If you’re convinced that everyone else is having orgasms on orgasms while you’re just waiting around, frustrated and climax-less in your bed, here’s something that may soothe your sexual frustration: Plenty of women have trouble reaching orgasm.
In fact, according to a recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, only 65 percent of women are able to have orgasms during intercourse. That means 35 percent of women can’t orgasm from sex. And beyond that, there are also many women who can’t orgasm ever.
“If you’ve never had an orgasm, examining potential inhibitory issues can be incredibly helpful,” says Kat Van Kirk, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and author of The Married Sex Solution: A Realistic Guide to Saving Your Sex Life.
What the eff is holding me back?
It could be anything from negative self-talk, to intimacy issues, to side effects of medications that impact your libido.
One common problem: You haven’t gotten a chance to know yourself. “It’s so important for a woman to explore her own body and discover what she likes, what feels good, and how to have orgasms alone before engaging in sex with someone else,” says sex coach and educator Betty Dodson, author of Sex for One.
Health issues may also be getting in the way. Some conditions, like diabetes and multiple sclerosis, can affect nerves and thus orgasm potential. If you’re dealing with depression, certain antidepressants (and other prescription meds) can also interfere with your ability to climax. Talk with your doctor about your options. You may benefit from drug-free therapies or other medications that don’t come with sexual side effects.
It’s also important to note that if you’re dealing with any kind of sexual trauma, or consistent physical pain, you should talk to a doctor or therapist.
From there, here’s what else might help you hit the big O—at last.
“You can learn a lot about yourself during masturbation,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D. a certified sex and relationship therapist and author of She Comes First. If you’ve never had an orgasm, start by just exploring on your own. But don’t make an orgasm the end goal just yet. Instead, “take the time to touch yourself and self-pleasure and notice what’s coming up physically, emotionally, and mentally,” he says.
Explore and fantasize.
Don’t just go straight for the goods. Try exploring different parts of your body with your hands, sex toys, or even sensual products like feathers or blind folds, suggests Van Kirk. The same goes for when you get with a partner.
Notice exactly which moves arouse you and which don’t. For example, if using a vibrator isn’t making you feel anything other than slightly awkward, ditch it and try some gentle clitoral stimulation instead. “It’s through practice we know how to repeat good results,” says Van Kirk.
At the same time, let your mind wander to different sexy fantasies to see what gets you going. “Be open to fantasizing, to reading erotica, to watching ethical porn,” says Kerner. “Create the right conditions to create your physical and mental arousal.”
Get close with your clitoris.
Most women need direct clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm—and most of the go-to penile-vaginal positions don’t provide enough friction on their own, says Gail Saltz, M.D., and author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life.
“Almost 80 percent of women respond to clitoral stimulation,” says Van Kirk. “It’s not so much about finding the clitoris, but about finding what type of stimulation works best for you.” According to Van Kirk, research shows most women are more orgasmic with indirect clitoral stimulation.
“The clitoris actually runs down under either side of the labia in a wishbone shape,” Van Kirk says. “Stimulating this area as well as right above or around the clitoral glans can be far more pleasurable for most women.” If clitoral stimulation doesn’t do it for you, it might be more about G-spot or vaginal stimulation, she adds.
Rethink your mental hangups.
Anxiety usually has something to do with an inability to orgasm—even if it’s a physical problem, stressing about reaching the finish line is only going to make it worse. “Understand the anxiety around sex and what beliefs are triggering it,” says Van Kirk.”Are you worried you aren’t good in bed? That you’ll come off as selfish? That pleasuring you will take too long? Reframe that anxiety. Your excitement needs to be louder than any anxiety.” And if it’s really challenging to reframe those thoughts on your own, it can be helpful to talk to a therapist and get to the root of the issue.
Own what you want.
When you do find something that feels incredible during a sexy solo session, communicate that to your partner. “Whether it’s a conversation when you aren’t having sex, short verbal confirmations (like ‘harder’ or ‘faster’), or physical cues like groaning, arching your back, or physically showing them by moving their hands, you’ll need to be able to communicate those desires,” she says.
Try to vocalize everything from the way you like to be touched (think outer vs. inner stimulation) to advocating for the type of sex you want to have. You can’t expect someone else to “give” you an O.
It’s also important to take note of the kind of sex that works for you in other ways. For example: If you’re someone who values sex with a partner you love and who loves you, it might be harder for you to try and have an orgasm with a casual fling. And that’s okay.
Bring some supplies.
Lube, lube, and more lube. “Lube can be the difference between having an orgasm or not,” says Van Kirk. “Never forget a good lube even if you think you have enough lubrication on your own.”
And, of course, toys are your best friend. Try a vibrator when you masturbate, or consider wearing a small one during intercourse, advises Saltz. Here’s some great options:
Try to take the pressure off.
“The more you focus on making something happen, the less likely it is to happen,” says Kerner. So try relaxing and removing “have an orgasm” from your list of goals. “This is easy to say, but if you can learn to practice it, it’ll allow you to just focus on the sensation and enjoy yourself,” adds Van Kirk. “Stressing about not having an orgasm isn’t going to help you have one.”
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