When was the last time you had an orgasm?
Now tell me when the last time was you had an orgasm WITH your partner?
If your answer to each question was different and you’re female, you are not alone.
One survey of 2769 people found only 15 per cent of women orgasm every time they have sex with their partner.
Another reported that 77 percent of women find it easier to reach orgasm alone rather than with a partner – even when we’re including the infinitely more reliable tongue and finger techniques (rather than intercourse).
Here’s the 10 most common reasons why most women find it harder to climax as a couple – and tips on how to solve the problem.
(This is aimed at straight women (mainly because the female/male dynamic contributes significantly to the issue) but useful for all genders and sexualities.)
Tracey Cox reveals the 10 most common reasons why women find it harder to climax to climax with a partner than on their own (stock image)
The wrong technique
There are two key factors that predict whether a woman will orgasm: whether there’s been enough time spent on foreplay and whether that foreplay included direct clitoral stimulation.
Ideally, a sex session would start with deep kissing, stroking – mood-setting foreplay to put us in the right place and head space.
Once we are, most women need the tip (the bit you can see) of the clitoris stimulated with a tongue, finger or vibrator.
It’s not just about our partners using an ineffective technique – being too rough, not using enough lubrication, the wrong pressure or speed.
All too often, men assume ‘foreplay’ means thrusting their fingers in and out of our vagina.
While this might feel nice but it’s unlikely to make us orgasm.
Some women can experience orgasm without direct stimulation of the clitoris. But a definitive study by The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found only 18 per cent of women can reach orgasm through vaginal penetration alone.
If the primary focus of stimulation isn’t on the clitoris, your chances of reaching orgasm are much lower.
Tracey Cox says that many women do not orgasm because the wrong technique is being used
Being rushed by our partner
Another other significant factor is time.
Even women who have the courage to show their partner the technique that does it for them, often cave in at the last moment because their partner doesn’t do it for long enough.
We think, ‘He’s been doing that for 10 minutes now. I bet his tongue is tired/his neck is sore/he’s getting annoyed or bored’. Then we pretend we’re at the finish line and fake it, rather than let our partner know we’re actually only halfway there.
Yet studies show men prefer to be told what to do and don’t mind providing stimulation for a long period.
The first step to closing the orgasm gap is for us all to speak up. Be honest and very specific about what you need – fingers, a vibrator held on the clitoris during intercourse, a certain style of thrusting – and tell your partner how long you need it done for.
Pressure from our partner
Thirty-nine percent of women who took part in a magazine survey said it was pressure from their partner that was stopping them having orgasms.
Sometimes, it’s done with the best intentions. They want you to enjoy sex as much as they do – and men nearly always orgasm.
Other men take it personally if you don’t orgasm. All his other girlfriends had no problems! (As untrue as it is unhelpful). How could his technique/penis/thrusting style/irresistible sexiness not be enough to send you over the edge?
Orgasms happen when the pressure is removed.
Explain to your partner that him popping up to ask ‘Are you close yet?’, will not make it happen faster.
Getting sulky or getting upset if you don’t orgasm at all just means more faking – and an extremely frustrated girlfriend or wife!
The best way to ensure your partner orgasms, is to make it abundantly clear there isn’t a problem if they don’t.
You don’t masturbate and never have
Our first orgasm is almost 100 per cent likely to be achieved solo.
It’s pivotal: most women with their ‘L’ plates on, feel too self-conscious to let go with a partner. During solo sex, no-one is watching and you have complete control over what’s happening.
Exploring your own body, you’re relaxed and inquisitive. You figure out that the clitoris feels great when it’s stimulated, experiment with techniques until you find the ones that works for you, discover the right pressure and speed.
If you’ve never done this – never tried to make yourself orgasm using a vibrator or your fingers or by rubbing against something – you probably don’t know what arouses you and what doesn’t.
Which means you can’t guide your partner about what works best to give you pleasure.
Almost all women learn how to orgasm through masturbation. There are lots of ‘how to masturbate’ guides online (I have several on traceycox.com) and it’s never too late to start.
You associate sex with shame
Did you grow up in a strict, religious household where sex was never discussed? Were you told touching yourself is ‘wrong’ or ‘disgusting’?
Growing up surrounded by negative, shameful messages about sex is one of the most common reasons why women don’t reach orgasm – both with a partner or on their own.
Willingness is the first stage of sexual arousal. You must want to have feelings of sexual pleasure for them to happen.
If you’re focusing on negative thoughts – Sex is bad! I shouldn’t be doing this! I’m dirty for getting pleasure from this – of course you aren’t going to enjoy sex, let alone orgasm.
The brain is a sex organ – and the most important.
Beat a tricky background by learning to normalize sex. Talk to friends you think have a good attitude about it and ask what messages they got from their parents, siblings and peers.
Call sex and masturbating by different names. Using a word your brain doesn’t immediately associate with ‘bad’, makes it less threatening.
Sex might be nicknamed ‘having fun’ and masturbating ‘treat time’.
Tracey says many cannot orgasm as they are not educated about their body (stock image)
You’re not educated about your body
Even women who grow up in a sex positive household can be guilty of this.
I had a mirror out when I was about six, having a curious look at what was ‘down there’ but I’m constantly astonished at the number of adult women who never have.
The more you know about your genitals and what stimulation you need to achieve an orgasm, the more likely you are to have one. It’s logical!
Find a clear diagram of the vulva online.
Armed with this and a mirror, have a good look at your genitals. Find the tip of the clitoris (the bit you can see). Identify the inner and outer labia (‘lips’ of the vagina). Check out the urethra, the tiny hole you pee through, look at the vaginal opening.
Next, search ‘female sexual response system’ and read a little about how your body works.
You’ll discover that your vagina ‘tents’ when you are excited: it expands and lengthens to accommodate a penis. Glands near the entrance secrete lubricating fluid to make intercourse more comfortable.
You’ll also discover that all orgasms originate from the clitoris – not just the tip but the inner clitoris that stretches into a wishbone shape underneath it.
The more you know about the changes your body goes through on its way to orgasm, the more attune you’ll be to recognizing where you’re at in the process.
You have body image issues
Study after study turns up the same result, year in, year out: feeling sexually attractive means you’re far more likely to enjoy sex, have more orgasms, initiate sex more and be more comfortable discussing sex with your partner.
A landmark 2012 review of 57 studies, spanning two decades of research, found significant links between body image and just about every factor associated with sex: arousal, desire, orgasm, frequency of sex and sexual self-esteem.
It’s not rocket science: if you’re ashamed of your body and think it’s ugly, why would you want anyone looking at it or touching it? How can you relax enough to enjoy sex, to allow desire to build to the point of orgasm?
Want to know the best way to fix a broken body image?
Have more sex.
That’s right: having sex improves body image.
Enjoyable sexual experiences make us feel better about our bodies. If our partner clearly enjoys making love to it, it can’t be that bad!
It’s a win-win-win scenario: the better you feel about your body, the better sex is. Which makes us want sex more, which in turn helps feed a better body image.
Not being ‘present’
Women are nearly always ‘on’: we juggle more roles than men do and if we aren’t doing something, we’re thinking about doing it.
Wandering thoughts – Where am I going to find the extra cash for the electricity bill? Did I send that email? – stop you being in the moment.
Not being in the moment means you’re not physically in the room, aware of your body and the sensations you’re experiencing.
Mindfulness is something we’re being encouraged to embrace in all areas of our lives but it’s during sex when it’s particularly helpful.
Think less, feel more. Don’t close your eyes, open them. Be active: moan, speak, give feedback. All help us to stay focused on pleasure.
Pressure from ourselves
It’s not just our partner who makes us feel pressured to orgasm: the pressure often comes from ourselves.
Men who get anxious about getting an erection are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. You’re pretty much ensuring you won’t climax, if you’re lying there thinking, ‘I know it’s not going to happen. Dear God, what’s wrong with me? I bet my partner wishes they’d chosen someone who orgasms easily!’.
Having an orgasm isn’t just a physical process: our head needs to be in the right place as well.
It doesn’t mean you’re not ‘sexy’ if you don’t have orgasm. Or that you’re broken, or something’s wrong with you.
We’re human beings, not machines. So many factors weigh in on whether it’s going to happen for you this time (I’m merely touching on the most common reasons here).
Instead of making orgasm the goal, think of it as a happy byproduct if it does happen. Relax and simply enjoy the feeling of receiving pleasure, without expectation.
You don’t own a vibrator
Vibration is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the clitoris. This is why most women use one, when masturbating: you can have an orgasm in the time it takes to make a cup of tea and it nearly always happens!
Because vibrator orgasms are easy to achieve, we have more of them. The more orgasms you have, the higher our desire for them.
Most importantly, owning a vibrator means you have an instant solution to the ‘I can’t orgasm with my partner’ problem.
Invite it into bed with the two of you and you will instantly guarantee an orgasm every single time.
You can either use the vibrator during foreplay, as part of the buildup, or reach for it to hold on the clitoris during penetrative sex.
Visit traceycox.com for more advice about sex and relationships. You’ll find episodes of her weekly podcast, SexTok, wherever you listen to your podcasts.