Though a ruined orgasm might sound like it has a simple definition — an orgasm that is ruined or halts before full climax – it can have multiple meanings. Some ruined orgasms are intentional, while others are not and can leave one feeling sexually frustrated. Those that are unintentional can also have multiple causes, both physical and emotional, which vary from person to person.
To get to the bottom of what can cause a ruined orgasm, the difference between an intentional and unintentional ruined orgasm, and how to stop having unintentional ruined orgasms, we reached out to healthcare providers and experts to get professional advice on everything to do with ruined orgasms.
What's a ruined orgasm?
“A ruined orgasm happens when a partner's genitals are stimulated to the brink of orgasm and then the stimulation is suddenly stopped,” relationship and sex expert Pamela Madsen tells O.school. “At this point, two things can happen — either no orgasm occurs, or if it does, it will be much less satisfying than what it would have been [if stimulation continued throughout the orgasm].”
Dr. Michael Ingber, a urologist with a sub specialty in sexual health, explains what happens during the sexual response cycle of a ruined orgasm:
1. During the arousal phase, blood flow is increased to the genitals. This is usually when an erection or clitoral engorgement begins.
2. With repetitive stimulation of the penis or clitoris, there is typically a sympathetic nervous system discharge, causing a climax or ejaculation.
3. When a ruined orgasm occurs, the partner is brought just before this climax phase and then stimulation is stopped.
4. Oftentimes, this results in ejaculation without actual orgasm, or a much less intense orgasm.
What could cause an unintentional ruined orgasm?
A ruined orgasm can be caused by physical conditions, or it can be brought on by thoughts and emotions.
Emotional causes of an unintentional ruined orgasm.
According to Dr. Jess O’Reilly, resident sexologist at Astroglide, a ruined orgasm can occur when “your partner says or does something that turns you off,” causing you to not orgasm or for your orgasm to be less intense than it would have been.
Clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones adds that a ruined orgasm can be related to stress, anxiety, preoccupied thoughts, and/or guilt.
Physical causes of an unintentional ruined orgasm:
There are a few physical factors that may cause a ruined orgasm. For example, you could lose your orgasm if your partner stops stimulation right before climax. Dr. O’Reilly also states that a ruined orgasm can be related to something as simple as your Wi-Fi going out while watching porn.
Dr. Jeffcoat tells O.school that those who experience pain during sex often deal with ruined orgasms. They may often be dismissed by medical providers with statements such as “It’s all in your head,” or “It’s a normal part of aging.” However, Dr. Jeffcoat states that a ruined orgasm can be caused by the following physical conditions:
1. Vaginismus (involves muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles)
2. Vulvodynia (chronic, unidentified vulvar pain)
3. Vestibulodynia (chronic, unidentified pain in the vestibule area of the vulva
4. Endometriosis (a painful disorder caused by tissue that lines the uterus growing outside of the uterus)
5. Interstitial cystitis (a chronic, painful bladder condition, now called painful bladder syndrome.
6. Dysorgasmia (painful orgasms)
7. Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)
8. Postcoital pain
9. Nerve entrapment (in more severe cases)
How might one stop having unintentional ruined orgasms?
Depending on the cause behind the ruined orgasm, there are mental, emotional, and physical steps one can take to prevent unintentional orgasms from happening in the future.
If the cause is emotional, try these things:
“Typically, I would tell a client who has trouble achieving orgasm or trouble having a satisfying orgasm, to stop trying!” Dr. Jones tells O.school. “I would recommend sensate exercises [intimate touch exercises that teach one to be fully in their body during sex] for a period of time. The amount of time is determined on the exact problem and the severity of it.”
For sensate exercises specifically, Dr. Jones recommends that partners set aside time for kissing and touching — and kissing and touching only. “They could allow their fingers and kisses to roam around their partner’s body slowly and playfully. The purpose is two-fold, to turn your partner on and to collectively discover new areas of pleasure.” The goal of this exercise is to focus on the pleasures and sensations leading up to orgasm. If fact, Dr. Jones adds that orgasming is discouraged.
“Depending on the situation, I may suggest they stick with touching and kissing for a week, then maybe touching and kissing and light oral play, and then gradually progressing,” states Dr. Jones. “But it is important to emphasize that in each of these sessions, they do not reach orgasm. That would be counterintuitive … See, often people are so focused on the orgasm that they totally ignore and miss all of the pleasure and sensations leading up to orgasm, and then they are only let down.”
If one’s own thoughts — “you get nervous that an orgasm isn’t going to happen or you feel shame for having an orgasm” — are the cause of a ruined orgasm, Dr. O’Reilly advises asking oneself the following questions:
1. Why do you worry about orgasm?
2. What shame can you release from your sexual scripts?
3. Where did you learn these messages of shame and are those sources trustworthy?
4. What positive affirmations can you use to replace negative sexual scripts (e.g. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of pleasure. Sex is healthy.)?
5. What are the real benefits (and potential risks) of sex?
6. Why do you enjoy sex?
7. What makes sex pleasurable?
Dr. O’Reilly states that practicing mindfulness during sex can also help — especially if intrusive thoughts are causing ruined orgasms. According to Dr. O’Reilly, one can perform the following steps to assist with this:
1. Visualize your problem or stressful thought and visualize placing it in a box.
2. Continue to visualize yourself carrying the box out of the room and storing it somewhere safe so you can get back to it at a later time.
3. When the thought creeps back in again during sex, accept it without judgment and remind yourself that you don’t need to think about it right now because it’s shelved in another room waiting for you.
4. Bring your focus back to one sense. For example, focus on the sense of touch. What do you feel in terms of temperature, movement, textures, rhythm, etc.? If your partner is touching you, tune into the feeling of their skin against yours to bring yourself back into the present moment.
No matter what the scenario, make sure to communicate with your partner what’s going on. Talk it out and discuss how both of you can work together to solve the problem. If the situation doesn’t improve, you can seek help from a sex therapist.
If the cause is physical, try these things:
If you are coping with any of the physical conditions listed above, Dr. Jeffcoat recommends reaching out to a pelvic floor physical therapist for help. Such a therapist can create a specific treatment plan to help patients meet their goals, and can even provide a home program. If you’re not sure what your pain is related to, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
If your partner is the one who is causing the ruined orgasm, Dr. O’Reilly emphasizes the importance of communication: “If they stop as soon as you start breathing heavily or loudly, they may think that your orgasm is complete; explain to them what your orgasm tends to look and sound like. Does it last a few seconds or do you tend to have contractions and an overwhelming sense of pleasure for a full minute?”
Since everyone has different desires, it’s important you show your partner exactly how you, personally, like to be touched before and during your orgasm. You should also give them a verbal cue to “keep going” when what they’re doing is bringing you pleasure. “You’ll likely find that your orgasms are less likely to be ruined once you start communicating more clearly and specifically,” states Dr. O’Reilly.
Madsen also emphasizes, “It's important to think of the entire body as a sexual organ — not just what's between our legs.” This can involve touching, kissing or nibbling the nipples, neck and other parts of the body.
What’s an intentional ruined orgasm?
“In the BDSM community, a ruined orgasm is the practice of stimulating a partners genitals right up until the point of climax, then stopping abruptly,” sex therapist Angela Watson tells O.school. “This can either mean stopping just before an orgasm occurs, or just as ejaculation begins.” This will cause the orgasm to be less intense than it would be if stimulation continued. “In [people with pensises], this will cause semen to dribble out as opposed to shooting out, and [they] will not experience any pelvic muscle contractions.”
Watson mentions that ruined orgasms are especially enjoyed because they can allow a dom (dominant) to feel in control over a sub (submissive). She adds, “It can also be enjoyable for the sub as well, since it will intensify the denial and teasing which come with chastity play.”
Lorrae Bradbury — a sex, love, and empowerment coach, and founder of Slutty Girl Problems — reinforces that an intentional ruined orgasm “could be part of a chastity, edging, or orgasm control dynamic, [in which] the partner is denied the full satisfaction of orgasm, even if there was a physical release.”
If you’re interested in experimenting with a ruined orgasm, Bradbury advises, “[Work] up to the point of orgasmic inevitability or even the beginning seconds of orgasm, then completely remove the touch or sensation. This allows the contractions of orgasm to continue, without the additional sensation to make it more deeply pleasurable.”
This is similar to edging, which is another orgasm control practice. It differs from a ruined orgasm because it is a repetitive process that actually results in an orgasm. It occurs when a person brings themselves to the brink, or edge, of an orgasm before they climax. They then repeat this process until they allow themselves to fully orgasm, resulting in a longer, more intense orgasm. It can also be used as a treatment method for premature ejaculation.
The bottom line
If you’re not sure what’s happening with your body, or if you’re dealing with painful symptoms, consult a doctor before trying anything else. If you’re coping with mental health issues, consult a doctor or therapist. For therapy specifically related to your sex life, speak with a sex therapist.