August 25th, 2009
Susie Bright has a controversial podcast this week about The orgasm gap – just how big is it?. Prompted by letters sent to Susie and her daughter Aretha at their advice column for Jezebel magazine it seems many female readers are finding orgasms difficult. So they’re just giving up on them.
Unsurprisingly, sexy Susie has a problem with women seemingly denying themselves pleasure. And she is predictably outspoken on her podcast (clip available in link above, as is whole podcast to download). It’s well worth a listen as this is a very fresh angle on an oft-discussed problem.
I’m interested in this since I share a concern that women often don’t get enough pleasure. In my experience as an agony aunt the questions I see tend to be slightly different. I’ve not really heard from women saying they’ve given up trying to have an orgasm. But in my advice giving in the UK and internationally it’s very common to hear from women saying they find it difficult to get in the mood for sex, or they just can’t have orgasms. Many women have never orgasmed with a partner, or masturbated.
So what’s the answer? Here are a few pointers if you are finding it difficult to orgasm…
1. Don’t worry, you’re normal
As mentioned, many women find it difficult to orgasm – particularly through penetrative sex with a partner. That’s often because there’s not enough stimulation through penetration alone – or because the sweet and sexy things you were doing before penetration (snogging, stroking, clitoral stimulation) stop when he goes inside you. You’re more likely to orgasm during masturbation (with fingers or a toy), or through oral sex. So it’s worth trying those things as well as intercourse, including clitoral stimulation during penetrative sex. There’s no league table of ‘best kinds of orgasm’, so don’t keep pushing yourself towards orgasm through intercourse if clitoral stimulation works best for you (and vice versa – more on this in a bit).
Your partner may be great with their fingers or tongue, but that still may not be enough to get you off. Don’t be afraid to touch yourself or use a toy during sex if it excites you more. Often women fail to reach orgasm because they rely on a partner to ‘give them one’. Not all partners can do this (at least, not every time) so share responsibility for your orgasms. It’s fine for him to start you off and you to finish yourself
2. Sex is something to experience, not achieve
Very often women don’t orgasm because they feel under pressure (from themselves or their partner, or both). Sadly through the focus on sex as something to achieve we’ve lost sight of the pleasure you can enjoy sexually. It sounds corny but if you focus on the destination you may miss out on the journey. Sex should be about experiencing pleasure in a variety of ways and it does not have to end in orgasm (yours or his). If you make orgasm your end goal you’ll feel bad if it doesn’t happen, and make it less likely to occur. Instead search for ways that turn you on, relax, and see what happens.
I’ll share a few more tips on how to increase your pleasure later
3. Remember the sex you hear about in the media is mostly made up
As well as sexperts telling us all how to have ‘best ever orgasms’ we’re now used to hearing about sex in aspirational ways. It’s something that’s essential to relationships and must be done very frequently with stacks of toys, lingerie and other paraphernalia. While having the choice to spice your sex life up can be positive, it also sets up sexual standards people feel they don’t measure up to. I’ve heard from women who tell me they don’t have orgasms. It turns out they do, but they’re not like the ones they think they ought to be having (loud, shouty, squirty ones). If you’re not orgasmic and feel everyone else is having more and better sex than you it can make you feel inadequate. Better to remember that most folk are worried about their sex lives and it’s down to you to discover what pleasures get you off, rather than assuming there’s a ‘best ever sex model’ to slavishly follow.
4. Finding it difficult to orgasm doesn’t mean you’re asexual
Or sick. It’s common to find orgasm difficult at times. That’s true for women and men, gay or straight. Not being able to orgasm doesn’t mean you are ill (although if you are worried your orgasm problems might be linked to health problems it’s always worth talking to your doc). Asexuals are folk who don’t desire sex. If you want to have sex and would like an orgasm but have given up trying because it’s just not happening you are not asexual.
5. Ask yourself, is anything getting in the way?
Relationship problems, lack of self esteem, body image worries, concerns over getting (or not getting) pregnant, lack of privacy, a lack of sex education (or being taught sex is bad or dirty), worries about STIs. All these things can stop you being in the mood for sex or relaxing enough to experience orgasm. Those issues may need tackling rather than trying to make yourself come. They may feel uncomfortable, it might take time to sort out. You may need additional support (for example from a GU clinic in the case of STIs or a family planning clinic for contraception, or a counsellor to talk over body image worries or relationship problems).
6. What works for you?
We’re used to hearing that most women don’t orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Some women do. In fact some women only orgasm in this way and clitoral stimulation (in any form) just doesn’t work for them. You can orgasm through stimulation in a variety of ways. Through direct clitoral stimulation with tongue, fingers or toy. Through vaginal or anal stimulation with tongue, finger(s) or dildo. Through breast and nipple play. Via dirty talk. By a combination of some or all of these. The trick is to discover what feels right for you.
7. What else might help?
Barriers to orgasm may include not being wet enough – in which case a lubricant can help. Not being turned on enough can be tackled through fantasising, reading or viewing porn, sharing sexy talk/texts with a partner. Giving more time for sex, and having sex when you’re in the mood and not tired can be a real bonus. Masturbating on your own to get used to the feelings of orgasm may build your confidence. Making sex more spiritual, romantic, filthy, kinky (or all of the above) may add to your experiences. Remember, this is about adventure and exploration, rather than hitting targets. So all of the above are worth a try for their own sake, rather than a means to reaching the grand goal of orgasm.
8. Don’t fall at the first hurdle
Quite often I hear from women who say, ‘well I tried that stuff and it didn’t work, I didn’t have an orgasm’. My response is always ‘but did you have fun?’. Sometimes they say ‘yes’, which is great. Sometimes they say ‘no’, which is worrying since it suggests they’re still on the must-reach-orgasm treadmill and that (plus other issues) may be blocking their experience of pleasure generally. You may try masturbating with your fingers, and it doesn’t really work. But maybe using a toy plus lube and some porn will get you feeling more sexy. Playing with different forms of pleasure, exploring all your senses, and finding out what turns you on are all important. Again, make the goal pleasure, not orgasm. It’s easier to keep trying if you’re experimenting with what feels good, rather than setting yourself the task of having to come.
9. Straight guys, gays and lesbians can also have problems
We may not hear about these so much, but everyone can find it hard to reach orgasm sometime. Perhaps what’s different about straight women is we still often assume it’s pretty normal for them not to be that sexual or have an orgasm, therefore we can ignore this issue. Clearly if you don’t orgasm and it’s bothering you – even if that’s by you saying ‘that’s it, I’m giving up!’ then it’s worth finding out what’s causing this, and what you might like to do about it.
10. Sex positivity is not about ‘orgasms or bust’
Remember, many people don’t orgasm every time. That’s fine. Some people rarely or never orgasm but still have great sex. Some people are lucky and orgasm easily – although they can often miss out on other sensual pleasures. A good sex advisor will not push the ‘orgasms are the pinnacle of sex’ angle. They will encourage you to explore what feels good for you. They will be concerned if you say you’ve given up on pleasure and would advise reflecting on why. But they wouldn’t tell you that you were sick for making such a decision. Indeed, it’s very obvious why many women do feel this way. Many sexperts make a living telling us there’s a best ever sex moment just around the corner. In truth there’s a lot of ways to experience pleasure and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to explore just what that might involve.