I was 32-years old when I orgasmed with a partner for the first time

“When I RSVP to a party…I make it my business to come!”

I’ll never forget the moment when Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones, brilliantly played by Kim Cattrall, loses her orgasm.

In a state of personal crisis, the usually sex-positive Samantha laments having spent hours “f*cking with no finale.” Sexed-up Samantha may seem outlandish on the surface, but when it pertains to her own sexual pleasure, her refusal to compromise is nothing short of remarkable.

While Samantha’s search for an elusive climax is framed in a comedic light, it’s a scene that’s always struck a chord with me. As someone who’s been having sex for over a decade (and has always been able to orgasm solo), I never imagined that my orgasms during partnered sex would be permanently missing in action.

Until recently, I was afraid the big ‘O’ might never happen with someone else. I discovered masturbation when I was 13, and learnt how to stimulate my clitoris to achieve orgasm – and multiple ones at that. It was mind-blowing, but my introduction to partnered sex was rocky to say the least.

Two years later, I started dating a boy the year above me at school. I was something of a nerd in the social strata and too eager to please. On our first date, he cornered me in an alleyway and after some heavy, awkward kissing, placed his hands down my jeans. As his fingers tried to ‘jab’ their way to a pleasurable, penetrative ending, my clitoris may as well have been non-existent.

I fell into a pattern of being too nervous to say what I wanted, then apologising for not ‘enjoying’ sex as I apparently should. I knew from my own research that around 80% of women didn’t orgasm through penetrative sex, but as I listened to other friends talking about climaxing through their partners going down on them, or even experiencing simultaneous orgasms through vaginal penetration, I despaired.

When I was 18, I fell in love for the first time. I found the courage to buy myself a sex toy – a vibrating bullet – and my solo orgasms became even more incredible, but sex with my boyfriend was painful. Our foreplay was practically non-existent and rather than tell him about my sex toy discovery, I put up a psychological wall.

Embarrassed, I’d preempt my own ‘failure’ and apologise before sex based on the assumption I probably wouldn’t climax. My lack of orgasm became a burden and I decided my role was to please others instead.

At university, I tried to be more confident and guide men into giving my clitoris the attention it deserved. I talked about my bullet, but most men were too ‘intimidated’ or felt ‘emasculated’ bringing a sex toy into the equation. Some would even lose patience if it took me longer than a few minutes to climax using it.

A recent survey revealed that only one in four women orgasm on most occasions they have sex, and 7% don’t climax at all. I was determined to still enjoy sex regardless, but the phrases “relax” and “it’ll happen when you least expect it” felt like toxic positivity. I questioned if there was something abnormal about my body, or unusual about the way I orgasmed by myself that I’d simply never be able to share.

Then, during the pandemic, I fell in love again. For six months, the only things on the menu were Netflix, food and sex. My boyfriend had slept with a lot of women (apparently) and I didn’t feel embarrassed about my body or my kinks, but my orgasm was still out of reach. He agreed to use my bullet just once, then complained because he couldn’t thrust as vigorously because of it.