All I want for Christmas is an orgasm’. Tracey Cox reveals the 4 reasons why so many women can’t climax with their partner – and what to do about it
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Orgasm anxiety is on the rise.
Fifty-eight percent of women say stress and anxiety is the reason why they don’t orgasm with their partner.
Most women are fine solo – thanks mainly to the invention and normalising of vibrators. Almost all women can climax using one because vibration is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the clitoris.
Having an orgasm with a partner is a totally different experience. Simply having someone there watching you and involved in the process of making you orgasm means performance anxiety.
Add all the expectations around sex and you start to see why there are so many problems.
Tracey Cox explains why some women find it so difficult to climax with their partners compared to when they are alone (stock image)
A ‘real’ woman would be able to climax through penetration. I’m not even including this on the list of reasons because surely everyone knows by now that only 20 per cent of women orgasm through penetration alone.
(It’s because vaginal penetration with a penis doesn’t provide enough stimulation of the inner and outer clitoris to result in an orgasm.)
Expectation two: She should have an orgasm every time she has sex. Why? Because most men do.
It’s no surprise that lesbians have much lower orgasm anxiety than heterosexual couples.
Women understand that orgasms aren’t as automatic for us as they are for men, so they aren’t offended if it doesn’t happen.
Here are the most common reasons why women don’t orgasm with their (male) partners – and how to fix it.
UK relationship Tracey Cox (pictured) has shared a number of tips for why some women struggle to climax with their partners
NOT BEING ABLE TO RELAX WITH YOUR PARTNER
Some women are shy sexually. Others find it hard to relax during sex because they’re worried how they’re looking and how they’re performing. If you spend every session ‘spectatoring’ (watching yourself critically), it’s unlikely to be fun or satisfying.
WHAT DO ORGASMS FEEL LIKE?
Do they feel the same for everyone?
Biologically, everyone moves through the same stages. We become aroused, then move to a plateau phase (highly aroused), onto orgasm, then resolution (when the body returns to normal).
Psychologically, it’s unlikely everyone experiences the same sensations since orgasms appear to be as individual as the people who have them.
Here, women tell me their orgasm experience:
‘It seems so easy for men. Men try to put off their orgasms for as long as possible; women are always trying to induce theirs. I don’t know any woman who, when she feels an orgasm coming, tries to stop it. Why would she? Women must be in a certain head space to climax; they’re not that easy to achieve. I guess the equaliser is men’s orgasms seem quicker than ours and they can’t have them as often.’
‘Sex with someone new, who I’m desperate to sleep with but haven’t yet, is different to sex with a long-term boyfriend. I’m more turned on but, ironically, I’m often too turned on to orgasm clitorally. When we finally get down to it, all I really want is penetration. I have a dull, aching feeling in my lower belly and a need to be ‘filled up’.’
‘Vaginal orgasms affect a larger area – they feel like waves of pleasure are crashing all over my body. Clitoral orgasms all radiate from the clitoris. They’re specific and localised: more a euphoric explosion that I feel just in that small area.’
‘I can masturbate to a clitoral orgasm within a few minutes, but I need to know and relax with a partner before he can give me one. I concentrate, block him out of the picture and focus entirely on the sensation. I have to think about me, not him.’
‘Oral sex orgasms are the best: intense, strong and powerful. Sometimes it feels as though the rest of my body disappears and all that’s left is that tiny little area that is the clitoris. If someone chopped my arm off at that point, I wouldn’t know; all I’m aware of is what’s happening to that centimetre or less of flesh.
‘Orgasms are great but take a lot of effort. I know they only last about a minute but it feels much longer. I feel a bit faint afterward, so lie back for a minute or two. I guess that’s why French women nickname orgasm ‘le petit mort’, the little death.’
Other women are sexually confident but don’t like losing control. We’re taught to be in control in every other aspect of life, it’s no wonder we find it hard turning off in bed. If your brain is standing guard at the gates, making you aware of your surroundings, alert to what might happen and what might not, it’s hard to lose our inhibitions and let pleasure take over.
Sometimes trust is the issue. If you don’t trust your partner to always do the right thing by you, it won’t feel safe enough to truly relax and let go.
How to fix it: Free your mind and you’ll enjoy your orgasms. One way to do this is to practise ‘mindful’ sex. To stop your brain wandering off into damaging thoughts, you need to distract it. One way to do this is to be present in the moment.
Make eye contact with your partner, look at their body, tell them how good what they’re doing feels. The more active in bed you are, the less likely you are to go down the rabbit hole of anxiety. If you find yourself being self-critical (Oh my God, my stomach’s jiggling in this position), say something out loud to break the spell. ‘That feels amazing’ or ‘You look so sexy right now’. If that sounds too hard, take a few deep breaths, mentally saying to yourself, ‘Breathe in, breathe out’ and guide yourself back to the moment. Or escape into your head and enjoy a fantasy that’s guaranteed to turn you on.
FEELING PRESSURED TO ORGASM
Very often it’s our partner that’s stopping our orgasm from happening – by wanting it too much.
He wants you to have a good time and an orgasm seems evidence of that. But it’s not all coming from a place of generosity: this is also about ego and insecurity.
The more insecure the man, the more important it will be that you orgasm. Giving you an orgasm is a testament to his manhood: a stamp of approval that he’s a good lover, he knows what he’s doing. If he can’t do it, it means he’s ‘bad’ at sex.
Knowing your partner needs you to orgasm to prove himself adequate as a lover is the equivalent of throwing a bucket of cold water over the bed. It feels like a quest for never-ending reassurance, an exasperating, maddening turn off.
How to fix it: Sex is about feelings and sensations, not about thought. To orgasm, women need to let to. (See the sidebar about what happens to our brain.). We need to lose ourselves, not be worried about our partner’s feelings.
Tackle this one by first loading on the sexual compliments for things he does get right (I love how you look at me/kiss me/touch my breasts etc). Once you’ve boosted his confidence, sit him down for a chat. Say, ‘Look, I really like/love you, but you need to move away from measuring the success of our sex by whether I’ve orgasmed or not.’ Tell him the female orgasm isn’t like his. It requires you to be in a certain head space and him constantly asking ‘Have you had one yet?’ and sulking if you don’t, interferes with your ability to both focus and relax.
INEFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE AND/OR NOT TELLING YOUR PARTNER WHAT YOU NEED
Some men don’t know to bring a woman to orgasm. Their technique is woefully lacking and all the enthusiasm in the world isn’t going to make up for it.
Some women aren’t confident enough to speak up when this happens. We don’t want to hurt his feelings by saying it’s not working. (Sensing at theme here?) Lots of women put up with low satisfaction from sex for years before finally plucking up the courage to say, ‘Hey. Can I ask you to do that this way instead?’.
MEN FIRE UP, WOMEN LET GO: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BRAIN WHEN WE ORGASM
Female orgasm appears to be more about letting go than getting all hot and bothered.
Neuroscientist Gert Holstege decided to measure brain activity during orgasm with an MRI. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. First, you have to find a hospital which will allow people to orgasm inside one. Then there’s the issue of how to give someone an orgasm while inside a long tunnel designed to house just one person (with no room to DIY). Happily, Gert had solutions. He persuaded a hospital to let him use their machine on Saturdays and got volunteer couples to take turns lying inside the machine while their partner reached in from the outside and brought them to orgasm by hand. Impressed? How about this. The person masturbating their partner had to give exactly eight minutes warning of when they would climax because of the way the MRI machine measures activity.
What Gerte uncovered was initially alarming.
Pictures of the male brain show parts of it light up like a Christmas tree during orgasm. The same picture of the female brain showed…nothing. Hardly even a flicker. Any woman who has ever had an orgasm knows it feels like fireworks: why wasn’t it activating our brain cells? Gert then had a brain wave (literally): if the cells weren’t activating, maybe they were doing something else? He measured deactivation during orgasm and this time it was the female brain which lit up, while the male brain didn’t. Turns out the part of the brain which governs emotional control – things like fear and anxiety – switch off when a woman is having an orgasm.
Orgasm for us is about ‘letting go’ – stopping feeling and thinking and not letting stress get in the way. This is why not feeling pressured, judged or distracted is so important for women if we’re to have a happy orgasm.
How to fix it: The alternative to not speaking up is a lifetime of bad sex with this person. It might not feel like it matters if your interest in sex is low, but it does.
How we behave in bed shines a light on how we behave out of bed. His inability to make sex enjoyable for you feels even worse if he’s also incapable of helping you run the house. Not getting pleasure out of sex but being expected to do it to please him builds resentment.
You’ve lied for years, so can’t exactly be honest now?
Actually, you can. Simply say, ‘Do you know what? I normally love the way you give me oral sex/touch me with your fingers but something feels different. It must be having a baby/feeling stressed/going through perimenopause/being worried about the kids. Can you try doing this instead and see what happens?’
Of course, you need to know what technique does work for you to do this.
If you’ve never been able to orgasm, start by using a vibrator so you have an idea what you’re aiming for. It’s then a matter of training yourself to masturbate with your fingers and then sharing all this with your partner.
Experiment with different techniques. Some women love oral sex, others hate it. Some women masturbate lying on their stomach, others use pressure from a strong-flowing shower head. We are as individual in our paths to orgasm as we are everything else in life. No one technique suits all (though vibration comes close).
FEELING STRESSED ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO HAVE ONE
Remember when you were a kid and tried to touch a rainbow? Orgasms can be just as elusive. Reach just a little higher, you think, and you’ll have it but the next minute it’s slipped through your (or your partner’s) fingers.
Lots of women move steadily toward the point of having an orgasm then, out of nowhere, something intrudes. ‘I forgot Sophia’s birthday last week’, your brain inappropriately throws up. You hear your flatmate’s key in the door or remember you have to confront your boss in the morning. Your orgasm potential disappears – not forever but certainly for that session.
The same thing can happen if your partner changes technique or rhythm at the wrong time: everything that’s built up, fades away.
How to fix it: When this happens, the natural reaction is to get stressed. Start tormenting yourself with, ‘That’s it. This is going to happen every single time and I’ll never have one’ and you’ll set up even more psychological roadblocks. Instead, trying consciously letting all negative thoughts go, and decide to simply enjoy being stimulated. The more zen you can be about the experience, the more chance you have of having regular orgasms.
Instead of approaching every sex session obsessing about whether you will or won’t orgasm, instead just go along for the ride. Change the goal from orgasm to receiving pleasure and you’ll take the pressure off both of you.
Or try a bit of reverse psychology. When you masturbate or make love, tell yourself you’re not allowed to have an orgasm, that this session is strictly for ‘research’ purposes. You’ll relax more and may well end up scoring a goal.
Give the gift of a year of great sex with a present from Tracey’s two product ranges, Tracey Cox Supersex (for couples) and Tracey Cox Edge (for men). Find them at lovehoney.co.uk.
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