pluses: regular periods, low to no moodiness (unless I was stressed about something else), and virtually no acne.

          In May of 2012, I went off the HBC because we’re trying to get pregnant. My periods are heavier than they were before the HBC, I feel like I have near-constant acne (which sucks when you’re 34 & more gray hair is showing – gray and acne DO NOT go together thankyouverymuch), and the cramps and moods are definitely worse. I’ll probably wait to go back on HBC until we’re completely done having kids, but I would use it again in a heartbeat.

          I get though, that it’s not right for everyone, just wanted to put it out there that it isn’t all bad.

          • Anon, as seems the trend

            Oh, I’m just suspicious of it, I doubt it’s the only cause. I’ve never had an exceptionally strong libido in the first place either. There seem to be a large number of times I get to bed and just don’t want sex. Whether or not this is the birth control, I have no idea, but a low libido is a big reason I don’t have more sex.

      • Meg

        We’re at about 2-3 times a month, and I just don’t know if that’s “normal.” Based on what I’ve seen on the internet, most couples our age (we’re in our early 20s) are going at it like rabbits, like we were when we started dating 4 years ago. But after 4 years, doesn’t it make sense for you to slow down some (or in our case, a lot)? That question is half-rhetorical, but I’d still be interested in any follow-up anyone has…

        • Rebecca

          Normal in regards to sex is always, always what works for you. Unless you are having sex with all these other “normal” couples, how often they’re having sex has nothing to do with you. As long as you’re both happy with how often you’re having sex, I’d say stop looking for reasons to be unhappy about it!

          Don’t trust me, trust the smart woman over here

        • Anon

          We have sex about 3 times a month. This is much less than when we were first dating (10 years ago, sex every second day) and much more than about 5 years ago when I was on the pill (probably less than once a month).
          During the long dry spell sex was a problem for us. It took me forever to realise my birth control could be an issue (I thought maybe I was tired/stressed/not exercising enough….).

          Two things that worked for me –
          Having more sex and thinking about sex more leads to me wanting more sex.
          Sometimes (OK often) I need to schedule sex and just go for it even if I’m “not in the mood”. Once we get going I (nearly) always really enjoy myself, and it helps with point one above.

          Overall we are pretty happy with our current amount (his sex drive has slowed down over the years too) but I do find it very hard not to compare myself to the three times a week people.

        • C

          We’re in our late 20s and are lucky to have sex 3 times a month. We just aren’t all that focused on it sometimes, what with all of the other distractions in life and how hard we work. I wish it were more (because our sex is only okay, and I think it would get better if we “practiced” more) but I’ll trade that for having a wonderful relationship with a man who is very caring and affectionate in other non-intercourse ways. The problem isn’t the frequency. The problem is my insecurity and overthinking about it.

    • Anon. Y. Mous.

      I can definitely relate to this on a couple levels. My boyfriend is rather…eh hem…large…and I’m a pretty small person, so complete penetration is usually painful for me, and sometimes penetration in general can be painful unless things are very wet down there. Lube helps this a lot, and also just lots of practice to the point that my boyfriend now knows how deep he can go without it being uncomfortable for me. It has also helped for me to focus my mind on what is happening physically and put mental energy into relaxing my body, which makes me enjoy it a lot more when thinks start of uncomfortably.

      On another note, I still totally struggle with the Rom Com notion of “If you’re not getting it on daily, something is wrong.” I tend to avoid conversations about my sex life because I feel like my friends will judge me when they find out we only do it, on average, once every 1.5 weeks. We have been together for 9 years, and it used to be more frequent, but over the past year or two it has settled out to the frequency it is now. Granted, if we are on vacation, we might do it every day. But in our normal daily lives, not so much. My boyfriend has never said that he wants it more frequently – I’ve asked him a few times over the years and he says he’s happy with our sex life, so I try not to bring it up too often. I think my concern is more about “are we really not doing it frequently enough? is something wrong with us?” more than me actually wanting it more often. I’ve thought about asking him if we should make an effort to have sex more often, but when it comes down to it, I’m really pretty satisfied with things as they are. Even though we probably don’t have sex as frequently as most couples our age, we both orgasm and come 99% of the time (not usually at the same time though) every time we do it. We’re also very physical with each other at home all the time, so that makes me think that just because we aren’t having sex every day doesn’t mean we aren’t physically appreciating each other every day.

      • Not Sarah

        One thing I’ve found with larger penises is that having sex MORE regularly really helps. I think my body closes up as I go longer without having sex. I need sex 2-3 times a week with a larger penis (I’m on the small side) to pretty much want to have sex at all. I hate how the pain kills my libido :(

        • Anon,Y,Mous

          It’s funny that you mention that, because it’s come to mind before. I’ve actually noticed that after a longer stretch it seems more painful, but when we do it a couple times a week it doesn’t bother me. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who experiences this (though I don’t wish discomfort on anyone).

      • Anon

        I too find that the more often we have sex the less likely it is to be painful. (It’s never super painful, it just takes me longer to relax into it and “stretch”.

        Also we have sex about the same amount as you and I also struggle with comparisons to the ‘three times a week’ people as well.

    • DrSmooch

      I experienced painful sex with my now fiancé during the first few months of our relationship. It. Was. Horrible. And it wasn’t just the pain; I actually vomited after sex because of the strange severe cramping that my body started doing for shits and giggles after intercourse. Imagine how this sounds coming through the closed bathroom door, “Don’t worry dear. I’m vomiting from pain, not repulsion!” I felt terrible, but thankfully he has a strong ego and mostly was scared of hurting me more than anything.

      I went to my OBGYN and she also couldn’t find anything wrong. Physical exam. Nothing. Vaginal ultrasound. Nothing. She just suggested taking an Advil before sex. Good in theory, but telling my fiancé to hold on a minute while I dug through the bathroom for the pill bottle killed the mood. Eventually, we figured out that when he, ahem, thrust at a specific angle it felt like he was punching me in my ovaries and would cause the cramping and vomiting. It took a couple months to get over the fear of physical pain, but the key was that we talked about it to find a solution. Even during sex. It doesn’t ruin the act of love-making. Actually, talking about it usually leads to the most mind-blowing sex and orgasms (vaginal and/or clitoral) for me, which I had NEVER done with anyone else before him, probably bc I never talked about sex in the way that we do.

      • Anon. Y. Mous.

        Yes, certain angles definitely can be painful for me as well. Him on top is almost never comfortable for me because it makes it easy for him to go too deep. Me on top gives me complete control of which angle and how deep, which I like, but it usually feels just good, not amazing. We’ve found that laying on our sides, spoon style with him behind, is the best of all. No pain ever, can’t go too deep and it’s very easy to incorporate manual stimulation at the same time, if that’s something that you need (which I often do).

        • Anon in MD

          I’m definitely more comfortable on top too and I feel I can reach an orgasm better that way. With DH on top it isn’t bad, but he can go too deep sometimes and it really hurts.

      • Laura

        During my first pelvic exam with my current gyno, she was poking around and said, “Ah, your uterus is very slightly tilted.” And I said, “I’ve never been told that before… is it going to be a problem for fertility?” And she said, “No, but sometimes during deep sex at a particular position it probably feels like you are being punched in the ovaries.”

        AND SHE WAS RIGHT. Genius.

        Although technically I was being punched in the cervix. By a penis. Details.

        So, this is a thing! Me too, me too!

  • Shy Coward

    Our biggest issues with sex are not sex-related. Too much work and worries and weird daily schedules, mainly. I had a couple months at the end of last year when I could not relax at all, and I was worried I wouldn’t come, so I didn’t and it was frustrating. Let’s say my man gave me a wonderful new year’s day morning :) now everything’s back to normality. I only wish we had the time and energy to have sex more often. Sometimes this is frustrating too, but it also led to some deep discussions about expectations and reactions that really helped us as a couple. I’m proud of the level of communication and intimacy we’ve achieved.
    About birth control: I have the feeling nobody’s using condoms in long-term relationship. Why? Do you find them that uncomfortable? I prefer to avoid upsetting my hormone balance and my cycle (I’m kinda proud about it, especially since using a menstrual cup), but maybe it’s a choice we can make because really, for us (and for him especially) they’re not an inconvenience at all.

    • Msanne

      I hate condoms. The feel, the cost, the number of times I’ve experienced breakage or slipping.. We used charting when we weren’t ttc. And if we couldn’t help ourselves on a fertile day, then we used a condom.

    • Re: the condom thing

      Man, I hate condoms. For me, I can totally tell the difference between using one and not, and orgasming with a condom (even using lube) is exceedingly difficult. My happiest day was the “oh, our STD tests came back clean and I’ve been on birth control for a month? THROW ALL THE CONDOMS AWAY!” discussion.

    • I’ve just never liked condoms. My ex and for awhile my husband used them, and we tried a lot of different ones, but I found that it was more uncomfortable for me and sometimes more painful. About eight months ago I had the unpleasant experience of getting one stuck inside of me and my husband had to dig it out. After that we both decided to ditch them.

      I’m also super-paranoid about getting pregnant so I always felt the need to have my own birth control.

      • Msanne

        THAT HAPPENED TO ME. It was awful and I had just started seeing the guy and had to get Plan B and freak out and then I went on the shot because it’s so effective. (But now I wish I hadn’t because we’re ttc and goddamn my periods are wonky.)

        • THAT HAPPENED TO ME TOO. This was looooong before my current partner–it was a winter break fling (craziest sex of my life but a lot of fun) and the condom just went “poof!” But I was on birth control and he was one of those people who got tested a lot (and I had just gotten tested recently too) so neither of us really freaked out and we assumed the condom was in the bedsheets somewhere.

          And then, the next day, when I was in the shower, I glanced down at my feet and THERE WAS THE CONDOM. It was a horrifying, but in hindsight hilarious, experience.

          • Laura

            Omg omg. A bunch of years ago I had sex-with-a-condom with a guy I was seeing (well, one of the guys I was seeing). Long story short, the condom broke., but I was on the pill. All was well. But, oops, the next morning, I had an annual gyno appointment, stirrups and all. And, during the pelvic exam, way way up in there my doctor found a big latex chunk of condom!! SO GROSS!!!!

      • Shhh

        This happened to me too! Morning sex session. The condom came off when my husband (then boyfriend) removed his penis from me. I told him I could get it, so he hopped in the shower.

        I COULD NOT GET IT. He came out of the shower and I was crying hysterically on the bed. After a few minutes of trying, after which HE couldn’t get it either he actually suggested (honest to god) that I get up and go about my day as usual and “let gravity take care of it.”

        I will not repeat to you what I said to him in that moment.

        It took about 20 painful, horrific minutes (let’s just say, I was no longer relaxed down there), but he managed to get it out. We went out to breakfast to calm down. I got a plan B pill and actually went in to the office.

        It was seriously so upsetting. I’ve never had a condom break, but having one stuck inside was a nightmare.

        • Msanne

          This was pretty much exactly my experience. Even now if we use a condom, I reach down periodically to make sure it’s still secure. And this is almost a decade later. HORRIBLE experience.

    • SarahE

      We used condoms alone for a little over a year, with hormonal birth control before that and an IUD since then. We never had any problems or experienced any discomfort with them. The only drawbacks were my guilt over not going further with birth control (we Really Don’t want kids) and he was always vigilant about any slippage.

      I really disliked interfering with my natural hormonal balance, too, which is where the Paragard IUD has made life ten times better. I feel empowered from my choice, and it works well for my body. My partner reports that sex is ten times more amazing without a condom. (The dr. assured us that as far as contraception, a condom is unnecessary with an IUD- I was really concerned, so I was sure to ask explicitly about it). I didn’t notice a difference between with/without condom, and neither of us had any issues comfort/enjoyment-wise when we used them regularly.

      • Msanne

        Have you considered the snip for him? When were done having kids we’ve already decided he should have the snip. The decade of hormonal birth control for me was more than enough and we both hate condoms. It’s a lot easier for men to get snipped than women, so that’s the plan.

        • SarahE

          Yes and no. We’re both pretty firm in the No Babies camp, but we are also both pretty young (25 and 30), so there’s a lot of space for minds and hearts to change over time. I don’t foresee us changing our minds, however, a permanent solution is probably not a good fit for us at the moment.

          I’m really happy with the effectiveness of the IUD, so we plan to stick with that unless/until something changes.

    • Broom Hilda

      Not the case at all — we use condoms and I know other married and long-term couples who do. I don’t do well with hormonal birth control, plus we want to start a family in the next year or so, so an IUD didn’t seem like the right choice (I could be wrong about that). Maybe the difference between us long-termers and the short-termers could be at what point the condom goes on. Not to get too graphic, but my husband doesn’t put it on until he’s just about to come. Obviously, this is not recommended if an unplanned pregnancy would be catastrophic!

      On a different subject, I too am someone who rarely has an orgasm during sex (and it’s not for lack of trying!). But one position — here I go getting graphic again — that has always worked well for me is when I lie on my back on the bed, with my butt practically hanging off the edge, and my husband stands at the edge of the bed. Not your typical clitoral orgasm but maybe it’s the mythical G-spot?

      • Agreed

        Just wanna give an Amen to that position- and the same thing but lying on my stomach. It’s so good that it’s literally too much sometimes.

        • Naomi

          Just reported when meant to exactly- sorry!

      • One More Sara

        Unplanned pregnancies, while certainly not ideal, are generally not “catastrophic.” It might lead to some big/hard discussions and choices, but the thing is, we all have choices. Choose to have a baby, or not. Choose to keep the baby, or not. I know you didn’t mean any harm by that comment, but I got pregnant at one of the worst possible moments (living in different countries, not finished school, both living with parents, little to no savings), and eventually, we worked it all out. With the exception of serious injury, sickness or death, I think that very little could happen to anyone that could be considered “catastrophic”

        • KC

          I agree with your “generally”, but want to note that for people on some medications (for instance, a combination of Bad Birth Defects medication and medication that should normally be suppressing your period, so the pregnancy gets thoroughly along) or with some internal setups (such that ectopic pregnancies are more likely, for instance), they, um, can/could be catastrophic. But that is unusual.

          • One More Sara

            I did think about ectopic pregnancies, but getting pregnant due to not-perfect use of a condom (with no back-up BC) doesn’t increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. I think that I had such an icky reaction to the phrasing bc of my personal experience. I was terrified to tell anyone I was pregnant mostly bc anything I had heard about getting pregnant on accident made you DUMB DUMB DUMB and you were BAD BAD BAD. I waited way too long to get prenatal care bc I didn’t want ANYONE to know how dumb or bad I had been. Thankfully everything was fine, but had there been a complication (like ectopic pregnancy!), I could have been in serious trouble bc of my lack of prenatal care.

          • KC

            I totally agree that not all unplanned pregnancies are catastrophic, and it makes sense that you’d want to emphasize that to counter the general cultural narrative (in academia, at least) of All Unplanned Or Young Pregnancies Are Terrible And Will Ruin Your Life And Obviously Reduce Your Value As A Person… just wanted to counterbalance that with “but some indeed are or would be something which could reasonably be referred to as catastrophic” – and so, in those cases, wanting something more reliable than condoms (or doing hormonal birth control in addition to condoms, etc.) is not paranoid/unreasonable. (the ectopic pregnancy risk I was referring to was when you have particularly something-or-other fallopian tubes – maybe with scarring or something? not an increased risk with condom use.)

            I think there are also more categories where “catastrophic” might apply, such as those who have ethical objections to abortion but who would have serious medical or financial or whatever problems with carrying to term. But you’re right that unplanned pregnancies are not always Catastrophic things, even if they’re often challenging.

        • anon

          To be perfectly blunt, if you absolutely do not want kids and your partner absolutely does not want kids and you have an unplanned pregnancy and live in one of the oh so many places in this country where it is next to impossible to get an abortion unless you have a lot of extra money to travel across the state or even to another state (hello Mississippi who is trying to shut down its only abortion provider in the entire state and Alabama is working hard to do something similar) then yes, an unplanned pregnancy would be catastrophic. Choice is great in theory but there are a lot of women in this country for whom that choice doesn’t really translate into reality.

          You were able to work out your situation and I’m very glad you were able to do that but for some of us an unplanned pregnancy really would be catastrophic for a whole host of reasons (in our case we’re doing everything short of being celibate to make sure that doesn’t happen but nothing is 100% effective unfortunately).

    • anon for now

      We use condoms and I hate them (actually we’re using them in addition to an IUD because we’re both incredibly paranoid and absolutely do not want children). I never used them in my only other sexual relationship but my guy is used to them so for him they’re ‘normal’ but for me they’re just not. Psychologically I don’t like them because I don’t like the idea of something between us and just logistically I don’t like them because I feel like they draw a line in the sand between ok this is foreplay or us just fooling around but now the condom is on so we shall commence with the sex! I have finally gotten my guy to agree to using the fertility awareness method as our second form of birth control sometimes (in addition to my IUD which is supposed to be as effective as sterilization anyway but as I said, we’re paranoid) but that’s going to mean months of charting first and even then it will be a matter of only going without the condom on the days when I’m supposed to be super safe.

      So considering we really don’t want kids, using just condoms would not have been an option for us but I find them to be horrible inconvenient and at this point am taking my temperature every morning and checking my cervical fluids all so we can eventually get to a point where maybe one week out of the month we don’t use them.

      I’m glad they work out well for some people but I don’t like them and ideally, since STDs aren’t an issue for us, I’d much rather not use them.

      • “t logistically I don’t like them because I feel like they draw a line in the sand between ok this is foreplay or us just fooling around but now the condom is on so we shall commence with the sex! I”

        Oh my god, a thousand times yes. Condoms totally have their place (I support handing them out in schools, etc), but holy lord it can make he sex awkward. Although, at the same time, in my single days it was an easy way to say “yes, I have decided that we should have sex. What are your thoughts on the matter?” without actually using those words.

      • Psychologically I don’t like them because I don’t like the idea of something between us


        It actually bothered me enough that for our wedding night, I decided the plan would be NO condoms and I brought a Plan B with me to take the next morning. I know that Plan B really isn’t to be used as a normal form of birth control, but, it’s there (yay!) and no condom=a better wedding night

    • I’m not a fan of condoms either–obviously when I was single and not monogamous I used them, but I’ve always been on birth control so for me the concern was more “NO STIs” rather than “NO BABIES.” My partner (4 years and counting!) and I used condoms for the first few months or our relationship–then we both got tested, came back clean, and decided that we were done with condoms. I don’t like the feel, the latex-y smell, having to pause the put the damn thing on…it just isn’t for me (or him) I’m afraid. The NuvaRing is 99% effective if used correctly and I’ve never had a pregnancy scare, so so far so good.

    • meg

      Condoms: <3

      Whatever. I'll be edgy ;)

      • MissStumptown

        I totally would have balked at your love of condoms last year. But this year? Holy moley. FH and I started using non-latex condoms because BC wasn’t working for my body anymore and regular condoms irritated me and you know what? I actually enjoy the non-latex ones a lot. We have to use lube and it takes a little finagling to get the condom out and on, but all of the pros (not putting hormones into my body, no longer being sad, losing weight, getting my sex drive back, not worrying about getting pregnant) outweighs those minor inconveniences. So I’m right there with you, Meg.

        • I love how condoms are edgy. I urge condom haters to try the Skyn ones. Sounds like a bad metal band, feels quite awesome.

          • meg

            I know. Me too. EDGY. What would high school sex ed teachers say to that?

      • My husband and I use condoms because I can’t be on birth control. I get awful migraines that were birth control induced and it was to expensive for all the stupid different birth controls they put me on plus the medication for my migraines so my sweet husband said he rather have me feeling better than having me on birth control. Plus I feel like I have my sex drive back, lol, I kinda missed it.

      • Chronically Ill Bride

        We use condoms. Even when I was on the pill or the ring, we used condoms, because my now husband was too nervous not to. In fact… I’ve never had sex without a condom.

      • Ruth

        Just wanted to add a new thought to the condom discussion:
        It’s the only method of birth control that a male partner can share involvement in. I think too often women suffer in silence about their birth control side effects, because I think many women feel like we need to shoulder the entire burden of contraception. Why? My fiancee and I both share a firm resolve to hold off on baby-making until we’re emotionally and financially ready – we’re in this together.
        I had tried almost all the different birth control methods – paraguard IUD, hormonal methods, etc… but had horrible side effects with each (I got frequent yeast infections with the IUD, painful periods, and the hormonal methods made me super moody and completely killed my sex drive. Why be on a method so that you can have sex if it makes you never want to have sex?!).
        My fiancee and I had a really frank talk about contraception (I share everything with him) and he said “Let’s compare your side effects (with the IUD, pills, etc…) including infections, no libido, not to mention an increased risk of death by blood clots – vs. to my side effects with the condom – a little loss of sensation, a latexy smell, the small annoyance of having to put them on. Your side effects are WAY worse. Condoms are so the lesser evil.”
        I don’t know if most women share their birth control struggles with their partners, but we made sure we did from the very beginning – he was there holding my hand at the doctor’s office during the painful IUD insertion (and we split the cost of it, cause we both were benefiting from it), he was there to comfort me when I was crying and moody from hormonal pills, etc…I think he’s gotten a much more up close and personal view of women’s gynecological health than most men every do – I wish more men got to see that.
        Just wanted to add – I had fascinating discussion with a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner about condoms, because I was worried that they weren’t as effective as other methods. What she explained to me is that the “85%” effectiveness rating is for “typical use” – which means it includes people who use condoms sometimes but not all the time! If you’re totally diligent and use them every time, they’re more like 98% effective. Made me feel a lot better. Yes, I’ve had one slip off inside me twice – that’s why we make sure to always keep a morning after pill in the medicine cabinet, so we’re not running around the city at 2:00am looking for an open pharmacy.
        I’m glad to see women opening up and talking about this stuff. Talking about all this stuff – that we usually keep silent about – that’s edgy;)

    • jules

      Due to hormonal problems, I need hormonal BC to regulate my periods and stuff (I have PCOS). It kills my sex drive and most of the time I am just not interested in sex, at all, and won’t come and UGH. I miss using condoms for BC, and actually having more sex… but maybe because the odds of having an unplanned pregnancy are quite small, and it would’ve been more of a miracle!

    • Lils

      I’ve been on the pill for 8 years, and we’re both disease-free, but I actually cannot convince the boyfriend of three years that there’s no need for condoms. Anyone have any suggestions for this? He’s very scientifically-minded and I’ve attempted to explain how the pill works (with varying degrees of seriousness) over the years, but I’ve eventually just given in to his paranoia. Anyone dealt with this? Worth it to try to convince him otherwise? I’m not violently opposed to condoms, I just find them inconvenient (and I know they’re expensive).

      • Rebecca

        We’ve found that buying them online helps with the cost (we like free shipping!). I’m with your boyfriend on the condom use- hormonal birth control is great, but it’s not perfect, and given my generally conservative nature, I’m just happier with the belt-and-suspenders approach. If he’s pretty conservative about risk in general, that could explain it?

        • Anon

          Just wanted to add that there is a wide range of condom varieties out there, and I find many to be too much like a plastic bag, or too thick, or ill-fitting, resulting in some pretty unsatisfactory sexual encounters. If you haven’t liked a particular kind, it is worth investigating other options, because they do differ greatly across brands and types and materials. My partner and I have found Crown condoms to be comparatively very comfortable and highly recommend them–and you can buy them in bulk at a discount at condomdepot. I can’t guarantee that everyone will love them, but my house in college had a community supply of Crowns and they seemed to keep everyone satisfied! (At least, we all kept using them and most of us voiced our approval to each other when we decided to buy more!)

          • Claire

            I really really REALLY worry about having sex with my husband with out a condom because I don’t want to get pregnant right now. Love kids, as does he, just not right now.

            I’m on the pill for medical reasons, and the medical condition I have already puts me at a disadvantage with getting pregnant (not that I’ve tried), and yet I still worry incredibly if we don’t use a condom as well.

            Am I right to worry this much about getting pregnant if we don’t use a condom?

  • Katelyn

    My manpanion and I have a great sex life, with the usual ups and downs that any sexual relationship over 8 years can have. But I, like many women in this thread, have difficulty with getting the right buttons pushed (or rather, THE button pushed the right way ;) ).

    His system is a little more laissez-faire but I’m still conscientious about his regular maintenance too. His is just more like a clock, steadfast and easy to repair, and I’m like… a space station. We’ve integrated a lot of “non-traditional” sex habits without making a big fuss. These include:

    1. Solo masturbation: This is still a really important part of my life, particularly when we were long-distance. Sometimes I watch porn – X-Art is my favorite studio, it’s pretty ‘tame’ and is still problematic with some aspects like body types and realism, but I find them much more appealing than many other sources I’ve found.

    2. Mutual masturbation: Sometimes one of us isn’t feeling it. Sometimes it’s to finish what we started when my space station is just a little slow on the uptake. I’ve had about 2 orgasms from sex unaided by toys in my lifetime, and honestly they were more of a fizzle than a bang. We trade off pretty evenly who gets ‘taken care of’ first.

    3. Vibrators and other sex toys: about 5 years ago on impulse, I grabbed my trusty solo vibrator mid-coitus and never looked back. We prefer more ‘discrete’ toys like silver bullets during intercourse, but run the whole gamut in #1 and #2.

    4. I realize this is probably pretty controversial, but here it goes: sometimes, I just give it up when I’m not in the mood. On occasion I think it makes me a ‘bad feminist’. I could just help him out in other ways without actual intercourse. But I don’t, in the interest of efficiency. I’d spend more time justifying it, but I don’t think I need to. It works for us, and 90% of the time we’re having sex, it’s mutually satisfying.

    • Msanne

      Oh man. If these are unconventional I’m apparently way off the mainstream. We/I do ALL these. Though I hate vibrators so I should say “tried” on number three. I’ve tried a few and mostly the vibration just irritates me. Any suggestions for non-vibrating sex toys?

      • Katelyn

        Ha! Catholic upbringing, hence the quote marks. Anything other than sex for procreation is naughty.

        • Msanne

          Oh yeah. Glad I dodged that one. Everyone I’ve slept with has been shocked how open and not weird about sex I’ve been. Apparently most people think sex is dirty?! WEIRD ;)

          • Katelyn

            Most akward moment with my mom was when I was 16 or 17 – she expressed disgust at an invitation to a sex toy party and how dirty and awful anyone who even so much as considered buying a vibrator was.

            My 22nd birthday party was a Pure Romance party. Probably the best birthday party of my life.

    • Hannah

      I don’t think that makes you a “bad feminist”! Sex isn’t just about orgasms. Especially since for a lot of women having an orgasm means being present and really concentrating. Sometimes I’m just tired and I don’t want to worry about it that much. Sometimes I just want to enjoy being close to my partner and making him happy. Because the sex is the good part, orgasms are just a bonus.

      • Katelyn

        Thanks, I do appreciate the validation. I’ve read feminist articles about how it’s problematic and I shouldn’t be letting him use my body as a real-life blow up doll etc…. but yeah, sometimes I’m tired, he can’t sleep, and I’m not interested in spectating and/or participating in a 30-40 minute wank.

        • As someone whose partner sometimes gives it up when he’s not in the mood, I don’t think this is something that only goes one way and therefore is “bad feminism.” Am I turning him into a real-life vibrator when I want sex and he’s tired? Or am I turning the tables and being a “good feminist”? Both of those ideas sound kind of silly! I dunno, it just makes a lot of sense to me that sometimes, one partner takes one for the team. As long as both people are willing to do so, I don’t see the issue!

        • Kira

          Wait just a minute. Your partner would probably be a bad feminist if he were treating you as a blow-up doll. Your decision to have sex for the sake of an emotional and romantic commitment, rather than an immediate physical urge, does not make you a bad feminist.

      • Thank goodness I’m not the only one who does this!
        And yeah, the “bad feminist” thought had run through my head too – but I write it off. When I dont really want sex, but have it because DH really does want it, I am gifting him me. At the moment, every time we have sex seems to be that way around (yay pregancy), but its normally not at all like that, so I refuse to feel bad.

    • anon

      We also do all of these things, although I’d phrase #4 differently. I take longer to warm up than he does, and I found myself saying “No” a lot of the time because I just wasn’t in the mood–yet. My partner never put pressure on me, but I didn’t like that I was constantly rejecting him. So I decided to say “Yes” more often, even if I didn’t feel like I was in the mood, and see what happened. Surprise, surprise, almost every time I was quickly in the mood and the sex was super great. Somehow, acknowledging that sometimes the sex might be “meh” and I was fine going through with it anyway took the pressure off, allowing me to be in the mood more often and for the sex we were having to be more enjoyable.

      • Rebecca

        Responsive desire! It’s normal- somewhat more so for women than men. this post really helped me realize the same thing you did- sometimes I just need a little persuasion!

    • Rebecca

      #4- Not controversial at all! Approved by a professional sex educator/ researcher, in fact. She calls it “lemonade sex”

      The link on responsive desire in the body of the post is totally worth following, too.

  • Erin

    So… I see a lot of talk about vibrators here. Suggestions?

    And perhaps more importantly, how do you approach that one with your partner? How do you make it fun and interesting and avoid making him feel like he’s not *enough*?

    • My advice? Go shopping together, and buy a little tit-for-tat. (maybe he’s always wanted to try ropes, or wants to see you in a little nurse outfit, whatever.) OR. Do what we do and get a remote controlled one and give him the remote. So hot.

      As for suggestions, I really suggest a lipstick- or bullet-shaped one (they’re smaller, usually about the length and width of a thumb), particularly if y’all will be using it as part of other sex acts.

    • Laura

      After a long and sordid history with vibrators for my own personal pleasure, I purchased one for my partner (now fiance, woop woop!) and I to use together – and I bought it without him knowing. My intuition was get a vibrator that was meant for external use only and was definitively non-penis-shaped to help avoid making him feel insufficient. I ended up with one of those finger-sized bullet buzzers with different rubbery attachments to put over it, as well as a cock ring attachment (I’ve heard great things about vibrating cock rings, because you can position the vibrator to hit your clitoris or perineum as desired without needing to hold it by hand). I didn’t know how he would react when he saw it displayed out in the middle of the bed one day, so I was a little nervous. But, it turned out that, even though we only used the actual device for maybe 60 seconds, him knowing I was thinking about dirty sex was a great initiator and got him interested reallll quick! So, fun times. The end.

    • Anon

      My husband was always cool with bringing a vibrator to bed. I didn’t know whether it was the way I framed it, or the fact that we both strive to be GGG (Good, Giving and Game, a term coined by the awesome Dan Savage), or because my husband is awesomesauce, so I asked him. Here is my man’s advice:

      “I could see why someone might feel inadequate or left out if their partner wants to try out new equipment. For me, it’s not something I’ve done wrong or something about me specifically. The penis simply doesn’t have a good option for powerful clit stimulation, and I think it’s a testament to our sexual relationship, openness, and creativity that we found something that we’re both super into and gets us off but good.

      Maybe one way to broach the subject is look for toys for both partners. I know when we started looking at the wand we went also went shopping for rings and other things. Researching new toys and positions and techniques can be a lot of fun, and makes the experience about growing instead of fixing. The couple is exploring and achieving the best sex possible using everything both parties are willing to try.

      And then agree on the Hitachi because seriously that thing’s f***ing great at great f***ing.”

    • Emily

      You know what might be a good start? Those little Trojan vibrating rings. They’re clearly for both partners, you can usually get them at the drugstore, and they have a brand name he’s heard of. Plus they’re not phallic, which I think can be a bit of a mental stumbling block for people.

      • Not Sarah

        So, my boyfriend and I went shopping once and each bought something to try on the other person. Cock ring candy was a great idea…but way too small for his penis and super awkward. We also tried the Trojan vibrating ring and it was okay for me, but totally made him soft with the vibrations. It was definitely fun to try though!

    • Not Sarah

      You’re going to have to try stuff. It may not work for you and you’ll be disappointed in the fact that you spent $X on it, but everyone is different. I personally don’t really like vibrators – they’re way too strong. I far prefer dildos. I’ve tried vibrating dildos and I just don’t like them as much as my silicone, slightly curved dildo that is perfect.

  • A. Nony Mouse

    There is an excellent movie available on NetFlix called Shortbus. It is relevant to this discussion! Has anyone seen it?

  • Can I give some props for being cheered up by the internet on being a lady? The internet was harsh this morning as I was greeted with that awful Rape hashtag on Twitter and terrible domestic violence images on Facebook, and I was sad to be a lady, but now I am happy again. “LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY SEASONIQUE” and “More couples need to embrace lube!” have cheered me right up!

  • Giggling

    The closest we ever get to “movie sex” is when we purposefully throw clothes around the room/house so it looks like they were effortlessly flung in a fit of passion.

  • Ugh, sex.
    It has totally become my least favourite activity in the last while, and it sucks. The unexpected lack-of-joys of being pregnant! I had heard friends say they had had no sex for ages AFTER the baby had arrived, but no-one warned me that it would happen while bubs is still inside.
    We used to have a romping sex life. Now poor DH is lucky to persuade me into it once a week, and I’m lucky to orgasm every second or third week (and never penetratively anymore as my belly gets in the way now).
    For me, a lot of it is a lack of feeling sexy. I just feel bloated, fat and whale-like. DH still thinks I am totally sexy-as however, and it causes some unfortunate friction in our relationship. We’ve had to come to an agreement that if I dont explicitly say NO, then I mean “ok, sure”. Certainly not the “enthusatic yes” DH was used to. On the plus side, at least it has stopped hurting again now, after we went through a spell where I was in agony every time we tried, which made me scared to try again the next time, which made it painful again because I couldn’t relax etc etc etc.

    • I don’t know how this myth got started that ladies love sex while pregnant. When I was pregnant I was tired, sick, bloated, pissed off and prone to tears for any reason. None of these put me in a sexy mood. Add to that the frustrations of a changing body, the inability to have sex in several favored positions, and the fact that almost everything hurt? Yeah, sexy times do not make.

      Hang in there, like that cat on that poster. This too shall pass . . . eventually.

      • Meg

        The number one most awkward thing my mother has ever said to me was that “pregnancy was a very sensual experience for [her].” So it does happen that people feel sexy while pregnant. Maybe I have that to look forward to? *fingers crossed*

    • Anon

      I had assumed our sex life would decrease during pregnancy, but I just hit third trimester and our sex life has increased to perhaps more than pre-pregnancy. While I am a bit restricted in positions and can’t go very long, I think perhaps the mental preparation and being in-tune with my body that I’ve done to prepare for childbirth has made a difference. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I wanted to throw that out as a stereotype-buster.

    • 16 weeks preggo and finally not throwing up!

      Almost as soon as I got pregnant sex stopped being fun for me. I mean, still kind of fun, but no orgasming and then I started getting nauseus … every night. So, that means we went from having really enjoyable, pretty regular (maybe 4x weekly?) sex, to none. Finally this last week I’ve been feeling sick a lot less, and we’ve been able to have sex a few times. It’s alright. Not great. And my belly isn’t even getting in the way yet! I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I feel even more bloated and whale like than I feel now… Glad I’m not the only one!

      Also can I second how un-sexy my hormonal birth control made me feel? I didn’t orgasm the whole time I was using it. The worst!!

      • This was SO me in first trimester. Admittedly, I was only nauseated, not throwing up, but still. I was so tired, and nauseated, and then my bump started coming in a little and so we had to change positions…

        I think about 25 weeks I stopped being quite so exhausted, but by then, I had a reasonable bump, and the only position that was vaguely comfy was me-on-top, which required a lot of manouvering, as I couldn’t just roll over on to DH like I normally would! Normally, I would O most times when I’m on top, but I cant get the angle right with the bump, plus, its darned hard work holding myself up! And then sometimes, I get damned close, but DH finishes too quickly (something that has been taking him by surprise the last couple of months – just as he is building in to something that feels like it will be awesome for him, its over. Oops. I blame that one on combined lack of regular sex, and changes in physical process), and then I’m all frustrated, but the last thing I want is to be touched.
        No wonder I’ve orgasmed in my sleep at least twice in the last month.

    • Lizzie

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I’m at 22 weeks and have been lucky to have a very easy pregnancy so far, but it has not involved a lot of sex. Somehow we both just seem to be in the mood for extensive cuddling. It doesn’t seem like something worth getting stressed out about, and oddly enough, I might still use the word “sensual” to describe the overall experience because there is a lot going on with my body and goodness — holy curves! — but I have had the occasional moment of wondering why we aren’t banging more while there is no small, helpless human around vying for our attention. So right now I’m just holding out hope that I’m in the very tiny, very lucky percentage of women who have orgasmic birth experiences and that makes up for the relative current drought. Foolproof plan, right?

  • Natalie

    Difficult for me to read this, but I can absolutely relate. The sex discussion within my marriage, even under the best of circumstances, has been humiliating and isolating, because I have struggled with the same challenges as the author.

    This essay was published at a great moment for me, as one of the biggest topics of discussion between me as my husband has been masturbation and its place in a marriage. Any thoughts? I would love to hear feedback on this difficult/sometimes awkward, but very worthy, subject.

    I am really, really struggling with this subject and any insight anyone could provide would be absolutely wonderful and would make me feel 100 times less alone in my situation.

    • Msanne

      I have a healthy extracurricular masturbation life, apart from my husband, and we also engage in mutual masturbation for one reason or another. In our relationhip, I’m the one with the higher sex drive, so rather than put pressure on him to do it more often or be frustrated, I simply take care of myself. He never minds assisting, and so it’s become easier for me to proposition him because evn if he’s not in the mood he’s not slighting me–we still make out and I still get my orgasm AND my closeness. And (that crazy-high sex drive again) yes, sometimes I just need to get off and will take care of myself whether or not he’s around. I don’t know if this helps, but I’ve always been open about it and I’ve been with more than one guy who was shamed for masturbating and told by significant others that it’s “gross” and “dirty”, and who were beyond relieved that I was so accepting. Good luck!

    • anon

      I’m not entirely sure if you have a specific question about masturbation & marriage, but I can share with you the roll it plays in our own relationship. My partner has a higher sex drive than I do, and as a result he has a little alone time probably every day. Sometimes I’m aware of this, and sometimes I’m not, but I know it’s going on. I’m happy about that! I want him to be satisfied, and I don’t want to feel pressured to have sex more often than my body/mind wants. When I travel for work or when I’m home alone for the afternoon and the mood strikes me? I also spend some self-love time.

      We often, although not always, report back to each other–not out of obligation, but for a fun, sexy “Guess what I was thinking about today?” conversation. We also masturbate together a lot, and spend that time sharing fantasies, etc. Sometimes I like that even better than p-in-the-v sex!

      Personally, I think fidelity requires flexibility; we should support each other to be fulfilled within our relationship, even when we may not be directly with our s.o., and avoid setting up additional “prohibitions.”

    • Another anon for today!

      I frankly like switching up masturbation with sex, even when sex with my partner is good. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an introvert and I like me-time, even though I also like feeling close to my partner. For me they kind of fulfill different needs even though for others it might be the same thing.

      I originally worried this would make my partner feel like sex with him isn’t “enough” but it turns out he thinks it’s hot if he knows that I’ve masturbated . That said, unless he’s away from me for an extended period, he usually doesn’t have an interest/need to masturbate.

      I don’t know, I guess for us it’s a question of individual needs/desires.

    • Meg

      How do people find time to masturbate when you’re married/living together?

      My fiance works from home, while I work in an office, so he has plenty of time on his own to (as I imagine it) spend the entire day with no pants on. I, on the other hand, have a commute and a long-ass workday, and when I’m at home, it’s hard for me to get some time to myself.

      What’s really frustrating in our situation is that when I masturbate, I want to be alone, and I don’t want my fiance in the living room listening in. This is definitely a relic of my sexually-repressive Christian upbringing, and may not be healthy, but I haven’t gotten over it yet — that’s my time, and it’s private. (We do incorporate masturbation into our other sexytimes — so it’s not like I never masturbate with him there — but sometimes I just want to do it by myself, you know?)

      So I feel selfish asking “hey can you go to Target for about an hour,” but I always feel more sexy after I have some time to myself — I’m more likely to instigate sex if I’ve already masturbated that day/earlier in the week.

      Is there a good way to make this less awkward?

      • AJ

        I use the shower massager and try to keep my vocalizations to a minimum :)

      • Msanne

        I do it when husband is in the shower, or ask him to run out for coffee/groceries/whatever. He leaves for work after me and gets home before me so I get it. Even though I have no shame about it, sometimes I do like the privacy.

      • natalie

        It is so encouraging to read these responses. It’s also so great to know that there are women out there who are willing to explore the subject. Thank you for your openness and honesty. I cannot tell you how much better I feel already.

        I am going to sound like a hypocrite, but here goes. I’ve always masturbated. Like, always. My sex drive is out of control.

        But after I got married, the fact my husband does it too makes me feel incredibly inadequate as a woman/wife/partner/human being. I can’t reconcile myself with it; I have a horrible attitude about it, and I feel terribly guilty because I think I have really hurt my husband over it. But the truth is, I feel totally left out/depressed when personal/non-mutual masturbation becomes part of the equation in our relationship, whether it’s me or him who is ‘leaving the other one out.’

        Bear in mind, I did not grow up with the healthiest attitude toward these topics of discussion. I am Catholic. I am also a HUGE control freak/super jealous/sensitive person. I suppose I was raised to believe that married people share sex together, always, with ZERO exceptions. Now I am in the position of feeling hurt by something my husband does, but I can’t be mad/hurt at him for something if I do it myself. Right? I can be mature about this. RIGHT? It’s not a personal insult against me if he wants to leave me out of the equation, or if I leave him out.

        I am trying to be more honest and realistic with myself about sexuality and marriage. It’s also an important reminder to me that there’s more to a marriage than just sex, BUT at the same time, sex and intimacy go hand-in-hand, and sexuality is so closely tied with other areas of a marriage—on a holistic (mental/spiritual) level.

        • Class of 1980
          • natalie

            Thank you for sharing this. It’s just what I needed to read! I am coming to a place of more acceptance and I am also trying to keep busy with my job and other things (besides sex! haha!) that make me happy.

            I read somewhere this morning that it’s crucial to not rely on others to make us happy. I need to be more self-sufficient in all areas of life, and need to let my irrational insecurities go.

            Thank you, everyone, for your support.

      • My fiance falls asleep on the couch pretty much every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. I really love that as a time for me time, and since me time also includes sex-with-me time (along with other nice activities, like reading magazines and doing my nails), it’s just a nice thing to look forward to.

        That said, there are other times when I’d really like to be able to and I totally feel like a sneaky teenager trying to get alone time! Glad I’m not the only one!

        • natalie

          you are awesome! i am now following your blog! :)

  • Wondering

    Hey all,
    The discussion on here has been fantastic, so I thought I would ask for some advice:

    1. Birth control method–I’ve thought about getting an IUD, but was advised against it since I’ve never had children. I’m afraid I’ll forget to take a pill the same time every day. My CNP recommended Depo. Have any of you been on it? What’s your experience been?

    2. Orgasm headaches–anyone? I get them just about every time. Right at the moment of climax. It sticks around for about an hours afterwards. All over, dull pain that usually then concentrates on my left side.

    • Msanne

      I was on depo for several years and it took a LONG time for my periods to come back and years later they’re still irregular, and much more painful than before I was on it. I don’t know if it’s all depo’s fault but I couldn’t read this and not warn you to do a lot of research. It also leeches your calcium a LOT–I’ve been taking calcium because I was worried and I’m in my twenties. Not having periods was awesome and it’s SUPER-effective, but if I got to choose again I think I’d steer clear.

      • Em

        A good friend of mine got HORRIBLY depressed for EXACTLY 3 months (like, to the day) when she was on Depo. I think it can be great for some women, but if you haven’t ever tried hormonal methods before at all it is definitely worth seeing how you react to the hormones in a more-quickly-reversible way, first. Ask your CNP for a month or two of mini-pills (progestogen only, usually used by women post-pregnancy or women who can’t take estrogen for various health reasons)

    • anon

      Have you looked into the NuvaRing? I’ve been on it for years, in large part because I could *not* remember to take the pill everyday. I love it! Super low hormonal dosage, can’t feel it at all, totally within your control when you want to be on it/not on it. You can also opt out of having your period on the ring; you just leave it in an extra week. Seriously, look into it. It sounds perfect for what you’re describing.

    • Sav

      Depo is, in my personal opinion anyway, not the best choice for most women for several reasons. I was encouraged, being 17 at the time, to get the shot and, believing that it was the best option for me, received it. I was bedridden for a full month – thankfully during my winter break – with 1) clots the size of golf balls, and 2) actual pieces of my uterine lining exiting my body, in addition to excruciating cramps and nausea. I understand that this is not the normal experience, but it was pretty unpleasant.

      I did not return for a second shot after learning the practices of the company manufacturing and distributing the drug. Depo now has a black box warning from the FDA for severe bone loss. This was a side effect known by Pfizer but not reported to medical professionals until a several billion dollar class-action lawsuit forced the company to admit it had intentionally misled consumers. In addition, more attention is being paid now to a growing amount of women reporting not just delayed return of fertility (normal), but complete loss of fertility. Like, never being able to conceive ever again, or miscarrying every pregnancy after receiving Depo. This is especially noticeable in women who received multiple shots.

      None of the latter has been proved in a court or elsewhere, but it seems to be an experience shared by so many users that I find it suspect. With Pfizer having shown no reluctance to use its patients as guinea pigs, though, it’s especially sketch.

      TL;DR Depo is sketchy and I generally encourage those wishing to control their uteri to invest in an IUD or something. Comment of doom, sorry.

      • Msanne

        Oh holy hell I didn’t hear about the loss of fertility. I was on depo for years and years and have been ttc for months now. Shit.

        • Same here. :( I was on it for three years…three miserable years where I bled 2.5 months out of every 3.

          …and now when everyone around is getting pregnant, we’ve been trying for a year. I start round three of clomid tomorrow.

          Good lord. I didn’t need to read this today.

          • Msanne

            You and me both.

      • Depo was not a good choice for me; I gained a ton of weight and got very depressed. And the bone loss thing freaks me out; I’m glad I went off it when I did.

        I have never had kids but I loved my IUD, though the insertion was really painful I had to have it removed last year thanks to (we now know) unrelated Fallopian tube issues. But the insertion isn’t painful for everyone; I definitely recommend!

      • Abby J.

        Ladies TTC after having depo: don’t give up hope and go to a hormone specialist to get your overall hormone levels checked. There are also lots of options for rebalancing your hormones through diet and natural methods as well.

        I took Depo for 2.5 years. By the last injection, I spotted for three months and that’s what convinced me not to get another shot. It’s been 7 years since I was on depo and my husband and I were able to get pregnant with no problems. I do have some bone loss – less than average density for someone my age and someone with my (high) level of physical fitness. So I’m trying to deal with that slowly.

        But depo isn’t necessarily a death knell for your chances of starting a family – if you’re struggling I would go to a reproductive specialist right away and tell them you took depo.

    • SarahE

      I’ve never had children, and I have an IUD. It took two dr visits for the insertion to work, but since then, no issues. And I use Paragard, so there’s no hormonal interruption- I would assume this would make it easier to get pregnant after removal, but I’m not sure.

      • Laura

        Based on what I’ve heard from doctors and read, ovulation returns to normal shortly after removal both types of IUD (hormonal or not hormonal). I’ve never heard of there being a difference in how long it takes between the two.

    • KC

      1. a) The NuvaRing and the patch (sorry, I forget what it is called) are both slightly-longer term while being totally reversible. The “reversible” part is mostly important if you are sensitive to hormonal birth control methods; I am ludicrously, frustratingly sensitive to hormones, so having the option to swap or quit if I’m really having problems with a particular method (one pill gave me continual morning sickness, for instance; another pill is fine almost all the time). You do have to remember them (NuvaRing, once per month; patch, once per week, I think?), but they’re an in-between-y option. Also, perhaps obviously, it’s best to start whatever hormonal birth control during a time that’s not immediately around an important occasion [like a wedding], as you might be one of us lucky folk that get super-PMS-y or morning sickness-y side effects, or might be one of those who gets weight gain, weight loss, or just weight migration [hello, extra cup size, where did you come from?]. Not saying this to scare you off from it; totally worth it, totally worth experimenting if the first method is not suited to your body, just sometimes health care practitioners seem to forget that there are such things as possible side effects that are not at all life-threatening but that might still not combine well with an important occasion. I don’t remember if I’ve had friends do Depo-Provera; friends have gotten the Mirena IUD and have had varying experiences, mostly positive.
      b) If there’s something in your life that happens near the same time every day (dinner; breakfast; phone call from your mother [ha!]; waiting for a bus; brushing your teeth after lunch), you can sometimes piggyback “taking pills” onto that and program yourself into the habit (a cell phone alarm might do the trick, too). I found it easier to remember than I expected, but everyone’s a bit different.

      2. I would totally ask a doctor on that one; triggered headaches are a) something they can sometimes do something about, which would probably be nice, yes? and b) sometimes good feedback in terms of other things that might or might not be medically relevant at some point, like migraine tendencies or blood pressure changes or blood sugar drops or whatever (which, again, they can do things about, yay, and sometimes this sort of thing is the clue that leads to the answer to other quirky problems). I particularly wanted to mention this because certain kinds of migraines can indicate that certain kinds of hormonal birth control might be more risky (I think it’s the migraines *with aura* that are of concern?), so if you’re starting up hormonal birth control, that’s something to be aware of when discussing with your doctor and selecting varieties.

      • Meg

        I saw the words “extra cup size” and am intrigued. :)

        • KC

          I don’t know if this is common or just something that a couple of friends and I have independently had happen, but yes, I absolutely went up approximately one bra cup size when I went on hormonal birth control (and stayed there for years). And then down again when I went off hormonal birth control. And then up again (somewhat) when I went back on. So… correlation, anyway? Bras are not exactly sizing-standard-compliant, so I don’t know the exact sizing change, but from bras I still own that used to fit, then were too small, then were the right size, and are now too small, something did something to something. I’ve heard independent accounts of this from, I think, two other friends (in addition to non-birth-control-using folk who get super-annoyed by their bust changing at different points in the hormonal cycle so they can’t wear their normally-fitting buttoned shirts), and there have been additional friends who reported mild weight gain or water retention without specifying a location.

          Weird, yes?

          • Nth Anon

            I’ll anecdotally confirm the correlation. I went up a cup size and a half on the pill, and slowly returned to my original size when I went off it.

    • I’ve never known anyone who took the Depo shot, and when I spoke to my doctor about switching off pills, the impression she gave me was that although it remains an option, there are better alternatives for most women now. Obviously, that’s just one opinion.

      The NuvaRing might be a good option to try because, as Anon said, it’s quickly reversible. I actually liked it a lot – very low-maintenance. But unfortunately, I had hormonal side effects that I never had on the pill. It took me a few months to put two and two together. I was having crazy mood swings and my emotions were all over the place. Finally my boyfriend said something like, “You know, you’ve really been a lot more emotional since you stuck that ring up your vagina.” Took it out and boom – back to normal in a few weeks. You might have no side effects at all, and if you did, it would be easy to stop using.

      The reluctance of some doctors to prescribe IUDs for patients who haven’t had a kid is lessening. From what my doctor told me and from the copious reading I did before I got one, I gathered there’s no substantial reason not to. The risk is slightly higher that the IUD will slip out, or that insertion will be difficult or more painful, but that’s about it. My insertion really hurt, but my doctor did it when I was a few days into my period, so my cervix was already a little dilated, and I took a carload of ibuprofen beforehand. I think if it’s something you really are interested in, and your CNP won’t do it, it’s worth getting a second opinion. Of course, there are a few more serious medical risks (rupture or infection) than you would get with the pill or the ring, but on the whole, IUDs are a great choice for a lot of women. If you don’t like the idea of hormones, you can get the copper one. I really, really like my IUD and have been lucky to have no serious problems with it.

      I’ve also heard good things about Implanon, which is the little hormone-soaked stick that gets inserted in your arm. Several of my students (I used to work at a boarding school) had it and they said they really liked it.

    • Claire

      I was on Depo for years and generally liked it. I had to stop because I have a family history of osteoporosis and Depo was discovered to be really bad for bone loss.

    • Sara

      Hi Wondering, there was a long discussion by lots of us IUD-having ladies earlier in the thread you might want to check out! A lot of health professionals will not recommend, or even refuse to insert, an IUD for a woman who has never had children. This is a *completely* outdated mentality. The only difference between the two is that a never-pregnant woman has a slightly higher risk of her body rejecting the IUD. I could go on a long tirade, but to put it bluntly, you should get a second opinion.

      Planned Parenthood is notoriously great about not giving women grief about this, like so many other things. Their website is also handy for comparing different b.c. methods:

      full disclosure: I have an IUD, no kids, and everything is awesome.

    • Anonymous As Well


      I get these in waves. I can go for months without them and then I’ll get them every single time, or a one off. There’s no real pattern. Mine start at my temples or the base of my neck, and they throb for about half an hour afterwards. Sometimes I get nausea with it.

      In any case, if you get them every time I would see a doctor just to make sure there isn’t anything underlying that’s causing it. My doctor checked me out and said that it’s probably due to muscle tension. That and if I’m close I have a bad habit of holding my breath, which makes it worse. I’ve been able to clue in to when I’m tensing up, and I’m starting to be able to prevent the full on explosive headache. Your mileage may vary for all of this, but that’s what works for me.

    • Laura

      I just commented this somewhere else on here, but it is becoming common practice to give IUDs to women who haven’t been pregnant before, as long as they aren’t planning to get pregnant within a year. The only reason they preferred to give them to women who have given birth or had a miscarriage or medical abortion is that the cervix is easier to get through in these cases. But there are other options to make passing through the cervix more comfortable for women who haven’t been pregnant. If your doctor is being hesitant, you should really think about getting a second opinion. Because seriously? Best. Birth control. Ever.

    • Luc

      I have had both Depo and IUD (Mirena). My experience with Depo wasn’t great, i was very emotional and had nearly constant break thorugh bleeding (admittedly when i am not on birth control i have extremely heavy bleeding).

      I got the Mirena inserted (having never had children etc) and the only concession my doctor made for this was sending me to a gyno (instead of doing it herself) apparently it is more difficult becuase of the narrow cervix.

      The gyno was prepared to put me under a heavy sedative to do the procedure but didn’t need to. I found the first month or so annoying with mild cramping and break though bleeding but this stopped and I had 5 lovely years of basically no bleeding before having it removed.

      I like to know i am fertile as soon as the IUD is removed, unlike the Depo where they tell you it could take 2 years to ovulate again.

    • Anon in MD

      Do you take any other medications regularly? I take allergy medication in the morning when I get up, so I just always made it a point to take my HBC when I took my allergy medicine or when I brushed my teeth. If you incorporate it into a routine you already have, it shouldn’t be too bad. I found the HBC lessened my PMS & my cramps and practically eliminated my acne – I was actually on it for those things and not birth control.

      Maybe you could try taking Tylanol or something similar before you have sex? Might eliminate the headache pain. I don’t have that problem myself, but preventative/minimizing measures might help.

  • Sav

    I’ve always been a serial lurker here, but the dsoigbjsaghhhh (read: insane amount of complicated emotions) this brought welling to the surface compel me to say a huge THANK YOU for writing this piece.

    This brought me so much relief that, though I venture into cheesiness here (although who doesn’t love good cheese?) I am literally in tears. I’ve orgasmed a total of two times in my entire life, and it has been incredibly stressful to resist the pressure that dictates that I be labeled “sexually inept” because I can’t orgasm on demand.

    I know the usual spiel about “it’s okay most women can’t” but I always felt a kind of… judgement, and due to that it’s always been hard for me to articulate, to my partner and otherwise that, yes, I actually do enjoy sex. Sometimes it’s so hard to temper the knowledge that you are fulfilled by your sex life with this cultural narrative that you MUST orgasm every time and they must be the STRONGEST AWESOMEST ORGASM EVARR.

    This subject has always made me uncomfortable, likely due to an upbringing that shamed sexuality, self-esteem and any kind of positive body image, which just makes the conversation harder. So I just wanted to say thank you. To all of you, because I feel so less alone now.

  • K

    Can I bring up long-distance sex?

    For a while my fiance and I were having a lot of arguments about sex. We don’t live in the same place right now, so whenever we did see each other there was all this pressure to be jumping each other constantly, and I didn’t always feel it. And I always felt so guilty, which is a huge turn-off. When you won’t see each other for another month and say no to sex it introduces all sorts of tension.

    Sometime in the fall we just sort of fell into mutual-masturbation-over-the-internet and oh my goodness. It has helped SO MUCH. It’s like now we’re a lot freer discussing what we want, because we’re coming up with all sorts of scenarios and things. It’s really opened up the conversation about sex, what we like, what we don’t. It’s made it ok to really talk about sex in a way we weren’t doing for a while there. Is anyone else doing this?

    I will say that we’ve both always known that we masturbate when not together, so maybe that was part of why it worked so well.

    • anon

      Sometimes I get really excited to travel for work because, um, hello: phone sex!

    • Anonny

      After my fiance and I had been together for about 4 months I moved 7 hours away for grad school. After Christmas break he went to Texas (we’re from NY) for bootcamp, then straight to technical training. I was still in DC for grad school. Then he got out of training and came back to NY and I left to go to Scotland for 5 weeks for school and didn’t even get to see him in between. We were long distance for a year. We did a lot of video chatting and video chat sex. It was really uncomfortable for me at first. Still not my favorite BUT it seriously was great for our relationship. It’s so hard to be physically disconnected from your partner for so long. I wish there was such a think as virtual hugs and cuddles though . . . anyway, DO IT. DO IT. My partner was SO HAPPY to do this. I’m definitely happy this stage of our relationship is over, but it was very helpful for us at the time.

  • Anon

    Can I talk about how horribly guilty I feel for not being more horny?

    We have sex once a month, during my off week from my birth control pills. That is the ONLY time I actually want sex. The rest of the time, the whole idea of sex just feels like work. I can’t get into it at all. Not only can I not come, but I can’t even get turned on. I just feel like I’m awkwardly going through the motions, or worse, like it’s just a tedious duty I have to fulfill.

    I’ve tried just going for it, hoping that I’ll get into it as I go. I don’t get into it. And he takes forever to come, probably because my lack of enthusiasm is turning him off, so I end up sore and neither of us end up getting off.

    So I don’t initiate. And he doesn’t directly initiate either, I think out of fear of rejection. So we don’t have sex except once a month, right before my period, when I can actually get enthusiastic and we both enjoy it.

    I know he’s not happy about the lack of frequency. So I feel incredibly guilty. Which does not make me feel more sexy.

    I suspect that it’s the birth control pills killing my sex drive, because my sex drive comes right back during the off week. But I have to be on birth control pills. Without them, my ovaries form giant cysts (ew). I quit my birth control pills in frustration this summer, and my sex drive ramped way back up, and I was happy — but two months later I ended up in the hospital having surgery to save my ovary, because a giant cyst was causing it to twist around and cut off its own blood supply. Thank God we have good health insurance, so that didn’t financially ruin us. But yeah, there will be no more happy fun times off the pill.

    I guess the right answer to this question is to make Yet Another doctor’s appointment and try Yet Another brand of pill and hope that somehow, something will be different.

    I feel like a crazy hypochondriac for continually bothering my doctor saying “I don’t have enough of a sex drive,” because that’s such a vague, amorphous complaint and there’s so little she can really do about it. But then I also feel like a horrible crappy wife because I only want sex once a month. (Especially when I read all of you guys freaking out because you “only have sex once a week.” Dude, I would love to want sex once a week.)

    I also need to learn to open my mouth and talk about this with my husband. I worry that he’ll think I’m just making excuses to put him off, or that he’ll think I’m being crazy and I just need to get over it. I’m also afraid that I’ll find out he’s a lot more angry and frustrated than he seems — afraid that it’ll be opening a can of worms.

    Ugh. I don’t know.

    • Lesbihonest

      I feel you, but for us it’s my wife with the lower sex drive, and I’m the one feeling unhappy about our sex life. She’s on bc (for cysts), I’m not. I didn’t actually know bc might affect sex drive. Sometimes I worry that it’s something that I’m doing or not doing – in bed or out – but that hasn’t come up when we talk about it so I trust her that it’s just that she doesn’t want to have sex as much as I do. Most often, if I initiate sex she deflects me. When she initiates, I’m all in. We generally have sex about once a month as well. I don’t want to push her or make her feel like she’s not making me happy, so in the past year or so I’ve mostly dropped the subject. Masturbation is a good substitute, but for me it’s not quite like doing it with her, and when I’m masturbating frequently it seems like it is harder for me to have an organism when we have sex. Double edged sword. Does anyone have this problem too? I guess I’m just trying to figure out when to talk about it, still letting her know when I’m interested in sex in case she is too but not making her feel bad if she isn’t, and trying to find a balance in our sex life that we can both be happy with. I know it’s no one’s fault, but like everyone’s said, complicated, and definitely not a rom-com.

      • Laura

        So. I’m in a heterosexual relationship so my partner’s low sex drive is not caused by hormonal contraceptives. But everything else you wrote, I could have written it, word for word. It’s been a long time. The thing that bothers me the most is the deflecting – it’s very demoralizing. The thing that bothers me the second most is the feeling that there is a (for lack of better word) power imbalance, in that I never say no, not because I don’t feel like I can, but because any time he initiates, I’m like, thank god, let’s go! It’s really tough (certainly on me but I think on both of us), and we haven’t yet found a good way of communicating about it (but we keep trying). So, no advice here, just empathy and camaraderie. (But if anyone does have advice, I’m all ears!)

        • honeycakehorse

          Hi Laura – I know this boat you’re sitting in *very* well – we do talk about it, but so far it hasn’t actively changed anything – I’ve noticed that if I leave for a week, stuff happens when I come back…but otherwise, I sometimes feel like we’re already in a sort of pre-geriatric, cuddles-only relationship…or at least I’m not quite satisfied with the frequency I get (if we spread it out, 2/month would be about right)…Apart from maybe once a month, sex has this air of a chore for him…if you feel like comparing notes, let me know ;)

          • Erin

            I’m responding late to this, but OMG, it’s such a relief to find some other people who have the same issues with their bf/hubby/partners. I especially feel you on the deflecting sex part and being in the position of never wanting to turn it down when he initiates b/c ‘geez, who knows when we might do it again.’ The deflection parts have been the most difficult – for a while it felt like I was constantly crying and fighting with him about it. Which then made him feel like sex was some chore for him that he had to do because if he didn’t, I’d start crying again. I have finally gotten to a place where if he’s not up for it, I let it go, so we haven’t had a fight about it in a long time.

            Also…not sure if you have this issue as well, but my frustration about his deflection has been amplified by the fact that I know how regularly he masturbates. It makes me INSANELY jealous and frustrated. Cause I’m all for alone time, but it really stinks when I think about how he’d rather jerk it than have sex with me. His argument is that masturbation is some quick no-nonsense time to himself, and sex is a bigger production.

            So far as sex goes, he seems content, and I’m still feeling pretty desperate. I really wish I could just deliver a swift kick to my boyfriend’s butt — which doesn’t really help me out at all. We all have different needs and wants…it’s just hard to cope when you feel like you have an itch that only they can scratch…and they put their back scratcher away and won’t pull it out for another week.

        • Anon in MD

          Since they are guys and it isn’t HBC issues, are they on any other sort of medication?

          My DH is on anti-depressants and he knows that they affect his libido. He has no problems when we’re having sex, but getting him to want sex is tough sometimes, especially when it’s my week to ovulate since we’re trying to conceive.

          I get bummed some times because he doesn’t always want to have sex with me when I try to initiate it, but because he knows this is a side effect of his medication, he was able to be up front with me about it and so I know it isn’t me, it is his meds.

    • Meg


      And there’s all the mixed resentment and guilt about “well you never want sex” “no you never want sex.”

      Be careful with the talking about this — every time we try, it becomes the Why Don’t You Find Me Sexy fight (from both sides).

      We’ve tried so much — scheduling sexy times, going on dates we can’t really afford, sending sexy texts — and we haven’t gotten very far. Maybe we can try hard? Maybe it will work better for you?

      I feel your pain SO MUCH, I want this to get better for you so I know there’s hope for me!

    • Anon for this

      This sounds hugely frustrating (no pun intended).

      You said:

      “I feel like a crazy hypochondriac for continually bothering my doctor saying “I don’t have enough of a sex drive,” because that’s such a vague, amorphous complaint and there’s so little she can really do about it.”

      Feeling comfortable and satisfied with your intimate life is huge! I think many would agree there was a serious problem if someone went into their doctor and said, “I really want to walk, but my knees just don’t seem to be holding me up at all.” Not feeling like your sex-drive is working for you seems like a huge physical and emotional challenge. No need to apologize!

    • Anon

      Ugh, I totally feel you on the mismatched sex drive guilt cycle thing.

      It took me forever to go to the doctor about changing my birth control due to lack of sex drive. I totally had this mentality that if I “tried harder” it would get better. Anyway, point of this story was that my doctor and the few people I’ve discussed this with were very supportive. So I encourage you to see your doctor and if they’re not helpful to get another opinion. Hope it works out for you!

    • Class of 1980

      Anon, by all means, look into a different brand of pill.

      If your doctor isn’t familiar with lack of sex drive being a side effect of some pills, then he or she isn’t much of a doctor. They’ve heard everything before.

      Your marriage is more important than worrying about your doctor’s opinion anyway.

      • KC

        Small addendum: they’re not much of a doctor, so *go somewhere else* if you can.

        I have encountered doctors who were baffled by side-effects occurring that were on the “frequent side effects include” prescription notes. The best option there, unless they’re willing to educate themselves, is to move on to other doctors. Just because they really, truly ought to be aware of these things does not always mean they are.

        • Anon

          To be fair, the most recent gynecologist I saw did seem to take the lack of sex drive thing seriously. She switched me to a different brand of pill and told me to call her back if things didn’t improve. Well, things have improved in that I want sex once a month now, instead of never. But that’s still not what I’d like it to be. So I should call her back.

          I seem to have overly internalized the attitude of a former doctor of mine — the first one I ever talked to about my lack of sex drive. She essentially told me “That happens with all birth control pills. Deal with it.” She’s no longer my doctor. But for some reason, I secretly believe that what she said is true.

          I’ve tried six brands of pills — in chronological order: Ortho Tri Cyclen, Trinessa, Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo, Yasmin, Ocella, and Ortho Cyclen. I had the most sex drive on Ortho Tri Cyclen. But then, I was also in my teens and early 20s when I was taking that pill; maybe I just had a higher sex drive then in general. (Trinessa is the generic for Ortho Tri Cyclen. I noticed my sex drive starting to fall off when I switched to Trinessa. I do know that generic drugs can have slightly different concentrations, and maybe the difference was enough to mess with me? Or maybe it was all in my head and it’s not connected to the pills at all?)

          I asked my current doctor about switching back to Ortho Tri Cyclen, and she said Ortho Cyclen would probably control the cysts better. I should probably ask her to just try Ortho Tri Cyclen.

          • KC

            Admittedly, a lot of things can mess with sex drive (other prescriptions, age, stress, food, sleep deprivation, hormones of various kinds, snuggling, sensory overstimulation, etc.), but heading back to the doctor and saying “can we make this better?” sounds like a good plan in any event. (and swapping back off the generic sounds like a good plan to try first; I also responded slightly differently to the generic than to the regular of one type of prescription, and that confused me) There may also be “here are some non-drug ways you may be able to increase your sex drive or arousal” options to try out.

            It’s really, really hard to not internalize the first-doctor-message (or whichever doctor is most negative, honestly). But you can do it! It’s possible (but not certain) that all birth control that affects cyst production will also reduce your sex drive somewhat (I don’t know what the hormone mix for cyst reduction is, but that probably cuts out some types of pill?), but as you’ve already observed, there are bigger and smaller effects with different pill types, so it’s totally possible, and I think even likely that something even better for you is out there.

            I know (oh, do I ever know) it’s frustrating to keep going back to the doctor and keep trying out different things, but you can do it! :-)

          • KRW

            I actually had the exact same drop off in sex drive when I switched from Ortho Tri Cyclen to Trinessa. So it’s not all in your head!

  • K.E.

    A well written article that definitely needs to be heard! Judging by the comments above, it’s very clear that this (for lack of a better term) condition, is more common than not. And the fact that not just movies, but women in general rarely talk about it openly does both sexes a huge disservice!
    It took me 10 years, 2 therapists, countless doctor visits and an I-can’t-even-fathom number of positions, before my fiance and I realized I just can’t orgasm the ol’ fashion way. Though there was nothing physically or mentally (that we could find) that kept me from getting turned on by bump and grind sex, I still couldn’t reach the finish line…or really come close. However, even when we did discover what worked for me, I’ll admit a small part of me was irritated amidst the joy. Mainly because I can’t fathom how even in a post-feminist movement, progressive, redefining sexual identity society do we still keep this issue under the covers and out of public discussion?! Yes privacy is one thing, but if this story is any indication, so much good comes from sharing these struggles with other men and women. In fact, if it hadnt’ve been for a similar open and welcoming blog like this one, it probably would have taken me much longer to accept the fact that my parts just don’t function like Jenna Jameson’s.

  • APW Lurker

    Long term NuvaRing ladies – have you had any troubling side effects? After reading some of the blood clot horror stories on the Internet I’m a little nervous to use. But talking to my OB GYN and my fiancé it is a good fit for our lifestyle. I used the pill in college but it just got too cumbersome everyday, the shot killed my sex drive and although I really did love the patch, it was just not a great “long” term option. I would love to use an IUD but the hormonal one makes me nervous (just not comfortable with 5 years) and the copper one isn’t an option because of my anemia. We use lambskin condoms now but reading these comments reminded me how much easier and not awkward the sex was with BC. So thoughts on Nuva?

    • natalie

      I have been on Nuva for 3 years now. I love the convenience, but like you, I worry about side effects. I want to get pregnant at some point in my life, and I don’t like blood clots (obvi) so being on it makes me a little apprehensive.

      A few things from personal experience with it:
      I have no sex drive
      I do get more hormonal headaches
      my boobs are now MASSIVE
      I am an emotional wreck/hot mess about 75% of the time (not exaggerating…) BUT that might just be me. ;)

      The benefits are:
      I take it out when I have sex; it’s usually out for 45 minutes and I have not had any unintended pregnancies
      (knock on wood)
      It is relatively affordable and easy to get
      I now get far fewer yeast infections/bladder infections/vaginitis because of it, and my GYN told me that the ring can help clear up those infections when combined with a more sensible diet.

      The costs are starting to outweigh the benefits for me. I am particularly tired of the headaches, which is why i am getting off of it soon. Overall, though, it’s convenience factor is pretty huge and I think it’s a pretty solid birth control method.

    • SJ

      I love my nuvaring, and I believe I have been on it for about 6 years now. I’m not experiencing any side effects that I know of… no weight gain, light periods, same sex drive… perfect.

    • Em

      It sounds like Nuva would be good for you, at least to try.


      I think it’s worth emphasizing that Mirena lasts *up to* five years, but you don’t have to keep it for that long! If you decide you’re ready for a baby, you just have it taken out. Your fertility should come right back. And, sidebar, for all the stories about rough insertions (which, wow, mine was), taking it out is supposed to be easy.

  • Me

    This post was extremely helpful. Thank you, everyone!

    After having tons of issues with various pills and reading a super informative book called IN OUR CONTROL, I got an IUD and have felt like it was the best decision for me.

    Knowing about the history of contraception made me feel much more aware and in control of my body. Here is the link to the book:

  • Anon

    Well I’m just super glad that people are actually talking about this stuff.

    My partner and I have an incredibly complicated sex-life. I’ve never enjoyed penetrative sex and it has been painful 80% of the time and uncomfortable 20%. We’ve been together for 5.5 years, have had a tumultuous sexual history, and it’s at the point now where we go months at a time without having intercourse because I’ve had enough. I put myself through years and years of painful sex that often ended up with me crying because I felt like I needed to satisfy his (very frequent) urges. I’m completely at a loss, I feel like an inferior woman, and like I’m hiding this big, dark, shame-filled secret from the world.

    • natalie

      You are not alone. So many women struggle with these very things, but we rarely talk about it. One of the things that helped me, ultimately, was going to a therapist. I resisted it for years, but it is finally starting to help me a lot. Just remember that you are not alone………… :)

  • Anonymous As Well

    Throughout the comments I just kept thinking of these charts I saw once before, so I had to go back and seek them out because they’re too good not to share.

    Bedtime story certainly happens to me a lot. >_>

    • Anon.

      Soooo great. Let’s not talk about how true some of those are, okay?

    • Oops!

      I tried to exactly and I reported!! Sorry!!

  • Anon

    In the last few months I’ve begun to notice how frequently I lose steam sexually when I sense my partner is expecting sex–which at first may seem counter-intuitive. Mind you, he might not actually be expecting some-behavior-resulting-in-orgasm, but that’s the conclusion I jump to when he is initiating foreplay. This sometimes feels intrusive to me, and I usually pull away when this happens, resentful that he wants sex and fearful of disappointing him because I can’t seem to get my head in a place where I feel safe enough to be open and receptive to a shared sexual experience.

    I also think I sometimes have difficulty “being in my body,” so to speak, because I disappear into my head. When I’m “in my head” and my partner initiates physical contact of any kind, it sometimes feels like a jolt back to a place I don’t want to be for the moment. I’m not aware of having experienced any physical or sexual trauma in the past, but I think I have some latent emotional trauma related to having a female body in a world that commodifies, controls, and exploits the female body.

    It has recently become clear to me that, after a women’s studies degree and years of claiming a feminist identity, I have failed to recognize the ways in which I objectify myself. I have had such a strong distrust of the patriarchal system that I have generally assumed I am being viewed as an object, even when there is no evidence at hand to suggest that I am being objectified. As such, fear that I am being reduced to an object causes me to shut down on multiple levels–and sex is one of the most straightforward times this occurs due to how central my body is to the experience.

    The most difficult parts of sex for me are not physical mechanics, but trying to remember that my partner wants to connect with me as a person, and not as an object; and keeping myself mentally and emotionally available for sex as we are heading into it.

    I had a breakthrough about how to deal with this one day when I felt myself pulling away emotionally. I then physically turned away from my partner to try to get my head back in the right place. My partner was concerned and was stroking my arm, trying to reassure me, but that still felt unwelcome. “[Pet name],” I said, “I want you to stop moving around and just hold me for a while.” So we spooned until I remembered that I was in a safe relationship with someone who loves me for more than my physical body. Once I had calmed down and become comfortable, we proceeded into sex. I have been repeating this strategy with some success since then, but I am curious to hear how others deal with some of the more challenging psychological/emotional aspects of sex.

    • Anon

      I don’t have the same feeling as you regarding objectification, but I totally feel you on feeling less like sex when my partner begins initiating it. The way he kisses me changes when he’s leading up to sexy times and I associate it with lots of PRESSURE TO HAVE SEX. Urgh.

    • Aubry

      The second parapraph is so me! Like an uncomfortable jolt back to reality accompanied by a “ewNO” thought. I try to not push away so rudely cause i know it hurts his feelings. With conversation I now try to accept the touch for a moment, grab his hand in mine with a little squeeze and relocate to a more neutral place. This is a more quiet and less painful way for me to say “no” and not the “ewNO” reaction.

  • Anon

    This is such an interesting thread, but I’ve got to the bottom of it and now I feel like crap. I have actually never had an orgasm. Seriously. It’s just never happened!

    I used to put so much pressure on myself and get really upset about it, but its been so long now (8 years) that I’ve all but given up. I’ve been with my fiancé for almost five years, and I know it hurts his ego a bit that for me, during sex or otherwise, nothing happens. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it all, but frankly I have no idea what most of you are talking about. I’ve been on the pill for years but coming off it isn’t really an option, and I’m also on anti depressants. I know these aren’t supposed to help things, but ive had so many long and painful conversations about them and for me I need them just to tread water. Chronic family depression is a buzz kill.

    I don’t know what to do or try next, because I feel like I’ve tried it all. Therapy, toys, etc. Maybe I’m just unlucky, and that just plain sucks.

    • Not Sarah

      I’m sorry :( Try different times of day? I cannot for the life of me orgasm at night, only in the morning, especially on weekends.

      • rowany

        It’s a lot easier for me in the morning too! I think it has something to do with a full bladder increasing the pressure ‘down there’, helping with stimulation.

    • S

      I can only orgasm in specific positions. Straddling him on the couch is the best. Me on top is next but I have to get the angle just right. Occasionally him on top. ALL of these positions include our bodies being very close and clitoral stimulation by his body rubbing on it – VERY IMPORTANT. Also I have to clear my head and often visualize exactly and explicitly what is happening down there. If it’s really hot in the room I cannot come. There are so many variables to figure out! But try some of these things. They worked for me but it took a while time to figure them out. Good luck. DON’T give up!

    • Anon

      Antidepressants can totally do that. Don’t blame yourself! Life is long, and many women have tons of changes in their sexual pleasure, responsiveness, and potential for orgasm across the life cycle. I don’t want to throw advice at you–there’s so much of that available that sometimes it feels like you just have a long list of Things to Try that you have to check off.

      But I’ll just say that when I’m frustrated with my sexual desire and responsiveness, whether because of a low sex drive, physical discomfort, yeast infection, or what-have-you, I just try to broaden my definition of pleasure. Maybe I’ll watch porn or reading erotica without masturbating, just enjoying the sensation of being aroused without feeling like I need to address/resolve that sensation by touching myself. And maybe this is all hippie-dippie, but I do yoga positions that are designed to open the first chakra, aka groin. I just relax into those poses, enjoying a sense of well-being and openness, without feeling like I need to do something or succeed at pleasing myself/my partner in a particular way. Then at least I don’t feel so deprived or incapable of experiencing pleasure. I’m not saying this will overhaul your sex life or lead directly to orgasm, just that it might help with your emotional reactions to not orgasming. Good luck!

    • Aubry

      I am so sorry for you, that must be hard. Try to remember that you are not broken, but you are a perfect person, who just need a little something extra/different.

      I know when my ex was on antidepressants he lost the ability to orgasm. He could still become erect and get 80-90% of the way, but his body just said nope (with a middle finger and maniacal smile I aways a imagined). He switched brands and the problem stopped, but weird body issues etc and he ended up going off of them. I know this is not an option for you, but just to know I relate to some of the frustrations!

      I dont really have any advice, but a big internet hug to you! The only thing i could say is to look into your intestinal and digestive health. It seems weird, but some crazy amount like 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. This is never addressed by the medical profession, and neither is prevention or treating the root causes. Sometimes a combination of food intolerances can wreak havoc on your body.

  • Kat

    Thank you APW ladies for this amazing post fabulous discussion. I’ve been at my computer for hours reading all the comments and have really enjoyed the discussion.

  • R.

    Some thoughts about our sex life.

    It’s awesome. We have a lot of sex. But it took me a while to get comfortable having sex with him, and I never orgasmed from penetrative sex until after I fell in love with him. Which taught me that for me emotionally intimacy is a really important part of orgasming, and now I know that I can only come if I feel like he’s paying the right kind of attention to me during sex. (And that I’m not going to come every time, and that’s okay for both of us.) Also, at first, the amount of sex that he wanted to have felt like way too much, but then I tried it, and you know what? It isn’t. Sometimes I need to say “I’m not quite wet enough yet” and then tell him what to do to make me ready, but then he does it and it works and we have sex and I like it. Also, having sex regularly keeps me loose enough so it’s not painful ever anymore, as does always making sure I’m ready before he puts his penis inside me.

    He’s incredibly supportive of me, which has made me comfortable enough to work through my sexual hang ups. Which is kind of the best thing ever. When we started our relationship, I wasn’t comfortable being on top or giving blow jobs, and now I am. For both of these things I felt like I wasn’t good enough and I would distract myself from enjoying what I was doing by worrying about being the one in charge. Turns out for us the solution was pretty simple. First, I needed to acknowledge that I had hang ups about these things in the first place, and let him know. In doing that I realized that all I needed to enjoy myself was knowing that he was enjoying himself, that I am in fact good enough. He’s usually pretty silent during sex, but if I’m on top or going down on him, he makes an effort to moan a little bit to let me know that I’m doing it right. And it makes all the difference in the world. It’s also let me explore different things so now I enjoy these activities not just because he likes them (and he does) but for myself. And I feel really good about making him come too.

    Letting things be a little kinky is fun. Embracing non-penetrative-vaginal sex is fun. Throughout the time we’ve been together, we started with very vanilla sex and built our way up from there. My favorite position is missionary and I don’t think that’s ever going to change, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do other things too. Adding in anal sex was a big turning point for us, especially making sure it’s done in a way that works for me (lots of lube and warm up time, and then going slow). Also, fingering is the surest way to make me come, and often times if he comes from vaginal sex and I haven’t yet but I’m still turned on, I’ll just say “finger me” and he does and it makes us both happy. It took me a while to learn to be comfortable asking for what I want, but it makes all the difference, even little things like “lick my neck” or whatever it is that I want during sex. This has led to us actually discussing the things that we like, that we think the other one might like, or that we’d like to try one day. It’s fun thinking about the things we can do in our future together, and it makes me excited that I get to have sex with him for the rest of my life.

    That said, there’s a piece of me that worries that at some point this will change. I’m a little bit scared of the whole “couples stop having sex over time” thing. I’m hoping that it doesn’t, or that if it does, it happens in a way we’re both okay with. Because sex is a hugely important part of how we’re intimate with each other and I don’t know how to imagine anything replacing that. We did have a period that felt like forever which was probably only a couple of weeks where he had a hard time getting or staying hard, and that was a challenge. It took a lot of effort to not think that it was me. But we got through that, and he worked through what was bugging him, and decided to drink a bit less and in the meantime he made sure to finger me or do other things when we couldn’t have sex-sex. I’m hoping that if issues like this come up in the future, we can work through them again, and that as we’re together longer, making sure the other one is sexually happy stays a priority for us.

    • S

      “. . . I never orgasmed from penetrative sex until after I fell in love with him. Which taught me that for me emotionally intimacy is a really important part of orgasming . . .”


      • Lindsey

        Agree, but with blow jobs. I hated, hated, hated giving them. Until I fell in love with him. Now, I fantasize about giving them and they turn me on too, whereas before they were simply to be tolerated. (It is still better if he has recently showered, though).

  • Not Quite Brave Today

    Thanks ladies! This thread taught me a whole lot, especially about BC types and experiences.

    Here’s my story. I’ve only ever had sex with my current boyfriend (pre-enegaged, yay!) and I’m his only girlfriend, so all our experiences are exclusive of one another (minus a few make-out sessions early in college I had with a Mistake). We’ve been together 6 years and definitely worked our way through most types of sex.

    I discovered I have two orgasm types – the clitoral one that I became familiar with during puberty and the vaginal one I’m still figuring out. My clitoral orgasms are thanks to manual (or oral) stimulation and tend to be very whole-body jolts, a string of them. I haven’t been able to get more than one off at a time.

    Vaginally, though, it’s really fascinating. My guy isn’t a horse, nor is he. . .whatever animal is the opposite, but his size is incredibly well suited to my make up, and when I orgasm I tend to be just bodily overwhelmed, but without the pinpointable reactions that come with clitoral ones. It’s especially strong when he comes, (graphic here) due to the pulsing he does then (I tried to write that three different ways and all of them sounded like a bad novel, sorry!).

    I notice a difference between condom-clad and naked penis. I don’t prefer the condoms, but they were effective for their purpose while we used them. I was also on Sprintec, which I found did decrease my libido. It may have been a bit depressing too, but I was at a very bad job at the time and can’t really say. I can say that I like being au natural and recognizing my body’s patterns. I also get really horny when I’m ovulating. Anyone else?

    Also, blow jobs are fun! (and thanks for the nod to dry humping, Rachel. Good times. . .)

  • Lindsey

    Two comments to this thread:

    1) I really like my birth control – Loestrin 24. It’s low hormone, gives me super light or no periods and has not resulted in low libido or weight gain. And no pregnancy scares in almost two years of using it.

    2) I was 30 before I ever had sex and the first few attempts sounded a lot like the first commenters — incredibly painful. It just wasn’t happening. After a couple of weeks of trying with no success, lots of tears and pain, I went to see my gyno for my annual. It took him about 60 seconds to diagnose a build-up of scar tissue. He prescribed a numbing gel to start and then we ended up doing a hymenotomy. A month later, I was enjoying pain free sex. And it’s been awesome. I really, really, really hope those of you experiencing pain find solutions…

  • Rachel

    Oh man, so many comments I’m sure someone has already said what I have to say, but…

    I use a small vibrator when I have sex with my husband (just a pocket rocket). Without it I don’t orgasm. I was afraid he would be reluctant at first, but I just explained that it is something that helps me have an orgasm, and that I love sex with him even if I don’t have an orgasm, or even if I don’t use the vibrator. I think that was a big thing for me: managing the expectations of my partner so that he doesn’t feel bad if I don’t come. I love sex, and I love having orgasms, but the constant expectation of “If I don’t make her come I’ve failed” that hangs in the air can be exhausting. Once we put the kabosh on that (and I started using a vibrator), it was much better.

  • ANONforUS

    OK I’m now going to out myself – anonymously of course. Remember earlier in the thread that asshole guy all you ladies had mind-blowing sex with but then ended up leaving cause his Life-qualities didn’t equal his Sex-qualities? I am sort-of him. Except I’m a queer woman. (And I’m now “reformed” – meaning I’m blissfully in love and engaged. And I’m poly. But that’s another topic for another thread.)

    I’m not going to give specifics because I didn’t always keep good records and I didn’t always care enough to remember , but lets just say I’m exceptionally experienced at making women come. A lot. A lot of women or a lot of coming for each woman? Yes. Was I nice to them? About sex stuff/body stuff, yes. Relationship stuff notsomuch.

    There’s very little I haven’t done, seen, tried, experienced when it comes to women’s bodies and sex. All kinds of women. All kinds of bodies. All kinds of sex.

    Ok so here’s my real point. Every (healthy) woman can orgasm. A lot. No exceptions.

    Everyone has mentioned it but I think just be totally clear –

    orgasming is SO specific and SO personal and SO TOTALLY individual.

    If you’re not orgasming and it’s not medical/medicinal (by which I mean mental medical stuff as well), it’s unlikely you’ve really tried everything. Probably, you’ve only scratched the surface. From the comments so far, I think mostly this crew has not ventured into the deep end (or not brave enough to talk about it). Which is not a bad thing, IF your sex life is working for you. If it’s not, might be time for some deep water swimming lessons? I’m not gonna do that here, don’t worry. i’m just gonna reference the deep end.

    ok i’m now going to say the things that are too controversial to say. this is your official warning.

    [PREFACE to controversial topics/opinions/viewpoints:

    it’s basically impossible to have an orgasm *while* you are judging yourself for being turned-on by the stuff that is turning you on. just sayin.]

    #1 some humans are “kinky”. about half of those humans are women. ;) some people feel being “kinky” is a “lifestyle choice” or a preference or an experiment or a phase. other people are “so” kinky that they thought they were asexual or broken or something until they discovered their kink, and then really enjoyed sex/sexuality/arousal/etc for the first time.

    being into something “kinky” or into BDSM (or leather or triads or feet or exhibitionism or pain or food or role play or stuffed animals or ice or yes, even impact) or anything else “unconventional” doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. some people are just wired that way. same as gay. what gets you off is what gets you off. try not to judge. keep exploring, safely, with education when appropriate. when you find your thing(s), you’ll KNOW in your gut. it’s unmistakable. the question is, will you let yourself enjoy it? If you get really mental about it, find an understanding therapist. read some books. I can recommend some if needed.

    #2 anal. some people, (yes women) can not orgasm without some variety of anal stimulation. if you think needing clitoral stimulation to orgasm is outside the heteronormative rom-com conversation, anal isn’t on the map. but true. so there, hollywood. and sure, anal intercourse really works for some women, but more common is just some sort of anal stimulation – a finger or two, either moving or still. a small toy (like a plug) inserted and left still. a toy (like beads) that goes in, is left alone, then pulled out when you get close, to send you over the edge. or vibration. anal vibration has a whole fan club of (orgasming) women. trust me. wanna try? go for it. here’s what you’ll need: lube. patience. condoms. access to hot water and soap.

    #3 MENTAL stimulation. this perhaps should have been #1. it was talked about earlier in the thread somewhat. if you don’t know what kind of thoughts/ideas turn you on so much your whole body responds, then it’s time to do some exploring. cause again, barring medical/medicinal issues, every woman’s BRAIN is highly orgasmic. just finding what makes you tick.

    #4 also, i don’t think it’s been said enough – stress is a KILLER for orgasms/libido/arousal. also, for a surprisingly large percentage of women, lack of sleep is a killer (which is kind of like stress). that one time you had amazing sex and nothing really seemed different? might have also been the day after the one night in the last 10 months you had a good nights sleep. also, if you’re chronically sleep deprived (and if it’s a mild case, you probably don’t think you are) it would probably take 2-6 nights in a row of quality sleep to feel the effects on your orgasms/sex/arousal. vacation sex is not just about more free time to mess around in the bedroom. it’s about sleep and de-stressing too. majorly. go read about de-stressing elsewhere, i’m not gonna pretend to be an expert. but in no order – baths, massage, taking your vitamins, quality social time with quality friends, and SLEEP.

    #5 talking about your hang-ups.

    5a. with your gal-friends/whoever you trust AND that you’re never sleeping with. i REALLY really really really recommend talking about sex with trusting, safe, understanding peeps who you are never ever going to sleep with. those friends could be online, too. typing counts. :)

    5b. having sex with people who you feel safe enough to talk about your hang-ups/curiosities/desires/needs/wishes/fantasies/fears with. if that means being in love before you have that conversation, power to you. whatever it takes to feel so safe with your lover that you can say those things you don’t have words for. why don’t you have words for them? because so far you don’t even let yourself think it all the way through, it’s so scary/shameful.

    also, sometimes, we feel safer talking about this stuff with strangers (also known as “sex-positive hottie I met less than 6 hrs ago at our ex-roommate’s wedding”). if you’re in a life-position to bed a “stranger”, DO take advantage of the situation – try out talking about something sex-related that’s difficult for you to talk about. if you never have to see them again and you don’t really care if they get off tonight or not, you might be surprised how much safer you feel. how do you think i learned so much about my lovers? ;)

    • Anon

      Thank you for this post! Really well put. :)