“Help! I Can’t Orgasm”

July 7th, 2009

I remember a time when I was a girl talking to a boy and I thrived on our sexually charged interactions but, when the time for us to actually have sex loomed on the horizon, I felt as though I needed to clear the air between us. I felt like a liar even though I’d never explicitly said it, I’d given him the impression that I was capable of orgasm and, because I was incapable of having an orgasm, I felt like a failure. It was almost traumatic, telling that boy my deep, dark secret and, even though that boy now teases me as the girl who used to think she would never orgasm, those same fears of failure, disappointment and even the guilt over lying are commonplace among women who are not able to achieve orgasm (yet).

You’re Not Alone

It’s frustrating to feel that way, certainly, but it’s not uncommon. The women who are in that situation vary. One common denominator is that these women often feel their age has something to do with it. Forums and chatrooms and inboxes and talk radio are full of “I’m X years old and I’ve never had an orgasm!” with X ranging from 18 – 80. There’s a certain sense of living life unfulfilled, especially the older they are. The younger women often seem to feel that, because they are apart of a generation which considers sex a given and information is so freely available via the internet, that they must be broken if they have not been able to orgasm.

Either way, women of all ages (and elasticities and locations and sexual orientations, so on and so forth) are no stranger to lack of orgasm. It’s neither a young woman’s problem or an old woman’s problem or a white woman’s problem or a straight woman’s problem. It’s not even a problem that affects only those who do not masturbate or only those who are lacking proper sex education or only those who have selfish partners.

And advice which assumes any of those things tends to come off as too general to be helpful. They tell you “practice makes perfect” so get to masturbating and, that’s true, unless you’re practicing incorrectly. They tell you communication is key and that’s also true, unless you don’t know what to communicate or your partner doesn’t care. They tell you it’s easier with a caring partner but that doesn’t make it easy. They tell you to be comfortable with your own skin but they don’t tell you how. I think you get the picture.

You’re Not a Freak

What they don’t often tell you is that it’s okay not to orgasm. The fact is, that some women and, yes, even some men cannot and will not no matter how much time they spend at it. Of course, it’s hard to believe that when everywhere we turn, we’re told that the goal (maybe even the point of sexuality) is orgasm. That’s what movies tell us when beautiful stars erotically explode – and simultaneously, no less! – on screen. It’s even reflected when sex ends as our male partners orgasm. If their end-game is orgasm, shouldn’t ours be? It’s a belief deeply steeped in tradition.

I’d like to challenge that belief. If you stare to fixedly on that goal, you’ll miss the other pleasures – both physical and emotional – sex has to offer. Does oral sex feel any less good if I don’t orgasm? No. Does orgasm necessarily make intercourse more worth the while? No. Does lack of orgasm detract from emotional intimacy? Again, no. I’d like to stress that sex can still be highly rewarding for all parties despite a lack of orgasm. In fact, many people consistently enjoy having sex without having orgasm, without even thinking that something is lacking from their sex lives.

Because it’s not.

Orgasm is bonus and even though I’ve had my fair share, it’s not something I rely on. Even if I feel frustration, and it’s certainly human, I’ve learned to let it go. Maybe next time, maybe not. Either way it’s okay. And it’s that letting go which is essential. More than one woman has been able to experience orgasm only after she stops trying for it. Orgasms have surprised the unexpecting during long and luxurious sexual sessions with no goal in sight just as they have come upon women who are doing no more than the laundry or reading a book. And a welcome surprise it is but it’s only the cherry on top of the sundae.

Not only is it normal to have difficult achieving orgasm or to not be able to but it’s okay if that doesn’t change. It’s okay if that’s not your goal. It’s okay if it is, too, but you shouldn’t spend so much time working toward it that sex actually becomes a negative, unpleasant experience. It’s okay to be however you are.

Experimentation is Key

Sometimes it’s the case that women who are struggling with orgasm have masturbated and just haven’t gotten much from it. They may not have experimented with different styles or focuses of masturbation, which I have touched on before. The same can be said for sex.

  • If you have previously focused on internal, vaginal stimulation, try clitoral stimulation or even stimulation of other areas of the body like the nipples.
  • If you’re focused on fingers or a penis, try a sex toy.
  • If you’re tried vibration to no luck, try stroking or tapping or twisting.
  • If you normally masturbate lying, try sitting, leaning, squatting, or on all fours.
  • If missionary sex is your repertoire, expand it to include doggie style, girl on top, spooning, or side by side sex.
  • If you only participate in PIV, try oral, manual stimulation, anal or a combination of several.
  • Try stimulating the back wall of the vagina, instead of the front, or the areas around the clitoris instead of the clitoris itself.

But don’t do anything if it’s uncomfortable, stressful or otherwise unpleasurable. Remember to enjoy yourself.

Check Your Head Space

Unfortunately, orgasm is that much more likely to happen if you do experiment so reluctance to engage on sexual activity is not very conducive to achieving your goal. If you have mental hang ups regarding your body, your relationship or your sexuality, you will need to work through them and some of them may even be bigger than you alone can handle.

I highly recommend talking to your partner about the feelings and thoughts you have; our partners can be our greatest resources (especially when it comes to feeling good about ourselves) when it comes to sexual frustration and often desire no more than to make us happy but don’t always know how. On the other hand, if you are unwilling or unable to talk with your partner (or they are), then your inability to orgasm could easily be linked to unhappiness stemming from your relationship. Especially for women, happiness inside the bedroom starts outside of it.

Sometimes simply discussion with family or friends can relieve what has plagued us for years. Connecting with others who share your concerns may be key to unlocking the issue and you may be able to find a support group either locally or online – like these on WebMD. Just browsing the internet or reading a magazine which is sex positive can help you realize that sexuality and exploration are both normal and healthy, and by association, so is exploration of those facets of your life.

Whatever your issue, a self help book, which enables you to delve deeper into the root of the problem instead of simply the symptom (inability to orgasm), may do the trick; they can be especially helpful with tips to help improve self image. However, sometimes problems are so large that we need to seek outside, professional help. Although taking that step can be frightening and finding a professional who is right for you can be frustrating in itself, and involve its own trial and error, it can open to doors to being a more fulfilling satisfaction in your sex life and other areas.

Of course, in today’s world where information is freely available online, many of these resources from books to support groups to professionals can be had from the comfort of ones own home (and without the apprehension one may feel at reaching out). You might try Googling “Sex Positive Professional in [Your Location]”, “sexuality support groups”, “improving self image” or “communication about sex with your partner” for starters. There are absolutely no limits to finding information just as there should be no limits when it comes to expressing your sexuality in a healthy and pleasurable manner, whether or not orgasm is included.

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