08/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Ersatz Orgasm

DEAR E. JEAN: I've successfully faked it for years with every man I've been with. In fact, I've NEVER had an orgasm with anyone but myself. (I mean never! This includes missionary position, me on top, from behind, the side, standing up, in the shower, etc.)
I'm heading into a new relationship and want to start off on the right path. This time I want my man to work as hard for me as I will for him. If the sex doesn't come easily and naturally (and signs are indicating that it won't), how do I let my new guy know that, "No, I didn't get there yet." ----Better Late than Never

BETTER: Come, come, my Tulip Bulb. Half of us are "successfully faking it" even as we read this. (And the faking has little to do with wanting to please the dude/get his approval/boost his ego, and everything to do with your anatomy.) So run get yourself a tape measure and mirror. Good. Now close the door. Does the door have a lock? All the better -- bolt it. A lady does not like being interrupted. Now, remove your drawers. Ready? Relaxed? All right. I want you to measure the distance between your clitoris and your vagina. Go on. I realize we're all experiencing a huge wince factor here, but I promise I can solve your faking problem in about thirty seconds, if you simply tell me the distance. Go ahead. I'll wait. Don't be shy. It's your clitoris.

OK. Look at the tape. If the distance is over one inch, it will be extremely difficult -- repeat: nearly impossible -- for you to experience the Great Escape with intercourse. Your clitoris -- my God! That word is unattractive! In honor of her great table-pounding scene in When Harry Met Sally I will call your clitoris "Sally" from now on. So, your Sally is packed with smokin' hot nerve endings, right? However, if your Sally is located too far from your vagina----another inelegant word; therefore I'm rechristening your vagina "Harry""----then no matter how ardently your beau blazes away at "traditional" intercourse (particularly missionary), no matter how frank you are about not "getting there yet," no matter how many instructions, compliments, enthusiastic cheers you issue to the poor chap (even if he's triple-jointed), your Sally is too far from your Harry to be stimulated and is not gonna explode with the unceasing throbs of the biggest whoop-dee-do known to woman.

I called the man who's cracking the code on your megryan-billychrystal ratio: Dr. Kim Wallen, professor of behavioral neuroendocrinology at Emory University. "Exactly what percentage of women experience orgasm through intercourse alone, Dr. Wallen?" I asked.

"One in six," said Dr. Wallen. "Our interviews are revealing that up to fifty percent of women never orgasm with intercourse alone. The problem with most surveys done before now, was they did not specifically ask about intercourse 'alone.'"

And is the main reason women don't climax with intercourse because the Sally is too far away from the Harry, I asked.

"It's not easy to measure the distance. We're working on an easier way," said Dr. Wallen, with a charming laugh. "We (he and Elizabeth Lloyd of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University) are looking at many factors, but my feeling is the distance is very important. Women with longer distances (over three centimeters or 1.18 inches between clitoris and vagina) never experience orgasm with intercourse alone."

The lesson: Intercourse is like decorating your living room. It's all about adding your personal touch. As for what to say when you reach the fine-tuning stage of your love-making -- whilst enjoying a posh, evil oral sex romp, for instance -- a whispered (or screamed) "You're incredible! You're magnificent! I just need a little more time, and a little more slooooow caressing," or whatever. Perhaps you like fast heel-and-toe work. Be specific.

For more intriguing facts about going the distance read Mary Roach's brilliant book, Bonk.

From ELLE'S August issue.
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