For some, achieving orgasm is a piece of cake. For others, it happens infrequently, only in certain situations, or not at all. Why is there such a difference? Does not orgasming (or coming) mean you’re not being pleasured by yourself or your partner? Nope! It turns out orgasm is mostly about what’s happening in the brain, not just the genitals.
Why Can’t I Achieve Orgasm?
Struggling to orgasm is the second most common reason (after desire) that people with vulvas seek help in their sex lives. Research shows that by the age of 28, around 16% of women haven’t had an orgasm, or are unsure if they ever have. But just because you might not orgasm regularly with partners or even with yourself doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a mechanical problem with your body.
The stress and anxiety of not achieving orgasm as quickly as you expect to can keep you from getting to your end goal.
There could be any number of things keeping someone with a vulva from experiencing an orgasm. Sometimes, just the stress and anxiety of not achieving orgasm as quickly as you expect to can keep you from getting to your end goal. Other times, it can be affected by past trauma or body shame. Even the slight discomfort of cold feet can be a factor!
There are a number of strategies that can make it easier to come, and it’s also helpful to get the facts straight about how long it takes to orgasm to make sure your expectations are realistic and that you are getting enough stimulation time to get you there.
Sexual Communication Is Key
Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly normal to orgasm infrequently or not at all! Not to say that you shouldn’t want to orgasm and shouldn’t try strategies to help you get there, just that struggling with orgasm is common and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you if you have trouble getting there.
It’s perfectly normal to orgasm infrequently or not at all … it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you if you have trouble getting there.
An important piece of getting sexy together is communicating with your partner (even before things heat up). In addition to safer sex topics (like birth control, condoms, when you were last tested), some things to talk about with your partner beforehand could include:
Are You Physically Ready For Sex?
Need to close a window and put on socks? What about a glass of water or a quick snack? Are you not feeling super good about your body for the moment and want to only have sex in certain positions?
Where Are You At Emotionally?
Need to vent about school or work first? What about a quick nap or a walk to clear your head? Do you and your partner need to have a larger conversation about defining your relationship before jumping into bed again?
How Do You Want To Be Touched?
Slow and sweet or grip me hard and let’s get wild? Breasts feeling tender from that time of the month so hands off the nipple play for today? Does oral sex feel even better with fingering?
How Do You Want To Warm Up For Sex?
Take time to watch something cute together? Or something more sensual like a shower or a candlelit shoulder rub?
It can also be helpful to incorporate in-the-moment feedback about what they’re doing or not doing to help you feel good. According to research, less than a third of people with vulvas orgasm reliably with penetration alone - and clitoral stimulation can make a HUGE difference!
Talk About Orgasm Difficulty
Partners can also get caught up in unrealistic expectations from porn or other experiences about how quickly they should be able to make you come. Some partners might take it personally thinking they’re not a good lover, and may even make shaming comments.
There’s a lot of emphasis on finishing as a way to measure pleasure which can make people who have a hard time achieving orgasm feel bad about themselves.
One way to handle a reaction like that is to talk with them about why you’re getting busy together in the first place, for example, “Everything we do in bed together feels amazing, it’s not about the end goal for me” or “Just because I don’t come every time doesn’t mean I’m not having fun” or “It doesn’t bother me that I don’t come every time, I just love getting closer to you.”
Focus On Pleasure Rather Than Climax
In our culture there’s a lot of emphasis on finishing as a way to measure pleasure which can make people who have a hard time achieving orgasm feel bad about themselves. They may even choose to fake orgasms to make their partner feel confident in their sexual abilities, which isn’t a great foundation to build an open and honest relationship on.
While the orgasm gap is very real between men and women in heterosexual partners, orgasm does not have to be the end goal. The same goes for masturbating (sometimes called solo sex); time spent on feeling good or connecting with someone can be powerful in itself!
Orgasm does not have to be the end goal.
So why not try to redefine what sexual pleasure means to you? Is it getting closer with a partner, stress relief after a long day, or taking time for yourself to fantasize with your vibrator? There’s so much pressure in our society to be super “goal-oriented,” so why not enjoy the entire journey of pleasure in the meantime?