Sex Question Friday: How Can I Help My Girlfriend Reach Orgasm?

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Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a male reader who wants to know what he can do to help his new girlfriend have an orgasm.

How can I help my girlfriend climax? I thought that after 2 relationships in which I thought I was pretty good in helping my girlfriends experience orgasms, I would know how it “works.” Are women really so different from each other? My new girlfriend has never reached an orgasm in her entire life. How can I teach her?

Thanks for this very interesting question! Let’s first address the part about how different women are from one another. The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of variability from woman to woman when it comes to orgasm, which is part of the reason why women's likelihood of orgasm is quite low the first time they have sex with a new partner [1]. There is often some partner-specific learning that needs to take place in a new relationship before a woman is able to have an orgasm. 

The reality is that some women are able to reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation, others through vaginal penetration, some through nipple stimulation, and even a few through stimulation of the cervix. Thus, different parts of the genitals may be more or less erotically sensitive across women. But things become even more complex when you take into account women's personal preferences for type of sexual activity (cunnilingus, intercourse, mutual masturbation, etc.) and how it occurs (speed, pressure, depth, etc.). Different things feel good to different women, which means it’s not always wise to assume you know what a woman likes based upon what “worked” with a past partner. And keep in mind that a lot of guys don't really know what "works" because a surprisingly high number of women fake orgasms, and men can't usually tell when this happens. Having a partner who repeatedly fakes orgasms can easily instill false beliefs in men about both their own sexual abilities and what women enjoy.

With this in mind, the first thing I would suggest is simply to relax and communicate. Ask your partner what feels good (“Do you like it when I do this?” What feels best for you?”). The goal here is to try different things and figure out what she likes and doesn’t like; however, don’t put any pressure on her to reach orgasm. The two of you should just be focused on providing each other with pleasure, not necessarily on getting the other person to “achieve” orgasm. It is dangerous to get into the mindset that you and/or your partner are somehow failures if orgasm does not occur during each sexual act. This achievement orientation can ironically make orgasm less likely to occur by causing anxiety and distraction.

If relaxation and communication do not help her to reach orgasm and she is distressed by this (keep in mind that not every women feels that orgasm is necessary), you might try the self-help route next. In other words, try reading some reputable sex books together to get some ideas for new activities to try (one I recommend is She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman). Sometimes an anatomy lesson or a new technique is all that is needed. If self-help books don’t do the trick and she is still bothered by the lack of orgasm, then she might want to consider consulting with a physician or sex therapist. There are a number of factors—biological, psychological, and social—that can inhibit female orgasm. Check out this article for a look at a few of the big ones.

As you can see, there are a number of things to consider here. However, let me reiterate that the key things to remember going forward are to communicate early and often, avoid putting pressure on each other to have an orgasm, and remind yourselves that sex can be good with or without orgasm.

Want to learn more about The Psychology of Human Sexuality? Click here for previous articles or follow the blog on Facebook (facebook.com/psychologyofsex), Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit (reddit.com/r/psychologyofsex) to receive updates.

[1] Armstrong, E. A., England, P., & Fogarty, A. C. K. (2012). Accounting for women’s orgasm and sexual enjoyment in college hookups and relationships. American Sociological Review, 77, 435-462.

Image Source: iStockphoto.com

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