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Sex Q&A: Why Can’t I Orgasm?!

Because "oh, just masturbate more!" is not an acceptable answer.

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Welcome to the new BuzzFeed Sex Q&A, where you can ask us your awkward, confusing, gross, embarrassing, or thought-provoking questions, and we'll provide answers from leading sexual health experts. Have a question about sex or sexual health? Send it to sexQs@buzzfeed.com.

Q: Hey. I am a sort of bi female (I've been with about 20 men and I've been with one woman, but am sexually aroused by both). My problem is that I cannot orgasm. I'm 21 years old, and I have only orgasmed once when I was 15 when I was masturbating (no toys involved). It was actually kind of a surprise, I had no idea it was going to happen until it did. Since then, nothing. I've had two serious boyfriends, many one-night stands and casual hookups. I masturbate quite a bit, so I don't think that's the problem. I asked a sex educator who came to my college to lecture, and she suggested I invest in a vibrator, which I did. I used it, but I don't particularly like it. It doesn't feel bad, but it doesn't feel good either. It's not arousing, and I find it quite boring.

I'm honestly not sure what to do from here. Every time I try to talk about it with friends, they tell me I need to masturbate more or with a vibrator. And it makes me feel uncomfortable to talk about it, because I feel broken and my sexual partners aren't pleased that they can't make me orgasm.

I know I like the feeling of dull or blunt pressure on my clitoris (such as the heel of my foot or dry humping through jeans). My clitoris is really sensitive, so I squirm a lot when fingered and don't like being fingered hard or with less than one sure inch of surface area doing the deed. The next time a sex educator came to my school, I asked again and she kind of blew me off and said I need to masturbate, which made me feel really defeated because I do masturbate but don't orgasm.

What do I do from here? I feel like I've tried everything.

—Anonymous

Hey Anonymous!

Thank you so much for sharing your question. To help answer it, we spoke with sex researcher Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout. Here's what she had to say:

First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

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"I teach college students and I hear this question all the time," says Herbenick. There's a lot of pressure to be having good sex as soon as you're having any sex, and that's just not very realistic, especially for many women. There's also this stigma that you should have those ridiculous Fifty Shades-type orgasms every time your genitals are touched, says Herbenick. Again…no. You're not broken, we promise. You've had an orgasm before — which shows you're definitely capable of them — and you'll have them again, says Herbenick.

It’s really not uncommon for it to take a LONG TIME for some women to have orgasms.

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You might feel like since you've been masturbating for years and you've had lots of partners, you should have this whole thing figured out already. But the younger you are, the less likely you are to have regular orgasms. "We know more women have orgasms with each year of their life. Orgasms are much easier for women in their thirties than in their twenties," says Herbenick.

Plus, research shows that many heterosexual women are less likely to orgasm in a hookup than they are in a relationship. Since many of your experiences have been in that context, it makes sense that you didn't come. It sounds like your body is completely up to par, but the situations haven't been the best, says Herbenick. Another thing to keep in mind is that your partners in your twenties will probably not be as skilled or generous as the ones you'll have later on, she says.

No, vibrators do not always = orgasms.

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Most people can't just pull out a sex toy when they're watching the news, completely unaroused, and still get off. It's not magic. "You need to be in some sort of sexual state of mind and very into what you're doing," says Herbenick. So maybe that's waiting until you're really turned on with a partner or while watching porn or when you're totally relaxed and have nothing else to do on a Sunday. The key is not forcing it.

HOWEVER, there are like 8 million types of vibrators out there. So what works for one person might feel ridiculous to someone else. Check out some options at a local sex toy store or check out the reviews on Babeland. You don't need to spend a ton of money, but Herbenick suggests one with a multispeed dial, rather than just an on-off switch. That way you can tweak the intensity to whatever feels good to you. (Here are some particularly ~interesting~ options.) That said, maybe you don't like vibration of any kind, and that's totally fine, too.

So about masturbation…

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"If anyone presented it as being as easy as 'just masturbate!' they should have their sex educator badge suspended," says Herbenick. "It's a process!" Here are some tips that might help:

Back away from the clitoris.

It sounds like you prefer dull or blunt pressure on your clitoris rather than hard penetration, so focus on those sensations when you masturbate. Since you mentioned your clitoris is super sensitive, you probably don't like direct clitoral contact, so try masturbating through a towel, T-shirt, or sheet, suggests Herbenick. (Along those lines, you can also try using a barrier with a vibrator to see if that makes it feel better.) This will make the sensations less intense, which might feel a lot better for you.

Rubbing or rocking might work better than vibrating.

If it's the dull pressure of dry humping that you like, a rocking or rubbing motion might be way more pleasurable than a vibrator, says Herbenick. You can try rubbing against your bed, your hand, your partner's hand, or a sex toy to see if that feels good.

It can take a looong time, and that's OK.

"A lot of women will give up after 10 or 20 minutes, but it can take many people 40, 50, 60 minutes with just their hands," says Herbenick. It's a flat-out lie that everybody can come after five minutes of rubbing around down there. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to relax, get properly aroused, and get the right friction going. Don't get discouraged.

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Forget about the orgasm goal.

It's not surprising that the one time you did orgasm was kind of a surprise. When you're not so stressed about trying to make it happen, it's way more likely that it'll actually happen, because you'll be relaxed enough to let go. "Try to approach masturbating with pleasure and exploration in mind, rather than with a goal-focused approach," says Herbenick. "When something feels good, notice that and do a little bit more of that, and be OK with it not leading to orgasm."

Do some research.

It's great that you opened up to sexual educators at your school about this, but they may have been too rushed after a presentation to actually give individualized help. Taking a semester-long human sexuality course at your college, if possible, would be a lot more helpful, says Herbenick. She also suggests the book Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo. It's an oldie (last updated in 1987), but "it's a really quality book and it was tested and found to be just as effective as sex therapy for having your first orgasm," she says.

Get in the right mind-set. Distraction, anxiety, and pressure are all orgasm blockers.

This also might explain why your first orgasm happened when you least expected it. The next time you masturbate, make sure you're truly relaxed, focus on your breathing, and try to identify (and eliminate) any little things that might be holding you back, says Herbenick.

When it comes to sex with a partner, focus on the pleasure more than the orgasm…and maybe don’t expect them to rock your world.

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If you feel comfortable, you might want to tell your partner up front that you don't usually orgasm when you have sex and that it's OK, says Herbenick. That can help set the tone so you don't feel so pressured to perform and you can just focus on what feels good. If you start to find certain things feel great when you masturbate, don't be afraid to show your partner what you like.

Remember, tons of women don't orgasm during penetrative sex, and that's perfectly fine. You might find that oral gets you a lot closer (again, not directly on your clitoris but more around the edges if that's what feels better), so don't be shy when asking to try things that you think will feel good.

The bottom line: It’s not a race.

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"There's a very strong likelihood that [you'll] have thousands of orgasms in [your] life," says Herbenick. And in the meantime, try to enjoy the whole exploration part of the process. Your body is unique and it's fucking awesome — it'll tell you when something feels REALLY good.

Do you have a question you want answered by our sex experts? Email us at sexQs@buzzfeed.com.

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