[CREATIVE NONFICTION] Orgasm Quest
I watch women explain why they love orgasms in a documentary, in French, they giggle and laugh about it through their embarrassment, and I sit with envy. It seems to come so naturally to them. The short-haired brunette says she’s been masturbating since she was twelve.
I always thought it was a me thing. Apparently, numerous women think this, which is comforting and daunting. I started blaming my problem on my sexual partners to deflect the shame from myself. My first long-term sexual relationship was definitely one-sided, not to mention emotionally abusive, and the idea of focusing on me during sex didn’t come up until after he’d cheated and we’d broken up. My life only gets more frustrating when it’s six years later, and I’ve had several new partners, an abundance of time with myself, and the same problem. So, being the scientist that I am, I decided to change all the variables that I could control.
I am twenty-two and I am on an orgasm quest. I began changing different factors of my life that would alter me sexually.
The antidepressants I’ve faithfully since I was sixteen.
The last three years I’ve been on Prozac, a classic.
Unbeknownst to me, a highly common side effect of Prozac is decreased sex drive and difficulty achieving orgasm. Several online discussion boards revealed drug related frustrations and rants, but I felt weirdly euphoric to discover that I wasn’t alone. I became obsessed with reading similar stories and revisited the same websites over and over again. I went to the doctor, determined to solve my problem, and she put me on Effexor, an okay med, but when I tried to refill my prescription they were unaware that my doctor and I had upped my dose. As a result, I was taking only half of my required dose for about twelve days. This, coupled with falling dangerously behind in school, missing 75% of my classes, and my disastrous mental health, led me to swallow more than a few Prozac.
I checked myself into the hospital, where I was given the option of a voluntary psych hold or an involuntary psych hold. I didn’t stay long, but that night was the most dreadful night of my life. I cried for hours, and when my roommate’s catastrophically loud snoring would not let me sleep, I finally laughed at the situation I’d put myself in, and once home, I realized the incorrect dosage and understood that I’d been having withdrawals. Effexor withdrawals are said to be the worst in antidepressants, and many have compared it to detoxing from heroin, some claim it’s worse.
The annoying thing about depression is trying to recall what I did last fall and how I got there but being unable to remember. Those six terrible weeks have slipped into one, all because I wanted to have a normal sex life.
As a young woman, I considered birth control.
My choice, Depo-Provera, not only prevented pregnancy, but kept all period symptoms at bay.
Because of my quest, I looked into the side effects of this shot. They are:
- Decreased interest in sex*
- Potential loss of bone mineral density
- Breast soreness
- Irregular periods and breakthrough bleeding
- Weakness and fatigue
- Weight gain
*So by now I’ve decided all pharmaceuticals are against me.
I can’t quantify how much this affects my bone density, depression, and sexual desire, but last year I stopped taking it and finally had my period for the first time in five years, and it was awful, so I went back on the shot the next week.
To help you better understand my quest, I’m going to give you some history into my not so mysterious life:
I’m fourteen, almost cute hair, boobs too big for my body, and skinny jeans that always showed my butt crack. My friends and I walked down the railroad tracks to get gas station food for lunch and sneak in a cigarette off school grounds, too. We talked about sex and Kaci shared that she didn’t orgasm during sex, but she did when they did other things. I found this fascinating, not because I wasn’t having sex, but because I hadn’t even considered the female orgasm.
Seven years later, the conversation slightly changed. It’s become dreadfully embarrassing because I’m an adult, but can’t seem to have an orgasm.
On my twenty-first birthday, my sister drew on every piece of our old family Jenga set to create what is known as Drunk Jenga. I have a serious distaste for games, but every time she visits she wrangles me into playing. Most of the pieces say things like “drink for how many siblings you have” and “perform I’m a little teapot” or “take five drinks,” but one daunting piece says “drink for how many orgasms you’ve had in one night.” My sister looks at me every time it comes up, and I dread its existence. I could get rid of it, but there would be a glaring hole in the block tower.
In smaller groups, I talk about it with friends.
Me: “Oh, I mean I haven’t. It’s fine.”
Them: “Wait, you mean never?”
I listen to a podcast featuring Betty Dodson, a sex educator who wrote Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving, a pretty revolutionary book from 1987. She tells a story about a ninety-year-old woman who came in for a one on one sex workshop, who had never experienced an orgasm, and wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about. Betty pulled out the trusty magic wand vibrator and explained what to do. So, after the big event, the women’s words were something like, “oh, is that it?” The story is comical, and much better when you hear Betty tell it. but it gives me hope, and a good level of fear. I don’t want to be ninety and still not have joined the orgasm club.
As I’ve gotten older, and a little wiser, I’ve learned that talking to your sexual partners is the key to an at least decent time in bed. Before my current partner, these conversations would happen, but were typically unpleasant and not necessarily helpful.
“Umm, yeah, this is fine,” is not the answer anyone wants to hear in bed.
“Well, what can I do,” the seemingly concerned guy asks.
“Nothing, seriously. I’m used to it.” I really don’t have much else to say. It’s true, I’m used to it.
They say they feel bad for me, which makes it worse, and at this point, I just want them to leave so I can climb under my covers and never come out, at least not until I have an orgasm with my vibrator, then I might leave my fluffy blankets.
A month ago, I decided to change my medicine again because Effexor still has a high chance of affecting my libido and ability to orgasm, and I will not settle for an almost beneficial medication. So, once again, I am tapering off Effexor and adding the new and exciting, Wellbutrin into the mix. Unflinching, I fight the withdrawals symptoms of nausea, hot-flashes, insomnia, irritability, disorientation, mental fog, dizziness, increased anxiety, apathy, vertigo, brain “zaps,” serotonin syndrome, eyesight problems, body aches, and numbness, all so that one day I can have an orgasm.
Celeste Smith is a graduate of Hamline University, with a BFA in creative writing and a minor in English. She currently works at a dog daycare, and spends her free time with her own pooches, reading romance novels, and trying new doughnut places.