Illustration by Lea Carey
By Louise Head
Most people with vaginas can make themselves come in under ten minutes. Yet when it comes to having sex with a partner, only about 50% of women orgasm consistently while men almost always orgasm. If it’s a first-time hookup, women only come 11% of the time. Now there’s a fact that will make you feel about as cheerful as the Grinch who stole Christmas.
The orgasm gap is likely the product of our cultural norms and expectations around sex. It is not the natural consequence of women simply not needing or not caring about orgasms. One study surveying more than six thousand women found that most women feel it is rather important to orgasm during partnered sex.
If you’ve got your masturbation routine on lock but are still struggling to come when you’re in bed with another cute human being, here are some tips to help get you there.
Orgasms are typically produced by stimulating nerves in the pelvic region that roughly correspond to the clitoris, the vagina, and the cervix. That being said, most women need some type of clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. Having your partner start from there can greatly increase your chance of orgasming.
Freud started a nice little rumor back in the 1800s that mature, healthy women orgasm through penetration alone rather than clitorally. Surprise! He was wrong. More than 80% of women need clitoral stimulation during partnered sex to orgasm.
Luckily, there are so many ways to incorporate the clit into any type of sex. You can ask your partner to touch your clitoris in the way that you like while you’re being penetrated. There are also plenty of sex toys designed for clitoral stimulation during partnered sex. Look for toys that are easy to hold or that fit naturally between two bodies. If p-in-v sex is your thing, you can look for a cock ring with a clitoral vibrator. Want to go hands free? Try out the Eva II!
Including oral sex in any type of sexual encounter, whether with a one-time hookup or with a long term partner, doubles your odds of having an orgasm.
The thing is, a lot of women already know that having a partner go down on them works pretty reliably but they don’t ask for oral sex because they believe their partners don’t like doing it. This is totally understandable given that our culture tells us vaginas are yucky and taste bad. Well, good news for you: according to one study, about 90% of guys report that they actually like eating pussy (Cheers!). So give yourself permission to relax and ask.
When partnered sex lasts for more than fifteen minutes, there’s a much higher likelihood that a woman will orgasm. Everyone always suggests more foreplay, but focus on what actually feels natural and sexy between you and the other person. If you have a regular partner, think about what you usually do when sex lasts longer. If you’re with someone newer, switching between several different positions during sex is a good way to make it last longer before settling into a position with more consistent and rhythmic stimulation once you’re ready to get off.
Some women find that their headspace really affects how their body responds physically during sex with someone else. Feeling anxious, stressed, or unable to relax can make orgasming really difficult. Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective way to stay in the moment during sex. The easiest way to do this is simply to pay attention to what your partner is doing to your body. Narrate the sexy things that are happening to you in your head. Here are some other mindfulness practices for sex.
Trying Something New
A common sticking point for a lot of people is incorporating a new sex technique into your actual repertoire. Often, these are the moments when people will get too nervous to relax, egos get hurt, and no one feels sexy.
One way to lessen the pressure here is, ironically, to take orgasming off the table while you play around with a new technique. Try switching back and forth with your partner for set periods of time while testing out new moves. This creates a space where you still get to be reciprocal with your partner and you don’t have to worry about the end goal or how long you’re taking.
If your goal is to add oral sex to your usual routine, have your partner go down on you for three minutes, then do the same for them. Switch back and forth several times. If it starts to feel good in a way that you feel could lead you to an orgasm tell them to keep going and if you lose that feeling say you’re ready to switch. Keep it playful and exploratory.
Communicating About Sex
Open communication about sex often gives you the greatest chance of having the kind of sex that actually satisfies you. Of course, it’s helpful to assess how open your partner is to communicating with you, even if they are just a one night stand. Here’s some guidance on this.
Pay Attention To Yourself
Knowing how desire and pleasure work for you is important! If you’re orgasming on your own but not with a partner, reflect on what’s happening in the gap for you. What about your experience is different when you are alone versus when you are with someone?
Think about how social or cultural expectations impact your experience of sex. Many women worry about how their body and vagina look during sex, whether they’re taking too long to come, or whether they are good at sex, just to name a few. What have you been taught about how you have to look and behave to be considered sexy in bed? Do any of those expectations make it harder for you to enjoy sex?
It’s All In The Details
Getting clear about what factors impact your orgasms the most opens up space for change. When it comes to sharing this information with a sex partner, the key is to be specific.
Often, it feels like enough to say ‘Can you touch my clit more?’ Instead, give suggestions that guide your partner on how they should do something rather than just what they should do. For example, ‘I’ve noticed that light touches on my clitoris turn me on the most but to actually orgasm I need the pressure to increase gradually. Maybe I can say harder when I am ready for more pressure during sex?’
Detailed requests like this are easier if you know your partner well and can talk about sex outside of the bedroom. But when you’re hooking up with someone for the first time, communicating will be different. Try something simple but clear-cut like, ‘Can you move your tongue up but keep doing what you’re doing? Yeah, there is perfect.’
If you can’t remotely imagine yourself saying these words out loud, don’t beat yourself up. This type of communication can be incredibly challenging because cis-women are often raised to shy away from their own sexuality and are not encouraged to openly discuss what feels good to them during sex.
Do challenge yourself to take smaller steps that move you continually toward communication about sex that feels actionable and honest to you. Maybe you start out by telling your partner in the moment what feels really good before moving on to suggesting specifics and then incorporating new techniques.
Most of all, trust the ways in which you’ve already been working throughout your life to experience more sexual pleasure with partners. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves credit for the self-knowledge we already have. Hone in on your strengths and keep growing from there.