Orgasms—The Standard for Sexual Success?

When my husband and I got married, me at the age of 25, neither of us had been sexually active before. Before you ask, no, I hadn’t even been experimenting with just myself. Even though I’d had plenty of sex education through a variety of sources, I was surprised when my orgasms didn’t come easily.

I was perplexed but figured it wasn’t a big deal yet; we just need to figure out what works best for my body. When my orgasms didn’t come at all, even after months and months of trying and research and even crying, my husband and I had accumulated so much pressure and frustration between us, you could sense the anxiety about our sex life even in other aspects of our relationship. The gap between our sex drives grew until my husband was at the very bottom, I was at the top, and both of us were feeling wounded, confused, and worried about our future together.

Researching the female orgasm

In an effort to fix my problem, I began to research the female orgasm. The internet became my guru. I learned which toys to try, which positions to check out, and exactly how I wanted my husband to touch me during sex. I became obsessed, learning about all the different kinds of orgasms I wasn’t having and all the recommended techniques. I would try and fail every time.  

To make sure there wasn’t a secret formula I had missed in all my research, I even talked with my gynecologist. In the end, even with all this extra knowledge, nothing was helping and I just kept feeling like a failure and like I was missing out. In fact, I actually started to acquire new insecurities when I started to notice that the majority of the women asking about orgasms were in their teens. Shouldn’t I have this figured out by now?

As disheartening as it was to discover at first, the most helpful thing in this struggle was finding the studies on how difficult it can be for women to orgasm. Since there are so many factors that go into creating the ideal setting for orgasming (state of mind, level of comfort, absence of distraction, sexual position, specific stimulation, and even warm feet, the list goes on), the female orgasm is significantly more rare the its male counterpart. It’s not rare in every woman, of course, but it is rare for more women than we realize. The most shocking fact I turned up is that some females can’t orgasm at all.

The Biggest Lie About the Female Orgasm

Considering how late in the game doctors began to consider and study the female orgasm, I’m not surprised there are still unanswered questions in this department, but there have been great strides in the last 15 years in uncovering more information about this topic. In The Case of the Female Orgasm, Elisabeth Lloyd tackled the myths and biases toward the female orgasm by gathering and presenting data from 33 sex studies conducted with both primates and humans.

The most widespread misconception she debunked is the idea that women can easily climax from intercourse. The truth is, while there are plenty women who are blessed with the ease of orgasm, 25 percent of the female population rarely or never climax from penetration alone.  Let me repeat that for good measure: roughly one in four women won’t be able to or will hardly ever be able to get off from penetration.  

Furthermore, since the clitoris (not the vagina) is the most sensitive and powerful feature of the female sex organs, it makes much more sense that Lloyd found up to 90 percent of women are able to orgasm through proper clitoral stimulation. Other studies support a wider range of women who can orgasm from penetration (20-30 percent) and a lower number of women who consistently orgasm through manual stimulation (70-80 percent), but very little information is available about those who haven’t yet been able to orgasm at all. Still, even with all the studies and all the stimulation, there is no 100 percent here. There is no guarantee of reaching the top of this mountain.

What About the Few of Us Who Just Can’t Even?

While I haven’t been clinically diagnosed, it’s possible I have some form of anorgasmia.  People with anorgasmia are unable to climax, even if they’re getting exactly what their body would need to orgasm. The deeper problems that typically cause anorgasmia are often psychological, emotional, and mental issues which subtly affect the body and frustrate the last step of the arousal cycle, the orgasm. Up 10 percent of women in the U.S. are in this situation and have never experienced an orgasm. That’s a lot more than I expected, and while I hate that the number is so high, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

When I think about the possibility of having a sexual disfunction, I start to feel overwhelmed and defeated, as if there must be something wrong with me. Coming to this realization, I had to decide how much energy I wanted to spend trying to keep “fixing” myself. Was orgasming really that important to me? Even when talking with my doctor and a therapist, I couldn’t find any deep, dark problem or shame that was secretly keeping me from climaxing.

Even though I come from a very strict, conservative, Christian background, I didn’t enter my sex life with any added shame or guilt regarding sex. Maybe I was just missing out, and there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. I knew it was likely that, if I kept working at it, I could probably find this elusive orgasm I’d been pursuing for so long, but when would enough be enough? Was this something I could let go of? Would letting go mean letting go forever?

Moving Forward

Learning that I was probably in the small percent who have some kind of block between me and an orgasm was a lot to take in. After a while, though, I began to accept the reality that I’d done all I could and that maybe I could be happy without orgasming. As this concept grew, I began to relax a lot more about my sex life in general. After I stopped making the climax my priority in sex, I was more free to enjoy sex for the ride instead of what I wanted the destination to be. I was free to relish the sensations, the excitement, and the passion my husband and I share without any demands or pressures on myself to orgasm. I was free from the unfair expectations I had put on my husband to meet this improbable need, and he finally became free from feeling completely inadequate in the bedroom.

To be honest, there are still a good many techniques and positions and who knows what else that I’d love to try. I’d love to experience what it seems everyone else is experiencing, but I’m also so thankful that I’ve come to appreciate what I have. Seriously, the sex my husband and I have is awesome, I love it, and it adds so much delight, richness, and value to our relationship. In the end, that’s exactly what I’m looking for in my sex life. It was a very long process, but I’ve come to believe that the grass is pretty green on my side of the fence, and it’s time to stop basing the success of my sex life on something as temperamental, and maybe even impossible, for me to achieve.

Featured image by Júlia Pavin

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