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Ways for a woman to orgasm during sex

1) Dear Alice,

I am a sexually active female, but I can't reach orgasm when having sex with my boyfriend. Can you help me out? Thanks.

— Yearning

2) Hello Alice,

I am 28 years old. I've had a problem for years now; well, I had this problem all my life and I was too ashamed to seek help. Here it goes: during sexual intercourse, I never feel any sensation or tingling feelings, I feel nothing. I can feel the penis, but that is all. This has been with every guy I've been with and I've been with about 15 guys. I'm currently dating this guy for five years. I love him, but during sex, I feel nothing. He turns me on, and I get aroused, but when it comes to actually having sex, I feel NOTHING. It's like I have a disjunction in my vagina. Does it have something to do with my clitoris? What is wrong with me? Please, can you tell me? I will eventually see a doctor, but I just want to know, what is the problem with me? Please, I would really appreciate it, I've kinda learned to live with it. Sad, right? :)

— C

3) Dear Alice,

Yet again, another question about intercourse and (female) orgasms. I am 25 and have been having intercourse for about 1 1/2 years and have never experienced even the remotest possibility of climaxing from intercourse. Intercourse does NOTHING for me. I've read the Hite Report, I know it claims that only 30% of women orgasm from intercourse alone; however, most women who say they don't orgasm from intercourse say that they at least receive some arousal or stimulation or pleasure from the sensation--it just doesn't lead them to orgasm. However, I have never received the SLIGHTEST sexual pleasure from intercourse--and it's making me so unhappy and desperate that I feel I'm going insane.

— Searching for pleasure

4) Dear Alice,

What is the best way for a woman with an inaccessible clitoris to reach orgasm during intercourse, without artificial stimulation?

Dear Yearning, C, Searching for pleasure, and Reader,  

A majority of individuals who identify as women report having difficulty reaching an orgasm during penetrative sex and express frustration with their inability to feel sensation or sexual pleasure. There’s nothing inherently wrong with your vagina if you have difficulty reaching orgasm during penetration. In fact, it’s common for women to feel closeness and fullness, but not the intensity they believe they’re supposed to be feeling. There are several reasons why you could be having difficulty climaxing during sex — not enough clitoral stimulation, psychological and lifestyle factors, prescription medications, and less commonly, orgasm disorder. You may find it helpful to have a conversation with your sexual partner(s) about what feels good for you, as well as experiment with different lifestyle choices to see if these changes help your orgasm goals. If after playing around, you’re still worried about difficulties climaxing, you might consider speaking with a health care provider or mental health professional for additional consultation. 

Before getting hot and heavy, a little lesson in anatomy may provide some helpful context. For folks assigned female at birth, orgasm is much more likely to occur from stimulation to the clitoris. The clitoris is highly sensitive and full of nerve endings, many of which are below the surface; the visible part of the clitoris is just the tip of the iceberg. The clitoris also extends internally towards the opening of the vagina. Even “in hiding,” many people find those 6,000 to 8,000 sensory nerve endings to be a source of incredible pleasure. It’s hypothesized that folks whose clitoris is positioned closer to their vaginal opening are more likely to have success reaching orgasm through penetration. In contrast, the vaginal walls contain relatively few nerve endings. This can make intense sexual stimulation, pleasure, and orgasm from vaginal-only penetration unlikely, especially for folks whose clitoris may be further from their vaginal openings. It may seem like the clitoris is "inaccessible" because in-and-out sex doesn’t touch your button of joy. If that’s the case, you may find it helpful to experiment in different ways — with yourself and others and with different positions and methods to help stimulate all parts (both internal and external) of your clitoris to see what feels best for you. 

Generally speaking, touching or pressing the clitoris, directly or indirectly, during sex can increase the potential to orgasm for folks with vaginas. Here are a few tips to help you and your partner(s) have a more pleasurable, intense sexual experience:  

  • Explore your erogenous zones. Did you know the vagina and clitoris aren’t the only places where some pressure or vibrations can make you feel good? Some people find that having their face, neck, lips, or breasts touched, kissed, and caressed can help push them over the climax edge.
  • Ask your partner(s) to touch, rub, caress, or press your clitoris with their fingers, whether before, during, or after sex. You can guide them by placing your fingers over their fingers or hand and pressing the spots you like in the motion and frequency that makes you go wild.  
  • Explore with foreplay. Sometimes you may feel ready for sex immediately, while other times you may want your partner to first touch, rub, kiss, or lick your vulva and clitoris, using their hands, mouth, toy, or genitals. Oral sex can be part of foreplay; it may be pleasurable for those with vaginas because of its direct focus on the clitoris. Some women describe intense orgasms through oral sex.  
  • Try a variety of sex positions where your clitoris can be further stimulated. For example, being “on top” has more potential for clitoral stimulation. On top, you can have more control over the amount of stimulation, rhythm, and pacing. You can move your hips to reach your partner’s pubic bone, or they can change the angle of their hips. Your partner can also enter you from behind and reach around to caress your clitoris. If you like deep penetration, then choose positions that make this more possible. Get creative! Certain sex positions may feel more exciting to you than others, and this may differ each time you have sex.  
  • Add a few drops of lube to reduce friction and give a more sensual feel. It may be better when it’s wetter!  
  • Incorporate sex toys into your sex play. Some folks enjoy using a vibrator, either alone or with a partner, to stimulate their clitoris during sex.  

If after fooling around with yourself or others, you notice you’re still having trouble reaching orgasm, you may want to examine how other factors may be seeping into your sex life. For example, taking medications for mental health conditions such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or antidepressants could make it harder to experience an orgasm during sex. Not being physically active enough, smoking, and drinking frequently could also impact your stimulation “down there.” Additionally, folks who experience sexual trauma may experience aversions to sexual contact and have difficulty reaching orgasm. 

Based on all of your questions, it’s clear you aren’t alone in your experiences. Many folks with vaginas have difficulty experiencing orgasms through penetration alone. Although not every sexual encounter requires all parties to orgasm to be satisfying, there are some strategies you can try in the meantime to improve your odds. If after trying these strategies, you still can’t pinpoint that orgasmic feeling through penetration, it could be helpful to examine what else might be contributing to your block. If you continue to have trouble with a partner or by yourself, or if these feelings are still causing you distress, you may want to speak with a health care provider or mental health professional to discuss other options, such as counseling, Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, or hormone medications. 

Here’s to more fun times to cum! 

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Last updated Jun 30, 2022
Originally published Sep 07, 2001

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