Not Orgasming? You’re Not Alone
Here's what's probably going on...
Although it’s awful how little most of us know about female sexual pleasure, it’s not really surprising.
Check out Courtney Act talking about consent...
Sex education mostly skips over it completely. We just end up internalising society’s male-centric views of sexual pleasure - that sex should always start and end with the man and that female pleasure is only the cherry on top of a big male pleasure cake. I.e. it’s a bonus if a woman enjoys herself as much as her partner, but it’s not necessary or essential.
The worst part is that, as a result, girls can end up not prioritising their own sexual pleasure, or believing that they’re entitled to it. It’s a recipe for disaster. A 2017 Durex survey showed that almost 75% of women in the Netherlands and Belgium didn’t orgasm during sex, whereas only 28% of men said they don’t always climax. It’s not just those countries either - there’s a totally real orgasm gap between men and women around the world.
So if you’re a girl who can’t seem to orgasm during sex, rest assured that you’re not alone. Why aren’t you orgasming? Well, it’s complicated, but here are some things that may be holding you back from The Big O…
You're not getting enough foreplay
A lot of porn and even most Hollywood movies make out like women only really need a two-minute vaginal sex session in order to climax. That’s due to the male-centric idea that willies are the ultimate source of female pleasure, when actually that’s not the case at all. An FPA 2017 study found that 80% of women in the UK can't orgasm through vaginal sex alone (and when you think that clitorises are the female equivalent of penises it makes a lot of sense that they need to be stimulated). Another study also showed that lesbians orgasm more regularly than heterosexual women, without the input (literally) of a penis.
Because #sexism, vaginal sex has historically been treated as the most important part of sexual pleasure because sex has always revolved around men. For example, ‘losing your virginity’ only describes the first time you have penetrative sex (the ‘ultimate’ sexual act)… which means apparently lesbians never lose their virginities?! Hmmm... Basically it’s time to shift the emphasis, so that we're focusing on foreplay just as much as vaginal sex, because male and female pleasure should be equally important in sexy time.
You don’t know what you want
It may be that you’ve been spending a whole lotta time doing what you think you should be enjoying, instead of exploring what actually turns you on. The solution? Masturbation, masturbation, masturbation. In fact, UK psychotherapist Lucy Beresford recommends masturbating every day. Enjoy your body, and learn what sensations feel best. It’s empowering knowing that you can give yourself pleasure without anyone else having to be present.
Plus, unlocking your desires on your own is the first step towards fabulous sex with someone else.
You’re too afraid to ask for what you want
Once you’ve figured out what makes you tick, you need to communicate that to your partner. That’s when a lot of people hit a wall because revealing what turns you on can be embarrassing – what if your partner thinks you’re weird for liking what you like?
Well sex is weird, and it’s very common to desire to do things or act out scenarios that feel taboo. That’s why good sex happens when you trust your partner. The bedroom should be a safe space of exploration and openness, so whether you feel comfortable outright explaining what you want, or whether you set up a dialogue where your partner explores different scenarios and you just say yes or no (this works well with physical sensations too), it’s vital that you communicate your desires. Nobody’s a mind reader after all.
Maybe you’re rushed off your feet trying to cram too hectic a schedule into your day or maybe you’ve got exams coming up. Either way, stress has a knack for making you feel less sexy. One especially frustrating source of stress that can prevent an orgasm is actually the fear of not orgasming (classic). Many women put a lot of pressure on themselves to climax, convinced their partner would be disappointed or sad if they don’t, when they should just be focusing on all the great sensations they’re having moment by moment. That’s why, if it doesn't happen naturally, many women end up faking orgasm.
Tip to the wise: NEVER fake orgasm. Once your partner thinks you like what they’re doing, they’ll just keep doing it, and you won’t be able to have an honest conversation about what you like and what you don’t like. Honesty is a must for mind-blowing sex.
You should also remember that orgasming is not the be-all-and-end-all of sexual pleasure, or some sort of golden trophy that you have to win or you're a failure. Your ultimate goal shouldn't be to orgasm, it should be to have the best time you can, so enjoy each and every moment and don't worry about whether it's coming or not. Then, if you don't climax, you will still have loved every minute anyway.
Being naked in front of your partner may be making you feel more self-conscious than turned on. Some women develop insecurities about their vulva (the vagina is actually the inside part of the genitalia that you can’t see – we even use the wrong word to describe it!), and feel too ashamed and insecure to let their partner give them oral sex, though they’d do it the other way round. This is a huge shame as oral sex is definitely key to pleasure for many women.
Being self-conscious makes you feel tense instead of relaxed, which makes it pretty hard for you to totally enjoy yourself. Try to relax and remember that all vaginas (and bodies) look totally different. At the end of the day your partner will be too excited about you just being naked near them and the prospect of sexy time to care.
You have low libido
Everyone’s libido is different, but it also changes constantly. Some women report their libido dropping significantly on certain types of contraceptive pill, but hormones are not the only things influencing whether you feel horny - it’s also down to emotional and psychological factors too. Some women (and men) simply don’t have any desire for sex at all.
However horny or unhorny you are, you should always respect and prioritise your needs and not feel pressurised to do anything you don’t feel like doing. If there’s a sudden change in your libido you can definitely get it checked out, but it’s normally nothing to worry about and it’s always susceptible to change.
There are lots of factors that could make you less likely to orgasm (click here for other possible factors listed by the NHS). Unfortunately while male sexual pleasure is prioritised over females', and while women are made to feel insecure about their bodies and ashamed of their genitalia, the odds are stacked against female pleasure. But things are changing, slowly but surely.
Empower yourself by exploring your body and finding out what you enjoy so you can communicate what feels good to any partners, remember to enjoy all aspects of pleasure without putting too much emphasis on climaxing, and most importantly stay safe, and have fun!
Check out sexual health and wellbeing charity for under 25s Brook for more information on everything from sexual anatomy to sexuality and gender.
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