What is pre-orgasmic?

Originally Published: March 8, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: February 2, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I know this may seem like a strange question, but what exactly IS pre-orgasmic? Does it mean that a person hasn't yet had an orgasm, or that her body isn't ready yet? I remember reading in one of your answers that many women under the age of twenty are pre-orgasmic. Why is this? Also, what is/are the purpose(s) (besides pleasure) of orgasm in women?

Thank you for your help,

—Pre-Orgasmic

Alice,

Hi, I'm not from the USA, so you may call me "the foreigner boy." I'm a twenty-year-old male... I have had a lovely, nice, nineteen-year-old girlfriend for the past two years and I love her very much! We've started making love after six months of being together. We’ve had oral sex since the very beginning of the relationship. My girlfriend was a virgin before we met and me too. The problem is this: She never reaches orgasm! We really did try it all...it's very disturbing because she doesn't understand why I think it’s a BIG DEAL! And I really want her to have orgasms, but she just can't reach it.... We really did try it ALL!

She tried to masturbate alone a few times and still had the same feeling... It’s not that she doesn't have fun, but she never really reaches the Peak! It seems as if she is stopping herself from having orgasm. Any secret I haven't read or heard about could be helpful! Thank you for your time!

—Foreigner Boy

Dear Foreigner Boy and Pre-Orgasmic,

With a little bit of exploration, sensitivity, and patience, a woman’s time will come! A pre-orgasmic person is someone who has not yet had an orgasm. This term is used especially when describing women who have not had an orgasm through masturbation AND sex. It is totally normal for women of any age to be pre-orgasmic. Experts once described these women as anorgasmic, referencing their apparent inability to achieve orgasm. The term pre-orgasmic came (excuse the pun) into vogue when experts realized that having an orgasm is possible, and even likely, for many of the women who have never experienced one.

However, pre-orgasmic people don't need to feel left out; other aspects of sex and masturbation can be just as fulfilling as the so-called "climax." It's important that orgasm doesn't become a performance pressure. The fact that a person still enjoys sex and being intimate without orgasming is a positive thing in and of itself. The journey of self-exploration or sharing your body with a partner provides emotional and physical stimulation that many people value deeply.

For those trying to attain their first orgasm, relaxing and focusing on what feels good (rather than whether you're going to reach the Big O), is a good place to start. Some women who haven't had an orgasm through masturbation or sex have some success experiencing their first orgasm by using a vibrator on or near their clitoris (plenty of lube is always a good idea, too). Other women have found that using a shower head to stimulate the vulva and clitoris brings on their first orgasm. Orgasms can feel different depending on the area being stimulated (whether the clitoris, vulva, vagina, anus, penis, testicles, or even the nipples or other erogenous zones!). Describing what an orgasm feels like can be difficult, although many people feel a "release" of tension. For your reading pleasure, you may want to check out ways for a woman to orgasm during intercourse and other related questions.

As for the biological purposes for the orgasm, it's not entirely clear if orgasms are purely for pleasure or if they evolved to improve reproductive success (by making intercourse more pleasurable so people would partake more often and be more likely to reproduce, or by making it easier for semen to pass through the cervix; both theories receive some attention from researchers). What is certain is that both men and women generally find orgasms to be extremely pleasurable. Plenty of books have been published all about sex and orgasms. To start, you may want to check out the classic, Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving by Betty Dodson.

Love,

Alice

June 15, 2006

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Alice, RE: What is pre-orgasmic? You mentioned that you heard of a 5-year-old who had masturbated and orgasmed. I just wanted to say that I can't really remember ever being pre-orgasmic. I...
Alice, RE: What is pre-orgasmic? You mentioned that you heard of a 5-year-old who had masturbated and orgasmed. I just wanted to say that I can't really remember ever being pre-orgasmic. I believe I was 6 years old when I had my first orgasm. It was unintentional and I was bewildered. I was straddling a chair and moving around until it just happened. I thought I discovered something new that the human body could do. I had no idea what it was, so I asked my mother. Luckily, she told me the truth instead of telling me I had done something wrong. I was surprised that I had never heard of an orgasm before because it seemed like such a great thing — why should it be a secret? Although I am curious, I never talked to my mom about it once I realized how unusual the situation was, because now that I am older I'm too embarrassed to ask her exactly how the conversation went. I'm always sad to hear that many women are reluctant and ashamed to find out what makes them orgasm, because for as long as I can remember, orgasms have been a part of my life. Since I was so young when I discovered them, orgasms and masturbation were never associated with anything negative. I hope more girls are able to ask questions and receive honest answers about orgasms, and I think this site is a great step in the right direction.

April 12, 1996

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Dear Alice,

In response to the question asking what reproductive purpose women's orgasms have, I wanted to mention that Masters and Johnson and later researchers have found that the...

Dear Alice,

In response to the question asking what reproductive purpose women's orgasms have, I wanted to mention that Masters and Johnson and later researchers have found that the vaginal contractions associated with orgasm cause an "upsucking" that pulls sperm toward the cervix, hence, improving the likelihood of fertilization.

I have truly enjoyed your insights and advice on sexuality. I hope this helps your readers. Thanks.