Coming, climax, the big O, peak, sexual climax, the culmination…there are more than 100 synonyms to describe an orgasm, yet most of us have many unanswered questions when it comes how to achieve them, how to talk to your partner if you aren’t reaching that climax moment and solo vs. partner orgasms, among probably a hundred other things. With this in mind, we tapped into our sexologist and sexual health advisors to get their expert insight into all your orgasm questions as we approach National Orgasm Day on July 31!
From Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D., a sexual health and relationship expert and ASTROGLIDE’s resident sexologist
If someone isn’t orgasming, how can they let their partner know without hurting their feelings?
- Rather than making complaints or criticisms, make requests. I suggest the following approach:
- Offer positive feedback (e.g. I really like the way we…)
- Make an offer by asking them what they’d like (e.g. Is there anything you want to try?)
- Make your request (e.g. I’d like more of…. It’s what really gets me off.)
Speak up and ask for what you want from the onset. Don’t wait. You may believe you’re sparing your partner’s feelings, but sex is not a skill we’re born with and each person’s desires are unique, so you have to teach each partner how to be a great lover for you. And, of course, you have to ask them to do the same.
Communicate your needs however you’re most comfortable. Some people are more relaxed during and after sex, and maybe more open to giving and receiving feedback. Others prefer to use text and make sexy requests using emojis and the written word. While some might suggest that text is impersonal, but also understand that it’s the most popular way many of us communicate.
Remember that sexual compatibility is a matter of effort — not sameness. If your partner is open to learning, you don’t have to hit it off sexually from the onset. Training your lover is half the fun of starting a new relationship! Instead of telling them what you want, show them! Kiss the way you want to be kissed and touch the way you want to be touched. Tell them what you want and be specific. I want more tongue right there!
The reality is that arousal and orgasm are both physical and mental (and for some spiritual) and they don’t occur in an immediate or linear manner. Sometimes you get wet because you’re riding the bus and sometimes you’re bone dry despite being highly aroused. Lubrication is not necessarily an indication of arousal and its absence is not a sign of disinterest. Similarly, you don’t need to have an orgasm to enjoy sex — there are many ways to enjoy sexual pleasure.
With regard to timing, women don’t universally take longer to reach orgasm than men. Some reach orgasm in a matter of minutes (or under a minute) and others take more time (by choice or by necessity) and the good news is that you don’t get a prize for getting off more quickly. When alone, women only take an average of one minute longer than men to reach orgasm — it’s partnered sex that often delays the process (and that’s okay). In terms of foreplay, men and women desire a similar duration despite gender stereotypes; research suggests that men desire an average of 18 minutes of foreplay and 18 minutes of intercourse versus women’s eighteen and fourteen minutes respectively.
Solo orgasms or orgasms with a partner – is one better than the other?
It depends on the person and the orgasm. Sometimes a solo orgasm is exactly what your body craves and other times you crave a sexual connection with a partner.
Can I do anything to change things if I never orgasm during intercourse?
You sure can! There are several techniques I recommend people try, including:
- Fantasizing! Sexual response originates in the brain, so even if your body is getting what it needs, you have to feed your mind too or orgasm may elude you. It’s not cheating to dream about Brad Pitt, Eva Longoria, or the hot barista from the local coffee shop. In fact, if it turns you on and you eventually share your fantasies with your lover, it can deepen your connection.
- Changing Positions. We all know that two-thirds of folks with vaginas do not orgasm from penetration alone, so shift into positions that allow you to rub, grind, and rock to your heart’s content.
- Breathe deeply! One of the biggest impediments to orgasm involves holding your breath. Try breathing in rhythm with the movement of your hips or with every lick, stroke, or pump. When you reach orgasm, exaggerate your breathing (longer inhales and exhales) to prolong the climax and intensify your body’s delightful spasms.
- Masturbate! Most of us experience our first orgasm during solo sex, so take some time to learn about your unique bodily responses so you can teach your partner how to please you too.
For further insight on changing things up if you’re not orgasming during intercourse, check out more on this topic here and here.
Is there a way to orgasm faster?
Many people report that vibrations help to get them to orgasm more consistently, and with greater speed. Fantasy can also help to address any brain-body dissonance when it comes to arousal and sexual response. Let your mind wander without inhibition and see where it takes you.
What should someone do if they’ve never had an orgasm?
The first thing to remember is that the paths to orgasm are varied and there is no perfect formula for reaching the big-O. Here are a few things to try that might also help:
- Cross Your Legs. If you want to experiment with orgasm during intercourse, try crossing your legs to create a tighter sensation and increase friction against the inner bulbs of your clitoris. The snug sensation that results from the combination of squeezing your legs together and the swelling of your inner clitoris might be just what you need to take you over the orgasmic edge.
- Learn to love your body. Positive (or neutral) body image is key to orgasmic response, as it helps you to avoid spectating (looking in on your experience from the outside instead of enjoying the physical sensations of the experience itself).
How can lube help achieve orgasm?
Lube is linked with improved sexual response and a decrease in sexual discomfort. Lube can also enhance arousal and pleasure to increase the likelihood of having an orgasm. For those who worry about lubrication, a few drops of the slippery stuff can assuage concerns, reduce anxiety and help induce the relaxation response in your body; this state of relaxation can prime your body and mind for pleasure, arousal, and orgasm.
From Dr. Joshua Gonzalez, MD and ASTROGLIDE’s sexual health advisor
Are multiple orgasms possible? If so, how can people achieve them?
The ability to achieve multiple orgasms is possible for some people. Following normal orgasm, men and women have what is called a refractory time, which is a period characterized by an inability to achieve additional orgasms. In general, this period is shorter for women making it much easier for them to have multiple orgasms during a single sexual act or encounter.
What would you say to men having trouble climaxing?
If they were my patient, the first step I’d take would be to try and understand more about when they have trouble with climaxing so that I could offer the best advice. I’d ask questions like, is it happening during partnered sex, masturbation or both? If it’s only with partners, what about those encounters is different than when you masturbate? How can we try to replicate that same stimulation with a partner? It’s also important to ask about sociocultural and religious beliefs around sex and what medications a man may be taking that could negatively influence his sexual function.
What would you say to women who have trouble climaxing?
Many of the things I mentioned above are also true for women. There’s a lot that goes into climaxing. It’s about the individual woman and her background and belief system. It’s about her body but also how her body interacts with her partners. It’s also a mind, body, spirit kind of thing a lot of the time. If a woman is having trouble climaxing even in the absence of a partner, it’s definitely worth discussing it with a doctor. There are treatments (hormones and other medications) that can help improve the issue.
Do orgasms offer any health benefits?
Orgasms have plenty of health benefits! They provide a general sense of well being, and they create a sense of closeness with your partner. In men, research has suggested that ejaculation/orgasms can decrease your risk of prostate cancer. Orgasms are thought to help improve fertility and transiently stimulate our immune system. They also help reduce your cardiovascular risk, lower stress, and increase your pain threshold. And, the list keeps going…
Should people expect to orgasm during their first sexual encounters? Is it okay if they don’t?
People should always expect an orgasm during sexual encounters, but that doesn’t mean it will always happen. First times are tricky! You don’t really know what you’re doing and many people aren’t even sure what feels good to them (so how can they expect their partner to know?). It’s definitely okay to not orgasm during your first sexual encounter, but I would encourage people to use that as motivation to figure out how they might achieve orgasm in subsequent encounters.
How can lube help achieve orgasm?
Lube can definitely help you orgasm! Lubrication can increase sensitivity and pleasure from sexual contact. It also makes it easier to maintain a steady rhythm, which is often necessary for men and women to achieve orgasm
From Dr. Anglea Jones, OB/GYN and ASTROGLIDE’s sexual health advisor
Are there any conditions that may prevent a woman from being able to reach orgasm?
A resounding YES! Medical conditions such as diabetes, which can affect blood supply and nerves, thus limiting your ability to enjoy “pleasure,” certain medicines such as a category of medications known as SSRIs (commonly used to treat conditions such as depression) can also interfere with the ability to reach orgasm. Let’s not forget the mental aspect of it all. Cultural norms, or beliefs may weigh heavily causing one to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or “dirty.” Religious beliefs, poor self-esteem or body image perception can also impact your ability to orgasm. Stress is also a huge factor, whether it be financial, work-related, environment-related (COVID-19 anyone?) These are but a few things that immediately come to mind.
Do orgasms offer any health benefits?
Maybe? There is some literature out there that states orgasms help boost your immune system… now there’s a fun way to keep from getting sick! But absolutely yes to mental health benefits. An orgasm releases endorphins which make you happy, feel good, etc. If you’re happy, more than likely, that will have a positive effect on those around you. Look at that, in a roundabout way orgasming is good for the environment ?
Orgasms also help with menstrual cramps. Got cramps? Have an orgasm or two, or three, or four. The maybe in this is that there is no substantial amount of research that confirms these findings; the studies are very small and limited. Having said such, when you feel better, most things are better, including immunity, mental health, energy levels, etc.
Should women feel bad if they aren’t orgasming?
The answer here is a resounding NO! I’m so tired of society trying to make women feel bad and making the sole purpose of sex to reach orgasm; whether it be the male or female orgasm. An individual’s worth is NOT tied to whether or not they climax during a sexual encounter. How about focusing on the other reasons individuals have sex? To feel connected on numerous levels such as mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. If you happen to orgasm, that’s the cherry on top, so to speak. Pleasure means many things to various people. During a sexual encounter remember how amazing the human body is and how many erogenous zones there are. Don’t neglect those! Sex is supposed to be fun, explorative, pleasurable, playful, and can be accomplished solo or with a partner(s). Ladies, not achieving orgasm can occur for many different reasons; just know, you are enough. Period.
How can women orgasm if they experience pain while having sex?
This is a good opportunity to address the underlying cause of the pain. Once you identify the root cause, it can hopefully be rectified. Things that immediately come to mind are lack of lubrication or vaginal atrophy. For those issues, I suggest using a personal lubricant like ASTROGLIDE to immediately help. The other option, as mentioned above, is to focus on other erogenous zones on the body. The clitoris isn’t the only producer of orgasms. Hitting the g-spot isn’t the only way to achieve orgasm. Hint, hint to try something new and “outside” your box.
How can women set themselves up for orgasm “success” when masturbating or having sex with a partner? (Ie. Being relaxed, using certain products, etc.?)
Loving yourself. That means being comfortable in your skin. Feeling beautiful and having a positive body image also helps. And think outside of the box. I think John Mayer said something like “your body is a wonderland.” It most certainly is! Get to exploring, touching, prodding to see what you like and don’t like. Relax. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a pressure situation. Just go with the flow; take your time. When having sex with a partner make sure it’s with someone who you are comfortable with, makes you feel good about you. You want an unselfish lover, someone that isn’t all about self but is in tune with what you want and need. Whatever it takes to get you “in the mood,” put yourself in that environment, whether it be sultry music, essential oils, candles, etc. Create your happy place/space. Don’t forget the accessories, whether that be lube (cause we all know ASTROGLIDE makes the “mo betta mo betta.”), toys, etc.
How can lube help achieve orgasm?
Lube gives you the freedom to experiment and try things you otherwise might not feel comfortable doing. Orgasms are more than just hitting the g-spot and lube allows you to please a whole lotta other spots as well (pun intended). Lube allows you to experiment with accessories, toys for example, which are another good way to find your orgasm. Overall lube can be a pleasure enhancer.
So there you have it! A full orgasm FAQ with answers straight from the mouths of experts! Now you should be more than ready to celebrate National Orgasm Day (July 31).