Would it surprise you to learn that an estimated 10% to 40% of women have trouble reaching orgasm? And that some women have never had an orgasm at all?
The clinical term is anorgasmia and it troubles many women. It can distress partners, too, who may think their bedroom skills are not up to par.
We often think of orgasm as the goal of the sexual journey. A lot of what we see in popular culture – TV, movies, magazines – can sure make us think that’s so. Often, people feel that if there is no earth-shattering climax, then something’s wrong.
But this is real life and the female orgasm is complicated. A woman needs her brain and her body to work together to achieve orgasm. Fortunately, there are steps women can take start having orgasms or to make their orgasms even more satisfying.
Today, let’s look at some of the causes of anorgasmia in women and ways to work with them.
Stress has many facets, both small and large. Will you finish that work project in time? Should you be concerned about that clunking noise in the car? Will the kids walk in and catch you and your partner in the act? Any of these questions can distract you from enjoying intimacy.
Try this: Do something, alone or with your partner, to wind down and keep the worries at bay. You might take a walk, take a bath, or do some yoga. During sex, focus on the here and now. Concentrate on the sensations – the touch, the breaths, the sounds – and stay in the present.
As mentioned above, a woman’s brain and body need to work together for an orgasm to occur. Anxiety can work against the process and sometimes, seeing a mental health professional is the best path.
A woman may feel anxious about the sexual encounter itself. She may worry about pleasing a new partner. If she has experienced sexual pain before, she may tense up at the thought of penetration. Or, she may feel expected to do something she’s not ready for. A sex therapist can suggest relaxation and communication strategies.
Relationship issues are another common source of anxiety. Infidelity, other breaches of trust, fighting, or boredom can all get in the way of relaxation and orgasm. A therapist can teach couples ways to communicate about their needs and negotiate important aspects of their relationship.
Anxiety can go deeper, too. Women who have been sexually molested or assaulted may fear sex or not trust any partner in a sexual situation. A psychologist can help women cope with past abuse.
Try this: Talk to your doctor about a referral to a mental health professional. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Beliefs about Sex
Sex is a complicated, personal topic. Some women grow up in environments where it is accepted and discussed openly. Others are raised to believe that sex is dirty, sinful, or something to be tolerated, not enjoyed.
Try this: If you feel that your beliefs about sex are holding you back, take some time to reassess your views. It might be helpful to talk to your partner, a trusted friend or relative, a counselor, or a member of the clergy to help you work through your hesitations.
Unfortunately, we aren’t born knowing how our bodies work, especially when it comes to sex. If you haven’t had much sexual experience – or much sex education – you might not know what feels good to you.
Try this: Get to know your anatomy. Ask your doctor questions, read a good sex health book, or try watching an educational video about women’s health. Hold a mirror to your genitals to see how your particular body is designed.
You can also try masturbating. Solo sex is one of the easiest ways to find out what brings you pleasure. Find a private place where you can relax and feel safe. Give yourself enough time to explore your own body. If something feels good, see where it leads you. Don’t hesitate to let your mind wander, too. You might also consider trying sex toys, such as vibrators, during this private time.
You might have trouble reaching orgasm if you have a health condition like diabetes or if you’ve had gynecologic surgery. Anorgasmia can also be a side effect of antidepressants and other medications.
Try this: Talk to your doctor. Yes, it can be awkward discussing sex, especially orgasms, with a medical professional. But doing so can help get your sex life back on track. Just take a deep breath and speak up. Or, if you’re especially nervous, try practicing the conversation beforehand.
For many women, the clitoris is the command center for orgasm. It contains over 7,000 nerve endings that, when stimulated, bring most women great pleasure. However, research has found that the size and location of a woman’s clitoris can influence orgasm. If the clitoris is too small, there might not be enough surface area to stimulate. If it’s too far away from the vagina, it might not be stimulated enough during intercourse.
Try this: You and your partner might need to try different positions or activities to help you reach orgasm. Most women don’t climax during intercourse. But they do when their partner rubs their clitoris or stimulates it orally.
It’s also important to be patient. For some women, it just takes longer to reach orgasm and that’s okay. If your partner climaxes before you and you want to continue sex, say so. And remember, most partners do not reach orgasm at the same time.
As we’ve seen, women’s orgasms are influenced by a variety of factors, which may overlap. Communication – with a partner, friend, doctor, or other professional, is a key to keeping the body and brain working together toward sexual satisfaction.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Rowland, David L., PhD and Tiffany N. Kolba, PhD
“Understanding Orgasmic Difficulty in Women”
(Full-text. Published online: June 23, 2016)
“Anorgasmia in women”
(February 14, 2015)
“Are you having trouble reaching orgasm? A guide for women”
(November 29, 2013)
“What can cause orgasm problems in women?”
(Page last reviewed: December 17, 2014)
“Help! I Can't Have An Orgasm”
(November 19, 2011)
“Size and Location of Clitoris May Affect Orgasm”
(November 12, 2014)
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
“Female Orgasms: Myths and Facts”