Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame
I couldn’t cum.
For a long time, I figured I was simply doing it wrong. I heard my high school friends (my close ones, that is) brag about the orgasms they’d had – how mind-blowing they were, how many in a row they’d had – and I spent hours locked in my room, trying to discover the secret.
In college, my friends’ talk was more about how hard their partners had made them cum, and how orgasmic they were. I was no hermit; I had my share of fun with partners, some with vulvas and some with penises. But it doesn’t matter whether it was jacking or jilling each other off, oral sex, penetration, even anal sex – my partnered sex always ended without hearing trumpets, seeing rainbows or even managing a shit-eating grin.
I became an expert at faking orgasms. I still couldn’t cum, though.
It was the same story, more or less, for the ten years after graduation. And by “more or less,” I mean more disappointment, less expectations. I had pretty much accepted the fact that I was never going to experience the feeling that was supposed to define my sexual existence.
I simply assumed there was just something wrong with my body. Or maybe my brain.
It wasn’t until my early 30s that I accidentally came across a few websites devoted to masturbation techniques. (Following clickbait links, I discovered, isn’t always a bad thing.)
Some of the articles were written by sex therapists and “sexologists” with Ph.Ds, who seemed to know what they were talking about. So I figured that I had nothing to lose and gave some of their suggestions a try.
You can guess the “climax” to this story. It wasn’t my body or my brain. It turned out that I had actually been right back in high school: I was simply doing it wrong.
I’m now able to regularly rub one out when I’m on my own, and have no problem cumming when I’m with a partner. Once I unlocked the door, I was able to walk through it to hear the trumpets and see the rainbows. I wear a shit-eating grin a lot after sex, too.
Those clickbait articles made it clear to me that I wasn’t the only one who’d been wandering through the sexual desert searching for an orgasm.
But it wasn’t until I decided to put my story into words, and did a little research on sexual dysfunctions and those who have difficulty orgasming, that I realized how “not alone” I really was. (I’d thought doing a podcast about this, but it still seems a little too personal for me to go that route.) As you continue reading, you’ll understand that “inability to climax” is a very widespread phenomenon.
Why this article? Well, I didn’t sit down just to write a “you can do it too!” motivational short story. I wanted to share everything I’ve learned – which is part research, part advice – hoping that it can help someone else in the same way that those website articles helped me.
Buckle up. It’s going to be an enjoyable ride.
Can’t Cum? You Are Not Alone: My Research
(Apologies to anyone who now has the Michael Jackson song stuck in their head.)
I was shocked to learn how many vulva owners can’t cum.
As it turns out, it’s an open secret. Research into the “female orgasm” shows that as many as 15% have never experienced an orgasm. And some who reach the promised land for the first time don’t get there until their 40s, 50s or even their 60s.
The issue is even more common during penetrative sex. Studies regularly show that fewer than 20% of vulva-havers can climax with only vaginal penetration; more than one-third need simultaneous vaginal and clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. (And another third say that their climaxes are much better when their clitoris is also being stimulated).
Why is it so difficult for many with vulvas to reach orgasm – particularly when nearly all penis-havers have no difficulty with ejaculation during sex?
There are several possibilities.
One is something that’s now called female sexual interest/arousal disorder. (Experts combined two previous mental health diagnoses, hypoactive sexual desire disorder and sexual arousal disorder, and now describe both as FSIAD.) It’s not a common diagnosis, it’s more an issue with arousal than ability to climax, and it can often be treated with therapy and/or medication.
In other words, it’s probably not FSIAD if you want to cum but simply can’t.
Other things that may prevent climaxing fall into the category of physical, wellness, or mental health issues. Pain during sex can naturally lead vulva-havers to either avoid sexual activity or to “go easy” when trying to reach orgasm. Chronic, painful illnesses like endometriosis or fibromyalgia can interfere as well. Physical therapy and exercises like kegels often help.
Depression, anxiety, PTSD (from previous traumatic sexual experiences) and psychological issues like poor self-image can also be roadblocks to sexual satisfaction.
Those aren’t insignificant problems – but they’re not the primary reason why most people can’t make themselves climax.
Just like me (in my prior life), the majority just don’t know how to do it right.
Let’s take care of that right now. Here are my top tips.
How to Make Yourself Cum
1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
It’s only human nature. The more upset, frustrated or angry you get about being the “only one” who can’t climax, the more pressure you put on yourself and the less likely you are to cum.
This is going to be a process; even though many people call the clitoris the “magic button,” it’s anything but. It may take a while for you to discover the secret to making yourself happy and sexually satisfied – and even when (not if) you experience your first orgasm, it will probably be a small one.
So don’t be impatient. Enjoy the ride, because it will be a pleasurable one even if takes a while to reach your destination.
2. Be OK Upstairs
Sex is healthy. Masturbation is health. Orgasms are healthy.
Many vulva-havers, much more so than penis-havers, grow up with perceptions that there’s something innately dirty or forbidden about sexual pleasure.
There’s no need to get into the familial and/or cultural reasons those perceptions can develop. We’re all familiar with them. What’s important isn’t simply understanding the fact that sex is good – but believing it, too.
Any residual hesitation or shame about sex will probably have to be resolved before you try to have your first orgasm. It could be holding you back. If you can’t do that on your own, speak with a counselor or therapist. You won’t believe how much it can help.
3. Think Sensual and Sexy
I’m not talking about “strawberries and champagne” sensual, or “cat eye makeup and four-inch heels” sexy (if you even consider that sexy). That mindset usually involves satisfying other people. You have to be sensual and sexy for yourself.
What does that mean?
It means being good to yourself and taking care of yourself. Sexologists often call it “self care” or “self-love.”
Take long bubble baths. Pamper your skin with scented massage oil. Listen to your favorite music (and dance to it, if you like). Light candles or fire up your essential oil diffuser. All the while, appreciate the feelings, smells and aromas surrounding you.
Self care isn’t limited to solo activities at home, of course; it could also include spending time at the beach or meeting friends for a drink. But here, we’re focusing on the more sensual and sexy activities that can get you in the mood for some self-pleasure – which is very much another type of self care.
Fantasizing is also self-love, and it’s an outstanding way to get yourself into a sexy frame of mind before going in search of satisfaction. Need assistance? Erotic stories or videos can help prime the pump. Get excited by dirty talk? An erotic audio book can be a good substitute for a partner’s suggestive dialogue.
4. Take a Deep Breath – In Fact, Take Several
Meditation or mindfulness exercises are an outstanding way to put yourself squarely in the present, putting aside any day-to-day concerns or stress which might interfere with your quest for pleasure and orgasms.
Even if you’re not into those sorts of things, you can cheat a bit. Close your eyes, take some slow, deep breaths, and think pleasurable (and hopefully sensuous) thoughts. The goal isn’t to reach some existential plane of existence; it’s simply to completely and fully relax your body and mind, so you can enjoy the exploration you’re about to undertake.
5. Fingers, Meet Vulva
Sure, you’ve touched yourself down there. A lot. But do you really know your genital area on a detailed, tactile level?
Don’t feel badly if your answer was “no.” Most people don’t.
Some people just happen upon the ideal spot, motion and pressure that will get them off. Since you haven’t been that lucky, you’ll need to do some reconnaissance first. That starts with identifying and touching each area of your upper vulva.
Visit and play a bit with your outer and inner labia (the two sets of lips surrounding the clitoris), your clitoral hood (the fold of skin that covers and protects the clitoris), and finally the clitoris itself.
(That last one is actually called the glans clitoris. The clitoris is really a huge organ that extends well into the body. But some 8,000 nerve endings terminate in the glans, which is why stimulating it can be so pleasurable.)
You’re not in search of an orgasm just yet. The goal here is to use a finger or two to touch or rub each area, making mental notes about the different sensations each one produces when gently stimulated.
You may very well discover that the glans clitoris is so sensitive that you won’t be able to endure prolonged contact with it. That’s quite common; the way around that problem is either to play through a pair of underwear, or put a towel or blanket between the glans and your fingers.
Once you’ve taken inventory and figured out the most fruitful areas for further stimulation, it’s time to get a little more serious.
Try out different motions like squeezing, circling, rubbing and tapping. Try using different pressures and speeds, and get then creative. For example, use one hand to open the labia for better access to the glans clitoris with the other, or squeeze the labia together to see how that feels. For me, it was rubbing and circling the glans, but there’s an excellent chance it will be different for you.
Take all the time you need, and enjoy the sensations – because we’re not quite ready to hunt for a climax just yet. But make mental notes about what doesn’t work for you, what feels good, and what feels great. You’ll need those notes soon.
6. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Main Course
Now that you and your vulva are on very friendly terms, let’s see about that orgasm. It’s masturbating time.
But first, a disclaimer: not everyone will be happy with their main course. If you’re one of them, don’t despair. There’s still dessert to come.
Once you’re in the mood and have at least 30 minutes to play, get comfortable and find the area of your genital region – and the one or two motions – that seemed to provide the most pleasure during your earlier exploration. Time to play!
Remember, even seasoned professionals usually take a while to climax, so don’t get impatient and don’t quickly give up on one area or motion if it seems like you’re not really getting anywhere. Spend a good three minutes lovingly caressing the “target area.” If you’re really not feeling it, you may want to try a different motion (making circles instead of back-and-forth rubbing, for example). Once again, give it a good few minutes before returning to the original technique.
You’re not getting wet down below, and you don’t feel the excitement and tingling that signal the slow build up to orgasm? Some lube might be a good idea at this point if you aren’t already using it. You might also want to use your “other” hand to pay a simultaneous visit to one of your sensitive foreplay zones, like your nipples or the nape of your neck, to heighten arousal. Trying different positions (on your back or tummy, sitting up, etc.) is another variation that might pay off.
If you start to feel that it’s really happening, speed up your finger play or apply more pressure – and enjoy the magic moment. You’ve earned it!
There’s a good chance you won’t climax during your first session. (I didn’t, it took 10 days. Yes, I counted.) But consider it part of your education. You’ve learned more than you knew about your body and your triggers than you did yesterday. You’ve waited your whole life to find the right spots, motions and rhythms that will get you off, and you’re getting closer. Don’t get discouraged. There’s always tomorrow!
(And if trying to climax with your own hands just isn’t working for you, you have my permission to skip to dessert.)
Dessert Time: The Sex Toys!
I promised this was coming. (And cumming, too.)
Some people need vibrators to help them reach orgasm. Many others find that sex toys add a new, hot and satisfying dimension to making yourself cum.
Either way, there should definitely be one or two toys in your nightstand or “go kit.”
Since there are two major types of orgasms that vulva-havers experience, clitoral and vaginal, it should make sense that different styles of dildos and vibrators work better for each type of stimulation. (Yes, there are also anal orgasms and toys, but that’s a subject for another day.)
Let’s start with the best sex toys for clitoral orgasms. Newbies may want to start with smaller vibrators, since they’re easier to manipulate to find just the right spot.
There are two that I love, the Dame Products Fin (which you wear on your fingertips) and the Zee bullet vibe. Other swear by rabbit vibes, which get their name from their two “rabbit ears” that can surround your glans clitoris. Some love a monster vibrator called the Magic Wand; I tried it, but found it too unwieldy.
When you pull out your new vibe, don’t surrender to the temptation to jump in like you’re sawing wood. Just as with your fingers, slow and steady is the way to start. (And speaking of fingers, use them to get yourself warmed up before you turn on the vibrator.)
As you begin to feel that (hopefully now-common) sensation that your body is responding, that’s when you can adjust your vibrator’s speeds, pulses or patterns until you find the speed and rhythm that’s going to take you to pleasure town.
What about those long, thick vibrators and dildos that resemble a penis? That’s because they’re supposed to resemble a penis. They’re best used for vaginal penetration, because they can’t provide pinpoint clitoral stimulation. They’re OK to use to manipulate your clitoris in a pinch, but that’s not what they’re designed for.
That leads to another question you may be asking: why are so many vaginal toys curved? It’s simple: they’re angled to contact the G-spot.
One common reason that it’s so difficult for many vulva-havers to cum via penetration is that there are very few nerve endings in the vagina. Hitting the very real G-spot, partway down the vaginal wall, can stimulate the internal clitoris and result in those legendary orgasms you hear about.
G-spot climaxes simply don’t happen for everyone, however, so there really is nothing wrong with you if you have difficulty reaching orgasm during penetrative sex. As you’ll probably remember, an enormous number of vulva owners need simultaneous clitoral and vaginal stimulation to climax during penetration – and now you know why.
But if you are one of the lucky ones to have a so-called blended orgasm, cumming in two different ways at the same time – oh, my! Take my word for it: it was worth all the exploration and practice.
We’ve “Cum” to Our Happy Ending
And now you know how to make yourself cum.
That was a pretty long and detailed explanation, but my goal was to help you figure things out in a lot less time than my long journey to “finish.” Being able to orgasm by myself and with partners has made my sex life totally worth living. I hope it does the same for you.