Shocker, it’s not a myth. Women can orgasm.
Having got that out of the way, for female-identifying people, having regular sex, it is still not unusual to hear that many have never, or rarely, experienced an orgasm. While inability to orgasm is not limited to any one gender, it is unfortunately particularly common for women.
In fact, according to a study by the Cleveland Clinic, 10% of women can easily achieve orgasm, while the remaining 90% find it difficult, or dependent on a range of factors.
For a lot of women, a common factor is stimulation. Many find that it is easy enough to climax from direct clitoral stimulation, but much more difficult, even impossible, to climax from vaginal stimulation. The truth is, despite what you may have been led to believe, the vast majority of vulva-owners cannot orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone. Maybe you’re in that minority? Maybe not. The mission is simply getting to learn what works for you.
The best way to figure this out is (yep, you guessed it) masturbation. It may take a little practice and perseverance, but if you want to maximise your sexual pleasure, you need to learn to listen to your body and what feels good. Take your time with it. Experiment with sex toys and different forms of erotic imagery. Try it in the shower. Try it when you’re watching a sexy romcom in bed.
Be playful and patient. Even if you are having lots of regular sex, it is so useful and grounding to practice masturbation. When you are sleeping with another person, it can be easy to prioritise their pleasure over yours, but don’t forget to tune into your own body.
Once you know what you like, you can share this knowledge with your sexual partners. Do not underestimate this; it can be unbelievably enlightening to have open conversations around sexual pleasure and individual kinks. It fosters intimacy and it gives your sexual partners a much better chance of understanding your body and its needs. And vice versa. If you can be open with them, it will create a space where they can share with you. Otherwise, you’re both going to be stabbing around in the dark. If you can trust each other with your unique sexual desires, you’re going to feel safer and more comfortable in a sexual partnership. Creating a safe space will also ease the pressure of the sexual act, which, in turn, can increase the likelihood of reaching climax. Believe it or not, anxiety, tension and lack of communication are not aphrodisiacs.
If you have tried open communication but your partner is still struggling to get you off for whatever reason, there is nothing wrong with taking matters into your own hands. Pleasuring yourself is sexy. Masturbating in front of your partner might seem a bit intimidating at first, but it is another amazing way of fostering intimacy and trust. If you can’t explain it, you can always show each other what you like.
It’s also important to remember that there’s a lot more to sex than orgasm. In fact, the orgasm is only scratching the surface of an abundant world of potential sexual pleasure and erotica. As the saying goes, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. The journey of understanding your bodies sexual desires is an ongoing one, and it is more complicated and multifaceted than the orgasm alone.
The orgasm-centric conversation around sex can actually be really off-putting. It can be an interesting exercise to remove the goal-oriented focus altogether. For example, the ancient practice of tantric love and sex focuses on developing a deep and authentic bond with one’s partner. It is intentionally slow, which removes the intention of “getting it over and done with” through orgasm. Funnily enough, by removing the focus away from desire, tantric love-making can actually lead to stronger orgasms that last longer. It also opens up the possibility of multiple orgasms for all parties.
There are many factors that can contribute to an inability to orgasm, including various medications, smoking, sleeping problems, relationship issues and painful sex. If you are concerned about your sexual performance or if you have noticed that it has changed significantly for no apparent reason, we recommend seeking the advice of a doctor or sex therapist.