science of us

What Happened When I Attempted a Monthlong ‘Orgasm Cleanse’

Photo: WIN-Initiative/Neleman/Getty Images

Over the past few years, I’ve turned myself into a one-woman Kinsey Institute, poking and prodding and experimenting on my own sex life. As a writer who often covers sex, it’s my job to embark on these trial-and-error adventures, but I’ve found that there’s a feel-good component beyond the obvious one: I like to think that my own experiments might inspire women who aren’t as open with their bodies to maybe go exploring. If you read about a woman giving herself daily orgasms, aren’t you more likely to try it yourself and see if you enjoy it?

So I’ve tried plenty of weird stuff for the greater good, and it takes a lot to faze me. But about halfway through a self-imposed orgasm cleanse — a program which required me to masturbate with a blown glass dildo every day for 30 days — I hit a brick wall.

I’d been ingesting crystal elixirs and masturbating with a couture dildo for two weeks, in an attempt to tap into deeper, more meaningful orgasms. That wasn’t happening. Instead, I hadn’t come in weeks. And after suffering a sobbing spell in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, I decided to call the whole thing off. I was going hang up my hand-blown, Murano glass dildo and take my orgasms back.

Let’s back up a little.

I first learned about Kim Anami and her sex cleanses back in November. Anami is a holistic sex coach and relationship expert; according to her website, she’s also a vaginal weightlifter. She is a student of Tantra and Taoist philosophy, and after a decade of living off-grid on pirate ships and in jungles, she turned her attention to schooling people on how to fuck better. Her sex cleanses, specifically, encourage people to “let go of superficial junkfood sex patterns in solo and partnered sex.”

What really drew me to the idea of a sex cleanse, however, wasn’t the prospect of escaping an orgasm rut; I wasn’t having any issues there. It was the fact that Anami’s cleanses included practices involving crystals — and as a millennial woman who has abandoned traditional religion, I fully believe in the woo-woo shit that comes along with crystals. I carry them in my coat pockets. I chant with them in my hands. I wear rose quartz around my right wrist in order to attract love. Anami’s cleanses give you the opportunity to masturbate with them, which seemed way too crazy an idea to pass up. I was highly skeptical, but I’ll admit I was also intrigued.

Anami and I had a phone call where she described the orgasm cleanse she’d be sending my way. After discussing the kinds of orgasms I tended to have (like a lot of women, clitoral orgasms are easier for me to achieve than G-spot orgasms), she decided to send me the Akasha dildo with the Luscious elixirs. The dildo would do what dildos are meant to do; for the elixirs, I was meant to take seven drops twice a day, either directly on my tongue or in my water. They’re made of spring water, organic brandy, and “crystalline essence of rhodochrosite, pink calcite, clear quartz and pearl,” according to the label. If I really wanted to, I could add a few drops of the elixirs to my dildo, which was supposed to somehow transform it into the crystal itself. (Obviously, it doesn’t actually turn your dildo into a crystal — it was something about the transferring of the crystal’s healing powers.) But fearful of putting brandy up my vagina, regardless of how organic it was, I took a hard pass.

Every day during the 30 days, I was to masturbate with the dildo, take the elixirs, and follow whatever instructions were sent to my inbox via a newsletter sent to everyone participating in the orgasm cleanse. I had to stop using my vibrator, focusing only on coming with the dildo. There were daily mantras and tasks for each day. The cleanse itself was supposed to unlock those elusive G-spot orgasms, and turn the act of sex — partnered or not — into a spiritual experience.

Instead, it felt like a chore. And the timing didn’t help: I had recently been unceremoniously laid off from a job with $200 in a savings account, a studio apartment with no roommate, and no way to pay the bills. In order to keep from starving or getting evicted, I needed to nose-dive into the world of freelance writing, and to keep myself afloat, I organized my life into a highly regimented schedule. I knew exactly what I needed to do and when I needed to do it — a natural way of attempting to seize control in a situation where I felt so out of it. Scheduling my orgasms felt like a natural progression of that, and not in a good way.

Still, I stuck to it: Every night, I tried to come. But after the first three days, my orgasms just … stopped. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t do it. It became a vicious cycle: And the more I tried and found I was unable to, the harder it became to get off. I was pissed, and angry, and really pent up. Orgasms had always been my way of relieving stress. I couldn’t come, so the stress hung around.

And then one Wednesday, mid-cleanse, I broke down. I was in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, a much more public spot than I’d ordinarily choose for a meltdown, but there was no stopping it — the stress of my major life change had finally hit me, and I went berserk. I sobbed, questioned everything, frantically texted with my astrologer, decided that every piece of writing I’d ever done was total shit, and flipped over my inability to orgasm. I eventually calmed down, met said astrologer for dinner, and recognized that this is what happens when you don’t properly process trauma. You wind up corking your orgasms and sobbing in public.

After dinner, I went home and slept. In the morning, I decided I’d try to masturbate. I pulled out the glass dildo and got to work. Nothing happened. Frustrated, I then turned to ol’ faithful — the buzzing blue vibrator that had gotten me off every time I needed it to. Not only did I come, but I had the orgasm that Anami had been promising me throughout the cleanse. My emotional release had cleared the way for a sexual release, and it felt fantastic. It was then that I decided to stop the cleanse, and stop experimenting with my orgasms all together.

Still, I’m not calling this experiment a total bust. It opened my eyes to the fact that, while the rest of my life could be regimented, my orgasms shouldn’t be, for the sake of my own mental well-being: Some people have therapy; I have my orgasms. They’re the one part of my day where I don’t need a schedule or a special routine. And I definitely don’t need to down elixirs.

What Happened When I Attempted a Monthlong ‘Orgasm Cleanse’