Dear Yana,

I’m a single woman in my late twenties, with no relationships on the horizon. But that’s OK, because I have a super intense, cordless Hitachi that I’m in love with.

Problem is, recently, whenever I have attempted to reach orgasm, it never comes. I get the brink, right before the fall, but I’m just stuck. This has happened with lovers in the past; one even suggested it was a problem with not being able to “let go.”

Perhaps I am not relaxing enough when I masturbate. What are some tips, tricks, or techniques to have that incredible, solo experience?

— Absent Orgasms

Dear Absent,

I’m laughing a little at your partner’s (I’m sure well-meaning) suggestion to “let go” seeing as that is technically what an orgasm is, after all — a build-up followed by a release. It’s almost like your partner was like “Honey, have you tried just having an orgasm?”

I kid, but really, please let this sex columnist and educator tell you that nobody (not even your partner, not even me) can tell you the key to finding and experiencing your own sexual satisfaction. But, I can give you some suggestions to try out!

From your question, it sounds like you’ve been able to orgasm in the past and it’s only recently that the Os have hit the skids. This can be for a variety of reasons — new medications (especially antidepressants), new stress levels, new major life events, etc. Emily Nagoski’s free desire brakes/gas pedal worksheets ( can help assess environmental, relational, and personal factors that may be impacting your current experiences of desire and pleasure.

In my opinion, with the rumbly, reliable, powerful Hitachi, you’re armed with the perfect tool for the titillating task at hand. But I find myself wondering how many laps you’re taking around the brink before attempting to push yourself over the orgasmic edge. Meaning, do you turn the Hitachi on high, make clitoral contact, and then smash the gas pedal straight to the finish line? Or do you take time with yourself to build up anticipation? Experiment with bringing yourself close to the tipping point of orgasm and then backing off on sensation.

Do this a few times in one masturbatory sitting with the goal of seeing how many times you can do this without caving to orgasm. Rather than making orgasm the goal, make the process of seeing how long you can experience pleasure without orgasm the new standard. It’s almost like erotic reverse psychology: see what telling your body and mind that you aren’t allowed to have an orgasm does towards making orgasm a must-have.

Make masturbation a truly sexual relationship with yourself. Take time to warm up, splurge on fancy lube, buy some hot feminist porn, don’t rush anything! Masturbation is often a hurried solo experience without the relational dynamic of being with another person. Move slow enough with yourself that your brain and body can catch up to each other without a race.

Remember that ultimately, one of the best things about solo masturbation is that you have no audience. You can fantasize about your freakiest kinks, try out the strangest positions, take a snack break, and make the ugliest of O-faces. Literally no one will ever know or care. No one will be counting your orgasms or measuring your pleasure for you. You won’t be losing points for style or technique when the Olympic orgasm judge jumps out of your closet waving his number cards over his head. When it comes to solo masturbation, you are your own judge, jury, and partner. So be kind to yourself.

Read more about self-loving tips and techniques with Sex for One by Betty Dodson and The Elusive Orgasm by Vivienne Cass.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationships therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and professional contact information on her website,