There are a lot of reasons why you may have trouble reaching orgasm. So start with some homework.
Orgasming isn’t as simple as we’re led to believe. In pop culture, climaxing is often portrayed as something that happens easily — and hella fast. But for many people, it takes more effort — and even a little homework.
“Sometimes, throughout someone’s entire life, they haven’t been able to have an orgasm for a variety of different reasons,” says Kat Kova, a Toronto-based sex therapist. “Other times, it happens out of the blue.”
Why orgasming can be difficult
Anyone can have issues achieving an orgasm, but research shows there’s an “orgasm gap” between men and women. Only about 18 per cent of women say they can reach climax through intercourse alone, and 36 per cent say they need clitoral stimulation during intercourse in order to come, a recent report found.
These findings make sense given the clitoris, not the vagina, is the female sex organ. It’s where the majority of nerve endings that lead to orgasm are found. When you touch yourself, you know how hard or soft, and how slow or fast, to do it to climax.
For people with penises, erectile dysfunction is a condition that can prevent orgasms. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical or psychological factors, but can be addressed by speaking to a doctor.
Other underlying conditions can be the reason why orgasms can be hard to come by. Mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, as well as stress and exhaustion can affect the sex drive. Something as innocuous as busy month at work, for example, may be why you’re suddenly having troubles orgasming. It’s hard to be physically present when the mind is elsewhere.
(Related: What Exactly Is Tantric Sex, and Should I Try It with My Partner?)
How can I increase my chance of orgasm?
Everyone has their own turn-ons and sexual preferences. If you are not communicating your needs and desires to your partner, you may not achieve the sexual satisfaction you’re looking for, Kova says.
“Some people think, ‘I’m in a long-term relationship so I can’t be kinky anymore.’ They think that they have no way of sharing that [sexual preference] with their partner without feeling an incredible sense of guilt and shame,” she explains.
This can lead to an avoidance around sex because it may feel easier to skirt around possibly uncomfortable conversations than tell your partner what you really need to get off. “That will definitely stand in the way of an orgasm,” Kova says.
(Related: Are There Different Types of Orgasms? What Sex Experts Say)
How can I talk to my partner about this?
It’s important everyone learns their body and sexuality in order to figure out what works for them. It helps to discover what brings you to orgasm on your own so make time for exploration, both alone and with a partner. If you don’t know your pleasure points on your own, how can you expect others to?
When you figure out what you like and what makes you orgasm, communicate that with your partner in a healthy and consensual way. Kova says many people don’t openly talk about what feels good and what’s acceptable for them, which is key to a satisfying sex life.
If you know you need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, for example, discuss manual stimulation, toys and tongue with your partner. You can also play with positions.
“Explore on your own and then kind of script it out: ‘This is what I like; this is what feels good,’” Kova says. “Share that with your partner. You can actually show them how you touch yourself and let them know what feels good and what doesn’t feel so good.”
(Related: Here’s What a G-Spot Is and How to Find It)
What if I don’t orgasm every time?
Lastly, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve an orgasm every time you have sex. It’s very common for people to have difficulty from time to time, regardless of whether they’re on their own or with another person.
“These expectations that we get socially can impact our lived experience of our sexuality,” Kova says. “A lot of people put [too much] pressure on themselves.”
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