By now, it’s pretty clear that women have gotten the shit end of the orgasm stick (pardon my French).
For years, decades, generations, the male orgasm has been center stage. It’s been prioritized, more thoroughly understood, frequently highlighted, and totally normalized. In sexual encounters, the focus has traditionally been on making sure the guy orgasms. And many men assume sex is automatically over once they’ve come (though, thankfully, some men have caught on to the fact that this is not always the case).
I’ll always remember one particular day when an ex of mine and I had sex a couple of times. The first time, he came and I didn’t. The second time, I came and he didn’t. Later that day, our earlier sexual encounters came up, and he remarked on how we’d had sex “once” that day. For him, the only one that had actually counted as sex was the one when he had an orgasm.
This just highlights the culture-wide lack of value and understanding of the female orgasm. We really haven’t tried hard enough to make sure that full equality finds its way all the way to the bedroom.
The Complications of the Female Orgasm
We really hope this isn’t news to you, but in case it is, we’re going to go ahead and say it: women can’t always orgasm from sexual intercourse alone. For some women—the I-can-orgasm-any-which-way gals—this is pretty unfamiliar territory. But for so many other women, this will elicit an “Uhhhh. Duh.”
In fact, it’s thought that as much as 75% of women are never able to reach orgasm from intercourse alone. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t orgasm during intercourse period. But if they’re going to, they need the assistance of hands, tongues, or sex toys. Furthermore, as much as 10-15% of women don’t ever orgasm, under any circumstance.
In either case, that’s a whole lot of women.
The Elusiveness of the Female Orgasm
If you’ve talked to enough women about sex—or spent enough time browsing sex advice columns and forums—it won’t be too surprising that such a high percentage of women can’t orgasm from intercourse alone. Too many women feel like they’re somehow sexually inadequate or failing. And it doesn’t help that some men get frustrated or incredulous when they can’t make their partner come through just penile penetration.
No one is 100% sure what causes some women to be able to orgasm through intercourse and some to struggle endlessly with it. But, in most cases, it’s a pretty good bet that it comes down to anatomy.
Research has suggested that this orgasmic difference may be correlated with the distance between the clitoris and the vagina in each individual woman. To understand this connection, it’s important to understand the actual anatomy of the clitoris. Contrary to widespread perception, the clitoris is not just that little “button” at the top of the vulva. That’s actually only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The clitoris extends into the body and wraps around part of the vagina.
But in different women, this anatomy is shaped differently, resulting in different levels of stimulation of the clitoris during sexual intercourse. And this, in turn, results in orgasmic disparity.
So, What to Do?
The first important thing is understanding that this elusiveness of the female orgasm is so very normal. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or have flawed anatomy. It’s simply a barrier that some women face—and while that can be tough, it is completely and totally natural.
The only caveat to that is that sometimes the orgasm barrier is coming from something psychological or from the specific sexual encounters you’re having. So, just like in any healthy development of a sexual self and relationship, check in with yourself to see if you’re feeling relaxed, confident, and safe during sex with your partner(s). And make sure you’re really getting what you and your body need in the sack.
Assuming you feel comfortable and satisfied and all that good stuff, then this just might be a barrier you face for now—or for life. Letting go of shame, embarrassment, and disappointment are all important parts of the process of acceptance. But that can take time, and continued conflicted feelings about it are completely understandable.
Communicate with sexual partners as often and as openly as needed to make sure that you get what you need out of sexual encounters. Since intercourse orgasm is tougher, it’ll be necessary for your partner (or you) to figure out what does allow you to come—either during intercourse or during oral, fingering, et cetera.
Sex doesn’t have to be any less fun or satisfying just because intercourse orgasms are an uphill battle. There are so many ways for our bodies to experience pleasure. Play around, experiment, and get to know what your body responds to.