Wildflowers

Perfect Buds

The If-Busters

Late Bloomers

Early Bloomers

Living-Togethers

Sexual Explorers

Sexually Dissatisfied Wives

Overcoming Rejection

Why Sacrifice Pleasure?

A Way of Classifying Sexual Identity

How Pleasure-Claimers Get Better Orgasms

Some Observations from the Survey

The Saboteurs of Pleasure

"Sex is over for me. Herpes ended it. How could I ever explain this to a man? And, if I did, wouldn't be reject me? Of course, be would!"

-forty-year-old herpes victim

            By rejecting her own sexuality, she thinks she is protecting  herself from ever being hurt by a man-by sex-again. Advances have been made in the treatment of herpes that mitigate the severity and duration of the symptoms. Furthermore, research scientists working on the two experimental  vaccines now being  tested are hopeful that one or both may be on the market in three to five years. Herpes, while painful, is not a sentence of lifetime celibacy, though this woman has apparently condemned herself to that fate.

            Like other women who have lost pleasure claimer, she equates sex which pain, and she believes she can prevent  all future pain by eliminating sex from her life. She has taken pleasure away from herself-or allowed it to be taken from her. for whatever reasons, she has withdrawn sexually. She is negative about men, sex, often about other women who enjoy sex, and especially about herself as a sexual being.

            Her sex life is run by the critical and punitive judges inside her head, though she will insist outside forces, the saboteurs, are  responsible  for her  withdrawal from pleasure.

            The saboteurs of pleasure  include:

  • Sexually  transmitted  diseases, particularly herpes since it can be treated but not yet  cured and therefore carries a lasting stigma.
  • Rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
  • Abortion, when it leaves a woman feeling  guilty.
  • Gynecological problems, which prevent natural sexual functioning for extended periods of time.
  • Repeated sexual  disappointment with a partner, particularly when a woman is unable to have an orgasm or her partner  is unable to achieve  or maintain an erection.
  • Sexual rejection, especially by a husband.
  • Overwhelming guilt about past  sexual  behavior.

            Many women come out of these experiences with their sexuality relatively undamaged. Often with the help of therapists and/or supportive lovers, husbands, and friends, they are able to put what happened in perspective and  not inflict additional pain upon themselves. But other women, those who have  lost pleasure, can't seem to move beyond their  victim status. They equate sex with sin and sickness, deep and crushing disappointment, rejection-and above all with pain.

Who Is She?

While I doubt religious training or family background alone is responsible, women who have lost pleasure do report more religious and other forms of repression in their family backgrounds than other respondents. Many women have lost the ability to enjoy sex following sexual rejection or guilt over past sexual behavior; they may connect sex to early bloomers feelings of fear of discovery and memories of punishments when they were caught touching themselves, making out with a boyfriend on the couch, or even saying "dirty" words. These same women wrote about father who ignored or abandoned them in childhood, or who castigated them as children for doing the normal things children do, like running through the house naked or asking questions about sex. Some said they felt "distant" emotionally if not physically from their fathers, particularly during puberty and adolescence. Several women said their fathers, and sometimes both parents, were "cold, critical, and rejecting."

            Women who have lost  pleasure-for whatever reason-are more often first born daughters than not. This is not so surprising, since as oldest daughters, they probably internalized  more negative sex messages, from  many directions, than children born  later into their families. They may also have taken responsibility, not only for their  own behavior, but for the misconduct of siblings. Psychologists who study the impact of birth order on human development have noted that  firstborn daughters tend to be obedient, conscientious women who fear  the consequences of rule breaking. They  are influenced by the opinions of others,  particularly those in positions of authority either in their personal or public  lives. They seem to have a lot of faith in the power of goodness to protect them. Their corollary belief, of course, is that if something bad does happen to them, it must be their fault. They blame their own failure of goodness for bringing  them down.

            A thirty-nine-year-old herpes victim (and firstborn daughter) from the Midwest writes:  "It's been nearly five years since I contracted herpes, and I am still shocked and shamed by it. I have not had sex since then. Nor can I imagine ever wanting to have sex with anyone again. Anyway, who would want me if I did? I am spoiled. It's so ironic that this would happen to me. I have always tried to do everything the right way.

            "For fifteen years I have been working in a department store  in a mall. The rules say employees must use a special mall entrance and have their packages checked even when  they are shopping on their  days off. Other employees don't do this. They say it is too much trouble to use the entrance way at the end of the mall, and on their days off they should be able to act like any other customer. Well, for fifteen years, I have been using this entrance even when I shop on my day off.  If I didn't, I know I would get caught.

            "It is important to me to do things the right  way. You can imagine how I felt when I discovered a man I'd  just  started seeing had given  me herpes. Over and over again I've asked myself why did I ever have sex with him. I didn't know him that well, and I shouldn't have done it."

            Guilt reverberates throughout her letter. She seems to believe a life of celibacy is the punishment  she has drawn for having sex with a man she didn't know "well." So many of the women who have lost pleasure share her sense of personal  guilt. Others, who have been in orgasmic in their sexual relationships or rejected by their  lovers or husbands, say they are unable to attract or hold men, or unable to  respond sexually.

            Unlike women who work through the traumas of rape or herpes, sexual  abuse or physical  illness , they continue to blame themselves  for their fate.  Many victims, male and female, go through an initial period of self-blaming, even if it's nothing more than castigating themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  for the woman  who has lost pleasure, the blaming has never stopped.

Sexual Victims

Discarded Women

The Clock Women

Independent Women

Revirginized Women

Monogamous Women

Second-Chance Women

Surviving the Droughts

Wives Who Have Affairs

The Saboteurs of Pleasure

Conclusion: Your Sexual Turning Point?

The Women Who Doesn't "Need" an Orgasm

What Does She Know About Sex that You Don't?