The other day my friend messaged me with a story. A married friend of hers had recently confessed that she had never had an orgasm. With her husband, or by herself. It was a story I had heard before over, and over, and over again. There is an epidemic of women in this country who can’t have orgasms.
There are so many correlating factors to these stories. Certain things that these women might share. They didn’t grow up with a super open dialogue around sexuality. They may not have explored their bodies or masturbation at the same time their peers were. They waited until marriage to have sex. Some of them may have been assaulted at some point and are having difficulties feeling comfortable exploring again in a comfortable and consensual way.
While these stories all seem so similar to me, they have so many unique twists of their own.
What draws me to them are the cyclical way these women get stuck in the inability to orgasm. And, in turn, how their partners struggle and get stuck in there with them.
It’s something that I’ve experienced myself in much smaller and temporary ways. You are frustrated because you cannot orgasm. Maybe you are not physically aroused or maybe you are not mentally aroused. Life happens. You get distracted with stress, work, family, school. Medications throw off your natural balance. You are perhaps impaired in certain ways that make physical intimacy difficult. Then when that frustration peaks you fall face first into the bedroom and with great irritation realize that your frustration has become a blocking point of its own.
So you try to have sex but then you don’t orgasm and the not orgasming becomes further pressure to orgasm, and on it goes.
Let’s rewind a little bit and start at the beginning. Let’s explore your relationship with sexuality. Do you think that having sex with your partner influences your moral character? Do you believe that this kind of intimacy makes you a bad girl? Conservative values tell women that your moral worth can be found somewhere between your legs, and certain religious views reinforce this. Step one is always sex positivity. Find sex positivity. Whatever sex positivity means to you. It could be waiting until marriage. It could be monogamous vaginal penetration with your heterosexual life-mate. It could be ethical non-monogamy with a partner or two. It could be your live in partner. It could be your same-sex partner. It could be not having sex at all, by choice. Empower yourself and your choices. Find happiness in sexuality. Find a place where you can talk about your sexuality with your partner that doesn’t make you squirm. Find that openness and acceptance for yourself.
This process could take a long time depending on your current relationship with sexuality. It can and should continue throughout your life. It can and should evolve with you.
Now let’s talk masturbation. Because masturbation is a big part of self-love and masturbation is a big part of finding enjoyment in the bedroom. Masturbation does a few things.
1. It helps you understand your anatomy. Do you know where your most sensitive spots are? Could you point out your clitoris and tell me how far it goes back? Do you know what the g-spot is? What about the perineum? Find your spots. Know where they are. What they do. What they’re called. A great book to help you on your way is She Comes First.
2. Masturbation helps you understand what feels good. Once you know where things are, you can begin to explore them. Does your clit like being stimulated roughly or softly? In circles or up and down? Do you stimulate the hood or the clit? How puffy does it get when you’re aroused? Do your lips get significantly larger? Do you get wet?
Pause: I believe that it’s entirely possible that your partner will never be able to touch you as well as you touch yourself. Why? Because you know those spots intimately, sure, but also because your hand is attached to your mind. You know when your body wants you to press harder. You know when your body wants you to quicken the pace. You know how to grind your hips just right. Your partner is not attached to you, they are operating outside of you. A partner may not be able to do that exact thing you do, but they may be able to do certain things better than you do them to yourself. Some partners, with the proper guidance of your favorite spots, can stimulate them in new and exciting ways. They can reach deeper inside of you if you enjoy internal stimulation.
One goal of sex may be to find a deep enough connection with your partner than you begin to operate as closely to one as you can.
3. Masturbation can teach you about the stages of arousal.
The stages of arousal may need to be felt several times to understand.
For instance, it can be difficult to recognize excitement if you have a busy mind. It can be difficult to recognize excitement if you aren’t sure what things excite you. The plateau is where many women stop if they aren’t reaching orgasms. The plateau may feel pretty good but you aren’t pressing yourself to the point of having an orgasm.
Each orgasm may feel significantly different depending on a variety of factors too. How aroused you were when you came, what you were thinking about when you came, the last time you came, how you were stimulating yourself, and a variety of other things – like if you’re alone or with a partner, or if you’ve had any marijuana or alcohol.
The stages of arousal are important to know because they can help you gauge where you’re at. They can tell you how close to an orgasm you are. Knowing how close to an orgasm you are can help you pick up the pace of your stimulation (leading to an orgasm) or slow down your pace (preventing an orgasm.) With great practice it is possible to strengthen your orgasms or orgasm simultaneously with your partner.
Note to partners of orgasm-struggling-women: If something is working for your partner, remember precisely what you are doing, and how you’re doing it. If your stimulation is working and she appears to be close to an orgasm, keep doing it!
If you have never had an orgasm before and struggle having an orgasm with your own hand, seek outside sources. Sex toys are great at lending a hand to an easier orgasm. For women looking to experience an orgasm, I would highly recommend a clitoral toy. I will reference this again with suggestions at the end. Another option for clitoral stimulation is running a bath and, once in the bath, resting your clit under the stream of the water. (A warm but not-too-hot temperature is best.) The stimulation from the water can also lead to a quick orgasm in many women.
Okay, so you are aware of your body and you’ve masturbated and your partner has a good idea of what is going on. Now people are telling you that if you want to put this all to good use, you need to communicate. This is absurd advice all on its own, because communicate leaves a lot to the imagination. Communication does not mean talking. Talking without guidance can lead to further confusion.
I think the best kind of communication happens in small chunks. That means that when you are playing with your partner you should be clear on telling them what works and doesn’t work. All the time. If something hasn’t been working for you and you tell them casually one day months afterwards, that information is going to be less useful to them. Guide from the beginning and grow together.
If your partner tells you they don’t like something it is your job not to take this personally. This can be a difficult thing to do. Often times the immediate reaction is “I’ve done something you don’t like – I am a failure – I am disappointed in myself – I am embarrassed.” Get that out of the way real quick and then reflect on what your partner has told you. They’ve given you a valuable piece of information about their bodies. Put that in your mental list of things my partner doesn’t like and file it away.
Sometimes these things can be reached for at a later date to be tried again with your partners mutual interest.
Ex: Your partner doesn’t like having their clitoris sucked on because it feels funny. They tell you that it feels uncomfortable and you stop doing it. Then one day they are really aroused and their clitoris looks quite swollen and you want to try sucking on it again, lightly, because you think that it may have a different result. Exploration is healthy and retrying old tricks might come back as winners. While you’re getting the basics out of the way, try to stick with things your partner knows they like.
2. Don’t try to communicate all at once
You can’t have every conversation all at once, all the time. Take it piece by piece. If there is one fantasy you have that you’d like to try, mention it. If you have one experience that you’re looking to explore, try a small part of it to start. If you are feeling overloaded and frustrated that nothing is working right, find one thing that you can work on, and focus on making that one small experience satisfying.
3. Break down your ideal sexual scenario
In relation to number two, immediately forget everything you know about what sex is supposed to be like. If you’re sitting with your partner and you’re describing your ideal sexual scenario and it sounds like something out of a pornographic film, take a step back. Let’s say your sexual fantasy is that you’re in a dark candle lit room and you and your partner are covered in sweat and you’re making each other orgasm intensely while confessing how much you love one another. How can you take a few elements of that scenario and pull them in to your play? Perhaps you could start by dimming the lights and focusing on extending your play for longer than you normally do. This give you an opportunity to get more built up, more aroused, more sweaty.
Remember that things can’t happen all at once.
4. Remember phrasing
Never attack your partner about sex. Never blame them for not making you orgasm. Sex is a team sport and each player is involved in both the pleasure of their partner and their own pleasure. Have you told them what makes you feel good? Have you reached down there to help stimulate yourself? Have you been telling your partner what doesn’t work?
Use I-Statements and when possible stick to the positives.
During sex: I love it when you play with my clit that way.
After sex: You did this thing with my clit that I hated, it kinda hurt actually, I don’t know how to describe it but please never do that to me again.
If you talk to your partner during sex and reinforce what they are doing correctly you’re pointing them down the right path and showing appreciation for what they’re doing. If you point out something they did wrong after sex they’re going to feel frustrated that they did something wrong and may be inclined to do it again because they might not remember what they were doing.
How would you tell someone you didn’t like something they were doing during sex?
A good way to do this is by telling them what you want to make it better. If they are being too rough, ask them to go softly. If they are being too soft, ask them to go more roughly. Sometimes these guidelines are temporary – simply what the partner wants in that moment. Sometimes they are more permanent – your partner might never want you to press that hard, or that soft.
If there are guidelines that seem permanent, discuss those after sex. “Remember when I told you to do slow down? You should be that slow all the time. I love that pace, it feels really good.”
The Goal is Pleasure
I mentioned at the start that a woman having troubles with orgasms might get into the mental space that the orgasm must be had. I’m of the firm belief that orgasms are not the primary goal of good sex. The primary goal of good sex is feeling good. The pressure to feel good can make it very difficult to actually enjoy oneself. The pressure to feel good can make you lose sight of the entire experience.
The first couples challenge I give is to see how long you and your partner can go without having an orgasm. This is something I do just for fun and is called edging. While it can be a more advanced practice, it’s actually a wonderful way for women to explore their sexuality without the pressure of orgasm.
Lay in bed with your partner and get as mentally aroused as you can. Talk dirty to one another, describe a sexual experience you really liked, go through a fantasy, touch each other very slowly, watch some porn together, whatever it takes. Then start touching each other more, and more, and more. Draw out the physical affection. Build up on it. Use that communication. Tell your partner what you want. And, as the other partner, don’t always be so quick to give them what they want. Tease it out of them. Move up slowly.
When the goal is not an orgasm, but to simply feel good, you are more likely to relax and sink into the moment. It’s at that point where you are more likely to hit the right levels of arousal and reach your orgasm.
If you want to get crazy with this idea, build the excitement throughout the day. Send texts to one another while at work or class about how excited you are to [blank] with them later that night. Send a teasing photo or a voice message. Write an email describing what you’re wearing or what you want to do to them later. These things, when done from time to time, can pack a powerful punch in getting the mood going.
As mentioned earlier in the post, a lot of things can influence your orgasm. One that is in great swaying motion is that of stress. If you find you are actively stressed out, find ways to minimize that stress. Self love is about more than just masturbation – it’s about tending to your needs, your mental health, your physical health. If you have children, take nights for yourself. Take date nights. Once they’re in bed, make sure to have time to decompress. Start the morning off right with a routine that allows you to have a good footing for the day.
Focusing on fulfilling other intimacies in your life can bring you closer to your partner and make sexual intimacy more powerful. That means: like your partner. Don’t just love them. I believe that we care most for those that we care about actively. The more we show someone we care for them the more we actually feel that caring feeling. Kiss your partner. Rub their muscles. Make them meals. Do something to make their life easier. Show them affection and support. Sit with them and tell them a story. Find other ways to connect.
Acknowledge that there are lots of intimacies but sexual intimacy is very particular. It can be difficult to merge your sexuality with your partners sexuality if they are currently (or all the time) different. Perhaps your partner is always aroused when you’re not aroused and vice versa. Perhaps you’re always stressed out and your partner is never stressed out. Maybe you work day shifts and they work night shifts and so you’re just simply not on the same schedule. Sexual intimacy can take work for some couples when life shows up hard.
Other types of intimacy can be placed anywhere throughout the day as signs of “I’m still here. I’m always here. And when the time is right I’m going to bang you so good.”
Toys to Share
There is absolutely nothing wrong with including toys in the bedroom. Toys are just accessories – things that can improve upon what the bodies naturally do themselves. A vibrator can provide faster and more direct stimulation. A cock ring can hold the blood making a more erect penis and a longer-lasting session. A butt plug can create intense stimulation while the vagina is being stimulated in other ways. Cuffs or a blindfold can add an air of arousal by creating the image of dominance and submission. Whips or warm wax can create small blasts of pain which translates into quick bursts of pleasure.
Toys can be anything from an aid to help one orgasm to a tool that helps one just feel better.
To the woman who just wants to orgasm, a clitoral toy is a great way to go. A clitoral toy is not meant to go inside of you – its meant to be pressed on the outside against the clit – where most the nerve endings are.
A small toy like this can also be used during sex. In opposite sex relationships (as this post is mostly but not entirely targeted towards) while your partner is inside you, you can hold the toy against yourself. This provides clitoral stimulation while they are providing vaginal stimulation.
There are also a ton of couples specific toys that are designed to be used together. Couples toys are fun to explore when you have the time and money.
A standby favorite couples toy is the We Vibe 4 – $160. Any toy can be a “couples toy” if you use it together.
There are a lot of reasons why a woman might find herself unable to orgasm. It would be impossible to highlight each and every reason as it deserves in a post like this. Some women struggle to the point where sexual therapy is required. Some women struggle because of real medical issues.
Before anyone gets to this point, I suggest taking a big deal breath. Start at the basics. Self love. Sex positivity. Masturbation. Connection. Communication. Growth. Exploration. Zoom out and see this in the big picture. Focus on pleasure separate from orgasm. Seek those feelings with yourself and with your partner. Change how you think about sex as a whole and see if that influences the actual physical feelings that you have when you’re playing. Stay within your comfort zone. Find ways to find pleasure in that zone of comfort. Don’t try to go it alone – make sure you and your partner are on the same page – and stay that way.
Sex is a team sport and the game isn’t over if no one orgasms.