Women who can't climax
Anorgasmia, women unable to orgasm
Female Anorgasmia (also called Female Orgasmic Disorder) is a sexual problem where a woman can’t reach orgasm. It can be life-long or have started after a period of time of being able to experience orgasm.
Some women can experience orgasm during masturbation, but not during partnered sex; some women can get highly aroused, but never go beyond that. This can leave women feeling deprived of something special, isolated and abnormal and can cause tension in relationships.
What does a female orgasm feel like?
Firstly – it’s not a myth. During orgasm, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increase, muscles tense, contractions occur in the uterus, pelvic floor muscles, vulva, vagina and rectal sphincter. Accompanying this physiological activity are intense pleasurable physical sensations for a number of seconds, mostly felt in the genital region.
If we get really pernickety about female orgasm descriptions, you could classify them into different genital zones: clitoral orgasm (around 80% of women require clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm), vaginal orgasm (approximately 20% of women experience orgasm through vaginal stimulation alone) and the so-called, ‘G-Spot’ orgasm.
Is the female orgasm obvious?
The G-Spot has centred around much debate; does it exist or not? Do all women have one? The G Spot has been described as a little bump a few centimetres inside the vagina on the front wall. When stimulated during arousal, it may trigger an orgasm and some suggest can produce a kind of female ejaculate or ‘squirting’ from the urethra. However, the differences in type of orgasm may be subtle and are probably not that important to most people.
Why can’t some women orgasm?
Taking that leap into orgasm means losing control of oneself. For some people, being in such a vulnerable state, especially in the presence of someone else, can be an uncomfortable prospect. To defend oneself from this, the brain, nervous system and body team up to prevent and inhibit the orgasm. There may be underlying fears of being seen with a contorted orgasm face, of making noises and feeling unsafe to do so.
Anxiety impairs blood flow to the genitals, which is needed to increase sexual excitement; worries about pregnancy or STIs can have a negative effect. Ensure you use contraception and condoms to protect against transmission of STIs and get tested regularly.
The area inside the vagina is considerably less sensitive compared to the external clitoral area. Perhaps you or your partner have focused stimulation in an area of the genitals that is less likely to increase your arousal.
Does your partner come too quickly? Sex doesn’t have to stop just because your partner has had an orgasm. You can be stimulated orally, with hands, with sex toys and still engage in sexual activity after your partner has climaxed. If you’re looking for treatments for premature ejaculation, visit our clinic.
Other causes of anorgasmia are:
- Medication, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and sleeping medication
- Cancer treatment
- Spinal cord injury
- Damage to the central nervous system
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Fear of urinating or becoming too wet
- Relationship difficulties
- Past sexual abuse
- Fear of getting pregnant
How common is Anorgasmia?
It's suggested that only 30% of women orgasm when they have intercourse. Generally, it takes women longer than men to get aroused and to have an orgasm, so more time and stimulation may be needed, focused on her.
The psychological impact of Anorgasmia
Not only can Anorgasmia leave you feeling frustrated, especially when you come tantalisingly close to orgasm, but you may feel deprived of sexual release and intimacy with your partner, which can lead to dissatisfaction in relationships.
Equally, Anorgasmia may impact your partner’s self-esteem – they may feel inadequate, thinking that it is their fault, that they are unable to have an effect on you sexually and bring you to orgasm.
Partners may lose desire for sex as a result, because helping their partner to achieve an orgasm is a good feeling. If they think they are not able to do this, they may avoid sex and male partners may experience erectile dysfunction (ED).
What to do about anorgasmia
It may be that your orgasm is just out of reach, so take heart and don’t give up. Here are some top tips to help you get there:
- Go back to basics and start getting to know your body and how it responds. You will need privacy, comfort and time.
- Love your body. If you need to lose weight and exercise, do so, but don’t think that you can’t enjoy sex until you have the ‘perfect body’. Put on clothes you like – or take them off – look in the mirror and appreciate your features.
- Get to know your genitals, using a hand mirror. Learn and practice different techniques to stimulate yourself, then share them with your partner.
- To fake or not to fake? If you have been faking orgasms to get sex over with, or to please your partner, how will your partner ever know how to stimulate you in the most enjoyable way for you, if they already think they are hitting the spot?
- Communication is key. Rather than saying “don’t do that”, which can feel critical, say, “ I like it when you touch me this way”. Tell or show your partner how to touch you. Everybody is different and nobody comes with a manual of how to turn them on. Talk about other sexual activities you might like to try with each other. Trust is important so you feel safe and able to let go in the presence of another person.
- Don’t expect sex to be like it is in pornography. Remember, what porn stars do and have done to them in front of the camera is unlikely to work for you. They’re actors, and often the women in porn are simulating or exaggerating pleasure or orgasm.
- Experiment with sex toys and lubricants, reading erotic literature, looking at female friendly porn and thinking up sexual fantasies.
- Practise pelvic floor exercises, known as Kegels, which increase blood flow to the pelvis and help you learn to feel and recognise sensations in the pelvic region, giving you more connection and control over it. Your pelvic floor muscles, also known as PC muscles, are the same muscles used to stop urinating midstream or to hold in wind. Practise by tightening them, then relaxing them in both fast and slow twitches throughout the day (not whilst urinating).
- Don’t focus on orgasm as the ultimate goal. Relaxed minds and bodies allow for more playfulness, leading to better blood flow to the genitals, more pleasure and probably orgasm.
- Go to the loo before sex if you’re worried about urinating during orgasm.
- Take turns. If Anorgasmia is situational, (it only happens in certain situations, for example, when with a partner but not during solo sex) stimulate yourself alongside your partner then gradually try letting your partner take over the stimulation either with their hand, tongue or penis.
- Talk to your GP about your medication or hormonal contraception, and consider changing medication.
- Think about your attitude towards sex. On a deeper psychological level, you may have absorbed negative cultural or family attitudes towards female sexual pleasure. Perhaps give this some thought and challenge yourself about those attitudes. Unlocking these conflicts in your mind may enable you to let go and experience orgasms.
The first of many
Once you have had an orgasm, your inhibition threshold will be lowered. Plus remembering the sensation can lead to subsequent orgasms.
Many women who have experienced female orgasmic disorder are able to experience orgasm. But if it doesn’t happen, don’t focus all you attention on that as an end goal. Common expressions like, ‘achieving orgasm’ certainly don’t help matters! You can still enjoy sex, paying attention to sensations all over your body when touched with different textures, pressures and temperatures.
There are some excellent self-help books available to help women to become orgasmic, which is a good place to start. For more help and information visit your GP or to find a qualified psychosexual therapist. You could visit The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT).
About the author
Charlotte Simpson is an Accredited Psychosexual Therapist and Relationship Counsellor in Private Practice in North West London.