Ah, Valentine’s Day. Whether you are single, happily married, or desperately trying to avoid the “holiday” it’s out there. With this holiday comes an emphasis on romance and from there it’s not a far jump to S-E-X. Whether you’re going it solo today or planning on seducing someone there are some things you should know about orgasm!
What is an orgasm?
The National Health Service defines orgasm as “A feeling of intense sexual pleasure that happens during sexual activity. It’s sometimes called "coming" or "climaxing."
If you've ever had one then you know it's basically just like this happening in each cell of your body...
How does it happen?
A couple theories exist for how humans reach orgasm. Shout out to the psychologists who have learned more about this. If you've watched Masters of Sex you already know a little about the early pioneers of this field. Here is the Master and Johnson's sexual response cycle.
Their model makes sense because men and women appear to have the same physical sensations during orgasm (although most women don't ejaculate). A more recent study had men and women write about their orgasms and researchers tried to guess if it was a male or female. Guess what? They had no idea!
Even though the physical experience is the same, that's certainly not the only thing which affects orgasms. We know that people dealing with depression, anxiety, and financial hardships have more sexual problems, including difficulty reaching orgasm. That's why I prefer the model by Basson who takes into account the emotional aspects of sex.
This model is also nice because it doesn't focus on orgasm being the complete end game for sex. Remember, sex doesn't mean strictly penis in vagina action. Intimacy and sexual arousal play big roles in relationships and can be achieved by all sorts of activities with your partner that don't need to end in orgasm. Going off of that...
Plenty of men and women have difficulty reaching orgasm.
This study of thousands of 40-80-year-olds found that between 17.7-41.2% of women reported an inability to reach orgasm. Interestingly enough they found the two biggest associations with this were poor health and a negative outlook about the relationship. Real talk? If you think it ain't goin anywhere, it might be hard for you to enjoy it. The same survey found that 9-20% of men also reported being unable to reach orgasm.
Other things which may affect your ability to have an orgasm include:
* not being stimulated sufficiently
* worrying about sexual performance
* mood disorders, such as depression
* problems with physical health
* lack of knowledge or fear of sex
* a previous traumatic sexual experience
* problems in the relationship
There are lots of other statistics out there for specific populations of people (like women with breast cancer) but overall each of these studies shows us that having trouble having an orgasm is common. If so many people are reporting trouble having orgasms then how come this isn't a bigger issue we address? Well...
People are faking orgasms. A lot!
NBC news posted two articles which report that 80% of women and 25% of men admit to faking an orgasm at some point. The most common reason behind it? Not wanting to talk to a partner about sexual problems.
To me that means two things: 1) more people could be having orgasms out there and 2) we gotta talk about sex more!
So how can you get more orgasmic?
The bulk of the research focuses on psychological treatments for problems with orgasm. These include therapy for an individual or couple, sex therapy, and often masturbation! Yep, that's right, science is telling you to masturbate. It's perfectly healthy to get yourself off! Also, if you don't know what you like then how can you guide a partner? Spend time figuring this out. Invest in toys if you want to and find what turns you on. Unlike any of your partners, YOU know exactly what you are feeling and enjoy. You could even say that you're your own greatest lover! (Ok ok, cheesy, I know.)
If you read the golden rules of sex, you know that I'm big on clear communication.
If you are struggling to reach orgasm with a partner then you better be talking! Again, your partner isn't psychic, so speak up. The UK’s National Health Service has a quick and easy guide for talking about sex. Even if you are having great sex, I think this article is worth reading!
However, you might need to talk about more than what's going on between the sheets. We know from the latest research (and girl talk) that how comfortable you are with a partner and how happy you are in a relationship definitely affects your sex life. Perhaps the troubles are less a problem of technique and more a reflection of other issues in the relationship.
Sexual problems among women and men aged 40–80 y: prevalence and correlates identified in the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors available at