Reaching the big O isn’t always straightforward.
For some, it can be a challenge – whether alone, with a partner, or in all circumstances.
There plenty of reasons as to why someone might struggle to reach orgasm, from the psychological to the physical.
Sexpert Kate Moyle, who works with sexual wellness brand Lelo, says it’s good to explore this from all angles.
But first, orgasm doesn’t have to be the goal during sex, and making it so will likely prevent the chances of orgasm even more.
Kate tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Too often even if people are having an amazing time, if they don’t orgasm they feel that they “should” have done and that in some way invalidates the experience – we need to reframe this as it’s unhelpful and takes away from so many experiences that if it weren’t for this narrative people would be really satisfied with.’
These are the common reasons she sees in clients who struggle to orgasm.
Too much pressure
‘There is an irony in the fact that trying to orgasm is more likely to stop you orgasming, rather than reaching climax,’ she says.
‘This is because it creates performance anxiety by us focusing on a goal and what we are trying to achieve, rather than focusing on the pleasurable sensations which are most likely to get us there.
‘Try to bring yourself back into your body and just focus on what feel’s good for feeling good’s sake, if you notice your mind starting to wander or focus on what you think you “should” be doing, then take your attention back to the senses and what you can physically feel.’
Bad sex education
Sex education historically has focused around the role of reproduction rather than pleasure when it comes to knowing our sexual anatomy.
‘For women particularly this has excluded a large part of the pleasure anatomy, which is the clitoris,’ Kate says.
‘In opening up the conversations about sexual wellbeing we encourage people to be more explorative, and in a way this gives people the permission they need to break away from old narratives.
‘Take your sex education into your own hands, there is no age limit on learning more about yourself sexually. If you are looking for guidance then there are apps like Ferly which audio guide you through exercises to explore and connect with yourself.’
You feel shame
Kate says: ‘Shame is a huge inhibitor in terms of our sex lives, and in basic terms it plays the role of making us feel bad, or that pleasure or sex is “wrong” in some way, or that we aren’t deserving of pleasure.
‘This negative emotional response can present in many forms, but when it comes to orgasm it’s often as a barrier to us achieving pleasure, or as a post orgasm response which demotivates us from wanting to repeat the experience.’
Kate advises thinking about the messages around sex that you have received over your lifetime and how they may have shaped your perspective on sex.
‘Listening to different voices, stories and ideas can also help to normalise and open up your thinking such as podcasts, Ted Talks and books,’ she adds.
If you find it easy to orgasm alone but struggle with a partner, how can you work on that?
Kate says: ‘We describe this as “situational”, which means that the difficulty occurs in certain situations e.g when there is another person present.
‘If you are able to achieve orgasm on your own, then the ability is there the thing that has shifted is your perspective of the situation.
‘Many people describe a sense of not being able to ‘let go’ with someone else present, and so it’s a good idea to think about what might help you to be less self-conscious.
‘Communicating this to your partner too may help you to work through some of the anxieties.
‘Try and play with your surroundings and the senses changing lighting or wearing clothing that makes you feel more confident.
‘The most important factor though will be trying not to focus on the fact that you aren’t reaching orgasm, and trying not to pre-occupy yourself with what you partner is thinking as this will take you out of the moment and these types of thoughts can be distracting.’
Some medications, such as antidepressants, have the common side effect of impacting upon sex.
Kate says: ‘One common reported side effect is struggling to orgasm.
‘An added impact of this may be that it causes frustration and negative feelings around sex, or a feeling of discomfort about bringing it up with either your doctor or your partner, which can further add to it being a difficult experience.
‘For many people antidepressants are integral to managing their mental health, and so adapting your sex life may be helpful.
‘You can try new types of touch and sensations exploring what feels good for you, as this may be something that has changed as a result of depression or the medication.
‘You could also see if there is an alternative medicine that could suit you better.’
Not enough stimulation
Maybe it’s not something you’re struggling with alone.
Kate says this could be a case of not being stimulated enough.
She says: ‘Finding the type of stimulation that works for you is an important part of discovering your orgasm.
‘Different types of sensuality and touch, whether in terms of speed, pressure or style of touch, are important to try.
‘The addition of a lubricant is a cost effective and useful way of changing sensation.
‘Also mixing up self-pleasure in terms of introducing sex toys to some experiences can be a good way of creating more intensity.
‘There is such variability too – don’t just assume because something worked one day, that it has to be the same the next.
‘We have a lot going on in our lives and factors like stress, tiredness, mood can impact what we will desire on that particular day.’
If you struggle to orgasm alone, what might help?
Kate says: ‘Get to know your body, without pressure or expectation. Explore your body head to toe with different types of touch and stimulation.
‘Foreplay isn’t just for partnered experiences and finding ways to help you to get in the mood, whether that be audio erotica, music, scent, lighting – whatever helps engage your sexual side.
‘Try new things such as lubricants, different type of touch, positions, sex toys, textures (e.g. being in the shower ) and find what works for you – we are all different.
‘One of the keys is growing in comfort and confidence as having our mind on our side will play a big part.
‘Consider the psychological side of sex – if you are finding it a real challenge or that it’s causing you distress then you may want to consider talking to a professional to help you explore your thoughts and feelings.’
Kate says: ‘There may be a physical cause, such as hormonal changes or a lack of pelvic floor tone.
‘As we age the production of our sex hormones slows down, and we see that for women they go through the process of peri-menopause and menopause where oestrogen levels are depleted which can impact our sex lives.
‘The pelvic floor muscles also play a key role in orgasm, and so if they are stronger and more toned then this can improve orgasm strength.’
The past could be effecting your present sex life if it was painful or traumatic.
Kate says: ‘If pain has been a part of sex previously, or you have a condition such as vaginismius, vulvodynia, peyronies disease or generally are experiencing pain or discomfort associated with sex, like repeated UTI infections, then this can lead to us expecting sex to be painful rather than pleasurable.
‘Not only is there the physical aspect of the pain, but the psychological inability to relax, feel comfortable or enjoy the experience as we are in more of a threat-response state than a sexually aroused and desiring one.
‘If you are experiencing painful sex always talk to a medical practitioner, there are also psychosexual therapists and pelvic health physiotherapists.’
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