There’s a lot of hype around orgasms, and they are an amazing part of sex for many people — but if you haven’t had an orgasm yet, that’s okay, too. Who could blame you when nobody really teaches us how to orgasm?
Some studies show that around 5-10 percent of cisgender women have yet to experience an orgasm, but that definitely doesn’t mean they can’t learn. In fact, other research shows that 60-90 percent of these women gain the ability to orgasm, both alone and with partners, after just five or six weeks of practicing.
People socialized as women in particular deal with a lot of conditioning that can get in the way of orgasm: They’re taught to prioritize their partners’ pleasure, and many face concerns about body image or discomfort around being sexual. Women who sleep with men may feel this even more because, unfortunately, society often teaches us to prioritize male pleasure. Research has shown that, while gay men and lesbians orgasm at around the same rate, there’s a large gap between straight men and women.
On top of that, there’s a lot of misinformation around how to orgasm, particularly for those with vulvas. For example, just around one quarter of cisgender women consistently orgasm through vaginal intercourse — most need clitoral stimulation. But one study found that only 44 percent of college men know where the clitoris was, even though many of their sexual partners will have one!
The good news is, with the right information, practice, and communication (if and when you choose to explore your sexuality with a partner), orgasms can be in your future! Here are a few things to do if you want to start exploring your orgasmic potential.
If you want to learn to orgasm with a partner, it helps to first teach yourself to orgasm so that you can later tell or show your partner what works for you. Most people first learn to orgasm through masturbation, which is likely why people with penises, who have more cultural permission to masturbate, often know how to orgasm before those with vulvas do. There’s no reason to feel bad about masturbating — it’s a healthy way to take care of yourself and learn what you like.
It’s best to find a time when you know you won’t be interrupted, and a space where you feel comfortable. Granted, this may be a challenge when you have family around the house. Aside from masturbating in your bed after the lights go out (or early in the morning before you get up), you can try asking for some private time to take a bath or shower, perhaps bringing in music so it feels like your space. A sensual activity like a bath can also potentially help you relax and get more present in your body before you masturbate.
2. Learn what kinds of touch feel good to you
Masturbation can mean a lot of different things — it doesn’t just mean vigorously rubbing your genitals like you might see in porn! Sometimes it does, but it can also mean lighter touch, or touch for other body parts besides the genitals. Everyone has unique things that turn them on and can help them experience orgasm. By experimenting with different kinds of touch, you can discover yours.
Before you even get to your genitals, exploring your whole body can help you get turned on and present in the moment. And when it comes to genital touch, there are endless techniques to experiment with. For some ideas on how to masturbate, check out these links:
- How Do You Masturbate? – some ways for people with vulvas to masturbate
- Going Solo: The Basics of Masturbation – some more suggestions for those with vulvas and also those with penises
- Is Masturbation Okay? (Yep.) – some commonly asked questions about masturbation
- D.I.Y. Sex Toys: Self-Love Edition – how to use different household objects for masturbation
3. Explore fantasy
In order to experience pleasure and orgasm, your brain has to be engaged, not just the rest of your body. Let your mind wander wherever it wants to go, and remember that when it comes to fantasy, anything goes. Some people feel guilty about getting turned on by taboo acts or scenarios, but this is very common, and fantasizing about something doesn’t mean you have to do it in real life.
If you’re not sure what fantasies turn you on yet, that’s also normal. You can learn by exploring sexual media like written erotica, erotic art, porn, or sex scenes from movies or books. If you’ve had sexual experiences that have turned you on, you can also think back to those. You might try identifying what about those experiences turned you on and then building a fantasy from there. Here’s more information on how to learn about sexual fantasies and figure out which ones are exciting to you.
4. Experiment with toys
Thanks to technology, there are more ways than ever to orgasm, one of them being through the use of vibrators and other sex toys. If you aren’t able to access sex toys, you can try using a home object like an electric toothbrush or showerhead. In addition to using sex toys alone, you can also use them in front of a partner or have them use them on you.
Some people are afraid that using a sex toy will desensitize them or make it harder to orgasm with a partner, but there isn’t any evidence to suggest this. If you’re concerned about getting used to a toy and having trouble experiencing orgasm in other ways, try to just switch it up and use the toy only half the time or so. And if a partner has a problem with you bringing in a toy, that’s likely a sign of their own insecurity; sex toys only add to partner sex.
5. Be patient with yourself
While learning to orgasm is usually a realistic and achievable goal, not everyone learns right away. So, be gentle with yourself and enjoy the journey of exploring your body and learning how it responds to different kinds of touch. Remind yourself that you will probably get there eventually, and the fact that you haven’t already doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
On the same note, don’t put a timeline on how long it takes you to orgasm. It doesn’t matter if it takes you a minute or an hour — your body deserves however much time it needs. If you’re not feeling too much right away, keep going and give your arousal the chance to build. Bodies generally don’t respond very well to feeling rushed, so take the time to luxuriate in the pleasure you’re receiving and remind yourself that however your body is responding is absolutely all right.
6. Try to stay in the moment
It may sound contradictory, but if you spend your masturbation or sex sessions thinking about making orgasm happen, that’s going to make it harder to orgasm — especially if those thoughts trigger feelings of anxiety or inadequacy. Stress and pressure make it hard for you to get relaxed and present enough to orgasm, and they also keep you in your head instead of your body.
Have you ever noticed that if you hyper-focus on something — like a cut on your skin, or the cold temperature — you feel it more intensely? And, if you think about something else, you’ll feel it less? The same thing happens for sexual pleasure.
If you’re wrapped up in your thoughts, you may not feel enough pleasure to orgasm even if you’re getting all the stimulation you need. The best way to increase the amount of sensation you’re feeling is to focus on what your body is experiencing in the here and now. So, when your mind starts to drift and worry about whether you’ll orgasm, bring your attention back to your body. Experience pleasure, and orgasm will follow.
Even once you’re able to orgasm, it’s good to remember that orgasm doesn’t have to be the sole focus of sex. Porn and movies may make it look like sex always ends with an orgasm, but in reality, a lot of people have great sex lives without experiencing orgasm every time. There are lots of other amazing parts of sex to focus on, like connecting with your partner and feeling pleasure all throughout your body. Masturbation doesn’t have to always include an orgasm either; sometimes, it’s just a time to relax, get to know your body, and give yourself pleasurable touch. Remember, sex and masturbation aren’t games to win but experiences to enjoy, whether you orgasm or not. Orgasm is certainly a fun byproduct, but it’s just a few seconds, so make sure to have fun from start to finish!