Last week, while on holiday in France, I was in a bar with two male acquaintances I had recently met there. One, a good-looking blonde guy, was telling a story about a particularly bad case of ‘blue balls’ (or 'le blue balls' perhaps?) he had experienced recently. He’d spent the night with a girl, but they’d been too tired to have sex. In the morning, he had the horns, but she merely gave him a lackadaisical hand-job, and he had to leave before ‘completing’. He had a long drive down the autoroute ahead, and as he drove down the motorway, was suddenly hit by a sharp pain. He’d never experienced blue balls before, but boy, were they bad. He could do no other than he did- pull into the nearest motorway service station, resolve the issue in a cubicle, and drive home. This sounded like a pretty horrible situation to me, and at the time I thought, well, that’s one thing women don’t have to deal with.
But then I realised I was wrong. I have been left with blue balls, albeit metaphorical ones, pretty much every time I have had sex. I have never had an orgasm, and there are various reasons for this. It's partly because nobody I have been with has spent very much time focusing solely on me. It's also because, in the case of the few who have been prepared to spend more than two minutes touching me, I have not trusted them enough to let go. I have consciously held something back, and would always wriggle away, saying it was 'too much'. I was scared of something embarrassing happening, of losing control, and most of these guys weren't exactly understanding types. This never bothered me too much- I was just a teenager and, mostly, so were they. How could they possibly comprehend a concept as complicated as the clit?
As for why I haven't been able to achieve orgasm on my own…well. It's not for lack of trying, but rather for lack of perseverance. At first I was fine- just exploring like any teenage girl. But after I had more and more experiences with guys, I began to think I had a problem, and was too distracted to continue by myself. I'd end up frustrated and unable to think about anything else- blue balls anyone?
This year at university, after several months of largely self-imposed celibacy, I found myself in a real live relationship, for the first time since a short-lived experience at the age of sixteen. I thought that perhaps if I had more liasons with the same person, I'd trust him more, he'd love me and would want to spend time giving me pleasure, etc.
You could say I picked the wrong person. He had had many, many sexual encounters with women, all of whom must have been seduced by his controlling nature and tendency to dominate, just like I was, and who must, too, have suppressed some slightly concerned internal voices. Internal voices asking questions like 'don't you think it's a problem that he sees the clit as a little button, to rub, forcefully, for about 50 seconds, prior to sex?' or 'isn't his excuse that he can't go down on women, after he tried it once at a festival aged fourteen and felt nauseous because she hadn't washed for three days (IT WAS A FESTIVAL), a bit..shit?' I began to close up, mentally and physically, like Helen in Jilly Cooper’s Riders when Rupert Campbell-Black (her husband, by the way) tells her that fucking her is like fucking a frozen chicken- ‘I’m always frightened I’ll discover the giblets’.
Fortunately for me, in the long term anyway, he broke up with me in the middle of exams. I then discovered he'd cheated on me as well. Self confidence at an all-time low, I pledged to do as Betty Dodson of glorious dodsonandross.com had personally advised me to do. I'd emailed her after a particularly disappointing session with my ex, and she had advised me to begin a 'passionate love affair' with myself. 'Up to now,' she wrote, 'you have pretty much been a sex toy for men's pleasures'. True, I suppose, but regarding the solution, there remained the issue of frustration.
So what do I do? Go and start drunkenly kissing Mr Blue Balls in a nightclub toilet at 4am, a few days after our visit to the pub. I really wish drunken toilet kissing were possible without the inevitable pressure of sex- oh to be fourteen again- but apparently it is not, and shortly we are in bed. I rapidly announce that I am too tired to have sex. It's that and a host of other reasons, like knowing I won't get any pleasure, and feeling nervous about starting again after Cheating Student, but Blue Balls is persistent. I turn over and try to sleep, with him still stroking my back, and I am suddenly worried. What if I give him blue balls? What if he already has them? Who am I to lead him on and then deny him? So I mumble about a condom and he perks up, and whips one on. I lie there for the first few thrusts before revulsion kicks in. He's my new friend, and he's good-looking, but I just don't want to sleep with him. I am literally doing it as a favour. I am loaning out my vagina, as a favour, and it's ridiculous. So I make him stop, and apologise repeatedly, gabbling excuses. Five minutes later, I agree to give him a hand job, after guilt regarding the colour of his balls rears its head again. And finally, I sleep.
Finally, a week on, I am cross. My balls are blue and there isn't a motorway service station in sight.