(Illustration: Mallory Heyer)
I remember the first time I realized how good it felt to stimulate my clitoris. I was an adolescent in a pool with a foam pool noodle. The water pressure created just enough resistance that I could feel a warm tingly sensation radiating from my crotch if I sat on the noodle just so. I added a second pool noodle to increase the pressure, and next thing I knew I had about six pool noodles wedged between my legs like a giant foam horse. I was elated by how good my body felt, but of course I didn’t realize exactly what I was doing or even why I liked it so much.
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The pool noodle as sex toy is my sole sexual memory from adolescence. None of my peers ever discussed masturbation, and I wasn’t allowed to watch any television outside of PB — so figuring out how masturbation worked would have been like inventing the wheel. I knew the correct anatomical names for the different parts comprising my genitals (except for the G-spot), but that was about it. I saw my genitals as just another body part, like my ears or nose.
Even once I started having sex, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t orgasm, and it didn’t concern me. Once it did, I guess I was too embarrassed to reveal the truth to my sexual partners; that’s when I really repressed my desire to orgasm. Not too long after I’d made the decision to forget about it, I had an orgasm during oral sex that totally surprised me. It was as though my body was a soda bottle that had its lid blown off.
The feeling was intense and sudden, and I could feel a ball of energy ping up to my head and back down to my genitals within a matter of seconds. At first, I literally had no idea what was happening to me, and I didn’t feel close enough with my hookup buddy to tell him what was running through my mind. Afterwards, I read descriptions of what it felt like to climax, and then I knew for sure that I’d had an orgasm.
I was ready for another!
Because I didn’t want to rely on this guy in order to make it happen again, I decided to figure out how to make it happen on my own. First, I attempted to masturbate with my hands, because they were the only tools available to me. I quickly realized my arms and fingers were way too short for me to do any real justice to my body — I just couldn’t get the right angle or amount of pressure I needed.
That’s when I went to the sex-toy store.
I went home with my purchases and it was like discovering my genitals for the very first time — except this time I was having orgasms and dedicating significant time to the practice. I would masturbate, eat a snack, masturbate more, meet up with friends, pretend to run home and grab something I needed in order to masturbate more, meet back up with my friends, and so on. I had broken the seal. My life was an orgasm party, and it was great!
It wasn’t until I began selling sex toys for a living that I realized that there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about my sexual timeline. I began meeting women from all walks of life who came to my shop in order to find a toy that could help them achieve their first orgasm, or wanted to ask me if what they experienced was in fact a “real orgasm.”
When it was appropriate, I would open up and share my personal story about achieving orgasm with these customers. Knowing that somebody else had also struggled to achieve orgasm before ultimately succeeding was a very encouraging sentiment for them. If I had been as brave as these women and asked for help when I needed it, my orgasm journey would have probably come sooner.
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Years ago, I wasn’t as candid and confident as I am now. I was always afraid that I had something wrong with me, and I felt like admitting that I’d never achieved orgasm would make me seem less than other women who could. While I had a lot of awesome women in my life, masturbation and orgasm were never a topic that we discussed. I wish that there had been more times where a trusted adult had prompted me to learn more about human sexuality.
While masturbation and orgasm are not things that everyone pines for, not having the basic facts about our sexual bodies can be detrimental to those of us who haven’t intuitively discovered it on our own. I hope that this dialogue becomes less taboo over time and we can live in a world where self-pleasure is not masked in layers of societal shame — and we can happily orgasm to our heart’s content.
By Zoe Ligon