Too much masturbation affects orgasms?

Originally Published: February 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: September 3, 2010
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Dear Alice,

Hi! I have a question about orgasms. I'm a female who has masturbated since her early teens and wonder if I've "overdone" it somewhat. I did it so frequently (sometimes every other day or so; sometimes I waited longer) that now that I'm in my early 20s, I find it harder to reach orgasm, and harder to have multiple orgasms (it used to come so easily to me). Have I "lost" that momentum? Can I regain it if, say, I stopped masturbating for several weeks or months?

Also, my partner stimulates me manually or with his tongue, and I haven't been able to "come" yet... is it because I've masturbated too much? Do women take longer to come? I think he gets bored doing it...

Thanks,
Trying to reach orgasmic plateau again

Dear Trying to reach orgasmic plateau again,

With ice cream, chocolate, or television, it's easy to see how too much of a 'good' thing might do harm to your body by fattening your belly or damaging your eyes, but stimulating your clitoris, whether by hand, by toy, or by partner's tongue, will not render you desensitized in that most delicious of spots. Your worries are completely understandable, but hear this! The amount of masturbation you're talking about is nowhere near an obsessive point, and may have no lasting effects on your current or future ability to have orgasms. If anything, self-stimulation may help you to better understand your body and its preferences, so that you and your partner, may pleasure you better. While there may be some numbness or soreness after a period of particularly vigorous or frequent stimulation, there are no negative long-term effects. You may now breathe a sigh of relief.

Many women experience difficulty reaching orgasm, either by themselves or with a lover, due to a plethora of physical, emotional, and mental issues. Perhaps your trouble climaxing solo could be attributed to your guilt or worry that you masturbate or have masturbated too much? Or to the pressure you might be putting on yourself to retain your multi-orgasmic status? You might have more success if you try not to put pressure on yourself that you "ought" to have more than one orgasm. It's also possible that as you moved on from teenage-hood your hormones have changed, which could affect your sexual drive and ability to orgasm quickly or repeatedly. Focusing on pleasant sensations and on sexy thoughts and desires may help you in your masturbatory pursuits, and also with your partner.

While he's stimulating you with his tongue or his hands, might you be distracted by wondering if you'll reach orgasm, or by worrying about why you haven't gotten there yet? Are you concerned that your boyfriend may be bored? A good percentage of sexual stimulation and turn-on happens in the mind — you might be better off focusing on how good he feels, or even pretending you are masturbating, if that helps you to get your rocks off. You might also take into consideration whether or not your partner is stimulating you effectively. It could help both of you if you show him how you like to pleasure yourself when you're on your own, and how he might change or add to his technique so he brings you closer to and over the edge.

If you think there may be any underlying emotional issues within yourself or between you and your partner that might be holding your orgasms back, you may want to devote some time to personal reflection or to a heart-to-heart with your partner. Open communication before, during, and after sex may be very powerful in terms of shedding light on issues that are usually left in the dark of the bedroom. If you need some help figuring things out, you can make an appointment with a mental health professional, or specifically with a sex therapist. For counseling appointments, Columbia students can make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services by calling x4-2468.

If all is well within you and between you and your partner, your trouble climaxing with him may be a simple matter of anatomy — many women find it much more difficult and rare to climax from stimulation from sex or a partner's touch than they do from their own hands. As for your last question, women do tend to take longer to reach orgasm than men, but there are no hard and fast rules for sexual behavior — even within an individual huge variances depend on time, place, relationship, life events, and many other factors. Just remember that none of this has anything to do with the amount of masturbation you've done — if that's what's working best for you right now, keep at it!

Alice