As a sex therapist talking and educating in areas around sex for me is vital. In this piece, I wish to focus on a women's ability to orgasm.
There was a time where women were ignored by clinicians or would take for granted that they could not orgasm. Most of this was due to the fact that women, unlike men, do not need to climax in order to conceive. However, this has begun to change, I hope! The Channel 4 Show “The Super Orgasm” was broadcast recently, it facilitated and encouraged women to start talking about orgasming. Its attempt to remove barriers and destigmatise women’s sexuality and ‘The Big O’ was through discussing and even researching the topic that women can have up to 100 orgasms at any one time.
However, this piece isn’t about multiple orgasms, it’s about the women who struggle to have any. I want to let you know that you are not alone and that there is support. Women are entitled to not only enjoy sex but to climax also. At this point I would like to state that men can also struggle with orgasming (commonly associated with delayed ejaculation). However today we are just focusing on us women!
What is happening when you can’t orgasm?
We know that most woman can climax, (some multiple times) dependent on the circumstances in her life. However, research shows that 43% of women report some degree of difficulty and 12% attribute their sexual difficulties to personal distress. ‘Anorgasmia’ is the medical term for women who have not yet had an orgasm despite trying. This means regular difficulty reaching orgasm after ample sexual stimulation, causing you distress.
There are biochemical reasons as to why orgasms maybe difficult for you. As chemical changes in a woman’s body can affect the possibility of reaching orgasms. This is primarily seen during menopause. some medications can cause a side-effect in regards to reaching orgasm. Difficulty achieving orgasms can also be due to surgery, injuries, or as a side-effect of medicines, especially antidepressants. If this sounds like something you are experiencing, talk to your GP about changes that could be made to assist you.
Stress is a huge factor in not only a woman’s sex drive but also the ability to reach orgasm since it makes it harder to concentrate on sensation and relax during sex. It’s not only in the inability to ‘switch off’ but there is actually a chemical reasoning behind it: Stress causes you to produce fewer sex hormones (like oestrogen and testosterone), and more cortisol (stress hormones). Working on your stress levels and relaxation is key to assist not only your sex life but your overall wellbeing.
How can you try to change this?
Firstly, it’s important to remember your environment and ask yourself this simple question; “Do I feel relaxed when I am having sex?” If not this could be the main indicator as to why you are not experiencing orgasms. For most women feeling comfortable and at ease is paramount to reaching climax. Work pressures, stress, anxiety, feeling uncomfortable with your sexual partner and even your body image are all vital components in achieving an orgasm. I would start there.
Then I would think about positions (specifically talking about straight women here). The easiest and most common way women orgasm is through clitoral stimulation. So, if you are having sex, try the woman-on-top position. As you can control the angle and speed of the thrusts (try a back-and-forth motion so that your clitoris rubs against your partner's abdomen), it facilitates the most continuous clitoral stimulation.
Another way of assisting yourself is by mindful masturbation. Attempting to understand and explore your body, how it feels with certain touches, becoming comfortable with the sensations can also greatly assist. It is important in the first instance that women must understand what brings them pleasure in their pursuit of happiness. You have to understand where the clitoris is and how to stimulate it. Masturbation is a skill. It has to be learned. It all starts with taking time for yourself and your sexual pleasure.
Finally there can also be deep-rooted reasons as to why you are struggling to climax, specifically around areas such as sex education, sexuality challenges, previous relationships, a history of abuse and many more historical challenges that you may have faced. It is vital for me to say at this point that there is support out there. I myself have had many clients who have struggled with reaching orgasms alongside other female sexual dysfunctions such as dyspareunia and vaginismus.
You are entitled to an orgasm and you are entitled to be heard if you are struggling to achieve climax. There are individuals, such as myself that you can talk to. Psychosexual therapists can be found on the CORST website, the NHS also offers short term psychosexual therapy. Your GP should be able to provide you with the support that you need in order to engage with the NHS or if you have questions that maybe in regard to medical treatment.
Aoife is a qualified Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist with more than 10 years experience working in mental health. Aoife’s work involves supporting people with a wide range of challenges, from recognised mental health conditions (addictions, eating disorders, psychosis), to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. However, Aoife’s specialty is in Psychosexual and Couples Therapy where she has worked treating clients both at 56 Dean Street (part of the NHS) and privately. You can find out more about Aoife's work on her website or get in touch via Twitter