When Emily Writes reviewed a life-changing sex toy, the response from orgasm-starved women was huge. So why are so many having so few orgasms, and what can be done?
For the last two years I’ve been running a pretty small – about 600-odd member – group for mostly New Zealand women to talk about sex and sexuality. It started accidentally really. If you have any kind of Facebook following, Facebook will harass you to start a group. They want you to market directly to your followers and sell them shit they don’t need.
I didn’t have any interest in doing this, and considering I think mum groups are a vortex to hell, I especially had no interest in running an online mum group.
But I thought it would be fun to have a space to talk about horny stuff without being harassed by men who think because I talk about how hot Alexander Skarsgård is that somehow means I want Kev from Gore to send me a photo of his weak semi.
Point being – it started accidentally, and now it’s my favourite part of Facebook. We talk about sexuality, gender, fantasies, and ways we get our rocks off.
One thing I’ve learned from this group is women are not having enough orgasms. And they understandably, want more orgasms.
This view is backed by research. Every study I looked at found low rates of orgasms for women.
A Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy study in 2017 found that nearly 37% of women required clitoral stimulation to orgasm. Only 18% of women could cum during penetrative sex. I mention it despite how old it is because with 2,000 participants it was one of the largest studies on women’s pleasure I found.
An analysis of over 30 studies performed over the past 80 years, found only 25% of women are consistently reaching orgasm during vaginal sex.
This is full on. It means only a quarter of us are cumming regularly. Twenty percent of us don’t have orgasms when having vaginal sex with a man. And five percent of us NEVER cum. Never. How grim is that.
Men on the other hand are having orgasms at least 90% of the time. This is what is known as the massive orgasm gap.
Worse still, women blame themselves for not being able to cum. In most of the films and TV shows we consume women come in seconds through penetrative sex without any foreplay. Women expect that they should be able to cum this way and cum quickly, and if they can’t there’s something wrong with them. This is very wrong.
As a huge fan of vaginas and vulvas I spend a lot of my time encouraging folks to really consider just how awesome and complex they are. The vagina and vulva is beautiful and misunderstood. People with them have been labelled frigid or broken simply because their partners don’t know their G-spots from their clits.
Namely, some folks can cum in seconds from a light touch of the tongue or a finger while observing her reactions, others need you to focus on their G-spot and their clitoris in a rhythmic way for at least 10 minutes or so.
A recent study found that on average it takes women 13 minutes and 25 seconds to have an orgasm during penetrative vaginal sex. One in six women in the study said they never climaxed during penetrative sex. Of those who did, the time it took to reach orgasm ranged from 5 minutes to over 20 minutes.
The focus on the vaginal orgasm is a red herring. Anne Koedt suggested in 1970 in her ground breaking essay that it isn’t even a thing! “Women have thus been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men; our own biology has not been properly analysed. Instead, we are fed the myth of the liberated woman and her vaginal orgasm – an orgasm which in fact does not exist.”
Sexologist and author Dr Vivienne Cass told ABC there is only one orgasm response in people with vaginas.
“There’s not a separate thing called a vaginal orgasm,” says Dr Cass. “I would say there’s not a vaginal orgasm, there’s not a clitoral orgasm, there’s physiologically just one orgasm response. But there are many different ways women can experience that – where they feel it, what they feel, what they feel about it. And there are women who can have an orgasm without being touched at all.”
Regardless, the most important thing to remember if you have a vulva and you’re not having orgasms is that it’s not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you. And just because you haven’t cum yet, it doesn’t mean you’ll never cum.
Society’s insistence that men’s pleasure is always prioritised over women’s is a big part of why you might feel the way you do. Shed that baggage!
Straight men shouldn’t get defensive but they should take action. In one study, around 87% of husbands and 49% of wives reported consistently experiencing orgasm. Around 43% of husbands believed their wives had reached orgasm when they hadn’t. This is a worry for a lot of reasons – if heterosexual men think their partners are reaching climax more than they actually are, it’s likely a guy won’t take steps to fix the problem and ensure his partner is actually climaxing during sex. Basically whether you’re in possession of a vulva or a penis, you need to be attentive to your partner’s needs.
Now onto an actual expert, rather than just someone who just loves women and their bodies and wants everyone to cum all the time, Adult Toy Megastore head of customer satisfaction Sophie McGrath. She handles queries from over 60,000 customers worldwide asking about more than 12,000 products across over 100 brands. She knows a fair bit about ensuring her customers are happy and she believes women can learn how to orgasm.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of women who have struggled to orgasm and they’re now having a great sex life. I really think you can get there, you just need to work out why you are having difficulty reaching orgasm and what the cause is,” she says.
“Women we talk to have faced difficulty getting aroused, which leads to difficulty climaxing. We have talked to couples who need help having conversations about what turns them both on. And we talk to our customers a lot about the different types of orgasm you can have, and the different ways you can have them.
“Our business is in trying to improve sex lives – we trade in knowledge. You need to know your body and your partner’s body to be able to climax or have your partner reach climax”.
I asked Sophie to share four easy steps to getting more orgasms. Obviously this particular advice focuses on cisgender women having sex with hetero cisgender men because I’m sorry but generally they’re the ones who need to know. Another study if you need it: Heterosexual men were most likely to say they usually/always orgasmed when sexually intimate (95%), followed by gay men (89%), bisexual men (88%), lesbian women (86%) and bisexual women (66%).
Step 1: Train your pelvic floor
Strengthening your pelvic floor almost always results in better penetrative vaginal sex. Squeeze the walls of your vagina up and hold while you count to five and use weighted kegel balls to get your pelvic floor in tip-top shape. Kegel balls feel great and they’re awesome for training your pelvic floor. Your muscles automatically clench around the balls to hold them inside you, giving you a great workout. Kegel balls are ideal for beginners; Ovo have a great starter set.
Step 2: Relax your mind and body
Many women struggle to get out of their heads during sex, but it’s vital to reaching arousal and then orgasm. When you’re getting ready to get down you need to stay clear and focused. You can then ensure your nerves are sensitive and your blood is flowing to the right places. Turn the lights low, get comfortable, put on some music or keep it quiet – whatever makes you feel the most relaxed.
Hop into the bath if you like. A lot of toys are completely waterproof now – just remember you still need to use lubricant in the bath. Something like Uberlube is great for baths or showers.
Step 3: Masturbate and then masturbate some more
Many women don’t climax with vaginal sex. Most of the time this is due to the fact that during penetrative sex the clitoris is not getting enough attention. The more orgasms you have through masturbation, the more likely you are to have orgasms during penetrative sex.
Clitoral stimulation is the fastest way for most people with vulvas to climax.
Unfortunately, many women don’t know where their clitoris is. Fortunately, you can find it rather easily and practise stimulating it while masturbating. When you’re on your own, the pressure is off. This is your chance to really work out what you like and don’t like. Try a wand or vibrator against your clit to begin with. This will start your blood pumping to your vulva which will help with arousal.
If you’re looking for an intense orgasm (or multiple orgasms), try the Satisfyer Pro 2.0. It should form a seal over your clitoris and then the magic happens.
Using toys on yourself is a good idea because you can work out what kind of clitoral stimulation you like and need. Some people like a powerful hit, others like a really gentle flickering.
Step 4: Masturbate with a partner and demonstrate to them what you like
If you have a partner with a penis, get them to watch you masturbate once you know what you like. Clitoral stimulation from a penis can be challenging; help your partner see how you cum and what works.
In a survey from Cosmopolitan, half of all women surveyed said their partners were very close to bringing them to orgasm, but couldn’t quite get them there. Of that ‘not quite’ group, 38% said there wasn’t enough of a focus on their clitoris while 35% said there was enough, but all the wrong kind of stimulation.
Using a vibrator during sex can sometimes take a bit of getting used to because you need to work out who will hold it. A better option might be a hands-free vibe. A good one will fit onto your clitoris during sex or around a penis.
If you are in a long-distance relationship you can still masturbate together by using an app-controlled sex toy like a We-Vibe Sync. Toys that stimulate both the clitoris and the G-spot are pretty great.
Sometimes becoming a person who regularly orgasms takes time, a lot of time. And the answer is sometimes is really complex. Other reasons why you might not be able to cum are antidepressants/selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, perimenopause or menopause or any hormonal deficiency, chronic illness or medical issues like diabetes and hypertension or sleep disorders. Smoking and drinking can also have an impact. Your body can also change a lot after giving birth – scar tissue, painful spots from tearing healing and vaginal dryness can stop orgasms before they even begin. The fear of getting pregnant can also be an issue. With any of these challenges, you’ll need more than four steps.
The key thing to remember is that you’re deserving of an orgasm so don’t give up. Start slow, love your vagina, and be kind to yourself.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.