By Kelli Porter, Nurse Practitioner

“It’s like a sneeze…. between your legs, you know, the buildup, the release, and the good feeling afterward.” This is the description I once gave during happy hour with my girlfriends, one of whom had never had an orgasm. But really, what takes place during this pleasurable moment? Merriam-Webster defines orgasm as “the rapid pleasurable release of neuromuscular tensions at the height of sexual arousal that is usually accompanied by vaginal contractions in the female.” This is achieved by stimulation of the female genitalia, primarily the clitoris and/or the g-spot. The method by which this is achieved varies. It may be sexual intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, or shimmying up the monkey bars on the playground in grammar school – raise your hand if you discovered your clitoris this way!

Unlike males, females do not have to reach orgasm during intercourse in order to procreate. Women also seem to sometimes have a harder time reaching orgasm, if they do at all. Studies show that with intercourse alone women reach orgasm only about 51% of the time, compared to men who reach orgasm 96% of the time. Now, that just isn’t fair! So, what can be done about this? For starters, we need to understand that women need stimulation to the clitoris during intercourse. This increases orgasm frequency to about 71%. Throw cunnilingus (oral sex) into the mix and it raises the frequency to 86%. Unfortunately, about 10% of women have never had an orgasm – we will come back to that.

But really, is it that simple? Of course not. There are many factors that can affect a woman’s ability to reach orgasm. Feelings toward her partner – maybe he left the seat up one time too many or didn’t take the trash out after you asked him 5 times! Maybe you are worried about job stressors and can’t get out of your head. Maybe your kiddos won’t stop banging on your bedroom door long enough for you to catch your “O”. Or maybe you are just too tired to try. Give yourself some grace ladies. It is there, it always has been, and you can find it another day if today it’s being elusive. One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Ruth is “When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are the ones between the ears.”

Ok, so 10% of women have never had an orgasm. This can be a little trickier to fix. First, identifying underlying factors like religious beliefs, history of sexual abuse or trauma, pain disorders, medications (antidepressants, birth control pills, etc.), menopause, postpartum changes, or chronic illness can affect the ability to have an orgasm. The first step is understanding one’s anatomy, what feels good, and understanding that IT IS OK, to feel pleasure and enjoy sex – either alone or with a partner. Self-exploration through touch, use of toys, or visual erotica (books, magazines, or movies) is a good way to start. Once you know your body and how you respond to stimulation, you will have the tools you need to reach orgasm with your partner. Don’t be afraid to say what you need or even take matters into your own hands.

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