Dear Yana,

I’m in my early 30s and have been faking orgasms for about a decade of a colorful, explorative — if not straight up hyphy — sex life.

I had my first orgasm about 13 years ago with a partner, who helped me discover simultaneous clitoral stimulation during penetrative sex. In the decade since, I’ve gotten down with all kinds of exciting and talented lovers, some of whom I’ve also definitely loved — none of whom got the job done.

When I’ve been honest about not climaxing, sex has felt very stressful and my partners have reported feeling challenged and unfulfilled. I know I’m doing some emotional care-taking jiu-jitsu that leaves me high and dry, but it feels so much safer for me to perform the orgasms than to let them experience failure.

I orgasm regularly by myself — in about a minute of alone time with my Hitachi. However, it’s nearly impossible to orgasm in the company of someone else, even when using said Hitachi while someone masturbates next to me.

I love sex, even when I don’t orgasm. When I tell the select few friends about my secret, their reaction is unanimous shock. I’ve spent years of my life in a collar (while at home), and a lot of my friends know that about me. Sex has clearly become a source of power for me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a bit gayer than I’ve behaved up until now, but the more I reflect, the more I feel like I’m just a true bisexual gal with an aversion to real sexual intimacy.

Do you have any advice? How can I stay grounded in my own sexual pleasure, despite being a giver who habitually re-orients my entire experience for the pleasure of others?


Faking It Till I Make It 

Dear Faking It,

I love this question and I love your self-reflection contained within it — especially the bits about how you feel safer in performing climax for your partners than risk disappointing them. This is a great place to start. As a self-proclaimed “giver” it might be helpful for you to reframe giving your partners active feedback, directions, and an honest report about your experience as “giving” in itself. When I teach consent workshops, I like to talk to students about how asking ongoing, consensual questions not only works in favor of protecting your partners’ boundaries and wishes, but it also creates a positive feedback loop for you as the “giver” or “initiator” in the sexual interaction. After all, isn’t it a billion times better to be doing sexual things with someone that they actually, genuinely enjoy rather than just continuing to try the same old tricks over and over again, assuming that one-size fits all when it simply just does not?

Giving your partners access to the honest information that can help you both experience a genuinely satisfying sexual experience is a gift and certainly requires bravery, self-awareness, and of course, the self-confidence to disappoint a lover and emotionally survive watching their ego get bruised a little bit. In an ideal world, we would all only have sexual partners that have excellently balanced sexual egos, who can effortlessly separate your feedback from their sexual self-worth. But this (understandably) isn’t always the case, and many of us experience less-than-desirable feedback as something personal, absolute, and defining.

It sounds like you might also fall into this as the person delivering feedback that essentially boils down to “No, I didn’t climax, try again.” A self-report about your experience and your partner’s potential disappointment are two different functions, and you can’t possibly be responsible for or in control of both. It also sounds like given your faking it track record, you haven’t given yourself or your partners many opportunities to prove your fears of epically disappointing them wrong, which may ultimately help you dispel them.

The path to more frequent partnered orgasms is certainly not continuing to fake them with the expectation that surely this pattern will spontaneously change on its own. And your partners can’t improve their sexual partnership with you without you. So, if the main barrier to being grounded in your sexual self is learning to be okay with possibly (Remember! Certainly not definitely) disappointing someone (Remember! Certainly not everyone) — start there.

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