We're here to tell you that having an orgasm is possible, and if it's something you haven’t already experienced, you should.
If you have a vagina, theres about a 64% likelihood you will have an orgasm during sex, vs. 91% if you have a penis.* Why is this? Well the answer is very, very complicated - like anything with sex is.
Sexuality is not linear. No matter how much you’ve thought about your sexuality or how open-minded you are, there is always more to discover about your sexuality. And the only way to have better sex is to embrace, and continue to learn about your sexuality. American writer Sallie Tisdale said “We can’t avoid sexual issues by avoiding sex, or by dismissing its importance or by showing disrespect to our own or other people’s sexual feelings”. So the first tip for better sex? Have an open discussion with yourself and with your partners on sex, what it means and sexuality.
Now that conversation may seem very daunting and (let's be real) awkward, but some of these could be first date questions: Who and what are you attracted to? Tell me about your past relationships and partners. What was the best sex you ever had?
There’s only one rule to these conversations: keep an open, non-judgemental mindset and be honest with yourself and your partner. Sexual satisfaction is often less dependent on the physical components of sexuality than on the quality of the relationship and the context in which sexual behavior is undertaken. An open and honest conversation is the best first step to establish a relationship in which great sex can happen.
On top of this, an open and honest conversation on sex is essential to safe sex. It has even been shown to decrease rates of sexual assault.
Who says you need a partner to have an orgasm?
You don’t. So if you haven’t already, grab that vibrator, dildo or just your hands.
Don’t have the tools you need? Find a list of highly rated ones here. Consider it an investment in yourself, your happiness and your future.
The science of the O
So you have all the materials ready and you're ready to have an organsm. Or maybe you’ve had all the materials for a while and are wondering why you haven’t achieved that illustrious satisfaction yet. Either way, let's break down the female* sexual response, how it works and some reasons it might not be working.
In 1966, Masters and Johnson outlined the four phases of the human sexual response cycle: Excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. Sounds familiar right? But how does this outline help us understand the orgasm and how to have one?
Breaking down each of these steps, we can talk about what happens and what might be going wrong in each of these phases.
First excitement: We’ve all felt that buzz after a first kiss or an interaction that takes us by surprise. That buzz is actually your genitals becoming engorged with blood. This is not just something that happens for a penis to become erect, but also for the clitoris to become erect and the vagina to expand - the female erection.
Arousal and sexual motivation is driven by many complicated factors including emotional context, sexual stimuli, and socio-cultural values. These “biopsychosocial” aspects of sexual desire can be so deeply ingrained in us we might not even know they exist. They can be overlapping and include everything from your sexual orientation, sex hormone levels, sexual fantasies and your familial values.
Now this information on its face might not seem helpful but any of these complicated reasons swirling in your head might be holding you back from the O. Try to remember you’re not a machine that can simply switch off these complicated factors. Try to spend some time coming to the top of your mountain on a day when your head is clear, instead of one where you’re overwhelmed and stressed.
Phase two: Plateau or as I like to call it, the build up. During this phase breathing, pulse and blood pressure can all increase. Once the mood is right, and your head is clear it takes time to build up to the top of the mountain. This is where taking some time to know your body alone can be essential before trying to orgasm with a partner. Take those good ole tools we mentioned above and get to know your body. What do you like? What do you not like? Knowing these things about yourself first can make it easier to communicate and connect with a partner.
The top of the mountain: Orgasm. Here your body can experience head-to-toe muscle contraction, but the exact scientific mechanism is still not totally understood. We do know it involves dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin - neurotransmitters that are important for pleasure and bonding.
Coming down: Resolution. Here your body recovers from the excitement it just experienced. Your genitals release the blood they collected during excitement and your breathing, blood pressure and pulse return to normal.
The best part? People with vaginas do not have a refractory period like people with penises do. This means that if you have a vagina, you don’t need time to recover between orgasms. You can keep having them, and having them and having them. So when you are getting to know your body, just because you feel a release does not mean you have to stop, or that there isn't more to be discovered.
A Brief Anatomy Lesson
In case you weren’t aware, there are multiple centers of pleasure for people with vaginas. Contrary to popular belief, vaginal penetration isn’t even the most powerful pleasure center! At the top of the vagina, lies the clitoris. People with vaginas can have orgasm with this organ alone! It's so sensitive it is known to have more nerve endings than the penis. If you’re having trouble reaching an orgasm, don’t forget to give this gem some love.
Why things might not be working and what to do.
There are many reasons why people might not be able to achieve an orgasm or have the sexual response they desire. Maybe you’re not interested in sex the way you used to, or maybe your drive is there but you cannot achieve the illustrious O. In any case, consider have an honest conversation with your doctor. Having these symptoms for more than 6 months is not normal and can start to affect your quality of life.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a lot of effective treatments and therapies out there to handle sexual dysfunction. But the first step is to ask for help.
*Here we will use the term female to refer to the sexual response of people with vaginas, however not everyone with a vagina identifies as a woman or as a female.