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Female Orgasm

The female orgasm inspires more discussion than perhaps any other subject when talking about sex. From mercy fakes to multiple orgasms and everything in between, the subject of female orgasm gets a lot of attention, considering it lasts about five seconds.

Orgasm is often the measure of success for sex. Many men—and women—consider orgasm to be the stamp of approval that a woman enjoyed herself. Perhaps because of this pressure-cooker environment, many women have trouble with orgasm ability at one time or another in their lives. While the majority of women reach orgasm easily through masturbation, many women find themselves distracted or unable to do so during partner sex, or simply can't reach orgasm at all as a result of health-related or other issues at different times in their lives.

Ultimately, the how, what, why, where and when of the female orgasm starts—and ends—with the woman herself. For many women, the connection and intimacy of sex may be just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, than the act of orgasm itself. For other women, sex just isn't sex if it doesn't end with an orgasm. Orgasm ability is affected by everything under the sun: physical health, psychological health, the state of your relationship or lack thereof, how things are going that day, what's happening in bed, and many more factors. A woman's orgasm is a precious thing and it's important to respect that, as well as enjoy sex for the many other wonderful things it has to offer!

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

Table of Contents

What a female orgasm may feel like.

The word ‘orgasm' describes a wide range of experiences. Technically speaking, an orgasm is a series of involuntary muscle contractions (usually somewhere between three and fifteen) in the vagina, anus and, for some women, uterus.

However, this technical description does little justice to the magnificent, spiritual, unremarkable or sobering experience that an orgasm can be. Many women have trouble describing the moment of orgasm itself, since the emotional centers of the brain all but shut down for a few seconds.

Most women describe orgasm as starting with a feeling of tingling and warmth in the genitals, as a result of increasing arousal during masturbation, partner play or fantasizing. These physical feelings often expand into the lower abdominal area and sometimes out in a wave to part or all of the body. During an orgasm, heart rate, breathing and body temperature all rise until the moment of orgasmic release, after which they begin returning to normal. The pelvic floor muscles contract to release blood that becomes trapped in the genitals during arousal. An orgasm may be followed by feelings of well-being, pleasure, regret, loneliness or the desire for more (see multiple orgasms [link]).

Orgasms are likely to be different from one experience to another, since they depend on where and how a woman is being stimulated, as well as where her mind is at. Stimulating the genitals is the most obvious and common path to orgasm; however, the body is loaded with sensitive spots that can create more intense, full-body orgasms.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

Women: Never had an orgasm.

An orgasm is the result of physical stimulation, psychological stimulation or both, which triggers nerve signals to travel between the genitals, the brain and the spinal cord. Each part is equally important, which is why a problem in one area can affect orgasm ability.

About one in ten women have never had an orgasm. Any medical condition, injury disease or disease that affects communication between the brain and the spinal cord, and even some medications, can interfere with orgasm ability.

So can emotional “conditions,” such as inhibition, shame, and a lack of knowledge about one's body and the mechanics of sex.

Still other women might not recognize what an orgasm is—many women are surprised to learn that orgasms aren't always the screaming, can't-miss-‘em variety we see in the movies or read about in romance novels. Sometimes, a woman may not recognize that she has, in fact, had an orgasm.

Experiment and explore! And whatever you do, don't make orgasm the end-all-be-all.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

Orgasm isn't necessarily the measure of a woman's sexual satisfaction.

For many women, orgasm is a fickle beast. Sometimes, it happens with the flick of a finger, a penis or a vibrator. Other times, it can take all night and a woman still doesn't get there. Women's orgasms are so valuable because you can't necessarily plan them. You have to let it happen and accept that the conditions are not always going to be conducive.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Many women, and many more partners of women, use orgasm as the bedroom badge of honor. They measure a woman's satisfaction and the skill of her partner directly in proportion to orgasm.

All of this is in sharp contrast to men, who tend to reach orgasm far more easily and, for the most part, aren't interested in sex if it doesn't end with orgasm.

In fact, many women have a far easier time reaching orgasm during masturbation, and more intense ones at that, but it simply doesn't compare to the snuggling, eye contact and connected feeling that comes from sex with the one you love or lust.

The bottom line is, if a woman isn't bothered by a lack of orgasm, neither should her partner be. Sex can be great, no orgasm required.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

Female orgasm ability: masturbation vs. partner sex.

You know how to bring yourself to orgasm, so why does it take so long to get there during sex with a partner? Well, let's start with the good news: you're masturbating! Studies indicate that up to 75 percent of women touch themselves, which is a very good thing for body awareness and a healthy sex life, whether you're single or coupled.

The bad news is that this private pleasure doesn't always translate to shared pleasure with a partner. Most women experience a difference in orgasm ability during masturbation than during sex with a partner. Solo orgasms are often quicker and more intense in the physical sense, though not necessarily more satisfying, than the shared variety. Indeed, studies show that the average woman reaches orgasm in three minutes when masturbating, yet requires 15-20 minutes to arrive at the same destination when with a partner.

Why? Some women find that the lack of distraction or self-consciousness during masturbation leads to quick orgasms. You're not worried about the stubble on your legs or, perhaps more importantly, pleasing another person. Relationship issues are on the backburner because, well, it's just you. You're also relaxed and touching yourself in a way that is expert—even if you aren't aware of it. Women (and men) who masturbate often know exactly what they need to reach orgasm.

The trick, then, is to bring this sense of relaxation and knowledge into partner sex. After all, sharing an orgasm is often half the fun. Make masturbation your very own Orgasm 101 classroom. (If you're not masturbating, see X.) Pay attention to everything you're doing when you touch yourself. Do you start by rubbing your thighs or abdomen? Are you fantasizing or doing something else to get yourself in the mood? Is your touching limited to the external, or do you like penetration? Pay attention to the strokes you're using, and how they change as your arousal increases—whether long, short, fast or slow, or anything in between.

Then try to relax and share this orgasm expertise with your partner. Only you can let him or her in on the secrets of your orgasm; every woman is different. Most partners will appreciate that you know what you want. Say it gently or set the rhythm you need by moving or touching yourself. Better yet, masturbate in front of your partner, if you feel brave and comfortable enough. It will provide a direct learning experience. It will also work to improve your connection to each other, which itself works wonders for reaching the big O.

And if you're the partner of a woman who's finding it difficult to reach orgasm, take heart—it's a common problem. Try to be supportive and explore different types of stimulation. Pay attention to her whole body, not just her genitals. Her relaxation is probably the most direct route to orgasm. So take a load off of both your shoulders…and just enjoy.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

Why women fake orgasm.

If you're a woman who's faked orgasm, you're not alone, though sometimes it may feel like it. There's a joke that no man has ever been with a woman who faked orgasm and, yet, studies find that roughly half of women have faked orgasm at one time or another. Of course, women of all sexual orientations fake orgasm and, yes, men fake orgasm, too.

Some women fake orgasm as a one-time thing. It's an escape route, designed to end an uncomfortable or boring sexual experience, or preserve a partner's feelings. However, for other women, faking orgasm is a sex-life survival strategy, adopted because she's never had an orgasm or can't reach orgasm with a partner.

Regularly faking orgasm usually brings with it a good deal of pain, bewilderment and self-doubt: Am I normal? Why can't I orgasm? I've been lying for weeks/months/years, how can I stop now? Why does he get to have all the fun? The problem often feels overwhelming and it's easier to fake it than to tell a partner what's going on, or try to fix it.

However, the truth is that faking orgasm is never good for a relationship, and there are some simple ways to break the cycle of faking orgasm and find the way to true pleasure. Despite the prevalence of orgasm troubles, many women who can't climax during sex with a partner don't realize how common, and easily treated, orgasm problems are.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

How to deal with faking orgasm.

Faking orgasm often starts out as a little white lie that a woman is telling her partner and blossoms into a full-blown problem that she's not sure how to get out of. Some women who fake orgasm have never had an orgasm (see Never Had An Orgasm [link]). Other women are able to reach orgasm by themselves, but fake it during partner sex.

In both cases, a variety of factors may be at play. Inadequate foreplay is a big one, as are myths about how and when a woman should orgasm. Most women need at least 15-20 minutes of sexual activity to reach orgasm, much of which shouldn't focus exclusively on the genitals. And the vast majority of women don't orgasm from intercourse alone; they need added clitoral stimulation or find it's easier to reach orgasm through other activities.

Aside from technique issues, the mind plays perhaps the starring role in orgasm ability. Everything from negative messages and experiences about sex growing up to a fear of losing control to unresolved relationship issues can affect a woman's orgasm ability. The resulting self-consciousness and pressure to reach orgasm, from yourself or a partner, tend to build on each other to create a vicious cycle.

Women who've been faking orgasm shouldn't come clean to a partner, which will only fuel insecurity and create even more pressure. Instead, start leading your partner in the right direction. Tell him you want to introduce some new positions, toys or ideas in to your sex life. Focus on your arousal, instead of on orgasm.

And start masturbating if you don't already. If you feel like shame or self-consciousness is getting in the way, some sessions with a sex coach, sex counselor or sex therapist can help. If you suspect relationship issues are interfering, couples, individual or sex therapy can help.

If you suspect a partner is faking orgasm, forget about orgasm for the time being and get inside the sexual moment. Focus on what feels pleasurable and get to know each other, sexually. Remember, the golden rule about the big O is this: stop chasing it and you will come.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.

What type of expert to see for help.

It can take a lot of courage for a woman to see help when she has difficulty achieving orgasm. Some women may get help on their own, and others may go with their partner for support and to work through the issue together.

If a woman thinks something may physically be wrong or a side effect of medications she is taking, it can be helpful to see a doctor. Making an appointment to see a gynecologist to be examined can be helpful. But, more often than not, it is related to psychological reasons, not knowing what it takes to get off, or concentrating too hard making orgasm unobtainable.

If the cause may be psychological in nature, it's helpful to see a sex counselor or sex therapist. In general, sex counselors and sex therapists tends to get specific training about sexual issues that sabotage sexual satisfaction, like not achieving orgasm. It is important to find a counselor or therapist who is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). As, experts with this certification have had training related to both relationship issues and sexual concerns.

A sex coach can also help individuals and couples. They tend to work on issues in the present, and through communication and home activities help get to the root of the issue providing education, support and guidance for an individual or couple to set and reach their goals. In regard to achieving orgasm, when the cause is not deeply psychological in nature, coaching can be helpful. Since many people can call themselves a "coach," it is best to find one that has a graduate or doctoral degree in human sexuality and certification from AASECT as a sexuality educator, counselor or therapist.

Following is a quick reference guide for the various academic degrees and licenses a mental health professional might obtain:

  • Psychologist: Usually has a PhD, PsyD or EdD in psychology or other mental health specialty.
  • Social Worker: An MSW pr PhD in social work.
  • Counselor/Therapist: An MA or MS in clinical psychology, counseling, mental health, or sexology.
  • Psychiatrist: An MD in psychiatry, generally licensed to prescribe medication. Some, not all, psychiatrists are trained to provide therapy, in addition to prescribing medication. Many people see a psychiatrist in conjunction with a therapist.
  • Sex coach: Ideally have a M.A., M.S., or Ph.D. in human sexuality.

For more on this topic, please see our Good in Bed Guide to the Female Orgasm.