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Dear Em & Lo,
It's recently come to my attention that women can have orgasms while asleep, similarly to how men can have wet dreams. I was wondering: is it possible to have them before you've had an orgasm? As a 19-year old, I sometimes get turned on, but don't do anything about it for fear of tearing my hymen and was wondering if I could at least experience an orgasm before I actually start having sex.
First of all, why are you afraid of tearing your hymen? Often times the hymen gets stretched or further broken* long before intercourse for reasons that have nothing to do with sex: tampon use, gyno exams, lots of enthusiastic horseback riding, etc. This is no big deal. A hymen isn't something that should be "preserved" or saved as a present for your husband to open on your wedding night. It's vestigial tissue that you usually grow out of, with or without intercourse -- the same way you grow out of crustless sandwiches and playing with dolls without really having to think about it.
You know another great way to "break" your hymen before sexual intercourse? Masturbation! If you sometimes get turned on, then you have every right to do something about it on your own. But even if you buy our argument against hymen preciousness preservation, we have a feeling you, O.C., might have some other issues with self stimulation: shame, guilt, prudishness, squeamishness, misinformation... Are we getting warm?
Well, we're here to tell you there's nothing wrong with a little quality alone time. In fact, there are only right things: satisfaction, stress-relief, bodily education, sexual confidence and autonomy, boredom abatement... the list goes on. As long as you don't get so addicted to masturbation that you never leave the house and forget to eat (an incredibly unlikely scenario), then there's no reason a healthy 19-year-old shouldn't do something proactive about her horniness, no matter what state her hymen is in.
As to whether or not you could have a sleeping orgasm before you've had an orgasm awake, the answer is yes. In your case, it's possible to have so much sexual tension built up because you've refused to do anything about it, that your body might take advantage of your mind (and all its issues with sex) shutting down at night in order to get some much-desired sexual relief. Think of it as your body just going on auto-pilot.
As to whether or not you can experience orgasms (awake or asleep) before you've started having sex, the answer is another resounding YES! Yes, yes, yes, yes, oh, yeeeeeesssssssss! Again, we're getting the feeling you're under the impression that your sexuality doesn't get ignited until some other person has sex with you. Not true. YOU are the owner of your own sexuality, and you write the manual for it. YOU are holder of the key that unlocks your libido. YOU are the master of your domain!
Women who masturbate regularly have more sexual agency in their relationships (once they choose to be in them). They know what they like, and aren't afraid to ask nicely for it. They have open minds but know where their boundaries lie and aren't afraid to defend them. They enjoy partner sex more, because it's less intimidating and mysterious when you know your own body and how it works. In fact, their chances of having an orgasm with another partner are greatly improved! (Female orgasms from intercourse alone are not as common you might think -- in fact, for a lot of women, those types of Os are non-existent. After all, the way a lot of guys have intercourse is often very different from the way a lot of women get off... but that's a whole 'nother column!).
Here's what we suggest: Forget about your hymen, forget about Prince Charming coming to save your sexuality, get yourself a nice "my first vibrator" (for internal use or -- if you're still a little hymen-phobic -- external use only), and have some sweet dreams while you're wide awake!
Em & Lo
*Hymens come in all shapes, configurations and thicknesses. The notion of an "intact" hymen is bogus, because most of them already have one or more holes in them naturally.