HeadSpaces: Help! I've Never Had An Orgasm

HeadSpaces is a column featuring the brilliant minds of psychologists Dr. Rachel Kozlowski and Dr. Naomi Ben-Ami discussing modern romance.

This is my HeadSpace: I’m a 28-year-old women who’s had enough sexual encounters to really start to worry about never having had an orgasm. What’s wrong with me?! Can you help? —Woman With No O Face


Oh my my dear lady lay. What terrible, rotten no good news! Our hearts and love-boxes go out to you.

But enough frowns and furrowed brows.

We are thrilled, pleased as punch, and generally elated that you are committed enough to becoming orgasmic that you’ve dropped us a line.

First thing’s first. Drs. Naomi Ben-Ami and Rachel Kozlowski are keen for you to understand that you should aim to be less hard on yourself. There is nothing wrong with you girl. Don’t fret and don’t get discouraged.

It may come as a surprise, but the good doctors say that the majority of women—everywhere, all over the damn globe—are not able to reach orgasm from intercourse alone. Meaning, they need to get some toys, hands, or tongues in the mix. And about 10% of women have never achieved orgasm at all.

Before we get into the nitty gritty to help you decipher exactly what might be holding you back, we’d like to take this moment to remind you that while society—and yes, porn—puts tremendous emphasis on that final shimmering muscle spasm, there is a whole wonderland of other sensations and explorations to be had other than the orgasm. Reducing sex and physical pleasure to 10 seconds of inarticulate moaning is defeatist and silly.

Dr. Kozlowski and Dr. Ben-Ami suggest shifting your intention away from the end goal and instead, savor the touch-tour, revel in the flesh-cruise:

“Focus more of your energy on arousal and touch by caressing, holding, and kissing your partner. Make it about the journey. This will boost enjoyment, allow you to learn your body and your desires, and might also decrease anxiety, increasing the likelihood you will, in fact, reach orgasm.”

The same goes for when you’re on a solo excursion.

(You masturbate, right? Because if you don’t, one-on-one time is the place to start…). Give yourself time and room for exploration—try all sorts of things from the shower faucet to vibrators, dildoes, and your nimble fingers. Notice what feels good. Different textures, timing, the contraction of your stomach or leg muscles, what you’re thinking about when it becomes toe-curlingly good . . . I know it sounds all kumbaya, let’s all go sit by the campfire and give backrubs, but just be in the moment. Avoid thinking about your goal (please GOD let me come!) as much as humanly possible.

Dr. Ben-Ami and Dr. Kozlowski also acknowledge that there may be a whole shame situation surrounding masturbation and more broadly, about feeling physical pleasure in general. But in short, that ain’t right!

“Most adults are having (and hopefully enjoying) mutually consensual, desired sex. Sex in all its many forms, with self and other, is a wonderful way for people to express their feelings and desires and to feel joy. If you do find yourself having feelings of shame, talking to your friends about their experiences might help normalize things for you. If these feelings are becoming particularly overwhelming, working with a therapist is advisable, too.”

The good doctors also suggest that in addition to learning the ins and outs (sorry) of your own body, get thee to the library or the good ‘ol fashioned Interwebs to learn about the human body in general, too.

“While we don’t want you to get too in your head about this stuff, it is important to know the basics about the female form and what gets it going. The clitoris, G-spot, and breasts tend to be a woman’s most sensitive erogenous zones, and the lips, neck, and face are other parts of the body that typically respond to stimulation.”

Okay, okay. So now you’ve aced anatomy. You understand all the moving parts and how everything works in tandem. But in order to get the job d-o-n-e and get yourself to the place of pillow-biting ecstasy, you’re going to have to strike a balance between relaxation and tension. The tension part comes into play in your body; the relaxation lies in your brain.

Here's what Drs. Ben-Ami and Kozlowski mean:

Relaxation: If your mind is occupied by anxiety-provoking or shame-based thoughts (self-conscious about being naked, worried about your sexual performance, or being overly concerned about whether or not you'll have an orgasm), it will not be in the optimal state to reach heightened arousal. Focusing on the physical sensations you are experiencing during sex or masturbation, rather than your thoughts, will be helpful. And if it's difficult to attend to what's happening in your body, try experimenting with fantasy. This can help you "let go" of distracting thoughts, and focus on erotic ones.

Tension: The idea that you can just lay back and relax and an orgasm will come (pun intended) is a total misconception. Many women find that intentionally learning to create tension in their body can help them achieve orgasm. In your efforts to learn more about your preferences, see what happens if you contract certain areas of your body while engaged in sexual activity. Try tensing and releasing your abdomen, legs, and/or pelvic muscles (here's where kegels come in handy). Tensing or contracting muscles, particularly in the pelvis, increases blood flow to the groin, which initiates arousal.

Okay. Two last things before we sign off, ship out, and cross our fingers (and toes!) that you’ll be blissing out momentarily.

Do not neglect the always-crucial communication. If you have a partner with whom you're currently making the beast with two backs with, keep in mind that this (for better or worse) isn’t Minority Report and that person is not a mind reader.

If you're having a hard time figuring out what it takes to get yourself off, just imagine how confused, daunted and frustrated your partner must be! Since we're all so damn different, it's important to be crystal clear—and yes we acknowledge this can be awkward—about your preferences and pleasures. It will be easier to achieve orgasm with a partner who knows what feels good to you. While conversations—imagine that!—are the most direct path to getting on the same page, some hearty grunts and monosyllabic directives (think: "faster," "harder," or "yeeeees!") in addition to non-verbal messages (think: putting your hands over theirs to indicate the pressure or placement) will be tres helpful.


“The ability to have an orgasm depends on many factors. Sometimes, medical conditions, the use of certain medications, or a history of trauma or sexual abuse, can interfere with one's sexual functioning. If you find that you’re still struggling, consider talking with your ob-gyn or a therapist to explore whether these may be contributing to your difficulties.”

So there you have it. Go forth dear WWNOF. Godspeed. And good luck.


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