Orgasms are not one-size-fits-all. What works for one woman won’t work for everyone and what worked for you with one partner might not work with another. According to sexologist Carole Altman, PhD, author of You Can Be Your Own Sex Therapist, “You have to own your orgasm — you can’t just rely on a man to get the job done.” The first step: trouble-shooting for possible circumstantial things that may be holding you back.
There’s Not Enough Foreplay
Here’s the scenario. Your partner is ~extremely~ eager to have sex. And you may be too but there’s a very good reason to never skimp on the foreplay:
“Most women need about 20 minutes of arousal time to reach the ‘orgasmic platform,’ when the clitoris is most sensitive and the body is primed for stimulation,” says sexologist Yvonne K. Fulbright, author of the Hot Guide to Safer Sex. “Skipping the whole sexual-response cycle makes it harder to get off.” Twenty minutes may sound like a long time but trust, any partner who can’t spend a mere matter of minutes making you feel good is not worth your time.
For many, it’s a turn-on. “It was really hard for me to orgasm so I’d tell my boyfriend, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry about it’ when it didn’t happen,” says Melissa,* 29. One night, he told me to lie back and just let him do his thing to me. I eventually orgasmed and he clearly loved every minute he spent getting me off.” A bonus of peaking preintercourse: “Having an orgasm during foreplay increases a woman’s chances of climaxing during intercourse,” says Altman.
*Names have been changed.
You Might Be Mentally Tuning Out
It’s easy to get distracted during sex. Everything from “I wonder what my boobs look like from this angle?” to “Wow, he should have that mole on his chest checked out” can make you lose focus. And once that happens, your orgasm is down for the count. “Your brain is a vital part of the sexual experience, registering sensations and releasing feel-good chemicals to the body,” says Georgia sexologist Gloria G. Brame, PhD. “Any mental distraction can spark conflicting, nonsexual impulses in the brain and lessen your pleasure.”
So what if you find yourself making a mental grocery list mid-act? First, reengage your body. “Focus on how he feels inside you and how your body is responding,” says Brame. “Also touch yourself or even switch positions to physically bring yourself back to the sex.”
Another tune-in trick: breathing slowly and deeply from the pit of your belly. “Yogic breath will not only keep you centered, it will also make the sex better,” Fulbright points out. “Circular breathing, where you try to sync up your inhalations with your partner’s, can put the focus back on the body and help you reconnect with each other.”
There’s Not Enough Clitoral Stimulation
The clitoris is the most important area of your body to touch during sex (duh). “There are more nerve endings there than there are inside the vagina,” says Fulbright. “So it’s rare for women to have an orgasm without some sort of clitoral stimulation.”
To stimulate your clit during intercourse, climb into woman-on-top position, arch your body toward him, and grind your pleasure point against his pelvis. If you’re in missionary, make sure to keep your legs pressed tightly together while moving your hips in a circular motion, suggests Altman. “As he is moving in and out at this angle, it will stimulate the clitoris,” she says. “It can also create friction between your vaginal lips and your clitoris, which can enhance sensation.” Fulbright also suggests stimulation when you’re in doggy style or girl-on-top position.
You’re Forgetting to Pee First
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to overlook the little things like, say, your bladder. If you have to pee, a penis in your vagina — stimulating the back wall — can make you clench up. The result? You don’t let go and climax.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: Use the bathroom just prior to sex. “Since you know you don’t have to pee, when you’re on the verge of orgasm, you’ll be able to go with the sensations and let loose,” says Brame. Not to mention the fact that peeing first can greatly decrease your risk of a UTI.
There’s Too Much Position-Changing
Crazy, didn’t-know-my-body-could-bend-that-way positions are always a fun way to keep your sex life exciting but testing out too many in one sitting actually makes it harder to orgasm. “The key to satisfaction is steady stimulation in a position that hits your pleasure points,” Brame points out. “You need to develop a rhythm, and once you feel yourself building toward climax, the sensation must be consistent or you’ll lose momentum.”
If for some reason you get sidetracked and have to start from square one, don’t panic. Just get yourselves back into that orgasm-inducing position and go for round two.
You Might Have Anorgasmia
Which is basically just the inability to orgasm. In a study about women’s sexual dysfunction, 24 percent of the women involved reported orgasmic dysfunction. That’s not a small number! The causes really vary: anything from anxiety to certain medications can trigger it. The most important thing to remember is that you should always talk to your general practitioner or ob-gyn about what might be going on if it’s bothering you. A list on the internet can’t diagnose a clinical concern but your doctor sure can. Don’t ever be afraid to seek more information.
This post was originally published in 2005 and has been updated.