If you've never had an orgasm to the best of your memory or knowledge, you're not alone. About 9% of women have never had an orgasm1, according to research. That's one in 10. I refer to such women as pre-orgasmic, because they have not climaxed yet. The good news is, virtually all women can learn how to orgasm. It's just about figuring out what their unique barriers to orgasm are, removing those barriers, and learning a different way to stimulate themselves. Below are a few important steps to learning how to orgasm when you've never had an orgasm before:
Release the pressure.
For many women who struggle to reach orgasm, there can be feelings of shame, disappointment, and frustration. They may feel disconnected from themselves sexually or deficient somehow. The absence of orgasm (also known as anorgasmia) can catalyze feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
But shame, inadequacy, and anxiety are themselves huge barriers to orgasm. That means part of learning to reach orgasm is releasing the expectations we're placing on ourselves to have them. Not all sex needs to include orgasms. Instead, focus your sexual experiences on feeling the most pleasure possible. If you're having fun and feeling good, that's what matters.
Watch what you put in your mouth.
Your overall physical health can affect your libido as well as your hormones, all of which affect your ability to climax. Functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, notes low iron, adrenal fatigue, gut problems, and insufficient healthy fats as just a few of many causes of low sex drive that can be addressed through adjusting your diet.
Low libido can also be tied to hormonal imbalances. Some medications like antidepressants or birth control pills can also reduce key arousal-related hormonal functions. Check your medications, and talk to your doctor about swapping meds to see if this improves your arousal and sensation.
Prioritize stress relief.
Commit yourself to some kind of stress relief routine, and really commit! Stress makes the body produce cortisol, and cortisol interrupts all the happy hormones of sexual arousal. When we're stressed during sex, we also tend to get too much in our heads instead of focusing on our bodies, which is key to experiencing pleasure. We might also subconsciously tense up our muscles around the pelvic floor, and it's the contraction and release of those muscles that are key to producing orgasm.
Find ways to de-stress, especially around the experience of intimacy. Go slowly. Make sure you feel safe and have a strong sexual connection with your partner. (Here are a few ways to make sex better for women, in general.)
Retrain your brain to view orgasms differently.
In the absence of physical constrictions or hormonal issues, orgasm is largely about the brain. It's all about arousal, after all. Unfortunately, emotional and psychological patterning can block the arousal-to-orgasm trajectory. You may know the feeling of being in the bedroom and suddenly getting distracted by an email you forgot to send or a fight you had with a family member. This effect is especially intense when there is a history of sexual abuse, trauma, or shame associated with physical intimacy.
The important thing here is that because of the brain's neuroplasticity, our bodies and neural networks can be retrained. So consider what makes you feel aroused, and identify what path your arousal takes. Does it peak, then stop? Does it fizzle out? Does it never get liftoff?
Find a metaphor for what you'd like to happen instead. For example, if your arousal just suddenly stops mid-coitus, you might imagine instead the nonstop, exhilarating loss of control, akin to how you might feel on a roller coaster. Once you find the metaphor that you want, try meditating—or better yet, masturbating—while imagining your metaphor for orgasm.
Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate.
Focus on having an orgasm with yourself before you worry about involving a partner, as having an orgasm with a partner is a whole different thing. You're worried about trying to please the other person, you might be dealing with self-consciousness about your orgasm abilities, and you may not be doing the type of sexual acts that actually get you off. (Note: Most women will not reach orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. Clitoral stimulation is almost always necessary. Vibrators help a lot.)
Get yourself on a steady diet of exploratory self-pleasure at least once a week. Ditch the goal of having orgasms during this, too. Just pay attention to how you feel, where you feel sensation, and what thoughts or stimuli most put you in the mood. Pleasure is the goal, not orgasms.
Get some extra help.
Finally, don't be afraid to work with a practitioner who is experienced in coaching you toward feeling pleasure. Sex therapists, coaches, and educators frequently work with women who struggle with reaching orgasm, so there are many people who are totally equipped to help you get over the hill.
With time, focus, and ample self-love, amazing things can happen.
Emma Michelle Dixon, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and mindfulness coach based in Sydney. She has a Ph.D. in Economics and has taught workshops, talks, and retreats on sexuality and personal development. She specializes in holistic healing modalities, bodywork, relationships, and trauma.