What is Female Orgasmic Difficulty?
Many females have difficulty reaching orgasm. Females who encounter an absence or delay of orgasm following normal sexual activity and excitement may have a condition called female orgasmic disorder.1 There are many factors that can affect a female’s ability to achieve an orgasm. Many of these factors can be overcome, however. With the right steps, females do not necessarily have to live with being unable to achieve orgasm.
Types of Female Orgasmic Disorder
There are several different types of female orgasmic disorder including the following:
- Preorgasmia: a term for females who have never experienced an orgasm, also termed as “lifelong orgasmic disorder” or “ primary anorgasmia.”
- Acquired orgasmic disorder: term for some females who are currently unable to achieve orgasm despite previously reaching sexual climax in the past, or “secondary anorgasmia.”
- Situational orgasmic disorder: term for some females in which orgasm can be experienced in some circumstances, such as following female masturbation, but not in other circumstances, such as with partner stimulation.
- General anorgasmia: term for females with the inability to orgasm under any circumstances.1
To fully understand the influences and causes of female orgasmic disorder, as well as therapy and sexual enrichment techniques, it is important to identify the type of female orgasmic disorder one may encounter.
Influences and Causes
Understanding the causes and treatments for female orgasmic difficulty is important. There are numerous influences leading to orgasmic difficulty. Female orgasmic disorder can be influenced by cultural factors, individual factors, relationship factors, and physical factors.
Culture is an extremely influential factor relating to how a person views sexuality. Negative childhood associations with sexuality can play a major role in sexual performance and understanding.1 Parents, religions, schools, or other authoritative bodies may teach that sex is sinful, genitals are dirty, or that masturbation is wrong, and such ideas are easily internalized at a young age.2 This internalization often results in negative feelings about sex that inhibit a person’s sexual response and may induce embarrassment, fear, and pain, which keep stress rather than pleasure at the forefront of the mind.2 To reduce these negative consequences, it is advantageous to try to maintain a positive attitude about sex, to believe one can enjoy and deserves pleasure, and to be comfortable with one’s body.
Many societies also establish a “double standard” for men and women, such that men are encouraged to be sexually liberal, with success being related to their sexual prowess and accomplishments.3 Simultaneously and hypocritically, however, the same society may criticize women for being empowered and doing the same, expecting a standard of being sexually cautious and conservative instead of assertive and active.3 This double standard may prevent some women from being verbally and physically expressive enough to achieve an orgasm.
Some cultures may be more limited in their definition of sex than others. For example, some societies narrowly view sex as penile/vaginal (P/V) sex, without consideration of manual stimulation (including focus on the clitoris), oral sex, or anal sex, which all provide different sensations that may lead to orgasm.4 Overall, cultural views on sex and sexuality can greatly influence a person’s ability to achieve orgasm.
There are several influences of female orgasmic difficulty that relate directly to the individual.. Being physically aware of the female reproductive system, including the clitoris, is important for personal and sexual awareness.
Additionally, emotions can play highly into sexuality. Many people experience emotions such as anxiety, stress, and depression in everyday life. Anxiety, stress, and depression can cause a lack of sexual interest and inhibit the sexual response. In a study of females who have sexual difficulties, issues with becoming aroused were reported by about half the participants.5 In addition, more than half of females who had trouble experiencing orgasm faced negative emotions regarding their condition. These distressed females both took longer to reach orgasm and faced higher difficulty experiencing orgasm than other females who were not distressed. These distressed females also reported being less happy in their sexual relationships than females not distressed by the orgasmic disorder.5
Another influence of female orgasmic disorder may be that of body image and self-concept. Self-esteem is important for sexuality because being comfortable with one’s body is key to taking an active role in sexual situations, which can lead to higher satisfaction.1
Traumatic past experiences of abuse can also have effects on current sexuality. Females who suffer from childhood sexual abuse including incest or molestation, or abuse as an adult, such as rape, may encounter physiological or psychological difficulties related to sexuality.1 While overcoming trauma on one’s own is not always easy or simple, the impacts of abuse can be serious; for this reason, seeking help from a professional or even speaking to a trusted companion may help in overcoming the traumatic experience.
Oftentimes, it is more than just the individual causing orgasmic difficulty. When needs are better met in a relationship, orgasm can be easier to achieve. Relationships with any sexual partner(s) have influence on arousal, comfort, and pleasure. The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that in order to develop a fulfilling relationship, it is crucial for partners to have more sex and more orgasms.6 Increased frequency of vaginal orgasms was found to be associated with higher relationship satisfaction, lower frequency of masturbation, and better sexual compatibility between partners.6 Sexual satisfaction in males even increases when a partner has more frequent orgasms. A driving force behind this may be communication. Communication provides both partners with an active say in desires and pleasures during lovemaking. Trust, love, desire, attraction, and active engagement with one’s partner(s) are all factors that positively influence the sexual experience.6
Worries about becoming pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also lead to orgasmic difficulty problems. Fear and anxiety about pregnancy or STIs can have a negative sexual impact on a person, so it is important to communicate with one’s partner(s) and be aware of the various methods of birth control and protection to reduce these concerns.
A final relationship factor possibility for not achieving orgasm is that one’s partner(s) may not be the right choice because of orientation. Many females find it more sexually, emotionally, and physically fulfilling to be with another female. Sexuality is a broad spectrum. Misunderstanding one’s sexual preferences could be a cause for why some females would not be feeling sexual satisfaction in a heterosexual relationship.
Physical factors, such as medications or disabilities, influence the ability to reach orgasm, too. Several prescription and non-prescription medications can have strong effects on sexuality and emotion.1 Antidepressants and hypertension medication are examples of medications that can have adverse effects on sexuality. Some medications can cause lower sexual desire, prevention of arousal, and a delay or absence of orgasm.1
Always consult a doctor before adding or removing any medications from a regimen, under any circumstances.
Chronic illnesses and disabilities may also affect the sexual response.1 Never self-diagnose, as a medical professional is trained to properly diagnose and treat such chronic illnesses and disabilities. Physical factors can be overcome. Disabilities and medications should not detract from having an active and enjoyable sex life.
Therapy and Enrichment Techniques
There are many therapeutic and enriching techniques a person and their partner(s) can engage in to help reach orgasm and overcome female orgasmic disorder. One of the most important methods a person can use to overcome difficulties is to be self-aware, that is, become familiar with oneself inside and out physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Females can examine themselves in detail using a mirror to get as familiar with their genitals as possible. Females can also try arousing themselves, touching to see what feels good and where, and practicing extended masturbation. Arousal, touching, and masturbation can include sex toys, such as dildos or vibrators. After one explores themselves on their own, they can try to communicate their preferences to their partner(s). Communication and expression are crucial practices that lead to fulfilling relationships and sexuality.7 Partners can be included in masturbation to better communicate sexual preferences, too.
Another helpful tip is to include healthy fantasies in one’s sex life during intercourse or masturbation. Also, it can be beneficial to learn to make oneself more comfortable and aroused, such as practicing moving your body in new ways during intercourse or trying new masturbation techniques. Additionally, one can always try new and interesting positions during sex. Keep in mind that other forms of stimulation, such as manual stimulation (with focus on the clitoris), fingering, oral sex (cunnilingus), or anal sex have many benefits as well. During stimulation, one can try sensate focus to identify key movements, locations, and sensations.
Certain approaches may be more effective for some individuals than others. Some techniques and enrichment may be life-changing, while others may be wholly unhelpful. To figure out what one should do, it is best to first become familiar with oneself. In addition, seeing a therapist or doctor may be a wise path to choose as professionals will know how to properly diagnose the condition and treat symptoms of female orgasmic disorder.
Experiencing an orgasm is not always an easy task for females. Many factors can influence the onset of female orgasmic disorder, including cultural, individual, relationship, and physical factors. Regardless of the causes, treatment and therapy are usually possible. With the right steps, a female can achieve orgasm and overcome female orgasmic disorder.
1. Krans, Brian. “Orgasmic Dysfunction.” Healthline.com .Web. 1 March 2017.
2. Weiss, Robert. “Linking Sexual Shame and Addiction.” Blogs.psychcentral.com. Web. 1 March 2017
3. Kreager, Derek A & Jeremy Staff. “The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance” journal.sagepub.com. Web. 1 March 2017
3. “Understanding Orgasmic Difficulty in Females.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 13, Issue 8, 1246-1254. Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Jan 2017.
4. Richters, Juliet, Richard de Visser, et all. “Sexual practices at last heterosexual encounter and occurrence of orgasm in a national survey.” Tandfonline.com. Web. 1 March 2017.
5. “Understanding Orgasmic Difficulty in Females.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 13, Issue 8, 1246-1254. Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Jan 2017.
6. Barnes, Zahra. “What Your Orgasms Say About Your Relationship: How often you cross the finish line may give insight into your bond.” Females’s Health Magazine. 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 Jan 2017.
7. “Relationships and communication:” Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. Web. 1 March 2017.
Last Updated: 3 March 2017.