This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Women, This Is What You Need To Know If You Can't Have An Orgasm

Shutterstock / Piotr Marcinski

It’s well known that it generally takes women longer to orgasm than men, but turns out there is still a lot of confusion about a) how to orgasm and b) if you’ve orgasmed at all.

Alix Fox, sex and relationships expert for Durex told HuffPost UK: “I speak to a lot of women who either think they can’t cum at all, or that they can’t get there using fingers alone (only a vibrator).”

What does a female orgasm feel like?

The NHS says that a female orgasm is: “An intense, pleasurable release of sexual tension is accompanied by contractions of the genital muscles. A woman may be able to experience more than one orgasm shortly after the first, if she continues to be stimulated.”

Before you keep reading, are you sure you haven’t had an orgasm?

This might sound like a strange question, but sex and relationships expert, Tracey Cox, told The Huffington Post UK, that just because you don’t think you have had an orgasm, doesn’t mean you actually haven’t.

Cox says: “Yes this is rather an odd question since your answer is probably, ‘Like hullo! If I had, I’d hardly be reading this would I?’ But the thing is, thanks to the press and porn where orgasms are both explosive and desperately dramatic, some women imagine it to be something far more intense than it actually is. Have you felt a build up of pressure and any contractions at the peak of it, no matter how small those contractions are? If so, you might be having orgasms, just ‘small’ ones.”

This distinction is important because if you are actually having orgasms but not recognising them, then you need to focus on building up your orgasms (through Kegel exercises and strengthening your pelvic floor), rather than focusing on not having them at all.

Why do some women struggle to orgasm?

Cox explains that there are a variety of reasons why women struggle to orgasm. These range from being too busy, not liking the lack of control, to not fancying your partner anymore.

  • Too busy, stressed or angry

  • Don’t understand how your body works

  • Sexually unconfident

  • Lack of sexual communication

  • History of traumatic sex

  • Feeling rushed by a partner

  • Painful sex

  • Bored of your partner or don’t fancy them anymore

Even if you aren’t able to pinpoint where your struggle is coming from, these could still be an underlying factor.

How common is not being able to orgasm?

In the 2015 Cosmopolitan orgasm survey, only 57% of women were able to have an orgasm whilst having sex, when they recorded male partners were able to at least 95% of the time.

Shutterstock / Piotr Marcinski

Why is it harder for women to orgasm than men?

Alix Fox said: “Few people – females included – realise quite how long the process can take. It is very common for ladies to need at least 20 minutes of constant, repetitive stimulation in order to hit the Big O, and it’s far from rare for it to take as much as 40 minutes or more of clit-polishing and flump-fiddling for orgasm to occur.”

Mike Lousada, an expert in psychosexual therapy told HuffPost UK: “Male orgasmic response is a much simpler mechanical process when compared to a woman’s orgasm. A female orgasm is much more complex and is more connected to her affective and cognitive functions as well as physiological ones - how they feel about themselves and their partner. So a woman needs to “feel safe” to have an orgasm.”

So how can I have an orgasm?

Cox says: “One word of encouragement: the first solo orgasm may take ages to work up to, but it gets easier and faster the more often you have one. Promise!”

1. Start with a vibrator orgasm: “Some therapists will advise you not to do this and to try with your fingers first, leaving the vibe as a last resort. Reason being fingers are partner friendly. I agree it’s crucial you are able to orgasm using your fingers but a vibrator is indisputably the easiest and most efficient way to let you experience the feeling of orgasm. It’s pretty impossible not to orgasm using a vibrator. Hold it against the closed labia (lips of the vagina) at the top end so you’re vibrating the clitoris underneath. Try rolling it, holding it at different angles and varying the speed and pressure, until you orgasm. It really is as simple as holding it where it feels good – and keeping it there.”

2. Fight the urge to stop when pressure builds: “The feeling of orgasm is frightening the first time you experience it. I was scared too – I seriously thought I was going to explode and that I’d weed myself. But all that’s happening is lots of blood is pumping to your genital and clitoral area. An orgasm is simply the moment when your body releases the blood back into the body, which feels euphoric. Once you understand what’s happening, you’ll (hopefully) feel less freaked out by the sensation.”

3. Add erotica: “Fantasise in your head about something you’ve done sexually that turned you on or would like to do. Read a book on sexual fantasies or explore erotica or maybe even female friendly porn. Try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles and remember to breathe deeply.”

Bjorn Vinter via Getty Images

Should I do this alone or with a partner?

Cox says: “Your first orgasm is almost 100% likely to be achieved solo. This is because when you’ve got your ‘L’ plates on, you feel a lot less self-conscious on your own because you have complete control over what’s happening and you’re not worried about what your partner’s thinking or how you’re looking.

“I have actually never met a woman who didn’t have her first orgasm solo through masturbation. It’s pivotal - not just for having your first but for keeping them (and you) coming. Practice makes perfect.”

What about orgasms during sex?

Fox says: “Over and over, women reported that their best sex – and best climaxes – happened when the focus during sex was on relaxed mutual fun, intimacy and savouring every feeling, rather than intently chasing orgasms as some kind of ultimate goal.

“It’s not helpful to happiness to consider the whole shebang of banging to be a failure if a woman’s body doesn’t manage to perform a particular trick.”

Cox says: “Here it is in one sentence: act like a man. In the brilliant book 'I Love Female Orgasm', author Dorian Solot points out what is blatantly obvious but ignored. That guys don’t lie back waiting hopefully for their partners to give them an orgasm during intercourse, they do whatever it takes to get them there.

“They’ll thrust in a certain way, rhythm, angle or speed, do it in their favourite position, make sure they have the right fantasies they need playing in their heads and are looking at what they want to see.”

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