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Why Women In Their 20s Are Having Fewer Orgasms Than Ever (And How To Unlock Your Potential For Pleasure)

Photo by Alexey Kuzma
July 11, 2017

Results across several recent studies show that 75 percent of women never orgasm through intercourse. And young women are experiencing orgasm the least. But why?

In the Information Age, where empowering, sex-positive tips are available at the click of a button, we might think the trend would go the other way—but that’s not the case.

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Our barriers to pleasure:

1. We continue to commoditize sex.

We've all heard it before—sex sells. So the media continues to sell it, isolating the orgasm from its context in advertising. A successful advertisement doesn't sell an object—it sells access. It says if you want access to the glamorous, carefree life the models on this billboard are living, buy this product. If you want access to satisfying sex, you need this thing. So, satisfying sex (specifically orgasm) becomes something we associate with a desirable, aspirational lifestyle. And if your sex isn't satisfying—if you aren't having orgasms day and night—it's because you're lacking in some other way. You haven't earned access to this pleasure. When the idea of orgasmic potential is tied to the question of being adequate or successful, it becomes a source of self-doubt and stress. Talk about unnecessary performance anxiety.

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2. We think hooking up is helping us discover pleasure, but it's hurting.

Social media and dating apps like Tinder contribute to making hookup culture more and more socially normative. While these apps are wonderful tools through which to expand the dating pool and explore sexuality without strings, hookups—for women, at least—don't usually lead to orgasm. The International Academy of Sex Research presented research demonstrating that a woman's chances of reaching orgasm are diminished by half when she's having casual sex as opposed to when she's getting intimate with a committed partner. The reasons behind this include that women are less comfortable telling hookup partners what they want and need and that men are less invested in pleasing a hookup partner than they would be with a person they're emotionally invested in.

There's nothing wrong with hooking up—as long as you come away from the encounter satisfied.

3. Women feel shame about not being able to climax, and men feel shame about not bringing their partners to climax.

Results from a qualitative study of young adults by Salisbury and Fisher showed that the most common concern among both women and men is the impact that lack of female orgasm during partner sex has on the 1male ego1.

Stress, shame, and guilt are obstacles to mindful presence in every situation, and especially in this incredibly vulnerable context. Instead, both parties become absorbed with the self-critical thoughts in their mind. Stress also kills libido. If our minds are not focused on pleasure, our bodies won't be able to experience it. Our tissues become engorged and lubricated as a physical response to pleasure processed by our brains. If we're not processing the cues our bodies send us, those changes won't happen.

The study also showed that male and female participants agreed that men have the responsibility to physically stimulate their female partner to orgasm, while women have the responsibility to be mentally prepared to experience orgasm.

Basically, women are trying to climax for the sake of their partner's ego. And both partners are placing responsibility on the man to bring the woman to orgasm. That puts a lot of pressure on both women and men in the bedroom and keeps women from becoming fully sexually empowered.

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4. Traditional sex education and porn are opposite ends of the spectrum and don't address the reality of sex.

Traditional sex education mainly focuses on contraception and prevention of disease, entirely neglecting to address the details of women’s unique anatomy and vast potential for pleasure and orgasm.

So, where sex ed leaves off, porn steps in. Often, the way young people learn about sex is through pornography—a context in which pleasure is entirely separate from emotional connection and tenderness. If pornography is the only tool someone has to learn about sex, their perception of sex will be fundamentally inaccurate.

To move toward a sexually empowered society, where women experience orgasm with the same frequency as men, we need to take the pressure off and make realistic sex education a priority. But it's never too late. Everyone has room to grow and learn more about how to give and receive pleasure.

Here are the secrets to unlocking infinite potential for pleasure that men and women both need to explore.

1. Awareness and presence:

Presence, awareness, and a sense of physical and emotional comfort are crucial to sexual pleasure. Tapping into this mindset allows us to access new echelons of enjoyment. The tantric philosophy exists for exactly this purpose: to help people access transcendent pleasure through presence.

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2. Anatomy lessons:

No, seriously. Studies show that an understanding of the female sexual anatomy and how each part contributes to pleasure2 directly is directly correlated with the likelihood of female orgasm during intercourse. It’s equally important for men and women to learn the ins and outs (pun intended) of a woman's pleasure potential and how to awaken it.

3. Communication and connection:

People of both genders often rely upon assumptions about their partner's preferences and pleasure based on what they've seen or been told rather than communicating explicitly and verbally about their pleasure. Instead of playing charades, they need to learn how to be communicative during sex. Don't be shy. Dirty talk can be its own form of arousal, after all.

While we, as a society, work toward making holistic, high-quality sex education mainstream, women need to take control of their own sexuality and explore what makes them feel good. Normal is irrelevant. Normal is overrated. Normal is a fiction. There is only you, your partner, and whatever turns you on.

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So, here are a few more tips for the women:

1. Get to know yourself—intimately.

You are capable of 11 different kinds of orgasms, thanks to your many erogenous zones. Start by learning about the internal clitoris and the G-spot.

2. Set aside time to cultivate your own sexuality.

Begin a mindfulness practice (if you don't have one already), and use it before and during masturbation. Remind yourself to breathe throughout. Staying relaxed and present will allow you to notice what types of touch bring you the most pleasure.

Be open and curious about what happens, focusing on sensation instead of hunting for that orgasm. Trust your body to guide you and follow your pleasure.

3. Share what gives you pleasure next time you have partnered sex.

Exploring your own pleasure is its own reward, but you deserve to benefit from your discoveries when you're getting intimate with a partner. In the same way you've empowered yourself to experience sexual pleasure, you can empower your partner to get in on the fun.

Want more insight on whether your relationship is healthy and the reasons it might not be? Check out these seven signs you’ve found the one and learn how to rewire your brain to have a more secure attachment style.

Marthe Schneider
Marthe Schneider

Marthe Schneider is a Certified Authentic Tantra™ Practitioner and has a background in dance and physiotherapy. After four years of Dance Studies, she completed her physiotherapy training in Norway. Since her authorization in 2009, her main interest has been in the areas of psychological health and women’s health.

In 2011, Schneider designed and implemented the Physiotherapy in Women’s Health course as a part of the Physiotherapy Education Program at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, Sudan. In 2013, she completed her specialty training in the holistic physiotherapy treatment method named Norwegian Psychomotor Physiotherapy. In her clinical work, Marthe helps those suffering from the aftermath of various traumas, in particular traumas related to sexuality and genital pain conditions.