If you’re having a hard time reaching the Big O, you’re hardly alone! Studies show that about 10 percent of women have never experienced an orgasm, and 50 percent of women have had trouble getting aroused at some point.
So why are so many women having trouble climaxing? And what can men do to help women reach orgasm? Dr. Gail Saltz and Dr. Drew Pinsky tackle these tough questions and dispense their expert advice:
Q: Why are some women able to achieve an orgasm easier than other women?
Dr. Gail: There is a real range when it comes to women having orgasms. There is likely a biologic difference between women (though exactly what that is is not known), but some women have a lower threshold for orgasm and some higher, which reflects differences in sensitivity.
There is a big psychological difference between women in that some women are more uninhibited than others and can let themselves go without guilt or shame and this makes it easier for them to have an orgasm. Anxiety interferes both psychologically and biologically (in the brain by blocking certain neural pathways) with reaching a climax.
Lastly, there are differences in education levels about the body and sex; some women simply know a lot more about how to have an orgasm than others.
Q: Are men and women wired differently in terms of how they achieve an orgasm?
Dr. Gail: Women take on average 20 minutes of stimulation and arousal to have an orgasm. Men take quite a bit less. Women also have more variation in what they find to be stimulating as well as having more difficulty defining exactly where and how stimulation works best. Only 20 percent of women are able to orgasm with intercourse alone, most women need some sort of direct clitoral stimulation.
Dr. Drew: Yes, men and women are wired differently, moreover women are wired differently from each other. Many times women will feel as though they are flawed because they are not living up to a certain standard of climaxing. Men make it worse because they generalize what’s needed to make a woman climax. Often men believe women are the same, and once they figure what works for one woman they apply that same method to all the other women they are intimate with, and that’s one of the major problems.
- 50-60% of women will never have an orgasm via intercourse and will require clitoral stimulation to climax.
- 30% of women will have a reliable orgasm with intercourse.
- 10% of women will orgasm with intercourse and could possibly have sequential orgasms.
- 5% of women have true multiple orgasms only through intercourse and these women typically find oral sex uncomfortable.
Q: What are factors that could contribute to a woman having a hard time or not achieving an orgasm at all?
Dr. Gail: Many things can interfere with a woman’s ability to have an orgasm — some medications (antidepressants and antihistamines are big offenders), anxiety, depression, alcohol (more than a little), old myths and inhibitions about it being wrong or scary to enjoy sex, hormonal changes.
Of course, sex really means pleasuring yourself and your partner and this does not necessarily include having an orgasm. Sex can be fun and wonderful without. However, many woman find the release of orgasm to be an important component and many men are really excited and gratified by their partner reaching orgasm.
Dr. Drew: Genetics could play a role. There is a tremendous amount of genetic information in the XX chromosomes. As a result, a woman’s genes could make it more difficult to orgasm during sex. Medications can lower a woman’s sex drive and interfere with a woman’s ability to climax. These medications include antidepressants, birth control pills and hormone medications. I only know of three antidepressants that do not interfere with a woman’s sexual function.
Menopause, perimenopause, childbirth and breast-feeding can all cause a woman’s sex drive to shut down. A woman’s emotional state is another factor. If a woman is tired or stressed out or preoccupied, all of these emotions could make it harder for her to climax.
Q: Are there some women who have no idea how their bodies work and as a result they don’t know how to get aroused?
Dr. Gail: One of the biggest impediments for women is that they have never really understood, looked at or examined their own genitals. They have not really figured out what kind of stimulation and where feels best for them, so they are not able to guide a partner in this.
Many men don’t know either, unless they have had a partner who has really shown them, and even then because each person is different they cannot know what works for you. Many women are afraid to ask questions because they feel if it's not obvious, it must be because their genitals don’t work properly and they can’t have an orgasm. This is really untrue, but such a powerful belief can certainly keep you from becoming aroused enough.
Q: What can a man do to help the woman he’s with climax if she’s having trouble?
Dr. Drew: Men need to understand the biology of the female he is dealing with. Men have to recognize that women are not all the same when it comes to what can get them aroused. Men think that foreplay is kissing and touching a woman’s genitals. But for some women, foreplay is having a nice intimate dinner or connecting emotionally through various situations. Also, both people do not need to be so concerned with getting to the finish line and climaxing. Couples should be more concerned about creating a more intimate relationship with each other. Finally, men need to pay more attention to their partner's needs and try figuring out what works best for the person they are with, and men should not assume their partner wants what they want.
Q: Can you give a list of general tips a woman can use that will help a woman get sexually aroused and ultimately climax?
Dr. Gail: If you are trying to climax and haven’t been able to, or if it's very difficult for you and you wish it were easier, here are some suggestions:
- Self-stimulation. Its hard to say enough good things about how important it is to know yourself. Even if you have a partner, you only stand to make things better by practicing alone, when the pressure is off, to find out what works best for you and discover how to show him, too.
- Try a vibrator. A battery-operated vibrator can help “break through” an obstacle to climaxing. Once you have had the experience several times, it will give you confidence that you “work just fine” and allow you to replicate that stimulation on your own or with your partner.
- More direct stimulation. You can’t count on intercourse alone to provide enough stimulation. Manually, orally or with a vibrator, you may need to have you or your partner stimulate the clitoris more directly.
- Use fantasy! You need a good fantasy to boost arousal enough to climax ... thinking about what you should make for dinner tomorrow during sex is not going to do it.
- Try new things. Like with anything else in life, the same old, same old can get boring and boring does not go well together with orgasm. so mix it up and try new things to increase your arousal.
Dr. Drew: First, every person is highly individualized so if a person is seriously concerned, then they first need to get a medical evaluation and make sure there’s nothing biologically going on to prevent them from climaxing.
- Focus on emotional intimacy with your partner.
- Experiment and try new ways to please yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to communicate with your partner because men aim to please and they want to please you!
- Understand that your partner cannot read your mind, so talk to your partner about how you’re feeling and what you need.