An anonymous writer opens up about her lack of orgasm, how our understanding of female pleasure could be improved, and how shockingly common the issue is
I rarely orgasm. No I am not asexual, yes I have masturbated, and yes I enjoy sex. But yet, despite my enthusiasm and healthy, happy relationships, I almost never climax.[restrict]
I am not alone. If the plethora of research that is out there is to be believed, it would seem that women worldwide are, like me, left wanting after the majority of sexual experiences.
The orgasm gap is a term coined by Durex to describe the disparity in orgasms between couples. Of course orgasms are not the only marker of a good and healthy sex life, but the considerable difference between male orgasms and female orgasms in heterosexual relationships is striking. In a study conducted by Durex, researchers found that 20% of women said they regularly don’t orgasm, compared to 2% of men. Three out of four women said they can’t achieve orgasm during sex and while 30% of men said they thought the best way to help a woman orgasm is through penetrative sexual acts (lol). More than half of female respondents pointed to clitoral stimulation as a way to make them finish.
A lack of understanding of the female anatomy is an obvious issue, and the confusion is often exasperated by tired jokes and stereotypes. The clitoris is portrayed as an elusive mecca, undetectable by the average mortal. A study by YouGov found that the lack of understanding of the female anatomy was apparent in both men and women as 59% of men and 45% of women couldn’t label the vagina. Over six in ten men and 55% of women didn’t know where the urethra was and 43% of women and 52% of men failed to label the labia. Ironically, on the diagram, the clitoris was one of the only elements of the vagina respondents could name.
In conversations with my climax-less comrades, it’s felt that female pleasure is never the focal point of sex.
“My boyfriend comes every time we have sex. It seems that for men it’s so easy to get aroused and orgasm doing the same thing over and over again. I feel like for me so many more conditions have to be in place, it sounds ridiculous but I need to be calm, the room has to be tidy, even my time of the month can impact the positions I like,” says 29-year-old Sally.
“In general, I feel men are mostly interested in sex to fulfil their desires rather than thinking about how to evoke pleasure in their partners.”
For me, the absence of achievement, is a building anxiety around the issue. Once I get close I begin to overthink about whether it’s going to happen and shockingly, analysing the possibility of an orgasm is a total mood killer. The big O often sits like a trapped sneeze, eventually evaporating entirely and I’m left either faking it or calling time on the attempt. For partners, my lack of climax can often become an issue and many have questioned my feelings towards them.
When I research I find that a lot of women experience similar circumstances during intercourse, but have found masturbation and solo exploration a fulfilling endeavour. For me, it’s still rare.
All things considered, I remain excited about sex and exploring sexuality further. The more I explore and share my experiences, the more I realise I’m not alone. We still do not speak openly about female sexuality and have a long way to go when it comes to the depiction of female pleasure in mainstream media. Arming ourselves with information and having shame-free conversations are just some of the ways we can improve circumstances.
And luckily, there are many sex-positive researchers working to better understand the female orgasm. Sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson say one of the ways women can increase the likelihood of climaxing is through a four-step goal-orientated process.
Step one is excitement. In this state of desire or arousal, the woman initiates or agrees to sex, and as it commences she finds herself focusing mainly on sexual stimuli. Blood begins to engorge the clitoris, vagina, and nipples, and creates a full-body sexual blush. Heart rate and blood pressure increase. Testosterone and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are involved in these processes, says Dr. Ingber.
Step two is plateau. Here sexual tension builds as a precursor to orgasm. The outer one-third of the vagina becomes particularly engorged with blood, creating what researchers refer to as the “orgasmic platform.” Focus on sexual stimuli drowns out all other sensations. Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration continue to increase.
Step three is the orgasm. A series of rhythmic contractions occur in the uterus, vagina, and pelvic floor muscles. The sexual tension caused by lovemaking or self-stimulation releases, and muscles throughout the body may contract. A feeling of warmth usually emanates from the pelvis and spreads throughout the entire body.
Step four is resolution. The body relaxes, with blood flowing away from the engorged sexual organs. Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration return to normal.
Normal I think is the most important word in the scenario. From research and conversations with other women in writing this piece, I have found that my experience reflects that of the majority. If we open up the conversation, demystify female pleasure and stop believing ourselves to be the problem, the big O may not feel so out of reach.