Question: I’m a 27-year-old female, and I don’t like sex. I feel like there’s a huge mental block for me. Here’s the background: I have never had an orgasm – not by myself or with anyone else. I pretty much have no interest in sex. I rarely ever get turned on, and sex with my (now ex) boyfriend of 4 years was always very painful. I am always super tight, so I never wanted to have sex. Since our breakup, I have had sex with a comparably large guy, and that never hurt at all. So, why would sex always hurt- specifically with my ex?
Why I think I have a mental block: Years ago, I learned I have the BRCA2 mutation, so I’m pretty much going to get breast and/or ovarian cancer at some point in my life. There is a scary family history with that. I also have herpes and HPV. I didn’t have a huge interest in sex before these things, but they totally killed my sex drive. How do I get over this? I feel like sex and masturbation is a total waste of time because it doesn’t do anything for me in the end, and I don’t want to feel that way any more.
I often feel as though we as a society and even as a field of study don’t give enough weight to many different influences on men’s and women’s sexual lives. It’s easy to lose sight of the many things that people connect to feelings of more or less sexual desire.
STIs Affect Many People
In the years I’ve spent working as a sex columnist, I’ve heard from women like you, as well as from men, who have experienced low sexual desire or disinterest in sex in connection with having been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections, also called STIs.
It’s a shame because STIs are not much different than infections one can get from shaking hands or the colds and flu viruses so many of us get year round, but especially in winter flu season. And yet, societal taboos around sex make some people feel as if they’ve done something wrong or shameful to have had an STI. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or shameful about having an STI. It’s a part of life for most Americans – especially when it comes to the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which affects most sexually active women and men at some point in their lives.
I’m sorry to hear that you’re at high risk of developing ovarian and/or breast cancer. As you may know, genetic testing provides more options for women than ever before. Some women choose, as Angelina Jolie did and publicly wrote about in the New York Times, to have a preventive mastectomy. Others don’t choose that option.
You may find it helpful to explore, with the help of a professional sex therapist, how your feelings related to having an STI and to having a greater cancer risk, are connected with your feelings about being a sexual woman.
Women experience sexual desire and interest in many ways. For most of us, there are high points and low points to sexual desire and interest. Grief, illness, fear, shame, stigma, and sadness can influence our sexual feelings in difficult ways but it doesn’t have to be that way.
You may find it helpful to find a sex therapist in your area to talk through some of these issues. Check out the website of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research which is sstarnet.org. You might also find it helpful to read Becoming Orgasmic, which is very helpful and effective for women like you who have not yet experienced orgasm. The book was written by two sex therapists and offers a gentle, supportive approach to female sexuality that I think you might appreciate.