Can’t Orgasm Without Fantasizing? Here’s Why That’s OK

Ashley Batz/Bustle

I first learned to orgasm through masturbation at a young age, and it wasn’t for over 10 years that I orgasmed with a partner. To help myself along in that process, I pulled out the fantasies I used during masturbation; that was the only method I knew. I began to feel guilty that I wasn’t thinking about my partner during a moment that was “supposed” to be just about us. But I don’t anymore.

Relying on fantasy to reach orgasm is more common than we realize, says Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, an online orgasm course for women. “Fantasizing can be an incredibly powerful experience that adds to the orgasmic experience,” she tells Bustle. “It's not going to impair your orgasm in any way. Some people are naturally more mentally-oriented than others. You do want to maintain a connection with your partner in the moment, but it's no problem to also be playing with your fantasy in your mind.”

Psychotherapist and sex therapist Marissa Nelson, LMFT tells Bustle that the need to fantasize only becomes a problem when it causes someone anxiety or leads them to fake orgasms or avoid sex. In other words, it’s only a problem if it feels like one. “The key is expanding your ideas of your own sexuality and exploring different ways to feel pleasure, which is the goal, and not getting so caught up on orgasms and performance anxiety that one forgets to stay present and let go,” she says.

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Often, people who require fantasy to orgasm, like me, first learned to do this during masturbation, says Nelson. Over time, our bodies become wired to respond to the thoughts we’re used to. However, if you want to be more present, you can hack this system by incorporating your fantasies into your IRL sex life — and your sex life into your fantasies.

This was easier said than done for me, though, because my fantasies tend to be pretty out there. That one where I’m in an ancient society and the tribe gathers around me as I’m pleasured for a spiritual ritual? Hard to enact IRL. But the fantasy where I’m pleasuring my partner with my hands? Easy. That fantasy didn’t exist before I met my partner, but by creating it, I created an opportunity to orgasm with him. The more I enacted it IRL, the more I fantasized about it, and the more I fantasized about it, the more exciting it became IRL.

But my old masturbation fantasies still have a place in my partnered sex life. Now that I understand why my body works this way, I don’t feel guilty about it. The same way some people require particular kinds of physical stimulation, I require particular kinds of mental stimulation. I don’t feel ashamed about needing attention to my clitoris, so why should I feel ashamed about needing attention to my brain?

Your minds don't have to be on each other 100 percent of the time in order to feel connected during sex. And if yours wanders, that doesn't mean you're not attracted to your partner. It means you're human. Forty-two percent of men and 46 percent of women in one Lovehoney survey said they thought about somebody else during sex.

But if you're concerned about this, you can use your fantasies to deepen your connection with your partner. Let them in on what you're fantasizing about, and ask them to do the same. Chances are, you'll end up feeling closer than if you pretended not to fantasize.