Warning: this is a true story containing explicit language on sexual assault and rape.
I want you to come a journey with me. Nope, I’m not trying to ‘find myself’. Nor am I heading on the trip of a lifetime. I am on a quest. A quest to cum.
That’s right, I’m sharing my journey to orgasm with the world. Why? Because this journey is so much more than a desire to feel good in the bedroom. I’m reclaiming the power that was taken from me when I was sexually assaulted four years ago.
I was just shy of 19 when a ‘friend’ tore away my innocence. In an act I repeatedly said ‘no’ to, he penetrated me with his penis and said ‘It’s already in. You may as well let me finish.’ His dick did not give me the pleasure he thought it would, but I don’t think that bothered him anyway. That night, his force and his words took many things from me; confidence, trust, and the ability to find pleasure in sex. I was left with only a brave face to mask the crippling shame and confusion.
For those reasons, I didn’t acknowledge my assault until this year, four years after it happened. A lack of visibility on these issues lead me to suppress the damage it caused. I always believed it wasn’t assault if I agreed to leave the party with him. It couldn’t have been rape if my vagina tingled with satisfaction. I may have said no with my mouth, but my wet pussy was screaming yes.
The circumstances of the first and last time I was close to orgasming are the primary reason why, at 23-years-old, I have barely felt any genital arousal since. And yes, my assault was the closest I have ever been to an orgasm. Weird, right? Don’t worry, I’ve heard it all before. It’s not rape if you like it.
I’ve tried different people. I’ve tried different locations. I’ve also tried myself. But nope, no toe-curling, body-convulsing, scream-inducing pleasure. I’ve even had a man stop mid-thrust and belt out the drum solo to Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight on my thighs before continuing to penetrate me to the beat … but still, astoundingly, no orgasm.
Throughout all these trials and tribulations, I started to think it was me. I must have been doing something wrong. Still not acknowledging my assault and the impact it had on me, I listened to misguided voices telling me it wasn’t normal to dislike sex. I assumed I was asexual or gay or that my vagina was simply broken. The pressure and desire to orgasm only made me drier than the Sahara Desert and pushed the all-glorious orgasm even further out of reach.
I’m fed up. I just want to feel what you see in the movies; that moment of relinquishing pleasure, where the girl throws her head back and bites her lip in utter indulgence.
Now, I’m on a mission to make it happen.
The journey began, as all journeys do, with searching the depths of the internet. I googled the shit out of broken vaginas. I watched how-to videos on orgasms, and my browser history resembled that of a teenage boy who had just discovered porn.
Eventually, I found a Ted Talk that linked shame to pleasure, explaining how it can be hard to feel good if your brain feels any sense of embarrassment. A few more articles soon surfaced, and sure enough, they filled the missing gaps. One told of how the body must be relaxed to orgasm, which it cannot do if your subconscious is preoccupied. Another article explained that an orgasm is a learned response, like a dog sitting for a treat. Then I found a video discussing the shame women often feel after being assaulted, and their struggle to admit they’d been through a traumatic experience.
This puzzle was putting itself together before my eyes, and after some time, it all made sense. I eventually admitted to myself that I had been assaulted. Because I felt some pleasure at the time, I’d always neglected to recognise it was assault. But it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want any of it. I now continue to remind myself of the research: genital arousal is a learned response, and never a form of consent.
I was also left wondering how the sticky link between shame and pleasure wasn’t talked about more. Why were there seemingly so little resources for girls like me to access, leaving us (well, me anyway) feeling like I was just overthinking it all? But, according to a 2016-17 Australian Bureau of Statistics report, one in three women experience sexual assault. I couldn’t believe I had to search long and hard for information on something so prevalent.
All of the research on sexual assault also repeated that the perpetrator is most often someone known to the victim. My ‘friend’ was not just being a boy. He was a rapist.
I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed now that I see the event for what it really was. Being unable to orgasm doesn’t mean I’m fucked up. I’m not damaged goods, and I won’t settle for a mediocre sex life. I’m taking back the power of my mind, body and vagina.
Reclaiming this power begins with having conversations. This year I stopped viewing my history as shameful and dirty and began to speak out about my experience. The more I did, the more I realised just how often shame gets in the way of pleasure (even if someone hasn’t been assaulted). Countless girls have messaged me with similar stories, and the outcome has been astounding. For so long, I thought I was alone. But we’re not alone.
I will continue to be a loud voice in this quiet conversation, in the hope that girls like me may not have to carry their shame for years on end. Female sexual pleasure isn’t gross or embarrassing, in fact it’s the opposite. All of it – vaginas, orgasms, masturbation – is fucking beautiful. If I had the courage to say this sooner, I may have been much further in my journey to orgasming.
Since my assault, I’ve slept with people I care about in safe environments, and it used to shock me that I could never cum. I was attracted to these people, they were doing all the right things. Everything else was working just fine, so why wasn’t my pussy cooperating? But even though my brain might not have been focused on my traumatic past, my vagina sure was. My clit still identifies feelings of pleasure as feelings of harm. In a subconscious act of self-protection, my body puts up imaginary walls and cuts off any feeling of arousal from vaginal stimulation. All because of the pain my assaulter once inflicted on me, and the challenges of emotionally processing the assault.
But, I’m tired of the foreplay, and I’m close to combusting. This girl needs to orgasm. The pleasure at the end of the tunnel is still some distance away, but every conversation brings it closer.
With any luck, the next piece I write will be a how-to guide for orgasming. In the meantime, have the conversation with your loved ones and be conscious of your actions.
Happy orgasms to all,
Words by Jemah Finn
Illustration by Lucinda Penn
This piece was originally published in Edition 31.