How to have an orgasm (for women & their partners)

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Dear Sex Counselor,

I’ve never had an orgasm with my partner. What do I do?


This is a common question with some straightforward answers; yet many women can’t find enough information about their bodies to know how to give themselves an orgasm. Often we expect our partners to know how to stimulate us, or we think that we should easily have orgasms during vaginal penetration. When we don’t have orgasms, what do we do?

First, some information about women’s anatomy. Many sexually responsive tissues for women are located in the lips surrounding the vagina (the vulva), the first two inches of the vagina, and the clitoris. Women’s clitorises are about four inches long. The clitoris extends from the skin folds just under the pubic hair, to as far back as the vaginal opening, on both sides of it. The part of the clitoris you can see is its tip, at the top (closest to your belly button) of the vulva. You may or may not be able to see your clitoris peeking out when you are sexually aroused.

With adequate stimulation, a woman may arouse herself to a high enough level that her body will release into an orgasm. We first perceive an orgasm in our brains, which sends electrical signals to our genitals. These signals trigger an intensely pleasurable spasm of the muscles in the pelvic floor, which often lasts for 10 to 15 seconds.

For the majority (~95%) of women, the vulva and the clitoris require direct stimulation to achieve orgasm. Although vaginal stimulation can be pleasurable and important for some, deep vaginal penetration is less important for orgasmic arousal than is often thought. The vulva, clitoris and vaginal opening also need consistent stimulation for a woman to have an orgasm. For some women, this can be 20 to 40 (or more) minutes of continuous rubbing, vibration, or pressure.

With intercourse (vaginal penetration), many women find that they experience more pleasure, and have orgasms more easily, when the clitoris and vulva are directly stimulated by a hand, mouth, or vibrator before, during or after intercourse. During sexual intercourse, the vagina and vulva get stimulation, but often the clitoris may not. This lack of stimulation occurs because, for many women, the clitoris is not close enough to the vagina to get adequate stimulation for orgasmic arousal during intercourse. Many women don’t orgasm during intercourse unless they, or their partner, provide additional direct stimulation to the vulva and clitoris at the same time that they are being vaginally penetrated.

Where Do I Start?

The first task is for you to locate those places on your body that give you the most pleasure when they are touched. The best way to determine what you like is to experiment with yourself first, without the social pressure of your, or a partner’s expectations. Set aside time where you can be alone and both relax and concentrate on stimulating yourself with your hands.

We encourage you to use a small amount of sexual lubricant like Liquid Silk when you are exploring how you like to be touched. This will allow your fingers to move more smoothly, and increases the amount of sensation you are able to feel. It also allows you to rub the skin without irritation. Any water-based lubricant is fine - our customers particularly like Liquid Silk, Pink Indulgence, or Slippery Stuff . Don’t use oil or Vaseline, as these can irritate your skin and may lead to yeast infections in some women.

Some women find it difficult to relax and let their bodies have orgasms. To them, it feels like they are losing control over their bodies, and this can be frightening. If this describes you, make sure you are in a safe place where you will not be disturbed. Also, allow yourself to control how far you go each time you pleasure yourself. Allow yourself to get a little closer to a building of tension and sensation each time. Your leg muscles may get tense - this is okay; it’s part of the process. Focus on what feels good to you, and let pleasure happen.

How do I use my hand for stimulation?

The types of hand stimulation that many women enjoy are long strokes on the lips of the vulva, stroking or rubbing in and around the mouth of the vagina, and stroking or rubbing the clitoris. Touching the clitoris is something to really explore: Do you like stroking the side of the tip and shaft, or do you like touching directly on the tip? Some women like long strokes of these areas; others like short, quick touches in a circular pattern that gets faster as they become more aroused. Try lots of different ways of touching these places, with different pressures and speeds. When you find something that feels good, continue touching yourself that way. If it stops feeling good, try one of your other favorite touches.

Should I use a vibrator?

If you aren’t able to have an orgasm from your own hand stimulation, or your hand gets tired, try using a vibrator. Vibrators can provide the consistent stimulation you need, and they don’t get tired. If you haven’t experienced a vibrator for sexual pleasure, choose one with variable vibrations (read more about how to choose a vibrator here). First, focus on using it on your vaginal lips. Then, as you become more aroused, find the spots on and around your clitoris that feel the best to you. Try all positions "around the clock" of the clitoral tip-some women report very different responses to "4 o’clock" versus "2 o’clock". When you find an area where the vibration feels particularly good to you, hold the vibrator in that position. Some women will orgasm quickly, while other women find with practice, they can follow the sensation to orgasm.

If a vibrator works well for you, introduce it to your partner, and find ways to incorporate it into your sex play. Try using it on your partner; both men and women enjoy the sensations produced by vibrators, and this is a fun way to add some variety to your sexual play.

But is it really ok to masturbate, and to use a vibrator, and to have orgasms when I want to?

Many of us are told that it is not okay to give ourselves pleasure. At A Woman’s Touch, we want to encourage you to understand that self-pleasuring is healthy. Studies have found that orgasms boost your immune system and help fight depression. Plus, the more orgasms you have, the easier it will be for you to orgasm in the future. Orgasms are one of the most effective ways of strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, which can reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Self-pleasure is also the best way to learn what you like so you can teach these techniques to your partner(s). For many women, it is easier to have an orgasm with a partner after having discovered what works by themselves.

The Sex Counselor