Almost any woman or person with a vagina will tell you that vaginal penetration alone doesn’t always lead to orgasm. In fact, about 3 out of 4 women say they can’t orgasm through vaginal penetration alone.
For those of us who have a clitoris this comes as no surprise, but if you consistently struggle to achieve orgasm or almost never have them, there may be a deeper issue. Orgasmic disorder, also known as female orgasmic disorder and orgasmic dysfunction, is the difficulty or inability for a woman to reach orgasm during intimacy.
What Is Orgasm Disorder?
If you’ve ever struggled to orgasm, you may find yourself wondering—what is orgasm disorder? How do I know if I have it? Orgasm disorder, also called anorgasmia, has a handful of symptoms, including:
- A person with a vagina rarely reaches orgasm, even when sexually aroused or during intimacy
- The symptoms last for six months or longer
- The problem causes clinically significant distress, including problems in couples and relationships
- Difficulty achieving orgasm is not caused by another medical condition
Orgasm disorder involves both physical and emotional symptoms. Orgasm disorder and orgasmic dysfunction happens when you can’t achieve orgasms, it takes a long time to orgasm, or you struggle to orgasm as often as you’d like during intimacy with a partner. The disorder includes the sadness and anxiety you feel about it, which only compounds the problem. It’s one of the most common sexual problems and it may be more common for trans people. Orgasmic dysfunction can be diagnosed by a physician or OBGYN.
Remember that the orgasm gap is a real problem too (which we’ll get to) and you may struggle with a partner who isn’t very cliterate—but that doesn’t mean you have a disorder.
If you’re beginning to recognize some of these struggles in your daily life though, consider jotting down notes each time you notice it happens. When you’re ready to see a doctor, it will help in discovering what’s behind your problem.
What Is The Orgasm Gap?
Now that we’ve answered “What is orgasm disorder?” We’ve got another question to tackle. The orgasm gap is an entirely different problem, worth mentioning here because orgasm disorder only happens when you can’t achieve climax after—note this part—adequate stimulation. If you’re struggling to orgasm with a partner, there may be something else at play.
About 33% of people with vaginas are infrequently having an orgasm when they have sex. (Infrequent is defined as having an orgasm 50% of the time or less.) The gap exists between heterosexual and LGBTQ+ people: 66% of heterosexual people with vaginas orgasm frequently, whereas 73% of people with vaginas within the LGBTQ+ community do.
The orgasm gap affects many couples, but particularly heterosexual ones. It’s understandable; sex education is often lacking and certainly doesn’t cover the intricacies of the delicate, nerve-ending-packed clitoris and how it relates to the G-spot. Society teaches us that men finish and then go to sleep, and it often leaves female partners, or people with vaginas, less than satisfied.
If that sounds like you, the orgasm gap may be negatively impacting your life. But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to help:
- Toys. The best toys for women and people with vaginas include both clitoral and G-spot stimulation. Consider adding one to your intimate partnered moments for extra oomph.
- Solo practice. Masturbation brings nearly innumerable benefits, not the least of which is learning what kinds of stimulation you enjoy. Practice alone makes it easier to ask for what you want in partner play, too. Consider reaching for a sex toy made by a woman—an award-winning woman-designed sex toy at that. You’re guaranteed an anatomical design that fits your unique body with the right toy.
- Hard conversations. It can be difficult to admit when you’re having trouble achieving orgasm, especially to a partner. But intimate communication is key to a good relationship and good sex, and a truly caring partner will be more concerned with your pleasure than their ego.
What Causes Orgasm Disorder?
Now that we’ve covered the differences between orgasm disorder and the orgasm gap, just what causes orgasm disorder?
- Anxiety and depression
- Body image issues
- Low sex hormone levels
- Medications, including antidepressants and chemotherapy
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Previous sexual abuse or trauma
- Religious or cultural beliefs around sex, and shame
How Do I Treat Orgasm Disorder?
Treatment really depends on the problem, and the list of symptoms and medical history. For example, the treatment for a chemotherapy patient with orgasm disorder and a patient experiencing anxiety are going to be very different.
Treatment options may look somewhat similar to those for closing the orgasm gap, but there are a few key differences. The orgasm gap comes from a lack of sex education, and an inequitable society. Orgasm disorder can be caused by many things, but is different than simply a lack of education.
Some common treatment options may include:
- Focusing on pleasure. Forget the goal. There is no goal but pleasure. Pressuring yourself to climax makes it that much harder and less likely. Let yourself enjoy the ride, no matter where it ends. Partner and solo play can be enjoyable sans climax, and nobody is perfect. Even without orgasm disorder, you may not climax every time.
- Physical therapy. With disorders like vaginismus, which causes pain during penetration, patients may purchase dilators, which are worn to help exercise and relax the vaginal wall. Similarly, kegel exercises and masturbation can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles, leading to increased vaginal health.
- Toys. Like we mentioned, the best toys for women and people with vaginas often include both clitoral stimulation and G-spot stimulation. This could be simple vibration, or something more advanced like clitoral suction and G-spot stimulation that mimics a lover’s caress. This provides additional pleasure, making orgasm more likely.
- Communication. We can’t stress this one enough. Talking to your partner is the best way to resolve issues, whether it’s with orgasmic dysfunction or the orgasm gap. How else will they know what you need, and deliver it? Nobody is a mind reader. Intimate communication can be difficult and vulnerable, but it’s so worth it.
The main takeaway we hope you leave with is that there’s always hope. Even if you’ve never experienced an orgasm, with a little self-love and patience it’s possible. And the good news is that pleasure isn’t goal-oriented. No matter which issue you may find yourself dealing with, you aren’t required to feel, look, or react a certain way.
Your body is incredible the way it is, carrying you through each day and constantly growing and solving problems. We hope you find relief no matter what, even if it’s relief in the knowledge that nothing is broken, or wrong with you.