Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/01/2020
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Society tells us the female orgasm is so elusive that women resign themselves to a low number of orgasms. Research shows only 25% of women consistently orgasm with vaginal intercourse, about 50% sometimes achieve orgasm, 20% seldom orgasm and 5% never have orgasm.
It’s time those numbers change.
Many factors can inhibit your body’s ability to reach the peak of arousal and then reach release. Keep reading to discover common factors keeping women from orgasming—and what you can do about it.
Why it’s an issue: Pressure is the opposite of what you need to orgasm. It could be partner-inflicted or self-inflicted, but either way it can keep you from coming. Pressure can lead to a physical tensing up, racing thoughts, feelings of discomfort, and other barriers to orgasm.
Solution: Remove the pressure. If it’s self-inflicted, focus on enjoying the holistic sexual experience. If you come, great. If not, you can still enjoy all the other thigh-shaking and tingling sensations you feel.
If the pressure is partner-inflicted, have a conversation about it. A partner’s caring attempt to show they care about your sexual pleasure can easily turn into pressure and make a lack of orgasm feel like a failure on both your ends. Talk about how you’re feeling. Then, redirect the focus to cultivating a positive sexual encounter rather than racing to an orgasm.
Why it’s an issue: Knowing your body is key to consistent orgasms. If you know tapping your clit does nothing but circles on your clit drives you wild, then your partner can focus on that motion in bed. Every body is different and it takes time to discover what yours responds best to. Once you know the positions and sensations that best build to orgasm, you can set yourself up for success by incorporating those into the bedroom.
Solution: Explore your body. Spend some solo time playing around with different techniques to see what feels best. Listen to a sex podcast or read a book to discover new things to try. There are many ways to explore your sexuality without a partner and learn how to have sex with yourself. You can also explore with your partner, but don’t make the focus reaching orgasm. Instead, simply play around together to see what you enjoy the most.
Why it’s an issue: You need more than the right amount of foreplay; you need the right kind of foreplay. For 70% of women, it’s impossible to orgasm without direct clitoral stimulation. You can check all the other boxes of great sex, but you still might not get the sweet release you seek until you bring your clit into the picture. Even if you don’t need your clit to come, taking advantage of this high-nerve ending body part will make the road to orgasm much smoother.
Solution: All you need is to involve your clit in sex more. Trying using a vibrator on it to pack powerful sensations. Focus on sex positions that target it, such as missionary or doggy (where your partner can reach around to use their hand for manual stimulation). Receive oral stimulation for gentle, direct contact. Play around with different ways to play with your clit.
Why it’s an issue: Alcohol can dehydrate you, which can decrease your body’s natural lubrication and increase vaginal dryness. This increases the chances of discomfort, which decreases your chance of orgasm. It also inhibits aspects of your central nervous system that relate to sexual arousal and orgasm, putting up extra roadblocks to those crucial steps.
Solution: Watch how much you drink before attempting sex and drink plenty of water to help counteract the dehydration.
Why it’s an issue: Reaching orgasm is a mental game as well as a physical one. Thoughts can push you out of the moment and keep you from enjoying the sensations that could get you to come. Maybe you feel shame about sex due to your upbringing. Maybe you are hesitant to let your guard down and be vulnerable. Maybe you are focused on your unending to-do list that you need to conquer when you’re done. Whatever the distracting thoughts are, they make it almost impossible to orgasm.
Solution: Tackle the road block. For simple distractions, you can eliminate them before sex. Write down your to-do list to get it on paper and out of your head. Try some deep breathing exercises or guided meditation to get your thoughts focused on the moment at hand. Eat a snack so you aren’t thinking about your stomach growling. Remove any distraction you can.
Some roadblocks do take more time to conquer, such as removing shame surrounding sex. A therapist can be a valuable resource for empowering you to overcome those deeper rooted roadblocks.
Why it’s an issue: Sex should never be painful. Let us say that again: Sex should never be painful. Sometimes our bodies don’t work the way we should and what is supposed to be pleasurable ends up being painful.
Solution: If it’s a one-time instance, it could simply be lack of lube or that certain position. But if you repeatedly experience pain during sex, speak to your doctor immediately. You could be suffering from a diagnosable issue, such as endometriosis. Pinpointing the cause is the first step in either managing or treating your symptoms, which helps put you on the path to relief!
Why it’s an issue: Sex involves a lot of friction and rubbing of very sensitive tissues. Without enough lubrication, what should be pleasurable can become uncomfortable (or even painful). Naturally, this is not conducive to coming.
Solution: Lube up! Yes, you are getting naturally wet as you get turned on. But in almost every case, you’ll benefit from a little extra lubrication. It’ll help prevent discomfort and can even enhance sensations.
Why it’s an issue: Your bladder isn’t too far from where all the action is happening. All the thrusting motions can make you aware that you need to pee, which takes you out of the moment and makes it harder to reach that moment of release.
Solution: Pretty straightforward—head to the bathroom before sex.
Why it's an issue: Sometimes, you're just not feelin' it. And that's totally okay. It's important to remember that everyone, at some point, experiences a dip in their sex drive. And often, it has nothing to do with your romantic, emotional or physical attraction to your partner. Things like stress, past experiences and even diet can drastically effect your sexual desire, and there's nothing wrong with taking some time to figure out what's curbing your, uh, appetite.
Solution: We all know that good sex begins and ends with good communication. Have a conversation with your partner. Talk to them about what's going on, and work with them to figure it out. Again, therapy is for helping this kind of thing. You can also talk to your doctor about medications that can actually help you reclaim your sex drive.
It helps to spend some time thinking about your sexual encounters where you didn’t come. Are there any common connections? See if you can pinpoint something (or a few things) to try differently next time.
As you try new tactics, always keep in mind the importance of avoiding pressure to come. Making an orgasm your end goal could end up preventing you from having one at all. Instead, set yourself up for success by eliminating barriers and then let your sexual experience unfold naturally. After all, orgasms are great but they are not the only way to enjoy your sexuality!
Want more help from the women who know best? Check out the hers blog.